Complete Guide on How Much Time to Spend in Beijing
Traveling to Beijing for the first time and wondering how much time you need in Beijing. You have to realize that Beijing is huge and there is no way to see everything in just a few days or even a few weeks…Don’t come to Beijing thinking that you can see it all in just one or two days. So how much time do you need to see it all?
Length of Stay
For first-time visitors, I recommend spending at least 3 days in Beijing. This should give you enough time to really get a feel for the city, see the main landmarks, and visit a few attractions.
The tourist attractions in Beijing are spread out and usually large in size. You will immediately see and experience more by going to fewer places. You feel you could use more time in Beijing, and also you feel you may never have enough time there.
Don’t try to see ‘everything’. This is simply not possible and will leave you tired and frustrated. Plan to visit no more than three big attractions every day and leave some time for unexpected discoveries.
The Important Factors to Consider When Deciding How Many Days in Beijing
The exact amount of time may vary from one person to another. There is never one perfect answer. It’s totally up to you. However, there are several important factors that influence your decision making.
- Time of the year
- Things you are interested in
- Is Beijing part of your China itinerary?
- Trips out of Beijing
How Long to Spend in Beijing: Time of the Year
September, October, and November are great months to visit Beijing as the weather is not as cold as in winter, nor as hot as the summer, and there is normally a low chance of rain. If you want to take your time and look around in shopping areas and hike the Great Wall for a day or two, 5 days in Beijing is actually the perfect amount. You can spend 3 days in Beijing, but it’s cutting it close–and you’ll need to come back again.
Winter is not really recommended as the best time to visit Beijing. Yes, we do have amazing Chinese new year celebrations but as a 1st-time visitor, if your main goal will be all the top attractions in Beijing, then 3 days is OK.
in winter it’s cold and even icy, but there’s almost no crowding. The quietest times of the top attractions are weekdays during the winter. It will probably take you less time to see the attractions in winter.
How Long to Spend in Beijing: Budget
Budget will play a massive role during your trip to Beijing. It will not only determine how many days you can afford to book a hotel but also which places you will visit in Beijing.
Determining a budget for a trip to Beijing is quite complicated. You must take into account various expenses, some are more important than others. The flights and accommodation rates vary depending on the season. The cheapest season is from December to March.
The 7 factors that will shape your decision are:
- the flight (round trip)
- accommodation (hostels, hotels, apartments…)
- transportation (from the airport, railway station, taxis, subway…)
- meals (breakfast, lunch, and dinner)
- visits, attractions, and shows
- extra expenses (bars, cakes…).
All the main attractions will cost you a bit or more, but you can also see some (like the Olympic Stadiums) from outside, which will save you money and time in Beijing. Few examples of top attractions in Beijing with prices:
- Forbidden City: from RMB40
- Temple Of Heaven: from RMB25
- Summer Palace: from RMB20
Each of the attractions will take you from 1.5 to 3 hours to fully complete, which can already make almost a whole day in Beijing.
How Long to Spend in Beijing: Transport
Beijing is large. Going from west to east can even take you 2 hours on the subway. The city is really well-connected by the subway.
You can get to wherever you need to go, or close to it, with public transportation… Still, many attractions (like the Great Wall, Ming Tombs) are located very far from each other. This might have an impact on how much time you will spend in Beijing.
In the Wangfujing area, you easily get to the main attractions (like Tiananmen Square, Forbidden City) by foot, without the usage of any public transport. But for the more remote places to visit (like the Summer Palace, the Olympic Park) you will have to get a subway.
How Long to Spend in Beijing: Things you are interested in
Have you got any must-see places in Beijing you really want to visit? Do you wish to see historic buildings, nightlife, nature? If yes is the answer, then you should plan more time in Beijing.
There are many different museums in the city so you can spend days in Beijing just visiting a few of them. From experience, you will be happy to add on at least an extra day for a side trip you’d like to take. Some of the places you could visit in such a case include Jinshanling Great Wall, Longqing Gorge, and Shilinxia Glass Viewing Platform from Beijing.
