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Beijing Travel Guide

Beijing Travel Guide

Written by Chris QuanUpdated May. 26, 2023

No one should skip Beijing even if only visiting one city/region in China. Beijing is a window into the authentic core of China, especially recommended for China first timers.

As one of the world's great ancient capitals, and the capital of the world's upcoming superpower, Beijing is the most important and interesting city in China to travel, both for tourism and understanding China.

What is Beijing like:

  • A sense of China's history — served as the capital of China in six ancient dynasties for 800 years
  • A cultural hub — opera, architecture, dialect, food, etc
  • Tourist friendliness — receiving about 3 million foreign visitors every year

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Top Attractions & Places to Visit

  • The Great Wall: We recommend the Mutianyu section, which is the most child-friendly and not too crowded, or the Jiankou section for hiking and camping.
The Great Wall hiking, BeijingMutianyu Great Wall
  • The Forbidden City — symbol of imperial power in China and the largest palace complex in the world
The Forbidden City, BeijingThe Forbidden City at Sunset
  • The Summer Palace: resort for the royal family, known as the "Museum of Royal Gardens"
The Summer Palace, BeijingThe Summer Palace
The Temple of Heaven, BeijingThe Temple of Heaven
The Lama Temple, BeijingThe Lama Temple Night View
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Top Things to Do in Beijing

Explore Beijing delicaciesSugar-coated haws on a stick - Beijing snack
  • Explore Beijing's most famous attractions: the Great Wall, the Forbidden City, the Summer Places, the Temple of Heaven...
  • Lose yourself in the narrow historical hutong alleyways. See what a courtyard house is, sightsee, shop…
  • Hunt for local Beijing delicacies. Find restaurants that only local people know about.
  • Enjoy top Chinese entertainment: acrobatics, martial arts performances, Beijing opera...

For more, see The Top 20 Things to Do in Beijing.

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Things to Do Recommended for Family with Kids

  • Enjoy an easy walk at Mutianyu Great Wall equipped with advanced cable car, chairlift and toboggan
  • Take a rickshaw through hutongs and play with a Chinese yo-yo made of wood or bamboo in a hutong's courtyard
  • Go on a treasure hunt in the National Museum of China
  • Pay a visit to Beijing Zoo & Beijing Aquarium
  • Go boating in Beihai Park

Things to Do Recommended for Couples

  • Enjoy a stunning sunset at the Great Wall with a romantic picnic
  • Taste fine rce wine in a hidden hutong
  • Enjoy the night cityscape on the Western Hills
  • Go to the Place and express your love on "the Sky Screen"
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The Best Time to Visit Beijing

Autumn view in BeijingThe Forbidden City in autumn

Although you could travel Beijing throughout the year, autumn (September and October) is the most recommended season to visit for its relatively comfortable temperatures and scenic beauty.

Beijing is approximately at the same latitude as Philadelphia in the U.S. (but drier in winter and wetter in summer) and Madrid in Spain (though colder in winter).

Beijing's air quality is improving, with better public transport, restrictions on the use of vehicles, and the relocation of factories.

See more on Beijing Weather and the Best Time to Visit Beijing

Best Time to Visit Beijing
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Beijing Side Trips

Xi'an, Datong, Chengde, Tianjin, and the Great Wall are popular destinations for a weekend trip from Beijing. See these itineraries for inspiration.

Check details of all the options on Best Beijing Side Trips and Top China Tours from Beijing.

Beijing Transportation

Road in Beijing

Getting to Beijing

Beijing is China's No. 1 gateway city and it has two airports: Beijing Daxing International Airport, the world's biggest airport, and Beijing Capital International Airport.

The airports serve around 120 destinations. There are many flight choices for visitors from all continents. Beijing Capital Airport is closer to downtown area.

Getting around Beijing

As a capital city, Beijing has traffic problems like anywhere else in the world, especially during rush hours or national holidays.

Contact us for a private tour with a private vehicle, an experienced local driver, and a knowledgeable English-speaking guide. It's the most hassle-free option to avoid traffic congestion and help you maximize your time.

Beijing's subway system is the second largest in China, and the cheapest way to get around in Beijing. During rush hour, however, some popular lines can be very crowded.

See more on Beijing Transport or learn about how to get to Beijing city from Beijing Capital Airport and how to get to the Great Wall.

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Accommodation in Beijing

Beijing Accommodation map

Beijing is an international city with a vast range of accommodation suiting every budget from luxury hotels to guesthouses. If you want to experience old Beijing life, you can opt to stay in a traditional hutong courtyard.

There are several areas you can consider when choosing your hotel:

  • The Qianmen Street area: best for first timers who are sightseeing travelers; near the Forbidden City, the Temple of Heaven…
  • The Wangfujing Street area: best for first timers who are shopaholics; near the Forbidden City and the biggest shopping area
  • The Hutong area: best for families with children and culture lovers; near the Lama Temple and the Drum Tower
  • The Sanlitun area: best for young people and night owls

Learn more about the 11 best areas to stay in in Beijing.

What to Eat in Beijing

Peking roast duckBeijing roast duck

Peking roast duck is absolutely a must-try food during a trip to Beijing. In Beijing, there is a limitless range of national and international cuisine to choose from, in every price range. It is easy to find Chinese restaurants, Western restaurants, vegetarian restaurants, Muslim restaurants, and Asian restaurants.

Shopping in Beijing

Beijing Qianmen StreetBeijing Qianmen Commercial Street

Beijing can be a shopaholic's heaven. World famous international-brand shopfronts are packed along Wangfujing Street, which doubles up as an exotic snack street at night.

Apart from that, Beijing is home to Qianmen Street and Dashilar Street, two classic commercial streets that have prospered for centuries. Beijing also hosts bizarre antique markets, which are great for tourists looking for souvenirs.

Beijing Nightlife

Houhai night viewHouhai Night View

Beijing is spoilt for such a wide variety of nightlife choices. Housing an estimated population of 107,000 expats (2018), the city is never short of Western-style cafés, bars, and clubs. Plus, Beijing is the engine of China's underground rock music.

For more, see Things to Do at Night in Beijing.

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Entertainment in Beijing

Beijing offers a wealth of entertainment. See these pages for inspiration.

Tour Planning

Beijing Travel Tips

Beijing Maps

Our Beijing map page provides tourists with many useful maps.

In-Depth Beijing Explorations for Discerning Travelers

China Highlights guide at the Forbidden CityOur Beijing guide relates the history of the Forbidden City, whilst avoiding the crowds.

Beijing is such a large and complex city that going with a tour guide and driver helps make your visit less stressful and more rewarding.

Experience and customer feedback show that our well-designed tour plans cover the highlights of Beijing in the best possible ways.

Just make a free inquiry for a customized tour with professional arrangements, to save you time and avoid any unforeseen problems. We have over 20 years of experience tailoring tours in China!

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