Ultimate Travel Guide to Beijing: Everything you need to know
Beijing is the capital of the People’s Republic of China, located in the northern part of China, a provincial-level administrative region, a municipality directly under the Central Government, a national central city, and a mega-city. It is the No. 1 must-see city on the everyone travel list for their China tour. It is a world-famous ancient capital and a modern international city.
Beijing brief introduction
Chinese name: 北京
Foreign name: Beijing, Peking
Area: 16410.54 km²
Population: 21.53 million (2019)
Climate: Sub-humid continental monsoon climate of warm temperate zone
Airports: Beijing Capital International Airport, Beijing Daxing International Airport, Beijing Nanyuan Airport
Train Stations: Beijing Railway Station, Beijing South Railway Station, Beijing North Railway Station, Beijing West Railway Station, Beijing East Railway Station
With a history of more than 3,000 years, Beijing still has historical relics in many places. Nowadays, there are numerous skyscrapers in Beijing, among which there are many modern buildings with different shapes, such as the Bird's Nest, China World Trade Center Phase III, the CCTV building. In addition to its profound cultural history and advanced modernization process, Beijing has complete tourist facilities and the perfect tourist environment. Transportation to Beijing is very convenient. There are planes, trains, and buses to Beijing for almost 24 hours a day, and most countries have daily flights to Beijing. After arriving in Beijing, subways, buses, and private cars spread out in all directions, making it very convenient to go anywhere. Ticket prices for attractions in Beijing are also very low, and many places have equipped the English version of their guidelines. The public security in Beijing is also the best, and Beijingers are very enthusiastic, many young locals can speak simple English.
Must-see attractions in Beijing
1. Forbidden City (The Palace Museum)
It is the most well-preserved and largest wooden structure ancient building complex in China and even in the world, and known as the "first of the five great palaces in the world". The Forbidden City was built in 1406 and completed in 1420, it covers an area of 720,000 square meters, with a construction area of about 150,000 square meters, more than 70 large and small palaces, and more than 9,000 houses. It is one of the largest and best-preserved wooden structures in ancient buildings in the world and was listed as a world cultural heritage in 1987.
- Admission: CN¥ 60 Per Person from April 01 to October 31, CN¥ 40 Per Person from November 01 to March 31
- Opening hours: 08:30-16:30 (November 01 - March 31, every Tuesday to Sunday); 08:30-17:00 (April 01 - October 31, every Tuesday to Sunday)
- Recommended sightseeing time: more than 3 hours
2. The Great Walls
The Great Wall is a military fortification in ancient China. It is a tall, sturdy, and continuous long wall to restrict the movement of enemy riders. The Great Wall is not a purely isolated city wall, but a defensive system with the city wall as the main body and a large number of cities, barriers, pavilions, and signs. The Great Walls are mainly distributed in 15 provinces, autonomous regions, and municipalities including Beijing, Hebei Province, Tianjin, Shaanxi Province, Gansu Province, etc., with a total length of more than 21,000 kilometers. In December 1987, it was listed as a World Cultural Heritage, and is also known as one of the “The Seven Wonders of the Middle Ages in the World”. Badaling, Jinshanling, Gubeikou, Jiayuguan, etc. are all very representative sections of the Great Wall. The great wall of China tour would definitely be a plus, here we recommend the Mutianyu section. The forest coverage rate is over 90%, with a total length of 5,400 meters, it is the longest Great Wall in China. Former US President Bill Clinton, former British Prime Minister John Major, and many other foreign leaders have visited the Mutianyu Great Wall.