On the other hand, if you are very quick at visiting places and are more interested in buildings and the top sightseeing then you will need less time in Beijing. Pre-booking a good driver can also shorten the time you need in Beijing as you will be able to see Beijing attractions in a relatively short time.
How Long to Spend in Beijing: Is Beijing Part of Your China Itinerary?
If you are visiting Beijing as part of China itinerary, then you will be most probably limited by time. A tour to visit the main cities in China (like Xi’an, Shanghai, Chengdu, Guilin) will easily take 2-3 days in each of the destinations.
How Long to Spend in Beijing: Trips out of Beijing
If you have a few spare days while visiting Beijing, then you should definitely go for one of the best day trips from Beijing. I would recommend visiting Datong & Pingyao where you will experience the famous Yungang Grottoes, Hanging Temple, and Pingyao Ancient City. There are many great places to visit in China so you can plan an additional few days on top of the days you will stay in Beijing.
The Perfect Amount of Days Needed in Beijing
Most visitors spend 3-4 days in Beijing which is kind of the best compromise when you take time, budget and number of attractions into consideration.
If you only have 3 days, make good use of time then you will cover and have a memorable tour of all the top attractions. 4 days, on the other hand, is enough to get a feel for Beijing and see some of its best parts. It’s just a taste though. To really delve in, I think you’d need at least 5 days. However, you could easily spend a week in Beijing and not get bored.
For First Time Visitors: See All the Major Traditional Tourist Sites
The Great Wall, Forbidden City, Tiananmen Square, Summer Palace, Temple of Heaven, Hutong (ancient alleyway), and Bird’s Nest &Water Cube.
For Regular Visitors: Explore the Lesser-known Sights
The Ultimate 3 Day Itinerary For First Time Visitors
Here is a suggested 3-day itinerary for Beijing, so not everything may be your cup of tea. Feel free to pick from the days (and activities), but keep in mind that Beijing is big, so you change up this itinerary, you might have a lengthy subway or taxi ride between places.
Day 1: See the Ancient City
This day is all about experiencing Beijing at it’s best: history, Peking Duck and iconic views.
- Walk around Tiananmen Square, Forbidden City
- Visit the Temple of Heaven
- Try the famous Peking Duck in the evening
There is no doubt that Tiananmen Square is the heart of Beijing, and almost any trip to this city starts from here. The square has an abundance of sights to see and you should probably expect to spend at least 1 hour here.
Though the line for the Memorial Hall For Chairman Mao is long, if you get there early, you can avoid most of it. It gets more crowded on the weekend. The Monument to the People’s Heroes is spectacular to see up close. You will find the very impressive Great Hall of the People on the western end of the square. This building serves as the site for meetings of the Chinese Congress. The sunrise flag-raising ceremony is stately and quite interesting. There’s such a great sense of history there that you can’t help but be impressed.
The Forbidden City is right next to Tiananmen Square. It’s perhaps the most famous museum in China. The halls, pavilions, gardens, and over one million treasures are visited by 80,000 visitors daily. I highly recommend you to purchase advance tickets online through a third-party website. Don’t forget to bring your passport with you, you need it to get in.
The Temple of Heaven is a fantastic place to visit after lunch. It’s located about six kilometers southeastern of the Forbidden City. The temple is made up of three historical buildings that are hard to miss: the Hall of Prayer for Harvests, Imperial Vault of Heaven and Circular Mound Altar. The old cypress trees are worth checking out as some of them are over 600 years old. It is always nice walking around the park and enjoying the sight of the local people engaging in singing, dancing, and practicing kung fu among others.
End your first day in Beijing by tasting the Peking duck in Wangfujing street or Qianmen street. Peking duck is almost as famous as the Great Wall of China.
