Beijing is an exciting destination for the more adventurous traveler. The Chinese capital is steeped in history and includes many world-class historical sites such as the Forbidden Palace, Temple of Heaven, and Lama Temple.
If you wish to escape the hustle of the city, Beijing has many wonderful parks and gardens, the highlight of these being the Summer Palace.
For Foodies, Beijing is an excellent destination with its world-class cuisine. From small noodle shops to Peking duck restaurants, food lovers will be sure to fall in love with the city’s culinary delights.
Beijing is also a great base for exploring sections of the nearby Great Wall of China – a must see for anyone visiting the Middle Kingdom!
This is a guest post by Steve of The Trip Goes On
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Two Days in Beijing: Where to Stay
Budget: The Happy Dragon Hostel is a wonderful hostel centrally located close to Dongsi subway station and behind some of the city’s hutongs. There is a small restaurant on site serving a variety of Chinese, American, and European meals. Dorm beds, single, double, and triple rooms available. Click here for more information and to check the latest prices.
If you are planning on hostelling in China, check out this guide to Backpacking in China.
Mid-Range: The Holiday Inn Express (Temple of Heaven) is a modern and comfortable hotel a stone’s throw from the Temple of Heaven and Tian Qiao subway. The buffet breakfast is excellent! Click here for more information and to check the latest prices.
Luxury: The Nostalgia Hotel (Yonghe Temple) is a wonderful place in the hutongs close to the Lama Temple. This charming boutique hotel will greet you with a cup of traditional tea and leave you with a small gift. Excellent price for the service and location. Click here for more information and to check the latest prices.
How to Spend Two Days in Beijing, A Perfect Itinerary
Beijing in 2 Days: Day One
Tiananmen Square & The Forbidden Palace
Tiananmen Square in central Beijing is the site of many of the city’s most famous landmarks. Here you will find the Great Hall of the People, Museum of Chinese History, and of course the Forbidden Palace.
The Forbidden Palace was the seat of the imperial court during the Ming and Qing Dynasties (from 1420 to 1912). Thankfully the palace was left relatively untouched during the Cultural Revolution and can be seen in all its glory today. The palace complex, also referred to as the Forbidden City, includes almost 1,000 buildings over 700,000 square meters.
Insider’s Tip: One of the best places to view the palace complex and much of the city is Jingshan Park directly to the north of the palace.
Context Travel offers this amazing 3-hour private tour to the Forbidden City, check it out.
The Forbidden Palace was the winter residence of the imperial court. However, in the hot summer months, the court moved to the Summer Palace in the mountains 15km north west of central Beijing.
The Summer Palace is one of the most impressive sites in Beijing. The palace is set next to a large and tranquil lake with a huge park and makes a wonderful escape from the city.
The Summer Palace is easily reachable from central Beijing by subway and bus. The journey time is under one hour.
Yonghe “Lama” Temple & Hutongs
The Lama Temple is a Buddhist temple situated in the hutongs of Beijing; narrow, cobbled streets where the city’s residents have lived for centuries. The temple is a tranquil escape from the noise of the city. Incense wafts through the air as monks and devotees go about their daily prayers.
The temples inside the complex represent the best example of Tibetan Buddhist architecture in mainland China and is a must-see for visitors to Beijing.
Once you have explored the temples, cross the street and dive into the maze of the hutongs. As well as traditional homes, you will also find a great selection of restaurants and bars and this is a great place to spend warm summer evenings in Beijing.
You might be interested in a guided tour to the Tiananmen, Forbidden City, Temple of Heaven & Summer Palace.
Beijing in 2 Days: Day Two
Temple of Heaven
The Temple of Heaven was built in 1420 during the Ming Dynasty as a place of worship and sacrifice. The impressive circular building is situated within a large park showcasing ancient art, philosophy, history and religion.
Great Wall of China
No trip to Beijing is complete without visiting The Great Wall of China; one of the new seven wonders of the ancient world. The closest section of the Wall to the city is 70km away at Badaling, which is easily accessible from the city by bus (877), train (S2) or taxi.
The walkable length of the Badaling section is 3.7 kilometres (2.3 miles) and includes 19 watch towers, a cable car and a slide. Hiking the wall is not overly strenuous but those wishing to walk the entire section should have a moderate level of fitness and avoid the hottest part of the day.
As Badaling is the closest section of the wall to Beijing it can get busy, especially during public holidays such as Golden Week in October and Chinese New Year. One of the best ways to avoid the crowds is to go later in the day as most tours start early in the morning. Not only will you find far fewer people in the late afternoon/early evening, but you will also be able to witness the sunset from the wall; a magical sight indeed!
798 Art Zone (Beijing Art District)
A great place to spend the evening is the 798 Art Zone; a complex of old factories that have been turned into art exhibitions. There are many galleries, cafes, restaurants and bars in this hip area of the city.
There are usually different events and installations on display. Check Time Out Beijing for current events.
Practical Information for your 2 Day Beijing Itinerary
If you want to post photos of the incredible Beijing attractions on your social media, then a VPN is a must for any visitor to China. Many western websites and social platforms are banned in China, so using a VPN means you can circumvent the “Great Firewall” and stay connected. Read all you need to know about the best VPN for China.
WeChat & Alipay
WeChat is the Chinese equivalent of WhatsApp and is used by millions every day. As well as messaging and calling, WeChat can also be used to pay for everything from subway tickets to meals in restaurants, taxis and shopping. You will find a trip to China will be made easier by downloading and installing the app.
Another alternative to WeChat is Alipay which is just as widely accepted and can be linked to non-Chinese bank cards.
When is the Best Time to Visit Beijing?
Autumn (fall) is one of the best times to visit Beijing as the mountains surrounding the city erupt into a fire of bright orange, yellow and red. The city will be cooler than the hot summer months which can be a little stifling. Spring is also a good time to visit Beijing once the snows of winter have melted.
Winters in Beijing are cold (minus 20 Celsius is not uncommon) and the pollution can be bad at this time of year so best avoided.
How to Get from the Airport to the City Centre
The easiest, quickest and cheapest way to get from Beijing Capital Airport is to take the Airport Express from Terminals 2 or 3. Take the airport express to Dongzhimen and then transfer to Line 2 (blue) on Beijing’s subway system.
Tickets cost ¥25 ($3.80) and the journey time is around 30 minutes.
You can also book a private transfer. Click here for more information.
How to Get Around the City
The Beijing subway is the best way to get around the city. Tickets are cheap by western standards (around ¥6 one way, which is less than one dollar). The subway is easy to navigate as the signage is in both Mandarin and Pinyin English. Avoid the subway at rush hours (8 am to 9 am and 5 pm to 6 pm).
Unless you can read/speak Mandarin, then busses are probably best left to the locals. Timetables are in Mandarin only and the buses can get very busy.
Taxis in Beijing have a bad reputation among foreigners. You may find you will be ignored by taxi drivers and wait a long while for one to take you. Always ensure taxi drivers use the meter and don’t take unofficial taxis as you will be ripped off.
A great way to get around the city is by availing yourself of the many shared bikes you can find on every street. You will need the WeChat or Alipay app to pay, and the rental starts at ¥1.
Author Bio: Steve Rohan, originally from England, has lived in China for six year. He has traveled to over 50 countries and writes for the adventure travel blog thetripgoeson.com.