- Mutianyu Great Wall Admission: CN¥ 45 Per Person for entrance ticket; CN¥ 15 Per Person for shuttle bus; CN¥ 100 Per Person for single-way cable car; CN¥ 120 Per Person for round-way cable car
- Mutianyu Great Wall Opening hours: 08:00-17:00 (November 16th to March 15th, Monday to Sunday); 07:30-18:00 (March 16th-November 15th, Monday-Sunday)
- Mutianyu Great Wall Recommended sightseeing time: more than 3 hours
3. The Summer Palace
A royal garden during the Qing Dynasty in China. It is located in the western suburbs of Beijing, 15 kilometers away from downtown, covering an area of about 290 hectares (2.9 square kilometers). The entire Summer Palace is set against the backdrop of the Western Hills and consists of The Longevity Hill and The Kunming Lake. The architectural complex is integrated with the mountains and lakes, and the scenery changes endlessly. The Summer Palace is the most intact preserved imperial palace. It is known as the "Royal Garden Museum" and was included in the "World Heritage List" in November 1998.
- Admission: CN¥ 30 Per Person for entrance ticket; CN¥ 10 Per Person for Tower of Buddhist Incense; CN¥ 30 Per Person for boat ride
- Opening hours: 07:00-17:00 (November 01 - March 31, Monday to Sunday); 06:30-18:00 (April 01 - October 31, Monday to Sunday)
- Recommended sightseeing time: more than 3 hours
4. Temple of Heaven
The Temple of Heaven is located in the southern part of Beijing, covering an area of about 2.73 million square meters. It was built in 1420 in the Ming Dynasty and was rebuilt during the Qianlong and Guangxu periods of the Qing Dynasty. It is a place for the emperors of the Ming and Qing dynasties to worship and pray for an abundance of grains. The Temple of Heaven was listed as a world cultural heritage in 1998. Regardless of the overall layout or a single building, the Temple of Heaven reflects the relationship between heaven and earth (that is, between humans and gods), and this relationship occupies a central position in ancient Chinese cosmology.
- Admission: CN¥ 35 Per Person from April 01 to October 31, CN¥ 30 Per Person from November 01 to March 31
- Opening hours: 07:00-17:00 (November 01 - March 31, Monday to Sunday); 06:30-18:00 (April 01 - October 31, Monday to Sunday)
- Recommended sightseeing time: 1- 3 hours
5. Ming Tombs
Ming Dynasty Tombs are the general name for the tombs of the 13 emperors after the Ming Dynasty moved its capital to Beijing. It is also one of the largest existing imperial tombs complexes in China with the most tombs of emperors and queens. Here surrounded by mountains, and the total area is more than 120 square kilometers, about 50 kilometers away from downtown Beijing. In 2003, the Ming Tombs were included in the "World Heritage List." Travelers can combine a visit to the Ming Tombs, during their trip to the Great Wall as it's located on the way. We would recommend visiting one tomb and to save enough time for the Great Wall. Changling tomb would be an ideal choice, which has the largest scale, the earliest construction time, and the best-preserved ground structure among the thirteen tombs.
- Changling Tomb Admission: CN¥ 50 Per Person from April 01 to October 31, CN¥ 30 Per Person from November 01 to March 31
- Changling Tomb Opening hours: 08:30-17:00 (November 01 - March 31, Monday to Sunday); 08:00-17:30 (April 01 - October 31, Monday to Sunday)
- Changling Tomb Recommended sightseeing time: 1- 3 hours
6. The Lama Temple
Lama Temple is located in the northeast corner of downtown Beijing and was established in 1694. It is the largest Tibetan Buddhist temple in Beijing, and also a national key Buddhist temple in China. The temple is mainly composed of three exquisite archways and five magnificent halls. The whole temple is very magnificent and exquisite, it is worth visiting.
- Admission: CN¥ 25 Per Person
- Opening hours: 09:00-16:00 (November 01 - March 31, Monday to Sunday); 09:00-16:30 (April 01 - October 31, Monday to Sunday)
- Recommended sightseeing time: 2 - 3 hours
Things to do in Beijing
1. Hutong tour by a rickshaw
Hutong is an ancient alley or lane that is unique to Beijing. There are thousands of hutongs that surround the Forbidden City, and most of them were formed in the three dynasties of Yuan, Ming, and Qing in Chinese history. Traveling in Hutong is a good way to understand Beijing's traditional culture and customs. Travelers can stroll in the Hutongs and enjoy the time, and if you do not want to walk, the most convenient and oldest thing is to take a rickshaw. Currently, the most concentrated area of rickshaw travel in Beijing Hutong is the Shichahai area, which is the old part of Beijing. The prices range from CN¥ 60 to CN¥ 180 per person, depending on the route and time.
