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Beijing in 4 Days: a guidebook for getting the most out of your visit

In Beijing you will find the best plans in China, you can immerse yourself in the culture of the Hutongs, visit the Forbidden City or tour the Art District.

Ana Caballero

Ana Caballero

9 min read

Beijing in 4 Days: a guidebook for getting the most out of your visit

Sunset in Beijing | ©cattan2011

Beijing is a charming city that offers attractions such as the Forbidden City or the Great Wall of China. Although knowing it in 4 days may seem an impossible journey, since it is one of the largest cities in the world, you can! In this article I show you what to see in Beijing in 4 days!

Day 1: Explore the heart of Beijing, the Forbidden City and the Summer Palace

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

The best way to start your visit is by getting to know Chinese history and architecture, so the three spots you'll see on Day 1 are full of charm. The best part? They are very close, so you can make the most of the day.

Qianmen Tower or Zhengyangmen Monument

Just a few steps away from Tiananmen Square, gliding down Qianmen Street, you will find the front passage of the Ancient Walled City of Beijing. Its Qianmen Tower was built in 1419 and restored centuries later to maintain its history-laden structure.

This location is also home to the True Sun Gate and the Arrow Tower. For an affordable price you will enter the interior of the structure and even have the chance to climb to the highest point to view the activities in the square and admire the architecture of Beijing.

Tiananmen Square

Want to see one of the largest squares in the world? Built in 1949, Tiananmen Square is considered the heart of the city and is where you can see the best sunrises. The entrance is free, but you will have to pass through a security checkpoint and it is mandatory to show your passport, additionally you will be able to see:

If you want to have breakfast, there are a variety of restaurants nearby, such as Siji Minfu, Bianyifang Roast Duck or Utopia Chinese Restaurant. Near this square you will also find Wangfujing shopping street, where you will find street markets, brand stores and shopping malls with a western style.

Book the Great Wall of China, Forbidden City and Tiananmen Tour

Forbidden City

Forbidden City| ©Mark Huguet
Forbidden City| ©Mark Huguet

You will need at least two hours to get to know it and I recommend you book a tour of the Forbidden City to discover its wonderful hidden corners.

The gate is located in Tiananmen Square, where you will enter a magical space, characterized by its courtyards, gardens and pavilions. Here you will be able to glimpse the Guardians of the Roof and Chinese Lions, located at the entrances of the pavilions.

During your stay I recommend visiting: the Treasure Gallery, the Hall of Clocks, the Wall of Nine Dragons, the Thousand Years Pavilion, the west pavilions and the Hall of Supreme Harmony.

  • Price: the entrance fee ranges from 5.3 € to 7.8 €, young children are free and adults over 60 years have a 50% discount.
  • Hours: open every day except Mondays.
  • Pleasenote: some stays have additional costs to the entrance fee.
  • Don't miss... The Coal Hill in Jingshan Park, where you can get the best views of the Forbidden City.

Book the Great Wall of China, Forbidden City and Tiananmen Tour

Summer Palace and Kunming Lake

If you started the day early, you still have the whole afternoon ahead of you. Your next stop is the Summer Palace. At the entrance you will find structures decorated with thrones and animals, ideal for taking pictures.

You will come across several Buddhist temples, especially on Longevity Hill. You can enjoy the Buddha Fragrance Pavilion, the Cloud Hall and the Temple of the Sea of Wisdom. The curious thing about this palace is that it is a reconstruction, the original was demolished years ago.

  • Note: you can see the actual ruins of the Summer Palace a few streets away.
  • Don't miss... Kunming Lake, perfect for watching the sunset. You can take the ferry to South Lake Island, where the Marble Boat is and cross the 17 Arches Bridge.

Book the Summer Palace, Lama Temple & Panda Garden Tour

Day 2: Adventures along the Great Wall of China, Ming Tombs and Olympic Village

Sunset at the Great Wall of China| ©Bernard Goldbach
Sunset at the Great Wall of China| ©Bernard Goldbach

On the second day you will have to get up early to start outside the Great Wall of China and continue to see the best that Beijing has to offer.

Great Wall of China

There are many tours to the Great Wall of China, but you are only allowed to visit the restored sections of this architectural paradise, which are:

  • Badaling: the most touristy, close to the city and easy to walk with incredible views of the mountains.
  • Simatai, Huanghua Cheng and Jinshanling: if you are looking for a more remote and longer option. It is not recommended in winter because it is a dangerous stretch and the fog complicates the climb.
  • Mutianyu Trail: an option that shares the best of each section. There are fewer tourists and you can use the cable car, the slide or the roller coaster.

The more risky people climb more and even camp in the guard ports of the unrestored sections, or stay in houses or hotels in the surroundings. But I recommend you to book an excursion to the Great Wall to get to know all its history and discover its most important points.

Book an excursion to the Great Wall and the Ming Tombs

Ming Tombs

Booking an excursion to the Ming Tombs is a must on your itinerary. It is a necropolis that houses the bodies of emperors, empresses, courtiers and other court figures of the Ming Dynasty.

Here you can learn their stories and walk the Sacred Way, the Great Red Gate Arch and the Avenue of Animals, where there are many statues you can't miss photographing.

Each compound is priced individually, but the best option is to book a guided tour to save money.

Book a tour to the Ming Tombs

District 798

If you are passionate about art, you can't miss District 798, the modern face of the city filled with events, sculptures, artists' studios, art galleries, avant-garde stores, designer goods, culture, architecture and more.

