Beijing in 3 Days: a guidebook for getting the most out of your visit

Exploring the city of Beijing on a long weekend is a possible task, as long as you optimize the time of the planned itinerary. Here is a list of the must-sees

Ana Caballero

Ana Caballero

11 min read

Beijing in 3 Days: a guidebook for getting the most out of your visit

Beijing | ©Adrian Rodriguez Perez

Ancient and modern, this is the millenary city of Beijing, where you will find more than 2,660 temples, palaces, museums, parks, squares, pedestrian streets lined with galleries, shopping malls and other businesses. A place full of contrasts. Learn about the best itinerary for your three-day trip to the Chinese capital.

Day 1: See the must-see of Beijing

Through the Tiananmen Gate| ©Shande Villa
Through the Tiananmen Gate| ©Shande Villa

For your day 1 in Beijing the plan is very simple: make the most of your time to visit as many places as possible. Such is the case of Tiananmen Square, the National Grand Theater, the Forbidden City, Jingshan Park, the Lama Temple, the Confucius Temple and Wangfujing pedestrian street.

Start at Tiananmen Square

The first proposal for this day is the colossal Tiananmen Square or Gate of Heavenly Peace, considered the largest in the world, due to its dimensions of 880 x 500 meters. This destination is approximately a six-minute drive from the city center.

Upon arrival you will find many things to do in Tiananmen Square in Beijing. Some of these include:

  • A 38-meter-high obelisk, erected in the center of the square in honor of the people's heroes.
  • The Great People's Palace, built during the year 1959.
  • The Mausoleum of Mao Zedong, with the remains of the former chairman of the Communist Party of China.

In addition, in the western area of the square you can find the National Museum of China, and on the east side highlights the Museum of History, just inside the Quianmen Tower. To get a deeper insight into each of them, I recommend that you book a tour of Tiananmen Square.

  • Price: admission is free and the tour is priced from 82 €.
  • Hours: from 5 am to 10 pm.

Book a Tiananmen Square Tour

Discover the National Grand Theater of China

If you are an architectural enthusiast, then as you leave Tiananmen Square you should make your way to the National Grand Theater of China. This impressive building is located about a five-minute walk east.

You will be amazed by the work of Parisian Paul Andreu: an immense oval dome made of titanium and glass. You can contemplate this jewel of modern architecture and take pictures in front of its facade.

Be dazzled by the Forbidden City

The next stop is the Forbidden City, known during the Ming and Qing dynasty as the Chinese Imperial Palace, located approximately six minutes by car or 22 minutes walking from the National Grand Theater of China.

In this millenary construction from 1406, you will find huge wooden pavilions, lots of courtyards and gardens. In addition, there is the amazing museum with relics representative of China's history.

If you book the Forbidden City tour you can delve into the Hall of Supreme Harmony, the Hall of Longevity, the Tiananmen Gate, the Imperial Yuhuyuan Garden, the Marble Staircase and the Wall of the Nine Dragons.

  • Price: the entrance fee starts at 60 yuan or 8 euros approximately, from April to October, and 40 yuan or 6 euros approximately, from November to March. Regarding the tour of the Forbidden City, next to the Great Wall of China and Tiananmen Square, has a price from 82 €.
  • Hours: open from 8:30 am to 5 pm, from April to October, and from 8:30 am to 4 pm, from November to March. The museum is closed every Monday.

Book the Forbidden City tour

Don't miss Jingshan Park

Jingshan Park| ©Enrique RG
Jingshan Park| ©Enrique RG

About an 18-minute walk from the above destination you will find Jingshan Park with a beautiful hill, no more than 50 meters high, rising at its center. From there, you will get a privileged view of the Forbidden City.

You will be able to walk along a series of steep paths while enjoying the fresh air, nature and the characteristic structures and ornaments of Chinese parks (wooden gates and pavilions). Certainly an ideal activity if you visit Beijing in summer.

  • Price: the entrance fee is approximately 2 yuan, about 0.26 € and residents get free access.
  • Hours: the park is open from 6 am to 9 pm, from April to October, and from 6:30 am to 8 pm, from November to May.

Visit the Lama Temple

The Lama Temple is the next stop on this itinerary. It is a Buddhist and Tibetan temple complex located about 17 minutes drive from Jingshan Park.

In this place, erected in 1694 and considered among the best temples in Beijing, you will experience a true atmosphere of spirituality. Book a tour of the Lama Temple and take a guided tour of the various buildings that make up the temple and admire the beauty of its traditional Chinese architecture, ornaments and bronze statues.

You will also watch other visitors worship Buddha with their prayers and incense burning.

  • Price: the entrance fee starts at 25 yuan or 4 € per person approximately; while the tour is priced from 79 €.
  • Hours: open daily from 9 am to 4 pm.

