Top 10 Weekend Trips and Getaways from Beijing
Beijing has become one of the most popular international gateways to China and one of the best world’s cities for expats to live in, due to its distinguished, charming, and profound culture, incredible food, adorable seasonal weather, high salary for expats but a low living cost and the super convenient daily life, especially its cashless payment. As one of the ancient capitals and the present capital of China with a history of more than 3,000 years, there are numerous bucket list-worthy attractions to see in and around Beijing.
With the opening of the high-speed trains connecting main cities all over China, the travel distance between Beijing and the other China’s top travel destinations, such as Xi’an, Datong & Pingyao, Luoyang, Tianjin, Shanghai, Qinhuangdao, Qingdao, etc. has been significantly shortened, as a result, it has greatly enlarged the travel availability for those Beijingers, expats living in Beijing and tourists traveling to Beijing. If you desire to discover more than just the highlights in Beijing urban area (like Forbidden City, Temple of Heaven, Summer Palace, the traditional Hutongs, etc.) and look for a 1-2 days side trip beyond Beijing as your China tour extension or your weekend getaways, here we have carefully collected the 10 best weekend getaways from Beijing for your inspiration.
Great Walls of Mutianyu, Jinshanling, and Huanghuacheng - 1 or 2 days excursion
The Great Wall is one of the world-famous wonders declared as a world cultural heritage site in 1987, which has become one of the must-see attractions to tour China. While Beijing, owning the quintessence of the Ming Dynasty Great Wall, has the best-preserved and most-visited sections, among which, Mutianyu, Jinshanling, Huanghuacheng, and Jiankou are the best sections to do a perfect 1 or 2 days’ weekend escape from Beijing.
Mutianyu Great Wall - 1 day
Mutianyu Great Wall is located in Huairou District, 73 kilometers northeast of Beijing city, about 1.5 hours’ drive, which is the essence of the Great Wall of the Ming Dynasty with majestic architectural wonders. With the most beautiful scenery but fewer tourists, it becomes the most popular section of the Great Wall among foreigners. In addition to its fantastic scenery, the toboggan (a speed slide), the most exciting and wonderful experience, is something that you must have when you are there if you want to try something different.
There is a direct tourist bus departure every 08:30 from the outside of Dongzhimen Bus Station to Mutianyu Scenic Area.
Jinshanling Great Wall - 1 or 2 days
Built on the ridges of the steep mountains, Jinshanling is the most beautiful and majestic section of the Great Wall in the Ming Dynasty located about 130KM (2 hours’ drive) away from Beijing. Compared with other sections, Jinshanling still remains its original appearance giving you a sense of simple and pure feeling and has fewer tourists, letting it quiet and comfortable when visiting. It is a paradise for photographers, especially when the sunrise and sunset, and the clouds and rainbows after the rains in summer and autumn there.
On every weekend and other statutory holidays of April to November, there is a traveling special line departure from Beijing Dongzhimen Bus Station at 8:00 to Jinshanling. If you want to shoot its sunrise and sunset, you can consider staying nearby for a night. There are several farmhouses at the entrance with meals available and many hotels for accommodation in Simatai New Village, 4-5 kilometers south of the scenic spot.
Huanghuacheng Water Great Wall - 1 or 2 days
It is the only scenic spot in Beijing where the Great Wall is connected to the water, known as the "Great Wall that can be visited by boat". Located 70KM (1.5 hours' drive) away from Beijing, it is a tourist and leisure resort known for its fascinating uniqueness and breathtaking beauty, integrating beautiful green mountains, clear lakes, streams, and ponds, and the majestic ancient Great Wall. There are large yellow wildflowers blooming every midsummer, making it a good place to shoot summer flower scenes. Moreover, it is the only section of the Great Wall near Beijing officially allowing tourists to camp in the wild, creating opportunities for people to have close contact with nature.
There is also a traveling special line from Dongzhimen Bus Station to Huanghuacheng Water Great Wall departure every 8:30 am on weekends and statutory holidays. If you prefer to camp there, you may prepare one more day and return the next day.
No matter traveling to Mutianyu Great Wall, or Jinshanling Great Wall, or Huanghuacheng Great Wall, the best way to enjoy their stunning views and admire their cultural and historical significances is to book a tour (including guide and driver) through a local China travel agency like WindhorseTour, which can be more convenient and greatly maximize your time. In addition, with your guide’s explanations, you can understand the culture and history background in-depth.
Longqing Gorge: Summer Resort and Winter Ice Lantern - A day trip
With a 2-hours drive from Beijing and known as "Small Li River", Longqing Gorge combines the charm of the southern landscape with the majesty of the northern landscape. In summer, the air here is fresh and cool air, and its average temperature is about 6 degrees lower than downtown Beijing, making it a great place for Beijingers and expats in Beijing to escape from the summer heat as a leisure weekend getaway. With the longer freezing cold winter, there is an Ice Lantern Art Festival held every winter with various shining and spectacular ice and snow sculptures exhibited. In addition, there are many entertainment projects to enjoy: stepping into the mouth of the gorge is the dragon-shaped elevator known as the number one in Asia. There are also thrilling wing slides, rock climbing fields, ice climbing bases, bungee jumping, flying landing, and other thrilling projects.
