Guest post by cinnawin
Map tips: each color represents a different day. Click a marker to learn more about the spot, and click the star in the map header to save the entire map under Your Places in Google Maps.
I’ve been to Beijing 5 times and spent a summer there for an internship. Beijing is very crowded, so getting around can be a challenge. Subways and taxis are good ways to get around, but pay attention to the taxi drivers/meters so you don’t get ripped off.
I think fall (Sep-Oct) is the best time to go to China and you can see the highlights in 3 days.
- Forbidden City
- Tiananmen Square
- National Museum of China
All in the central area and a pleasant day spent without much traveling. You need a half day for the Forbidden City (also called the Palace Museum), and I recommend requesting a voice guide. Tiananmen Square is only about 15 minutes walking from the Forbidden City and has lots of things to see. The National Museum gives you a great look at the history of China and is right in the square, and some other museums you could visit: Aviation Museum, Railway Museum, Natural History, and National Art.
Day 2: Great Wall of China
A tour to the Great Wall would be a full day, but definitely go to the non-touristy sections. You can actually see and hike the wall while getting pictures with no one else in them. Otherwise you’re just in in a crowd with other travelers and it can ruin the experience. The closest parts to Beijing are about an hour’s drive, and plan on closer to 2 hours and longer for the non-touristy sections. I still recommend booking a tour for the non-touristy parts because it’s out of the city and if any buses go there, it can be confusing (stops are usually only in Chinese).
- Summer Palace
- Houhai Lake
The Palace is about 30-60 minutes outside of downtown Beijing, depending on how you get there. Public transportation and taxis are available, but I recommend booking a tour again to make it easy. You can spend all day here as the grounds are spectacular. This is where the emperors would go to relax and there are lots of gardens, lakes, buildings and temples.
Houhai is a manmade lake with a lot of bars and music in the surrounding area. Great place to visit for dinner and drinks for the night, and it’s on the way back from the Summer Palace if returning to central Beijing.
A few additional tips:
Aside from the museums, I would always recommend booking a tour or having someone from the area with you. You can lose a lot of time trying to figure out directions or payment, or anything, really, so it will help to have someone who knows the language and area.
Definitely try the Peking duck.
Tipping is usually included so you don’t need to pay extra unless you really want to.
Check with your local bank to see if you can order Chinese Yuan before you go to get a good exchange rate. Otherwise, you’ll probably get a worse rate if you exchange at the airport or once you’re there.
Check for vaccinations if you’ll be going to rural parts of China.
Traveled in September 2016