Book the Lama Temple tour

Visit the Confucius Temple

Directly opposite the above destination (550 meters away or approximately seven minutes on foot) you will see the Confucius Temple. There, you will see a life-size statue of the Chinese thinker and enjoy a pleasant natural environment.

During the visit you will walk through a series of pavilions surrounded by beautiful canals and greenery. All these spaces are accessible through ancient bridges built in marble. Undoubtedly, an ideal place to get away from the bustling city, relax, meditate and take some pictures.

  • Price: the entrance fee is approximately 30 yuan, about 4 € per person.
  • Hours: open daily from 8:30 am to 5 pm.

Walk along Wangfujing pedestrian street and the bug market

Leaving the Confucius Temple, you can approach the Wangfujing pedestrian street, about 18 minutes away by car. On this artery, you will find a lively atmosphere with world-class stores, galleries, shopping malls, food stalls, restaurants and much more.

During your walk along Wangfujing, you will come to the famous Bug Street Market, with dozens of food stalls decorated with traditional Chinese red lanterns. You will be able to embark on one of the best food tours in Beijing, tasting a variety of bugs: spiders, seahorses, scorpions, ants, worms, snakes, among others. My recommendation is to book the gastronomic tour by tuk tuk.

  • Price: both the access to Wangfujing Street and the market is free but you will have to pay for what you consume.
  • Hours: the bug market is open every day from 6pm to 11pm.

Book a gastronomic tuk tuk tour

Day 2: Delve into Beijing: the Temple of Heaven, Qianmen Street, Beihai Park

Temple of Heaven| ©m w
Temple of Heaven| ©m w

The main goal of your day 2 in Beijing is to visit some of the must-see sights: the Temple of Heaven, Qianmen Street, Beihai Park, Prince Gong Mansion, the Zoo and the Beijing Aquarium.

Step into the Temple of Heaven

Your second day's adventure begins at the Temple of Heaven, incorporated among the top destinations of the best Beijing tours. This is a historic site located a 16-minute drive from the city center.

At the temple you will have access to the Hall of Abstinence, the Circular Altar and the Imperial Vault. In addition, you will see the Hall of Prayer for Good Harvests, erected on a beautiful marble terrace for the emperor to perform rituals asking and thanking heaven.

  • Price: the entrance fee is from 35 yuan or 5 € approximately.
  • Hours: the temple is open from 8 am to 6 pm in summer and closes one hour earlier the rest of the year.

Walk along the Qianmen Pedestrian Street

The next destination is Qianmen Pedestrian Street about 14 minutes away by car or 33 minutes on foot from the Temple of Heaven. In fact, you could take advantage of subway line 7, whose stop is close to the temple.

The length of this street is about 845 meters, where you will find a variety of stores and restaurants that retain a classic aesthetic. You can go sightseeing while shopping for souvenirs and tasting some preparations of traditional Chinese cuisine and fusion. All this in a lively atmosphere.

Stroll through Beihai Park

At an approximate distance of 15 minutes by car or 30 minutes walking, you will find the second destination of your itinerary, the Beihai Park. This natural space of about 500 meters wide by 3 kilometers long, is home to a series of gardens, temples, pavilions and walls.

Along your tour of the park, you will discover the Pavilions of the 5 dragons, built in 1602. These are five buildings connected to each other, recreating the shape of a dragon. In addition, there is the Nine Dragons Wall, made of glazed tiles of seven different colors and, on the north side of the park, the 4,000 square meter Beihai Jingxinzhai Garden.

  • Price: the entrance fee is approximately 10 yuan, or about 2 euros from April to October, and 5 yuan or 0.68 euros from November to March.
  • Hours: the park is open from 6:30 am to 9 pm from April to October and from 6:30 am to 8 pm from November to March.

Discover the Prince Gong Mansion

Prince Gong Mansion is the next stop. You will have to walk a distance of 25 minutes from Beihai Park or drive for 13 minutes. Both times are approximate, as it will depend on your walking speed and traffic flow, respectively.

In this mansion-museum built during the Qing dynasty in 1777, you will have the opportunity to explore several gardens and courtyards. You will be surrounded by a traditional setting with ponds and artificial hills.

  • Price: the entrance fee to the park is 40 yuan, approximately €6 per person.
  • Hours: The park is open from 7:30 am to 4:30 am.

Marvel at the Beijing Zoo

Zoo entrance| ©leo818lion
Zoo entrance| ©leo818lion

A 14-minute drive from the above destination is the Beijing Zoo, with different animal species (gorillas, elephants, among others) and the marine life center with sharks, dolphins and fish. In addition, there is the Panda House.

