Three Day Beijing Itinerary
The capital of China has so much to offer and trying to fit everything into three short days can often be overwhelming. Some of the worlds best known sights can be found in the city but large groups of tourists, smog, intense heat and a language barrier can often make it a tough environment to travel in. The following itinerary below is designed to give you a flavour of all aspects of life in Beijing, while seeing all the major points of interests.
Day 1: Tiananmen Square, National Museum of China, The Forbidden City and Jingshan Park
I recommend spending your first day in Beijing seeing all the major ‘bucket list’ sights in the city. Begin the day by catching the tube to Tiananmen west station on line one. From here, it’s a short ten minute walk to the entrance of the Forbidden city. In order to beat the queues, make sure you get here soon after the door open at 8am. The forbidden city is basically a mini city, within Beijing city and you could easily spend an entire day exploring the complex. Tickets cost 60 Yuan for an adult, with students getting 50% discount. I also recommend you get a audio tour guide which automatically starts and stops depending on where about in the city you are. It also has a map on the back that tells you where abouts you have/haven’t visited in the complex which is super handy. There are two main routes through the Forbidden city. The first takes about 80 minutes and takes you straight through from the entrance to the exit, seeing all the main buildings. The second, taking around three hours, takes you in a loop round the outside, to see the east and west wings of the city, then takes you through the main route to the exit.
The layout of the Forbidden city is designed so that everyone enters and exits in the same place, ensuring that people keep moving in the same direction to avoid massive jams of people. This means that you’ll end up exiting just after the imperial gardens, at the Gate of Devine Might. Upon leaving, walk straight forward to the entrance to Jingshan Park. Tickets are only 1 Yuan and the park is pretty quiet compared to the Forbidden city. Spend about an hour here walking around and grab something to eat from the many street food markets. Be sure not to miss heading to the temple at the top of the park which gives an incredible view of the Forbidden city and Tiananmen Square.
When leaving the park, take the short walk towards Nanluoguxiang metro station and take the tube to Tiananmen East. When you surface, the National Museum of China is right there. The queue will more than likely look huge. When I went I thought I’d be stood in it for hours but it ended up only taking 20-30 minutes. Entrance is free but you’ll need your passport again to get in. The museum is the third largest in the world and like most attractions in China, you could spend weeks exploring them and still not get to see everything. If you’re limited on time (the museum closes at 5pm) then be sure not to miss the ‘Old China’ exhibition on the bottom floor.
The exit of the museum leads right onto Tiananmen Square so spend the early evening exploring it. There isn’t much to do or see inside the square besides the Peoples Monument but theres usually a lot of people trying to sell you over priced souvenirs and offering to take pictures of you for a high price.
Day 2: The Great Wall and The Temple of Heaven.
No trip to Beijing, or indeed China, is complete without a trip to the Great Wall. Voted as one of the new ‘Seven Wonders of the World’ in 2007, it is undoubtably the most popular attraction in China. The wall itself stretches thousands of miles across China, some of which are accessible and some of which are not. The two main sections in Beijing are Badaling and Mutianyu. Badaling is the most popular section and is considered to be the ‘classic’ and prettiest section of the wall. Getting to this section os the wall is very easy and there are three main ways to get there. Option 1. Take a tour. These tours are generally very overpriced, ranging from anywhere between 70-200USD, you can do the wall much cheeper and also get the freedom of coming and going as you please. Option 2, take the train. tickets to Badaling are about 20 USD and take you directly to the newly built station at the base of the wall where the entrance is. Option 3, take the bus. The 877 bus goes directly from DeShengMen bus station in the city centre to the base of the wall. Tickets are only 4 USD and the journey takes around 1.5-2 hours, depending on traffic. The first bus/train leaves at 6am, getting you to the wall around 9am. By 10am the wall is already heaving with visitors and only gets busier from then on so its worth getting up early to make the most of the trip.
Entry to the wall is 60 Yuan (30 for students). You can walk fro as long or as little as you like but the most popular route is to walk the seven watch towers of the northern wall. This route takes about an hour each way and is by far the most scenic and popular. At the 7th watch tower, there is a cable car which takes you back down to the bottom (100 Yuan), alternatively you can walk down for free. If you want a less busy area of the wall, carry on after the 7th watch tower as the majority of people have left by this point.
Getting back to the city centre again is pretty easy. Just take the 877 bus back or get the train. When you get back to the city centre, take the tube to Tiantandongmen station and enter the temple of heaven park from the east entrance where its a lot quieter. There are two tickets available to buy. An all inclusive ticket for 60 Yuan which gets you access to all the buildings in the park (recommended) or a single entry just into the Temple of Heaven for 20 Yuan. The Temple of Heaven is my personal favourite attraction in Beijing. Its slightly quieter than some of the other attractions and the main temple is simple stunning.
Day 3: Shopping at Silk Street Markets, the 2008 Olympic Park and Peking Duck.
China - the home of fake goods. If you’re heading to Beijing you have to visit the Silk Street Markets. Here you’ll find six floors of boutique shops, selling everything from high street brands such as Gucci to authentic silk robes - handmade in Beijing. Shopping here in unlike any experience. There are no prices on any items and the vendors will jump on you with a super high price (or as they like to tell you their ‘best price’). From here, you need to knock at least 80% off before the real bargaining can begin. Haggle and don’t give up! If done right, you can grab some real bargains. If the shopping gets too much for you, head to the top floor to find lots of traditional Chinese eateries.
After spending your first half of the day shopping, take the metro to the 2008 Olympic Park. Aim to head here for about 5pm to take a walk around the two main stadiums - the Water Cube and the Birds Nest. There is a water park in the Water Cube which you can enter for 250 RMB or you can take a swim in the Olympic pool for 60 RMB. If water isn’t your thing, birds nest tours run throughout the day and also costs 60 RMB. Be sure to stay until after sunset as both stadiums get lit up and look stunning.
Once you’ve taken the perfect Instagram picture outside the Birds Nest, head back to downtown Beijing to try the world famous peking duck. The dish is generally the most expensive item on the menu but no trip to Beijing is complete without trying it.