If you’re traveling to China chances are Beijing is on the itinerary. Not only is Beijing the capital of China but it is the nations political, economical, and cultural center. With bucket list sights like the Great Wall and the Forbidden City who wouldn’t want to visit Beijing! With this Beijing travel guide, I’ve got you covered with everything you need to know about visiting this vibrant city.
The Ultimate Beijing Travel Guide
Before You Go
- Obtain a Chinese Visa – Check out my article here for how to apply in detail.
- Purchase a VPN
- Download DiDi, WECHAT, and a Bikeshare App.
- Purchase World Nomad’s Travel Insurance
- Read How to Prepare for China: 10 Must Know’s
- 27 Things I learned backpacking China
- $40 and under
- Dorm bed
- Eating Street Food
- Free Musuems
- Subways and bike shares
- $120 and under
- Double room in a mid range hotel
- Meals at a sit down restaurant
- $120 and up
- High end hotel
- Fine dining
- Personal driver
How to Get There
ARRIVING BY PLANE – Beijing is serviced by 2 major airports Beijing Capital (PEK) and Beijing Nanyuan (NAY) and both airports are connected to the metro.
ARRIVING BY TRAIN – Beijing has three major train stations for long distance travel and all three are on a subway line.
ARRIVING BY BUS – There are 5 long distance bus stations that service Beijing, within walking distance of a metro station.
The Chinese metro is clean, fast and efficient. With 21 lines and one airport express line, it can get you anywhere that you want to be within the city and costs 3 CNY to 6 CNY per ride depending on the distance being traveled. I’m a huge fan of public transportation when I travel because it allows you to understand the lay out of the city, feel like a local, and its easy on the wallet.
Run throughout the city but are usually crowded and not as user friendly as the metros.
Plentiful and cheap.
I highly recommend downloading and setting up the DIDI APP before you arrive in China. DiDi is the Uber of China and is very useful as you plug your destination into the App before you request a driver eliminating the language barrier and possibility of getting lost because its already translated in the App. Brilliant!
Bikes are abundant and the big cities have Bike Share. MoBike and Ofo are popular bike share APPS that let you unlock the bike, ride it for however long you need to, and leave it at any of the bike share locations. Download a bike share APP before leaving home.
You can find tuk tuks everywhere, be ready to bargain.
Neighborhoods of Beijing
Forbidden City & Dongcheng Central
This neighborhood contains Tian’anmen Square and the Forbidden City, Chinas largest and best preserved collection of ancient buildings. Check out the National Museum of China or stroll through Workers Cultural Palace or Jingshan Park. A highlight on this Beijing travel guide.
Drum Tower is & Dongcheng North
In this neighborhood you can find the Drum and Bell Towers, which used to mark the time of day by beating the drums and sounding the bells. Visit the Lama Temple, a Tibetan Buddhist temple that is still active to this day. Lastly do a walking tour of the Hutongs, the narrow alley ways which are considered the heart and soul of Beijing.
Temple of Heaven Park & Dongcheng South
The highlight of this neighborhood is you guessed it Temple of Heaven Park. The Temple is surrounded by a huge park and if you buy a through ticket you can enter various parts inside the Park like the Hall of Prayer for Good Harvests and the Echo Wall. Get there before two to book this ticket though as they stop letting people into these areas at 4 pm.
Sanlitun & Chaoyang
Check out the Birds Nest, the 2008 National Olympics Stadium. Then dip into one of the microbreweries or craft cocktail bars in the area to reward yourself after a long week of sightseeing.
Beihai Park & Xicheng North
Explore and stroll around Beihai Park, it contains a large lake that you can rent a boat and row around in the summer. Check out the White Dagoba in the center of the lake which used to be Kublai Khans Palace before the Forbidden City was constructed.
Summer Palace & Haidian
Take the Metro all the way to the end of line 4 and check out the Summer Palace. Warning there will be lots of stairs but its worth the views from the top. The Botanical Gardens are also nearby.
where to stay in this beijing travel guide
Red Lantern House
Clean and simple rooms with A/C that surround a pleasant, lush courtyard. All rooms come with shared bathrooms. There are multiple toilets and showers and its kept very clean. Great location. Prices start at $40 a night. A + on the Beijing travel guide scale.
5 minute walk from Tiananmen Square, these clean, affordable accommodations come with free Wi-Fi and has a 24-hour front desk and a tour desk. Prices start at $23 a night.
Hotel Cote Cour
Located in the ancient Yanle Hutong the elegantly designed guestrooms combine modern chic designs into the traditional architectural structures. Great courtyard to relax at or have drinks on the beautiful rooftop. Located close to the Beijing Railway station. Prices start at $100 per night.
The Orchid Hotel
A gem located in the heart of the hutong area. Small but tastefully decorated rooms, amazing staff and very helpful with organizing tours. Prices start at $100 a night.
PUREMIND HULU courtyard hotel
This hutong converted into a hotel has old school feels with a modern design. This hotel is a great choice for travelers interested in monuments, sightseeing and temples. Prices start at $115 a night.
Jingshan Garden Hotel
Located in the center of Beijing, walking distance to the Forbidden City. Modern yet traditional design and has phenomenal views of Jingshan Park. Prices start at $115 a night.
The Opposite House
Japanese architecture, surrounded by chic bars, unique restaurants and boutique shops. Ideal for someone who wants to enjoy shopping, eating and drinking. Has a wellness center, fitness center and a fabulous pool. Prices start at $230 a night. A splurge on this Beijing travel guide.
what to eat
There are tons of restaurants and cafes all over so finding food won’t be a problem. A must eat Peking Duck– A classic imperial dish. Also try the Zha Jiang Mian, a very popular noodle dish. It is a thick wheat noodles with ground pork and cucumber shreds mixed together in a salty fermented soybean paste.
where to shop
- Silk Market – clothes, shoes, bags, and fabrics
- Antique Market – you guessed it for antiques
- Pearl Market – jewelry, electronics, and of course pearls. I went to the Pearl Market and got some great camera gear at a really good price. If I wasn’t on a backpacking trip and was headed home after I would have bought a lot more!
what to see
- Tianamen Square
- The Forbidden City
- The Summer Palace
- The Hutongs
- Drum and Bell Towers
- Temple of Heaven
best day trips
- Great Wall of China
- Ming Tombs
beijing travel guide survival tips
- A visa is required for most countries to visit China
- Food is served family style
- Beijing is flat so explore the city by bicycle
- If you have a student ID show it when purchasing tickets to enter places as you’ll get half off the ticket price
- Carry your passport on you at all times, you’ll need it to get a ticket for the Forbidden City and police could ask you to show it to them at any time.
- Subways close at 10:30 pm