From Heart And Seoul

3 Days in Beijing: Everything You Need To Do

February 14, 2017 40 Comments

China. Totally, completely different than what I expected. In the best way.

Beijing is often touted as the overcrowded, super polluted, communist capital of China. And that’s all true… but once you see it face to face, your opinions won’t revolve around any of that.

We spent 3 days in Beijing, and if you’re willing to wake up early, stay gone all day, and hop around the city (luckily cabs are cheap – read more here) it’s plenty of time to explore. Here’s what to do & the reasons that back it up:

 

Day 1

 

Arrival:

Beijing Capital is a HUGE international airport, so my fellow Atlantans will be right at home. It ranks second only to Hartsfield Jackson as the world’s busiest airport.

Arrivals are NBD though. Immigration was painless, and as long as you have your VISA sticker you should breeze right through. If you’re planning to go for the 72-hour VISA free entry, don’t stress about that either. There’s a separate line you can go through and fill out/hand in your paperwork on site.

Once you get your luggage, head all the way to the bottom floor for the official taxi line. Taxis are cheap in Beijing. I’m talking $20 for an hour long cab ride. And yes it will take you an hour to get to the city center from PEK. Take a nap, because when you get to your hotel you’ll want to drop your bags and go.

Beijing China bicycles mopeds

Temple of Heaven:

Based on where your hotel is, you can do any number of things first. Ours was walking-distance to the Temple of Heaven, and we made the mistake of actually walking there in January. Twenty minutes later we were at the front gates, but our fingers were numb.

When you get there, it can be a little confusing as to how to get inside and what exactly you’re paying for. Just buy the most basic entrance ticket to get inside the walls at the front gate. Once you get in, don’t go straight through – you’ll have to buy additional entrance tickets if you do (these are for other attractions along the way). But if you’re just trying to get to the Temple of Heaven, go left or right and walk through the tree-lined paths. You can simply go around the other attractions and head straight for the back.

Beijing Temple of Heaven China

Beijing Temple of Heaven China

Beijing Temple of Heaven China Door

Beijing Temple of Heaven China

Beijing Temple of Heaven China

Wangfujing:

This area is what made me fall in love with Beijing. Wangfujing has a little bit of everything, and it’s so full of life that you can’t possibly get bored. There’s plenty of shopping (alleyway markets and department stores alike), tons of seriously crazy street food, and free entertainment everywhere you look.

Here’s a glimpse of what to expect:

You definitely want to take your time in these alleyways, but don’t take too much time. And don’t look too interested. People are friendly, but they can also be a little to friendly – don’t be surprised if someone tries to pull you over by the arm.

Beijing Wangfujing China

Like I said before, entertainment everywhere! We were talked into joining two Chinese guys for a game here.

Beijing Wangfujing China

Once you work up an appetite, grab one of the candy-coated strawberry skewers & a beer from the street vendors. You’ll need it to work up your nerve for the REAL street food later.

Beijing Wangfujing China

Once the sun goes down, head to the infamous Wangfujing Snack Street. Some vendors won’t let you take a photo until you buy, but there are plenty of options. From starfish to scorpions, to huge beetles and even large lizards on a stick – you can’t leave without having a taste of something. We opted for seahorse – fried and seasoned for us on the spot!

Beijing Wangfujing snack street China

Beijing Wangfujing snack street China

Beijing Wangfujing snack street China

Beijing Wangfujing snack street China

Beijing Wangfujing snack street China

 

Houhai Lake:

After dinner, don’t crash just yet. Although Houhai Lake is a bit farther from central Beijing, its a huge area full of restaurants and bars right on the water. And its perfect for walking around – all in one spot. We headed here and ended up at a Chinese restaurant with amazing food. Most of the bars in the area have live music playing, but you might have to do some walking to find one that has the right atmosphere (i.e. not sad and dark, but not flashing strobe lights). Regardless, its worth the trip for walking around & dinner on the lake.

Beijing Houhai Lake China

Beijing Chinese food China

 

Day 2

 

Great Wall – Jiankou to Mutianyu:

Just wow. You need at least an entire day for this. And I mean a 12 hour day. Click here to read about our hike from the Wild Wall to the restored section.

Great Wall of China Jiankou

Day 3

 

Tiananmen Square:

If you don’t already know what happened here, look up the Tiananmen Square protests of 1989. Then go visit. It’s surreal what happened here – I wouldn’t leave Beijing without visiting this site. I even remember reading about it in textbooks as an elementary student.

Even if you have no interest in history whatsoever, you should still go. The huge portrait of Chinese leader Mao Zedong hangs outside the Tiananmen Gate, and to experience even more of the Chinese culture – go at sunrise or sunset to see the flag raising/lowering ceremony.

We opted to get up before the sun. The flag raising ceremony lasted less than 10 minutes, but the fact that it happens every. single. day. is impressive in itself. Worth the early start in my opinion!