Taking public transportation can be a bit complicated and takes a long time (3-4 hours), hence, it's best to hire a private vehicle to go and back.
Off-the-beaten village Cuandixia - 2 days excursion
Located in the middle of the narrow valley in the northwest of Jingxi Zhaitang, 90 kilometers away from Beijing and only taking about 2 hours’ drive, Cuandixia Village is a nice place to enjoy a weekend escape. It is the most complete Ming and Qing courtyard village in the suburbs of Beijing featuring hundreds of ancient residential courtyard houses from the Ming and Qing Dynasties. The old houses with blue bricks and grey tiles scattered on the hillside and the valley below form a beautiful picture. Standing on the observation platform on the mountainside of Jinchan Mountain opposite the village, you can have a panoramic view of this village. Sunrise and sunset are the best time to shoot the village, offering opportunities to take magnificent pictures. Besides, tourists can choose to spend a night at the local farm family resort to have a unique experience of sleeping on the heated Kang, a kind of brick bed with the functions like cooking, heating, and resting.
It's best to hire a private vehicle to reach Cuandixia village, and then spend the rest of the day to stroll around the village and appreciate the ancient residential houses. The next day, travelers can continue the short hike One-Line Sky and Baiyu Valley.
Tianjin: Merged Chinese and European Architectures - 2 days excursion
Tianjin is an international metropolis located on the coast of the Bohai Sea in North China, about 130KM away from Beijing with only about 30-40 minutes high-speed train ride or 2 hours’ drive, making it as Beijingers’ the favorite short-distance travel destination. Tianjin has developed steadily in its own way and has been "stubbornly" independent of Beijing. The strong "Sense of Tianjin" is integrated into its unique Chinese-Western architectures, the antique cultural streets, and the authentic Tianjin cross talks. Spring (March to May) and autumn (September to November) are the best time to travel in Tianjin, spring is the time to appreciate the flowers blooming, while Autumn, especially from mid-October to early November is the time to enjoy the colorful leaves.
Here you can see large-scale European-style ancient architectures (like Tianjin Italian Style Street and St. Joseph Cathedral), traditional Chinese architecture along the coast of Haihe River. The one-hundred-meter-high "Eye of Tianjin" Ferris wheel and several different styles of Haihe Bridges form the essence of this city. Come to Tianjin for a trip, all kinds of snacks, such as the famous crispy and fragrant pancakes with fruits, soft ear-eye fried rice cakes, will surely make you salivate.
Chengde Mountain Resort - 1 or 2 days excursion
Located in Chengde of Hebei, about 230 km northeast of Beijing requiring about 3-4 hours by car, it was once the summer palace of the emperor of the Qing Dynasty of China, and the largest existing classical royal garden. Built-in 1703, it was completed by the three emperors of Kangxi, Yongzheng, and Qianlong in 89 years. It is divided into four areas: the palace area, the lake area, the mountain area, and the plain area, among which, the palace area and lake area are the essences of this summer resort. There are 28 yurts of different specifications in the park. The Royal Library Wenjin Pavilion, Yongyou Temple, Chun Hao Xuan, Suyunyan, and other buildings are very worth visiting.
Taking the regular train which departs from Beijing railway station or hiring a private car to Chengde are the two main ways. To fully enjoy the sightseeing here, it's best to spend a night and return back the next day.
Datong: Historical and Cultural City - 2 days excursion
Datong, a little-known city by foreigners, owns the features of the capital of Northern Wei (386~534) and was the 'support capital' of the Liao Dynasty (916~1125) and Jin Dynasty (1115~1234), and the important town of the Ming and Qing dynasties. When the ancient atmosphere and the exotic customs outside the Great Wall meet here, the veil of Datong is gradually lifted, from the magnificent Yungang Grottoes in the Northern Wei Dynasty to the Huayan Temple and Shanhua Temple in the Liao and Jin Dynasties, from the Hanging Temple to the famous Taoist mountain Hengshan, this city beyond the Great Wall perfectly blends multi-ethnic cultures into its own blood, creating a new but unconventional "Great Harmony", making it a great place to experience the diverse culture of ancient China. Generally, April to October is the best time to travel to Datong.
Datong can be easily reached by the high-speed train from Beijing for about 2 hours' ride. A 2-day excursion can cover the famous Yungang Grottoes, the Nine Dragon Screen (the largest Nine Dragons Wall in China), Shanhua Monastery (the largest and most complete existing monastery in China), and the mysterious Hanging Monastery (the earliest and best-preserved high-altitude wooden cliff building).
Best-preserved Ancient City Pingyao - 2 days excursion
Pingyao is a city living between history and modernity, images of the past and the present clearly overlap in this city. If Lijiang is a pure and beautiful girl, then Pingyao is a beautiful lady with a profound heritage. The ancient city of Pingyao is one of the four intact ancient cities in China, with a history of more than 2,700 years. It has China's first bank in its primitive form - Rishengchang, and once was indeed a financial center of China in the late Qing Dynasty.
