There’s no city quite like Beijing. Honestly, we’ve traveled all of Asia and really struggled in this city. If we could go back, we would’ve hired a structured tour that arranged all our transportation and food, as we had a VERY hard time finding food, communicating and navigating. You don’t need more than 3 full days in Beijing (we stayed 5 and it was beyond way too long).
When To Go…
Beijing is great for travel year round, but September to November is the best season to visit.
How To Get Around…
Getting around was really tough for us, as each mode of transportation was SO challenging, which is why we recommend going with a tour company that takes care of it all.
Taxi: Taxis are readily available all around the city, but MAKE SURE your driver will use a meter. Many times a taxi driver tried to solicit us with a ‘set price’ once we told him our destination, which ended up being at least triple the price it would’ve been with a meter.
Subway: The least expensive way to get around the city, although the subway lines are difficult to navigate.
Tuk Tuk: Just like taxis, these are available all around the city. Be SURE to negotiate the rate with the driver prior to getting in and going. We had a driver demand $40USD for a 2 mile ride, who then gave us fake Chinese currency for change once we paid.
Walking: Many times we became so frustrated with taxi and tuk tuk drivers trying to take advantage of us, that we ended up walking.
Where To Stay…
For an authentic Beijing experience, there’s no better place to stay than at Lily’s Hutong. A Hutong is the traditional housing of Beijing…it’s a type of narrow street or alleyway with courtyard residences. Lily’s Hutong has been remodeled and is totally sheik (she’s an interior designer), with modern amenities. It’s in an amazing, safe location, located just a 10 minute walk from the Forbidden City. Not to mention she’s one of the BEST Airbnb hosts we’ve ever had…she even took us to a traditional peking duck for dinner the first night! $46USD/night
For $36 off your first Airbnb booking, click HERE:
Novotel Xinqiao Beijing (CBD):
If you’re looking for more of an accommodating experience, the Novotel in Beijing is the BEST. It’s located in the CBD (central business district), the central area of town with all the best restaurants, malls and shops. $64USD/night
What To Do…
Great Wall of China at Mutianyu:
How To Get There: Hire a private driver for $116USD for entire day trip to Great Wall and Summer Palace. You can also take bus or subway.
Cost: Cableway Roundtrip $100CNY ($14.50USD), Lift up and Luge Down $100CNY ($14.50USD)
Hours: Apr-Oct 8am-5pm, Nov-Mar 8:30am-4:30pm
Time At Attraction: 4+ Hours
If time and budget permit and you want to go to a section of the Great Wall of China that is not overrun by tourists, then head 40 miles (65km) north of Beijing City to the Great Wall at Mutianyu. You have can take the Gondola up and back or, if you’re feeling adventurous, you can ride the Luge back down. It’s best to take Gondola up and the ski lift or luge back down, so you don’t have to back track on the wall. You can always purchase a one way ticket up the to the top and decide later. There are multiple areas where you can purchase snacks, water and beer along the way. Be SURE to leave Beijing very early (6:30am) for the 2+ hour journey there.
How To Get There: Hire a private driver for $116USD for entire day trip to Great Wall and Summer Palace or take bus/subway.
Cost for Combo Ticket (includes all sites inside): Apr-Oct $60CNY ($8.70USD), Nov-Mar $50CNY ($7.25USD)
Hours of Scenic Spots: Apr-Oct 8:30am-5pm, Nov-Mar 9am-4pm
Time At Attraction: 2+ Hours
The spectacular Summer Palace is located 9 miles (15km) from downtown Beijing and 1.5 hours by car from the Great Wall at Mutianyu. It is the cities most well-preserved royal park.
Forbidden City (Palace Museum):
Cost: $60CNY ($8.70USD) Apr-Oct, $40CNY ($5.80USD) Nov-Mar
Hours: Apr-Oct 9:30am-5:00pm (last entry 4:10pm), Nov-Mar 8:30am-4:30pm (last entry 3:40pm). Closed onMondays except Chinese statutory holidays and summer vacation from Jul 1-Aug 31.