Beijing China Tiananmen Square

Beijing China Chinese soldiers

 

Forbidden City:

The Forbidden City is massive. It literally has 9,999 rooms (9 is a lucky number in Chinese culture), so it would take you months to see it all. But that’s exactly why you need to see it, even if you just spend 30 minutes there. It’s hard to grasp the scale of it from within, but you can also head to Jingshan Park afterwards for a good view from above.

FYI – you’ll need your passport to buy tickets here, so keep it on you. Read my post here for more tips like this on China.

Beijing China Forbidden City

Beijing China Forbidden City

 

Hong Qiao Pearl Market:

This wasn’t on our list when planning our trip, but we actually had some EXTRA time during this day. We had been told by multiple English-speaking cab drivers about the fact that Obama visited this market when he was in Beijing. So we thought – maybe it’s really that good.

About that…

Hong Qiao can easily be designated a “tourist trap” – but you should still go, and here’s why. If you know what you’re doing – you can walk away with some decent merchandise. Contrary to the name, Hong Qiao doesn’t just sell pearls. You can find just about anything in here – shoes, jackets, Christmas ornaments, silk ties, jewelry, electronics… and the list goes on. The trick is to offer 10% of whatever they are selling at. Yes – TEN PERCENT.

It feels weird at first to throw out such a low number, but when you go back and forth a few times and hold firm – you can win. It seems to obvious to say, but just be willing to walk away. You’ll notice that you start to get treated differently. We were even told by some shop owners that they thought we lived in Beijing because we threw out such a low price right away. You won’t regret it.

We left with two pairs of Nike shoes for about $15 a pair (most definitely fake but it’s China – who cares), and a glass “hand-painted” Christmas ornament for $6. Thank you come again. You can have beers in the basement level to celebrate.

Beijing China Hong Qiao Pearl Market beer

 

Da Dong Roast Duck:

You can’t come to Beijing and not have Peking roast duck. The city is famous for it, and it’s as good as they make it out to be. We did some research (as there are hundreds of places that serve it), but in the end we opted to go with Da Dong – a Beijing classic that has been serving roast duck for years. If you want an easy win, go here – it’s been rated in the Top 10 Best Peking Duck Serving Restaurants by multiple food critics.

Depending on where you’re staying, the restaurant may be an hour cab ride (thank you Beijing traffic). But once the chef carved our entire duck tableside and we tasted it – WHO CARES. It’s that good people. Just make sure and go on an empty stomach.

Beijing China Da Dong Peking roast duck restaurant

Beijing China Da Dong Peking roast duck restaurant

Beijing China Da Dong Peking roast duck restaurant

Day 4

 

Departure:

This day doesn’t really count – all we did was eat breakfast at the hotel and head to the airport! The reason I mention “Day 4” is because you’ll want another night in order to make the most of your 3 days in Beijing.

Beijing Capital International Airport China

So, to wrap it up – 3 days in Beijing is truly all you need. I believe you can fully see and experience China in that time, even if it’s your first visit.

I hope this was helpful for anyone who’s trying to make a quick trip to China! Please let me know if there’s anything I missed, or anything you loved!

A Must-Do China Itinerary! Tiananmen Square, The Great Wall, Temple of Heaven and more! Click here to find out how to make the most of your time and see Beijing in only 3 days.

40 Comments

  1. Reply

    blair villanueva

    February 15, 2017

    Glad that you had a fantastic time in Beijing! You should definitely check the nearby rural places where you could enjoy the fresh breeze of air, and be dreamy 🙂

    Oh i feel bad for those little sea creatures.. 🙁

    • Reply

      Ashlyn | From Heart And Seoul

      February 15, 2017

      It is kind of sad isn’t it? Seahorses are cute!

      We definitely want to come back and see some of the more rural parts of China!

  2. Reply

    Aneesha Rai

    February 15, 2017

    Beijing looks like truly a wonderful place to visit. I got to admit, I cringed when I saw the fried seahorses, but I would totally try it. Lovely pics!

    • Reply

      Ashlyn | From Heart And Seoul

      February 15, 2017

      I know! We had to work up our nerve for those, but they were the least-creepy of all the options!

  3. Reply

    Laura

    February 15, 2017

    I’ve been to China when I was 18 years old, while the Olympics were taking place there! Beijing is a wonderful – but weird & very crowded for Europeans – city. It was quite a cultural shock, but looking back on it now, while seeing your pictures, a lot of wonderful memories come back to me! Highlight for me was the forbidden city!

    • Reply

      Ashlyn | From Heart And Seoul

      February 15, 2017

      The Forbidden City is so impressive – especially the scale of it! But I agree, Beijing is very crowded and a bit of a culture shock especially for Asia first-timers!

      Glad this brought back good memories for you though 🙂

  4. Reply

    Rachael Taft

    February 15, 2017

    Wow! Gorgeous photos. I have been dying to go to China (once planned a whole Southwest trip that fell through), so this is definitely an extra dose of inspiration. I had no idea there was an option for 72-hour visa-free entry, so you just blew my mind! I am going to have to look more into that, especially because this itinerary sounds pretty much perfect!