Walking on the Ming-Qing Street, the time-honored brands, traditional ancient buildings with angled cornices, and red lanterns lit up on both sides of the street are insightful, which makes you feel as if you are on a journey a few centuries ago. The rich cultural atmosphere of Shanxi merchants, the gray walls of the deep house, the traditional buildings in the sunset, the gongs and drums of the Shehuo show, as well as the simple folk customs, and the mouth-watering delicacies, bring travelers a feeling of incomparable leisure and comfort. In addition to the sights in the ancient city of Pingyao, there are also scenic spots such as Shuanglin Temple, Wang's Courtyard, Qiao's Courtyard, and Zhenguo Temple nearby that you shouldn’t miss, which is a perfect 2 days weekend getaway from Beijing (about 4 hours' high-speed train ride).
Pingyao is suitable for tourism all year round. Autumn is warm and pleasant, making it more suitable for tourism. A photography festival with lively scenes will be held at the end of September. Although it is cold in winter, there are fewer tourists, and you can enjoy the beautiful scenery of the Shehuo show or the ancient city under the white snow. In addition, the ancient city has a strong New Year flavor and abundant activities during the Spring Festival, so it is fun to go at this time.
Beidaihe Beach - 2 days excursion
Located in the west of Qinhuangdao City, Beidaihe beach is only 2 hours' bullet train ride from Beijing. There is no intense heat in summer and severe cold in winter. Here the seawater is clean, the sand is fine, and the cool sea breeze penetrates into the skin, bringing a summer's coolness, makes it become a summer garden in surrounding cities as well as a resort for recuperation and leisure, with fresh air refreshing the heart and lungs. What is even more mouth-watering is the fresh seafood here, from the must-eat Beidaihe Pipi shrimp to crabs, oysters, and fish, the large variety of seafood is dazzling, which is why people can't give up Beidaihe. Beidaihe is not very big, normally, 2 days is enough.
The peak season to travel to Beidaihe is from late June to late August each year, which is also the best time to escape the heat. And this time is suitable for swimming in the sea and playing on the beach. Besides, every year in mid-to-late August, a grand Beidaihe Music Festival is held, allowing visitors to release their passion and enjoy the charm of heatwaves and music. The best time for bird watching is the spring and autumn migratory bird migration season (March, April, May, September, October). For tourists who love seafood, they must come in April, May, October, and November. Spring and autumn are the best time to eat seafood. Top attractions here include Tiger Stone Park, Biluota Sea Bar Park, Dove Nest Park, Strange House & Park Scenic Area, East Bathing Beach, etc.
Zhangjiakou to Enjoy Cultural Sites and Natural Wonders- 2 or 3 days excursion
Located in the northwest of Hebei, Zhangjiakou is a famous northern city with a long history and splendid culture. Because of its superior geographical location, since ancient times, it has been an important military defense town and a land commercial port that enters the Mongolian, Russian, and Eastern European markets as well as an important holy place for the integration and unity of the Chinese nation. Zhangjiakou not only has a strong historical heritage but also has rich natural landscapes, making it one of the main destinations for outings in Beijing. From Beijing to here, it only takes about 1 hour by high-speed train. Here there are green mountains, clear water, and vast deserts. The Bashang Grassland and Chongli Ski Resort are in particular very popular among tourists. It is suitable for traveling there all seasons, and autumn is the best.
For a 2-day excursion, travelers can either take a culture tour for Dajing Gate at the Great Wall, Nuanquan Ancient Town, Jimingyi Ancient City, Xuanhua Ancient City (for ancient towers like Gongji Tower, Zhenshuo Tower, and Qingyuan Tower); or a grassland tour to see the beautiful Zhangbei Bashang Grassland, Grass Skyline, and the less-touristy Cuiyunshan Scenic Area. While for a 3-day excursion, travelers could easily combine the culture and grassland tours together with the Secret Garden Ski Resort, where all skiing events of the 2022 Winter Olympics will be held.
Luoyang: Ancient Capital and Peony Flower City - 2 days excursion
Luoyang is both the "Ancient Capital of Thousand Years" and the "Peony Flower City". As the ancient capital of the thirteen dynasties, historical sites and museums are everywhere. During the day you can visit the historical sites, and at night you can watch the beautiful night view of the ancient city. The Longmen Grottoes, a treasure house of Chinese stone carving art, is a landmark building in Luoyang, attracting a large number of tourists to visit. Luoyang is also famous for its peony, and the Peony Fair has become a grand event in Luoyang. April, September to November are the best time to visit Luoyang.
With 4-hours high-speed train ride, Luoyang is another ideal place for a weekend getaway from Beijing. To experience Luoyang, the following highlights are not to be missed: Longmen Grottoes and White Horse Temple are the most popular, the exquisite grottoes and quiet temples have unique historical marks in this city. Wangcheng Park has become the most popular peony flower-viewing spot due to its early opening and convenient transportation. The nearby Shaolin Temple is not only one of China's most important Buddhist temples but also the center of Chinese Kung Fu.