Ultimate 5-Day Beijing Itinerary
To visit Beijing is to discover the heart of political power and the cultural center of China. To discover all the places of interest in Beijing, I recommend you spend at least 3 or 4 days on your first tour in China .
You’ll also find great deals on where to stay in Beijing, as well as examples of routes to visit the city in 5-6 days.
So, what are the tourist attractions to discover?
Day 1: Tiananmen Square / Forbidden City / Summer Palace
After breakfast, start to explore the historical face of Beijing with a brief visit to Tiananmen Square, now the largest city plaza in the world. Tiananmen Gate on the northern side of the square was the site where Chairman Mao announced the establishment of the People’s Republic of China.
This huge square is the largest in the world. It is said that it can hold more than a million people! It is bordered on the east by the People’s Assembly Palace and on the west by the National Museum of China
On Tiananmen Square is also 2 monuments:
The Monument to the Heroes of the People, built in honor of the martyrs who gave their life during the Chinese revolution in the nineteenth and twentieth century.
The mausoleum of Mao Zedong where is exposed the embalmed body of the former Chinese leader.
Stepping into the Tiananmen, you will see one of the world’s five most important palaces – Forbidden City (Palace Museum).
The Forbidden City was, from the Ming dynasty and for almost 5 centuries the residence of the emperors and their court.
Listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1987, it is ranked among the 5 most important palaces in the world and represents the culmination of traditional Chinese architectural knowledge. Must see in Beijing!
Forbidden City Times: 8:30 am to 5 pm, every day. The ticket office closes at 15:30.
To avoid queuing at the counters, I recommend buying your tickets in advance. All you have to do is go to the turnstiles with your printed tickets!
You can book tickets for the Forbidden City now by clicking here
After lunch, spend an enjoyable time in the Summer Palace, the largest and best-preserved royal garden in China.
The Summer Palace is, along with the Forbidden City, the must-see visit in Beijing.
Located in the northwest of the city, this UNESCO World Heritage site includes, in addition to the palace, a huge park with temples, pavilions, halls and bridges of classical Chinese architecture.
Stroll around ancient pavilions, mansions, temples, bridges and corridors while feasting your eyes on the vast lotus in Kunming Lake and the colorful paintings in the Long Corridor.
The park is built around Kunming Lake (昆明湖) and dominated by Longevity Hill (万寿山).
The Summer Palace is for many travelers the must-see place of interest in Beijing!
Optional activities: 1) You can watch a wonderful Kungfu Show in the Red Theater (Hong Ju Chang) which usually starts at 19:30; 2) Enjoy the classic Chinese art performance of Beijing Opera at Liyuan Theater during 19:30-21:00.
Day 2: Qianmen Street / Yuanmingyuan Park
Exit Tian’anmen Square from the south to Qianmen Street, which is the tourist street of Beijing. Throughout its length (a little over 800m), you will find tons of shops and restaurants.
Do not hesitate to take the small streets around, which are less crowded, less expensive, and more authentic!
After lunch, head to the Ancient Summer Palace, also known as Yuanmingyuan Park is located north of Beijing, east of the Summer Palace.
Although close, because of the size of the two sites, it is not possible to do them in their entirety in the same day.
Previously the emperor’s private gardens, this huge park includes, in addition to lakes, canals and gardens, multiple pavilions, halls, and bridges of classical architecture.
An archaeological area can also be visited, with ruins of European-style palaces, destroyed during the Second Opium War, in the nineteenth century.
When you visit the site, you have the choice between taking the entrance only for the park, or for the park + the ruins.
To get to the ancient Summer Palace, the easiest way is to take the subway to Yuanmingyuan Station.
Day 3: The Great Wall
If you go through Beijing on your trip to China, you can not miss a trip to the Great Wall! This is the place of interest!
After breakfast, drive about 70km to witness one of the Seven Wonders of the World – the Great Wall.
Visit the Mutianyu, a less crowded yet well-preserved segment of the Great Wall built in the Ming Dynasty. It will more than live up to all of your expectations!
This great wall, linking Gubeikou in the east and Juyongguan in the west, was served as the vital military strategic point in the ancient time.
Moreover, Mutianyu section is the “longest great wall in China” so far and since protection work is well done here, tourists can now see its original appearance and enjoy the real ancient culture of great wall.
Also, spectacular natural scenery in Mutianyu Great Wall always impresses visitors here for its abundant vegetation.
You’ll take a cable car to ascend the Great Wall, then hike the most beautiful and interesting part of Mutianyu. It’s a wonderful experience to climb up its rising towers to enjoy scenic views and take brag-worthy photos of the wall wriggling along mountain ridges.
After the exciting time, descend Mutianyu Great Wall by cable car. (Note: If energy permits, you can hike up or down which takes about 40 minutes to climb steps. Please tell your likes to your travel consultant.)
Continue your trip to Sacred Way, a 7-kilometer-long passage leading to the Imperial Tombs of 13 Emperors of Ming Dynasty. The Emperor, known as the Son of the Heaven, who came from Heaven to his country through the Sacred Way, also would return to Heaven through this road.
Take a walk through the largest archway in China and Great Palace Gate and you’ll see the magnificent stone guard of 12 sets of mythical animals and 12 officials.
Then drive back to Beijing city and take a short stop at the Beijing Olympic Village to view its famous Bird’s Nest and Water Cube from the outside.
Great Wall of China
Optional activity: After the whole day’s tour, treat yourself a great dinner to taste the famous Peking Roasted Duck at Quanjude.
Day 4: Temple of Heaven / Beijing Hutongs
After breakfast, head to the imperial site – Temple of Heaven.