Time At Attraction: 2+ Hours
This MASSIVE area of land served as the imperial palace for 24 emperors in China. It’s the world’s largest palace complex and covers 74 hectares, is surrounded by a 52 meter wide moat and a 10 meter high wall, with more than 8,700 rooms. Do note there is no western food inside, only one Chinese Restaurant and a few small snack stands with beverages and cookies, so be sure to eat prior to going and bring snacks! BE SURE TO BRING YOUR PASSPORT, as they won’t allow you in without identification! You can also pickup headsets (in English) that will give you a lot of info as you walk around ($40CNY/$6USD).
Cost: Free! $15CNY ($2.18USD) to enter Tiananmen Tower
Hours: Always open
Time At Attraction: 30 minutes
Tiananmen Square is a large area just in front of the entrance of the Forbidden City. Here you can witness the national flag raising ceremony, but you’ll have to get up really early and arrive prior to sunrise.
The most famous pedestrian street in Beijing, Qianmen street is full of restaurants, shopping, souvenirs, and one of the coolest Starbucks I’ve ever been to.
Temple of Heaven:
Cost: Nov-Mar $10CNY($1.45USD), Apr-Oct $15CNY ($2.18USD) to enter, $20CNY ($2.90USD) to see imperial vault of heaven. Do note that you’ll need to pay for each additional main attraction inside.
Hours of Main Attractions Inside: Nov-Mar 8am-5pm, Apr-Oct 8am-5:30pm
Time At Attraction: 1+ Hours
The Temple of Heaven is a sacrificial buidling where emperors of the Ming and Qing Dynasty held the Heaven Worship Ceremony.
Beijing National Stadium:
Photo Credit: Wikipedia
Cost: $50CNY ($7.25USD)
Hours: Apr-Oct 9am-7pm, Nov-Mar 9am-5:30pm
Time At Attraction: 1+ Hour
Also known as the ‘Birds Nest,’ Beijing National Stadium hosted the 2008 Summer Olympics and is an architectural site to see. Be sure to go at night, as it’s gorgeous when it’s all lit up, but you won’t be able to go inside, as it will already be closed.
One of the most popular streets in Beijing for shopping. There are countless amounts of shops and malls here, including APM Mall, which has an Apple Store and many other western retail stores.
What To Eat…
Peking Roast Duck:
Beijing is famous for it’s Peking Roast Duck, and we totally understand why. The crispy texture with mouthwatering flavor are something unforgettable. It’s served with crepe-like pitas to wrap up with bean paste, cucumbers, spring onions and sugar. Luckily, there are restaurants that serve the dish on every corner in the city, so you won’t have trouble finding it!
Photo Credit: timeoutbeijing.com
Chinese dumplings are a must eat while in the city. You can have them steamed, friend or in soup.
Photo Credit: www.tour-beijing.com
Another famous Chinese dish, hot pot is a fun meal whereby meat and veggies are added to a ‘hot pot’ of flavored soup and cooked right in front of you.
Char Siew Bao (Pork Bun):
Photo Credit: www.forum.lowyat.net
My FAVORITE Chinese treat, Char Siew Bay is indescribably delicious!
Hero Fitness Club
Cost: 1 day $50CNY ($7.25USD), 1 week $350NCY ($50USD)
One of the best gyms we’ve been to while traveling Asia, Hero Fitness Club was affordable and had awesome equipment. It’s located inside the New World Beijing Mall, Floor 5.
Things To Note…
There is no Google, Facebook, Instagram or Snapchat in China. Use Baidu instead of Google as your search engine while there. Download Maps.Me app prior to arrival.
Download google translate prior to coming, it’ll help SO much!
Hire a tour if you’re going to Beijing, it’ll make your life simple and easy. Roam China came highly recommended to us and we wished we would’ve used them.