This is a guest post by travel writer Laura Nalin. You can find more of her stories and advice on her blog.
While there are a myriad of reasons to visit Beijing, food, history and architecture are likely up there. Spending just a few days in a country is often not nearly enough, but with the option of a free 72-hour visa and Beijing being a transport hub for travel around the country, this three day guide will ensure you see all the top things to do in Beijing without the stress of planning.
Day 1: Morning
Get settled in and have some rest if you need to. If you’re keen to start exploring right away, grab some breakfast at Baoyuan Jiaozi Wu, which is known for its incredibly delectable dumplings.
After you’ve energised somewhat, head down to the Lama Temple and observe the prayer customs from the locals and take in the peaceful energy. Once you’ve walked the temple grounds, head over to the Houhai Lake district if the weather is suitable for a long walk. If you’d prefer to take public transportation, take Line 2 from Yonghegong Lama Temple station to Jishuitan station.
Day 1: Afternoon
Once you’ve made it to the Houhai area, prepare yourself to stand in awe of its beauty. This entire area was constructed during the Ming Dynasty era and the dream-like architecture and atmosphere is unmatched and is one of my top things to do in Beijing.
Before your walk, grab some snacks like the delicious sweet potato chips or sesame biscuits near the lake at Jiu Men Xiao Chi, a shop renowned for its tasty and traditional treats. If you’re in the mood for something more substantial, there are plenty of restaurants near the Yin Ding Bridge on the lake. One of the more popular dining spots among the more adventurous travellers is Kong Yi Ji Restaurant, where the servers speak little English and the menu is entirely in Chinese. The menu is written in traditional scroll and bound together with thread, a pretty unique dining experience for sure!
After you’ve finished eating, be sure to walk or take a tour around the ancient grounds for sites such as the Prince Gong Mansion, the Drum Tower and the Yangfang Hutong.
Related Article: Beijing – a Foodie’s paradise
Day 1: Evening
Make your way down to the Lotus Market and stick to the shoreline as you’re walking. On your travels, you’ll come across the Huo De Zhen Jun Temple and the Jin Ding Bridge. If the sun has started to set, grab a seat on a bench under the weeping willow trees and soak in the atmosphere. The market is bustling at night, and a great spot to get more acclimated with the local culture.
If you’re not in the mood to traverse the market and its bustling crowd, head into town via the train to grab a fresh pint at Great Leap Brewing. The brewery offers a perfect fusion of East and West, using American brewing techniques infused with local ingredients such as tea, Szechuan peppercorns and honey.
Day 1: Night
After a few libations, pop over to the music venue Jianghu for some of the city’s best live music. This unique, cozy bar is located in a renovated siheyuan-style courtyard home. A must-visit in the heart of Beijing. Once you’re done soaking in the atmosphere, head to your accommodation to get some rest for an early start. You’ll have a long day of exploring ahead!
Related Article: How to spend 72 hours in Shanghai
Day 2: The Great Wall of China
Did you ever see images of The Great Wall of China and think, ‘Wow! I have to see that myself someday!’ I certainly did. Luckily, today is the day! The best option for getting the best out of your experience is to hire a tour guide who can not only educate you on the incredible history of the structure, but assist you with planning, transportation and the best vantage points for those photo-perfect moments. One of the best ways to see the Great Wall is with a local tour guide. Make sure to include a photo stop at the Olympic Bird Nest on your way back to Beijing.
Day 3: Morning
First things first, remember to wear comfortable footwear as you’ll be doing a lot of walking today. Hit the streets near your accommodation for some local goodies for breakfast and head over to the Summer Palace for a stroll around Kumming Lake and a glimpse at more of Beijing’s rich history. If you’re there early enough, you can enjoy a rare moment of tranquility while the rest of the city begins their day.
Once you’ve made your rounds, head over to the Temple of Heaven, a UNESCO World Heritage Site that was once the grounds for former emperors to pray. The crimson red architecture coupled with the bright gold accents are truly a sight to behold.
Day 3: Afternoon
Up next is the mecca of China: The Forbidden City. This magnificent historical site holds incredible reverence in Chinese culture and is pretty much the focal point of this capital city. Here you will find locals dressed up in traditional garments, tourists and monks all gathering for the same sentiment: to pay respect to China’s antiquity. Allow yourself a few hours here – it’s massive, and breathtaking.
Related Article: China’s 72-hour transit visa
Day 3: Evening
In order to cross Chang’an Avenue, you’ll need to access the underpass. It is more than likely that you’ll have to wait in line to pass through security as this is the favored option among locals too. Once your bag is searched and scanned, you’ll be permitted to cross through. On the other side you’ll be met with the infamous Tiananmen Square – the site of the fatal student-led protests in 1989.
The Soviet-inspired architecture and streets lined with the People’s Republic of China flags will transport you to another time. Across from the massive square you will find Chairman Mao’s Mausoleum where he is buried.
Once you’ve walked around the square, head over to Jing Ding Xuan for some of the best dumplings in town. Since this spot is quite popular among both tourists and locals alike, there is a chance there will be a wait. Trust me: it’s worth it. These dumplings are potentially my favourite thing in Beijing! This extensive menu has photographs, descriptions in English and caters to both vegetarians and carnivores. Order your dumplings with some freshly brewed Oolong tea and thank me later.
Head home and get ready for your flight tomorrow. Safe travels!
Enjoyed our ‘Top Things To Do in Beijing’ article? Pin it!
Do you have any tips or suggestions for great things to do in Beijing? Let us know in the comments!