Admission is free and all around you will find a variety of activities in the Silk Market, as well as cafes and bookstores. If you want to go to a more modern district with buildings and skyscrapers, take a walk through the Financial District.

Beihai Park

Beihai Park| ©Lëa-Kim Châteauneuf
Beihai Park| ©Lëa-Kim Châteauneuf

In mid-afternoon, you can relax a bit in Beihai Park, an imperial garden where the statue of the White Dagoba, Buddhist temples and the Nine Dragons Wall with a variety of ceramic relief pieces are located.

You can pay for a boat or bicycle ride or, if you go in winter, ice skating. There are also hiking trails and you can cross the Yinding Bridge. Later you can choose to watch the sunset with live music, or take a stroll through the surrounding Hutongs.

Olympic Village

Sports enthusiasts can come at dusk to the Olympic Village, where the Beijing National Stadium is illuminated in the shape of a bird's nest.

You can also enjoy The Cube at the National Aquatic Center, where swimming competitions are always held and the Olympic Torch that raised the flames of the 2008 Olympic Games is on display.

Wangfujing Night Market

If you want to take a night walk in Beijing, you can not miss the markets, where you will find street food, nightlife, souvenir stores, shopping malls and a variety of stalls with crafts and food.

Would you dare to eat insects and other bugs? In Wangfujing Market there are starfish and seahorses, scorpions, cockroaches, snakes and spiders that you can taste. And another good option is the Donghuamen Market, which has been in operation since 1984, and the Pearl Market, dedicated to imitations.

Day 3: Visit the monuments and enjoy Beijing from the heights of the TV Tower

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

On the third day take the opportunity to visit those corners that do not require much time and that you have always wanted to know in Beijing.

Television Tower

If you want to appreciate the best panoramic views of Beijing you must visit the TV Tower, a modern building in the Financial District that has a revolving restaurant, a covered view for winter and an uncovered view for summer, without glass in between.

It's a worthwhile visit that won't take you too long. In the city there are other characteristic skyscrapers of Beijing that you can't miss.

Yonghe Temple or Temple of the Lamas

In Beijing you can tour impressive temples, such as the Tibetan Buddhist Yongue Temple, which was used many years ago by the Lama monks as a refuge.

Along the way you will find many Hutongs or alleys. The inhabitants of Beijing come here to pray, so it is considered a sacred space.

  • Price: 3€ approximately.
  • Hours: 9:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.
  • Recommendation: book a tour of the Yonghe Temple to be accompanied by an expert guide and enjoy more of the place.

Book a tour of Lama Temple, Summer Palace and Panda Garden

Panda Garden

Want to see the home of the giant panda? Book a tour of the Panda Garden at the Beijing Zoo.

This zoo houses many species and more than 7,000 animals, including the Manchurian crane, African giraffe, European wild ox and other Chinese species.

There are approximately 30 rooms and the interior resembles other characteristic gardens in the city.

Book the Panda Garden, Summer Palace and Lama Temple tour

Temple of Heaven or Tian Tan

The Temple of Heaven is characterized by being quiet and housing the Imperial Vault of Heaven, where the Echo Wall is located.

The most special thing about this temple is that its colors, shapes and sounds emulate the universe. It also has the Qinian Dian, a blue circular building that simulates the sky and has the Hall of Abstinence, which is a small replica of the Forbidden City.

Day 4: Hutongs, Old Summer Palace and gastronomic tour

Beijing Hutongs| ©JapanVisitor
Beijing Hutongs| ©JapanVisitor

During the fourth day in Beijing you can indulge your palate by tasting Chinese cuisine and seeing other special sites, such as the Hutongs or the Old Summer Palace.

Hutongs

You can not leave without taking a tour of the Hutongs, small streets characteristic of Beijing consisting of communities living in square courtyards, with the customs of the ancient dynasties.

Many have been demolished and replaced by modern areas, but you can still find the Quianmen Hutong and the Jinsitao Hutong. If you're looking for a more commercial experience, head to the Nan Luo Gu Hutong, where they sell souvenirs of the city and you can have lunch.

Old Summer Palace

This ruined site attracts history buffs from all over the world. Around it are the stone boat, Fuhai Lake and Fanghu Shengjing, so you can take a walk and explore.

The best museums in the city of Beijing house interesting information about this site.

Gastronomic Tour

To close your stay, I invite you to book a gastronomic tour where you can taste local food and craft beer, approaching small businesses of families originally from Beijing.

They usually take place in the hutongs that I told you about before and among the dishes you will taste you can't miss the noodles and grilled meats. In addition, the best thing is that this one I recommend is in small groups, so you can have a more direct contact with the guide and not get overwhelmed during the tour.

Book a gastronomic tuk tuk tour

Tips during your stay in Beijing

Beijing streets| ©Pierre Metivier
Beijing streets| ©Pierre Metivier

Beijing has a great charm, in order to enjoy your 4 days to the fullest, I recommend you:

  • Try some Beijing dishes, remember that the idea of travel is to connect you with the culture of the country.
  • Do not drink tap water, as it is not drinkable. So you should buy bottled water.
  • Do not travel on the first days of October, China's National Day is celebrated and is usually attended by many locals and foreigners, which collapses the city.
  • Book guided tours that include transportation and save a lot of time, as the distance between each attraction is long and there may be additional delays due to traffic.
  • Bring your student ID card for special discounts.

Book bus transfer to the Great Wall