2. Enjoy the Nightlife
Every city has its own nightlife. In addition to popular drinking, dancing, chatting in bars or clubs, you can also go to some special bars to watch live band performances in Beijing. Where is the most wonderful nightlife in Beijing? The answer must be Sanlitun. This is the favorite nightlife gathering place for fashionable young people. As it is close to the embassy area, it is also for foreigners to become the most regular visitors here. Shichahai is another place where bars are concentrated, the bars here are more artistic, and more literary youths come here.
3. Watch a Peking Opera
When travelers in Austria they will definitely go to the Vienna State Opera to listen to a symphony, in France the travelers would like to go to the Paris National Theater to watch the "Phantom of the Opera", and in Russia, they will go to Moscow or St. Petersburg theaters to enjoy performances by the world's top ballet companies. So, when traveling in Beijing, enjoying a Peking Opera will be a fantastic part of your Beijing tour. Peking opera is the most influential Chinese opera-type, centered in Beijing, and spread all over China. Peking opera takes historical stories as the main performance content and has a set of standardized artistic expressions in various aspects such as literature, performance, music, and stage art.
4. Taste the Peking Roast Duck
Roast duck is a famous Beijing dish with a world reputation, it originated in the Southern and Northern Dynasties (420-589 AD) of China. According to historical records, it was a royal food at that time. The ingredients are high-quality meat duck, roasted on charcoal fire, with red color, fat but not greasy meat, crispy outside and tender inside. The most traditional way of eating is to put a few slices of roast duck on the thin pancake, next put some sliced cucumber strips, radish strips, shredded green onions, and then pick a little sweet bean sauce with chopsticks to spread it on the fillings. Finally, it can be eaten after being rolled up and wrapped.
In addition to the souvenirs sold in shopping malls and tourist attractions, we recommend you visit the Panjiayuan Flea Market and Silk Market (also known as Xiushui Street). Panjiayuan is the largest second-hand goods market in China, dealing in various cultural relics, calligraphy and painting, jewelry, jade, porcelain, wood, Chinese and foreign coins, etc.. Silk Market used to be a characteristic street with individual shops in a narrow alley of nearly 300 meters long. Most of its businesses were clothing accessories, silk fabrics, and various Chinese handicrafts. Today, the new Silk Market is adjacent to the original market building, with three floors underground and five floors above ground, maintaining the original market’s commodity structure, street characteristics, and bargaining methods.
Best time to visit Beijing
Generally speaking, Beijing is suitable for visiting all year round, and each season has its unique charm. However, the best time to travel to Beijing is Autumn from late August to mid-October, as the weather is best and with light clouds and cool breezes. In addition, May is also the best time to visit Beijing, with a pleasant climate. It is the most colorful period in Beijing's cultural life, and there are often international-level performances.
Spring is shining, and everything is recovering. In summer, despite the hot weather, Beijing is full of vitality, many places are covered with green during the lushest period of tree growth. Even in the cold winter, coming to Beijing is a pleasant surprise. Locals in Beijing say that Beijing in winter is the real Beijing as the snow covers the modern buildings to show only the ancient Beijing. If you are lucky enough to encounter snowy Beijing, it must be a great trip and memory.
Beijing’s climate is a typical warm temperate semi-humid continental monsoon climate in the northern temperate zone, with hot and rainy summers, cold and dry winters, and short spring and autumn, sometimes there will be wind and sand in spring.
How to get to Beijing
Flights: There are two large international airports in Beijing, namely Beijing Capital International Airport and Beijing Daxing International Airport. Beijing Capital International Airport is one of the largest airports in the world, 20 kilometers away from downtown Beijing. According to 2016 statistics, Beijing Capital Airport has three terminals and 132 domestic and 120 international flights. Beijing Daxing International Airport officially opened on September 25, 2019, about 55 kilometers away from the city. As far as May 2020, Beijing Daxing International Airport has 119 routes opened by more than 60 airlines from China and around the world, among which 104 are domestic routes and 15 are international routes. Both airports have subway and airport shuttle buses to the city, and taking the taxi is also very convenient.