The Temple of Heaven, is located south of Qianmen Street, from which it is also accessible on foot.
Symbolizing the connection between heaven and earth, it offers visitors since 2006, year of restoration, a multitude of temples and pavilions to visit, in addition to a large park.
The most famous pavilion is the “Prayer Room for Harvesting”, built on a circular promontory, with its cylindrical base and 3-part roof.
As with the Forbidden City, it is better for you to buy tickets in advance. It’s the best way to save time on your day of visit!
Book your tickets for the Temple of Heaven by clicking here
Then, hop on a rickshaw to experience Beijing Hutongs – small alleys made of neighboring quadrangle dwellings. Shuttle among different Hutongs to feel the old Beijing life style, meet various antique shops and small boutiques, feel the historical changes of Beijing, and also pay a visit to a local family’s home in the traditional Hutongs.
The Hutongs, traditional neighborhoods, form a labyrinth of small streets very pleasant to visit! It’s really nice to hang out there and discover authentic scenes of life, you can spend hours there and not see the time passing. A real return in time!
The 2 areas with the highest concentration of Hutongs are the north west of the Forbidden City, and the south of Tiananmen Square, near Qianmen Street.
If you are interested in visiting Hutongs, this site lists the 10 most famous: Beijing hutongs
Here is also the map of a (very) big tour of hutongs near the forbidden city, this should help you to make your route!
Day 5: Beihai Park
Beihai Park, formerly a private imperial garden, is one of the oldest (over 1000 years old!) and most beautiful parks in the country.
Now public, this haven of peace, located northwest of the Forbidden City, in the city center, consists of a large lake (Northern Sea) on which is the island of Qiongdao.
To be discovered on foot or by bike, this relaxing place is ideal for getting away from the hustle and bustle of the capital for a few hours!
Tips for your Beijing itinerary:
Are you going to Beijing?
You know: the hardest part is certainly finding a hotel offering a good price/performance ratio!
And it’s even worse in big Chinese cities 😀.
And yes, the closer you get to your travel date, the less availability there will be. Tens of thousands of people will visit Beijing on the same dates as you, and you can be sure that all the best-located and price-wise rooms will have already been booked!
Fortunately, the solution to this problem is simple: do like me and plan ahead!
So take 5 minutes now to take a look at the list of travelers’ favorite hotels in Beijing.
Once you have booked your hotel, it’s time to continue reading this guide!
More information about Beijing, please take a look at: Itinerary with Top 13 Things to Do in Beijing
When to visit Beijing?
In order to make the most of your stay in the Chinese capital, here’s where to go in Beijing :
- The best months to visit Beijing are April, September and October.
- To avoid absolutely : The months of November to March, cold, and very polluted (The coal factories turn at full speed to supply the city with electricity for the heating)
If you can not handle the heat, avoid going to Beijing in July and August.
As everywhere in China, it is not recommended to plan your stay during Chinese national holidays, especially the Chinese New Year. Everything is crowded and prices soar!
You will find the Chinese holiday dates on this website.
1 Day Beijing Itinerary
If you can only spend one day in Beijing, I recommend getting up early and making the following visits:
- Visit the forbidden city in the morning, it opens at 8:30
- In the afternoon, take a walk through Tian’anmen Square, in front of the Forbidden City
- You can go to the National Center for the Performing Arts in Beijing, just next door.
- Also go see the Hutongs around the Forbidden City.
2 Days Beijing Itinerary
In 2 days in Beijing, in addition to the previous itinerary, you will be able to visit another must-visit of the city!
- Visit the Summer Palace, it’s huge and a little out of the way, the visit will take you the day!
If the visit of the city does not interest you necessarily, 2 days also allow you to visit the Great Wall of China, as I explain in my article 3 weeks in China (at the end)
3 Days Beijing Itinerary
In 3 days in Beijing, in addition to the previous 2 days, here is what I suggest you:
- Visit the Temple of Heaven
- Then go on Qianmen Street to enjoy a Peking duck!
- In the afternoon you can relax at Beihai Park
Beijing Tourist Map
Here is a tourist map of Beijing, which will help you to locate the main attractions of the city:
Accommodation in Beijing
Here are my favorite hotels to stay in Beijing. Book in advance to benefit from the best rate!
- Happy Dragon Hostel Courtyard Dongsishitiao: Hostel in a quiet area 150 meters from the nearest metro station and 3km from the Beijing train station. Bed in dormitory from 8 € per night, breakfast at 4 €. Very welcoming staff. Most: ideal location and English speaking staff.
- Shichahai Shadow Art Performance Hotel : Nestled in the heart of a hutong, in the historical district of Xicheng, close to the lakes. Room combining modernity and typical decoration from 57 € per night, breakfast buffet (very rich) included. Most: Free Chinese shadow show and opportunity to take a calligraphy or cooking class. Our big favorite in Beijing!
- Beijing Double Happiness Courtyard Hotel : Typical hotel located in a hutong near the center, a 20-minute walk from the Forbidden City. Very comfortable room decorated in the old Chinese style from 100 € per night, breakfast included. Plus: the hotel offers excursions at attractive rates.
- Legendale Hotel beijing : Hotel 5 * very well located near a metro station and the Forbidden City. This European-style palace is truly sublime, and the staff can not do enough for you! Overnight from 170 €. This is for me the best choice for a luxury stay in Beijing.
And you, what did you plan to visit during your stay in Beijing?
Are you going on a trip to China? Read also
- Check out all our articles on China : All BonAdvisor articles about the Middle Kingdom are listed here.
- 3 weeks itinerary in China : an example of itinerary, ideal for a first visit!
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