At the zoo you will also enjoy a pleasant natural environment, suitable for relaxing and taking lots of pictures. You will see some lakes and lagoons bordered by beautiful vegetation. You will also be able to navigate through an extensive canal.

  • Price: the entrance fee to the zoo is about 15 yuan or about 1,90 € in summer, and 10 yuan or about 2 € in winter. The entrance to the Panda Center is from 5 yuan or 0.68 €.
  • Opening hours: the zoo is open from 7:30 am to 6 pm in summer and from 7:30 am to 5 pm in winter. The Panda House from 8:00 am to 6:00 pm in summer and from 8:00 am to 5:00 pm in winter.

Don't miss the Beijing Aquarium

Another must-see attraction is the Beijing Aquarium, just a 14-minute walk from the above destination. This is a huge museum, which exhibits the marine life of thousands of species.

Inside this building considered among the best museums in Beijing, you will see three amazing tanks with sharks, jellyfish and white whales. There are also collections of tens of thousands of marine ornamental fish and freshwater ornamental fish. And finally, you will enjoy the spectacle of sea lions, dolphins and whales.

  • Price: the average price is 175 yuan or about 24 € per person. Students and children under 18 years old pay about 87 yuan or about €12.
  • Hours: daily from 9 am to 5:30 pm.

Day 3: Take a short trip from Beijing

Touring the Great Wall of China| ©Ajmal MK
Touring the Great Wall of China| ©Ajmal MK

After enjoying the best things to do in Beijing, on this last day in Beijing you can escape the hustle and bustle of the city and visit some destinations of great historical, social and cultural significance. You can choose between the Ancient Summer Palace and the Great Wall of China.

Option 1: Visit the Old Summer Palace

Approximately 12 kilometers or 40 minutes drive from Beijing, you will find the Emperor's Old Summer Palace. It is a gigantic garden with ruins, temples, bridges and pavilions. Among some of the places you will see if you book the Summer Palace tour are:

  • The Hall of Benevolence and Longevity: with a throne decorated by nine mythical dragons.
  • The Garden of Virtue and Harmony: four courtyards dotted with buildings such as the Grand Theater.
  • The ruins of the old summer palace: product of the destruction caused in 1860 after the second Opium War.
  • Exhibition hall: with a model of the old palace and a series of relics.

Also, there is Suzhou Street where you can enjoy some tea houses, restaurants and old style stores and many other gems hidden in the Old Summer Palace.

  • Price: the entrance fee starts at 50 yuan, about 7 € per person in winter and 60 yuan or about 8 € in summer and the tour starts at 79 €.
  • Hours: open from 6:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. from April to October, and from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. the rest of the year.

Book the Summer Palace tour

Option 2: Be dazzled by the Great Wall of China

Embarking on one of the day tours to the Great Wall of China is a good option to end your three-day itinerary in the city. It is one of the seven wonders of the world. If you don't know how to get to the Great Wall of China you don't have to worry, you can book a tour to the Great Wall and the Ming Tombs. You will travel less than two hours from the city center to Mutianyu, considered the most beautiful and least crowded section of the Wall.

Once in Mutianyu, you must begin the ascent to the Wall. A 10,000-step stairway, a funicular or a chairlift is available. Afterwards, you will start the walking tour of this millenary construction, admiring its splendid architecture and taking amazing pictures. In the meantime, the guide will tell you the history of the place.

If you prefer to visit the Great Wall of China on your own, do not hesitate to book the bus transfer to the Great Wall of China from Beijing to get there without any problems.

  • Price: the cost of the tour starts at 74 €.
  • Hours: this section is open daily from April to October from 7:30 am to 6 pm, and from November to March from 8 am to 5 pm.

Book a tour of the Great Wall

Beijing 3-day activity highlights

The city of Beijing also called Beijing is a place with many tourist attractions to discover. Therefore, during your stay you will need to organize your time with an itinerary in order to visit as many destinations as possible.

  • Day 1
  • The Forbidden City
  • Starting at 60 yuan or 8 euros per person (April to October) and 40 yuan or 6 euros (November to March).
  • Open from 8:30am to 5pm (April to October) and from 8:30am to 4pm (November to March)
  • Tour duration 4 hours (approx.)
  • Day 2
  • Temple of Heaven
  • Starting at 35 yuan or 5 Euro per person
  • Open from 8 am to 6 pm (summer) and closes one hour earlier the rest of the year.
  • Tour duration 2 hours (approx.)
  • Day 3
  • Mutianyu Great Wall of China Tour
  • From €90 per person
  • Open every day from April to October (7:30 am to 6 pm) and from November to March (8 am to 5 pm)
  • Tour duration 9 hours (approx.)