Railway: Beijing is one of the centers of China's railway network, which basically runs 24 hours to all cities and towns in China. In recent years, China has built many high-speed rails, that allow trains to travel safely and at a high speed (above 250km/h) on the track. The high-speed train from Beijing to Shanghai or Xi’an only takes about 4.5-5 hours. There are five railway stations in Beijing: Beijing Railway Station, Beijing South Railway Station (trains to Shanghai), Beijing North Railway Station, Beijing West Railway Station (trains to Lhasa, Xi’an, Chengdu, Guilin, etc.), Beijing East Railway Station. There are also international trains to Russia, Mongolia, North Korea, and Vietnam. Beijing's railway stations are basically in the urban area, and there are many subways that can reach there. In addition, there are many buses that go directly to the various railway stations.
Recommended tour and itineraries in Beijing
Normally, most travelers will choose Beijing as their first stop on their China trip. As Beijing is very vast and has a long history, we strongly suggest travelers spend at least 3 days exploring this ancient city to cover the most must-see/do attractions and things. Afterward, they can choose to combine with other cities and then carry on to tour China according to their own preferences and interests.
1. For travelers who have limited time in China and want to explore the history and also see contemporary China, they could combine either Xi'an or Shanghai or both cities to make a 6-9 days trip. The most classical itinerary would be the 9 days Golden triangle Beijing Xi'an Shanghai tour.
2. For travelers who plan to deeply explore China's history and culture, please make sure to visit the ancient cities with a 5,000-year-old history such as Datong, Pingyao, and Xi'an and embark on a journey of Chinese historical adventure: 10 days Beijing - Datong - Pingyao, and Xi'an cultural tour.
3. If travelers want to enjoy the magnificent landscape, in addition to Chinese history and culture and modern architecture, Guilin should be the first choice, which is famous for the marvelous view of the karst peaks. Check out the 13 days Classic China tour to Beijing - Xi'an - Guilin - Shanghai for more details.
4. If travelers would like to combine a Tibet trip including the Potala Palace, Jokhang Temple, and Mount Everest, then their Beijing to Tibet trip requires at least 2 weeks to accomplish. This 16 days Beijing to Tibet tour - China's three golden cities and Tibet discovery tour is a related tour for reference.
5. China is massive and has many places to visit for the spectacular landscape and rich culture, please read our China Private Tours /china-tour for more details or connect us directly to customize your own unique trip in China.
Useful travel tips
- The Forbidden City is closed every Monday throughout the year. In case of major or special events, the opening hours will be changed, please refer to the official website in advance to arrange travel. It is recommended to add Jingshan Park in the itinerary, which is only two kilometers away from the Forbidden City. Jingshan Park is located on the central point of Beijing's north-south axis. Wanchun Pavilion in the park is known as the commanding height on the central axis of Beijing, overlooking the Forbidden City and the axis of Beijing.
- Travelers need to go through Tiananmen Square before visiting the Forbidden City. Tiananmen Square is a politically sensitive place and requires security checks. Please do not bring prohibited and dangerous goods, wait patiently, and cooperate with the security check.
- The Great Wall has large slopes, the stone steps are different in height and bottom, and there will be freezing in some parts in winter. Please pay attention to safety, you can choose to go up by cable car and then walk down on foot.
- Beijing's traffic is particularly heavy during rush hour, so it is highly recommended to stagger the rush hour. The metro is also very crowded every Monday to Friday from 07:30-09:30 and 17:00-19:30, you may have to queue and wait for 2-4 shuttles of metros to get on.
- The weather in Beijing in July and August is very hot. Please take sun protection measures and bring sunscreen, sun hat, sunglasses, etc. Beijing is relatively cold in winter, and sometimes it is windy and snowy. Please prepare down jackets, winter clothes, hoods, gloves, non-slip shoes, etc.