Bianyifang or Quanjude maintains several locations in the city. Another popular and well-regarded restaurant is Da Dong. Half a duck goes for about 140 RMB. Both Wangfujing street and Qianmen street have a wide range of restaurants with food catering for all budgets.
Day 2: Explore Beyond Beijing
On the second day of this Beijing itinerary, I suggest exploring the magnificent Great Wall. In fact, there are several sections of the Wall to visit, thus I will only mention one of my favorites.
- Walk Jinshanling Great Wall to Jinshanling East
- Watch a Kongfu show in the evening
Although Jinshanling is a lesser-known section than Badaling and Mutianyu, it’s one of the most beautiful sections of the wall in China. This tranquil and charming Jinshanling has long been known as the place popular with outdoor enthusiasts. However, only a handful of tourists make their way here. If you are a keen hiker, I highly recommend walking from Jinshanling to East Gate.
Of course, you could also head to Badaling as part of your Great Wall trip as it’s closer to the city but busier. In the evening treat yourself to a kung fu show at Red Theatre based on the famous Shaolin Temple.
Day 3: Iconic Beijing
- Visit the Summer Palace
- Take a glance at Olympic Park/Bird’s Nest/Water Cube
- Explore Nanluoguxiang Hutong, Houhai Lake bar street
- See Pandas at the Beijing Zoo
- Taste Dumplings in the evening
The third day in Beijing starts with another Beijing highlight-the Summer Palace. The Summer Palace is absolutely beautiful all year round and is very large. You can easily spend 2-3 hours here. Take a picnic or pick up some instant noodles if the weather permits.
Once you’re done with the Summer Palace, you can head on to the next stop-the Bird’s Nest/Water Cube. The Bird’s Nest Stadium and Water Cube were built for the 2008 Olympic Games. Those of you who appreciate unique architecture will love this place.
Nanluoguxiang Hutong/Houhai bar street area is one of the oldest neighborhoods in Beijing. It dates back to the 15th century and allows you to enjoy the authentic ambiance of the old city.
The Panda House is quite close to the entrance of the zoo. Within 5 minutes you can see pandas chilling in the enclosure.
In the evening stop at one of Beijing’s many yummy restaurants for dumpling. Dumplings are both cheap and convenient to eat. The humble Chinese dumpling will bring you closest to the mysteries of the real Beijing.
So that brings an end to the 3 days in Beijing. As packed-in as this itinerary might seem, Beijing still has so much more to see, so do feel free to adjust it to meet your own interests.
Optional Places to Add to the 3 Day Beijing Itinerary
- Mutianyu Great Wall: If hiking is not your cup of tea, you would love to visit the most beautifully restored Mutianyu Great Wall by cable car/toboggan. The 6-seater cable car ride is a gentle one, taking you from the lower station to the top in around 8 minutes. It operates seven days a week and trips occur within 5 minutes of each other. Furthermore, Mutianyu toboggan provides a fast run to the bottom. The toboggan is a fast, exciting, exhilarating and fun activity for youngsters/children. Kids would love it.
- Yonghe Temple (the Lama Temple). If you only have enough time to visit one temple in Beijing, then make the Lama Temple your priority. The holy temple is the place of worship and meditation for Tibetan Buddhist monks and has centuries of history built into the temple walls and grounds. It remains the largest and most perfectly preserved lamasery in China.
- Silk Market. While shopping at a mall is comfortable and you get high-quality products, the best experience of shopping in Beijing is at its markets like Silk Market. Here you will find the best in fashion, accessories, electronics and home décor all at a much lower price, so make sure to polish your bargain skills before heading out.
- 798 Art District. Art in Beijing doesn’t always require an elaborate venue or exclusive ticket —798 Art District is a worthwhile location when it comes to finding and watching art around the city. With regular art exhibitions, fashion shows, galleries, design shops, cafes, and hipster locals , it’s easy to see why so many art lovers visit to 798 Art District each year. The best part: it’s free!