Beijing Travel Guide and Itinerary

Beijing stock

Ancient palaces and gravity-defying superstructures, tradition alongside ultra-modernity — the bustling metropolis of Beijing may seem full of contradictions, but its blend of old and new is an essential part of its charm.  

About Beijing 

Home to more than 21 million people, China’s capital may seem intimidatingly frenetic, but beneath this energy you’ll find a warm, steady pulse: the locals are friendly, the food is exquisite and there are plenty of quiet moments to be had in pockets of old streets and classical gardens. There’s something to suit your every mood, too the city may be more than 3,000 years old, but it certainly keeps its reputation as the cultural hub of China. From pandas and party enclaves to avant-garde art institutions and centuries-old royal tombs, Beijing has a multitude of offerings to keep you fascinated. You’ll be inspired to return even before your first trip has ended.  

Since Beijing sees all four seasons, your packing list will depend on the time of year you’re visiting. Summers are hot and rainy — peaking at 31°C in July — so it would be wise to bring both sunglasses and an umbrella. Although it doesn’t snow heavily in Beijing, the winters are long, dry and frosty; the temperatures range from 2°C to -8°C in January, the coldest month. Spring and autumn are generally the best times to visit, but you’ll still need to sweaters and windbreakers to stay cozy. If you plan on liveblogging every part of your trip, be sure to have a VPN ready — Instagram, Twitter and Facebook are banned in China, after all. Another useful thing to know is that digital payments are now de rigueur in Beijing, so have something other than cash on hand. Also, while public toilets are plentiful, toilet paper is often not — you’ll want to take along a bag big enough to tote your own stash. Lastly, consider investing in a particle-filtering mask when you arrive in Beijing, so pollen and pollution won’t put a damper on your holiday fun.  

 

Highlights for the Traveler 

People all over the world visit Beijing to immerse themselves in history, but also to see what a Chinese megacity looks like. The time-traveling begins as soon as you land in Daxing International Airport, which is sleek, expansive, and full of futuristic curves and state-of-the-art facilities. If you thought the venues built for the 2008 Summer Olympics were edgy, wait ‘til you see the Chaoyang Park Plaza, a sprawling commercial complex with a skyline that looks straight out of a sci-fi movie. 

 

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Of Beijing’s 16 districts, the one that looms largest in the imagination is probably Dongcheng, where you’ll find the Forbidden City, Tiananmen Square, the Temple of Heaven and more iconic landmarks. Of course, no trip to China is really complete without seeing at least a portion of the Great Wall, and there are sections of it running through Beijing’s outer districts. For an even headier dose of old-world charm, venture into Shichahai in the Xicheng district. There, you can get lost among the hutongs — traditional alleyways that many find oddly charismatic — and stroll through the ridiculously scenic, thousand-year-old Beihai Park. The cheekier among us might call Beijing party central — and despite being the seat of the Communist Party of China, the city really does have a vibrant nightlife scene. When you feel like dancing off the too-many Peking duck pancakes and dumplings you’ve eaten (#noregrets though), head to trendy Sanlitun in Chaoyang, the city’s CBD.

Northwest of the city center are the Ming Tombs, remarkable mausoleums built by emperors of the Ming dynasty (1368–1644). Together with the Qing Tombs (built between the 17th and 20th centuries), these imperial mausoleums form a Unesco World Heritage Site. While you’re in Beijing, it would be remiss not to experience some of the city’s artistic heritage as well. Make it a point to catch performances of Peking opera, Chinese acrobatics and kung fu.

For some local flavor and some leisurely people-watching, head straight to one of Beijing’s hutong neighborhoods — many claim this is where you’ll see the “real” Beijing. These narrow alleyways are always bustling with street musicians and artists, but they’re especially lively at night when residents are returning from work. Lined with teahouses, bars, specialty stores, thrift shops and snack stalls, these charming streets are full of things to see, do and eat. 


Recommendations list to be updated.

Recommendations list to be updated.

Recommendations list to be updated.

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