Are three days enough to take in the best of Beijing?
Three days in Beijing might not seem like much, but you still have plenty of time to see the sights! This itinerary covers the Great Wall, the Forbidden City, the Summer Palace as well as some lesser-known spots you shouldn’t miss.
How to get there-
Emirates from UK via Dubai 11+ hours.
If you are visiting China on a layover of no more than 72 hours you do not need a visa. Anything over that you will need a visa before you arrive. Download application forms, have proof of arrival and departure for China and accommodation receipts, post paperwork plus passport to the Chinese Embassy around 4- 6 weeks before departure. Visa cost £84pp.
Where to stay-
Novotel Peace Hotel at around £70 per night. Located 2km from Tiananmen Square and Forbidden Palace.
What to eat-
Apart from the obvious Peking Duck, hit up Wangfujing shopping street, where there is a mall and a night food market selling everything including local delicacies on sticks- still squirming! You can choose from starfish, seahorse, snake, whole baby bird and tarantula!! We tried the deep fried scorpions. Inside the mall be sure to visit 'The Grandma's' but you might need to book in advance, the menu is a catalogue and you get a tick sheet that matches the catalogue numbers, very quirky and we ended up eating crunchy chicken feet by accident.
Three day itinerary
After flying into Beijing you can wander around Wangfujing night markets and absorb yourself in the local culture before resting ahead of your early start on day 2. Book with the concierge in hotel in advance for a car to take you around for the day.
Our driver Mr Wang picked us up at 0730 and take us around for the day, he waited on us all day and at a fixed rate of 700CNY which is around £78. An option is to go on guided tour but we prefer to do things more at our own speed.
An hour and half's drive from the city we arrived at the 'Mutianya' part of the Great Wall. We left Mr Wang to relax whist we paid for our tickets and got a bus to the village then a cable car to the top of the mountain. We paid 312CNY around £34. We recommend to arrive early at Mutianya, it is quiet early on before bus groups arrive in hoards. The hike can be very intense, so wear comfortable shoes with non-slip soles. Some parts of the wall were so steep we had to get on hands and knees and crawl!
After 3 hours we rejoined Mr Wang, and set off for the Summer Palace. Used as a temporary palace by the royal family during the Qing Dynasty to escape the summer heat, it was however burnt down by the Anglo-French and rebuilt in 1888.
It is a beautiful place in a beautiful setting, lovely buildings decorated in typical Chinese colours and designs, surrounded by water. Climb to the top of the Tower of Buddhist Incense, which is an octagonal tower holding the statue of the thousand-handed Buddha which seems very religious to the many hundred Chinese tourists that surround it. The Summer Palace is part of the World Heritage list since 1998. It is a great place to spend a few hours exploring the gardens and pavilions and views out over the 'foggy' (air polluted) skyline where you can see Beijing's high rises in the background.
If you have time head to the famous Birds Nest Stadium (National stadium) built for the Beijing Olympic Games in 2008. It is very interesting to look at with a very cool, quirky design. You can go on a guided tour at around £5 but if you have limited time, or you aren't too interested in what is going on inside, then just have a glimpse from outside, we visited as we went to watch Formula-e racing. It is located 1 hour north of the city by train.
From there you can take a taxi to Tiananmen Square. Note, you will need your passport to enter Tiananmen Square. Be sure to read up on the 1989 protests before you visit so you can appreciate what took place here. Walking through Tiananmen Square you will arrive at the Forbidden City.
The Forbidden City was the Chinese imperial palace from the Ming dynasty to the end of the Qing dynasty. Entrance fee is £7 and tours can cost up to £40 with a guide, we arrived later in the day and were offered a quick tour at just £8. You will walk over 1km through the City, looking at all the buildings and learning about each of them.
After Forbidden City you will see a temple up on a hill, it is the Pavilion of Imperial Springs and gives amazing bird eye views out over Beijing. You could see for miles, and has amazing views over the roof tops of the Forbidden City.
From here you can walk through the old part of the city getting a glimpse of local life in the streets and alleyways, strolling the 2km back to the Novotel Peace hotel.
Read more about our travels around China here