    Finally, I have to ask…. how was the seahorse? I must say, that is one thing I had never seen on a stick before!

    • Reply

      Ashlyn | From Heart And Seoul

      February 16, 2017

      Yes! The VISA-free entry is such a great thing! The only catch is, you have to be flying on to a third country on your way out (so kind of like you are just “passing through”). We weren’t able to do it, but it could save you SO much in costs!

      The seahorse was actually not bad! It tasted a little like fish! I couldn’t bring myself to eat the head though!

  5. Reply

    Enni Maria - Denia Hania

    February 15, 2017

    Bejing looks very interesting place to visit! I’ve also had this impression of pollution and cloudy skies and busy people, but despite that I’d like to go and see it myself. Thanks for sharing! Seems like you can see a lot in 3 days!

    • Reply

      Ashlyn | From Heart And Seoul

      February 16, 2017

      You can definitely make it happen! Beijing traffic was as bad as we heard, but otherwise we loved it!

  6. Reply

    Leigh | Campfires & Concierges

    February 15, 2017

    Wow, I am tired just reading that, but lists like these are super helpful when visiting a big city for such a short time. I bet your seahorses were like the little frogs I tried in Siem Reap – just dried up and fried? It also was the least revolting amongst the cockroaches and beetles. *shudder*

    • Reply

      Ashlyn | From Heart And Seoul

      February 16, 2017

      Yes! They were just dried up and fried basically, so nothing gross about the texture! I’ll have to keep that in mind for Siem Reap though! Were hoping to make it there this summer 🙂

  7. Reply

    Emily | Em's on the Road

    February 15, 2017

    Whoa. Can’t get over all of that street food! I’ve never been to China but I’m a history/architecture nerd so I would like to one day.

    • Reply

      Ashlyn | From Heart And Seoul

      February 16, 2017

      You should definitely go! There is SO much history in Beijing – and if you do the great wall, our guide was full of information. It made all the difference to learn the backstory behind things!

  8. Reply

    NowThatsAHoneymoon

    February 15, 2017

    I don’t know whether to be impressed with all the bugs and spiders or the Great Wall! You guys are awesome! I hope we get to visit China soon, too.

    • Reply

      Ashlyn | From Heart And Seoul

      February 16, 2017

      We didn’t eat any of the creepy crawlers! haha The Great Wall is worth a trip in itself though!

  9. Reply

    Michelle

    February 15, 2017

    You’ve managed to do so much in just 3 days, thanks for sharing your itinerary! The Temple of Heaven seems so pretty and those candy coated strawberries look amazing!

    • Reply

      Ashlyn | From Heart And Seoul

      February 16, 2017

      Thanks Michelle! We did go non-stop but I never felt overwhelmed or out of time. It’s definitely doable!

  10. Reply

    Maartje

    February 15, 2017

    So nice to read your story Ashlyn! I was in Beijing a few months ago – I especially enjoyed the live music bars at Houhai Lake. Did you go into the Hutongs too?

    • Reply

      Ashlyn | From Heart And Seoul

      February 16, 2017

      Thanks Maartje! Houhai would be great to walk around during the day too! It was just VERY cold when we were there at night lol

      We got a glimpse of the hutongs, but not as much as I would have liked! Did you visit?

  11. Reply

    Victoria

    February 15, 2017

    I am visiting Beijing in May and I am saving this itinerary so that it can help me navigate Beijing. I am staying for 3 days also before moving on to Hong Kong and Macau!

    • Reply

      Ashlyn | From Heart And Seoul

      February 16, 2017

      Yay! So glad I could help, Victoria! Hong Kong is on our list for later this year 🙂

  12. Reply

    Stella the Travelerette

    February 15, 2017

    Beijing looks amazing! I love history, so I would definitely want to see the Great Wall, the Forbidden City, and Tiananmen Square. I am an adventurous eater, so I’d go for the seahorses, though they are pretty cute.

    • Reply

      Ashlyn | From Heart And Seoul

      February 16, 2017

      If you’re an adventurous eater, there are PLENTY of options for you in Wangfujing! 🙂

  13. Reply

    Rachel Elizabeth

    February 16, 2017

    Great guide to Beijing! I admit; I sometimes have a pre-conceived notion of the city as an overcrowded and polluted capital, but this itinerary makes me wanna go! I need to see the Great Wall.

    • Reply

      Ashlyn | From Heart And Seoul

      February 16, 2017

      Yes, definitely go and see for yourself! The wall is a little less polluted since its an hour or two outside the city 🙂

  14. Reply

    Samantha Sparrow

    February 16, 2017

    I’ve never visited China, but now I’m pretty obsessed with going! This is such a great guide, you packed so much into 3 days. The Forbidden City looks incredible.

    • Reply

      Ashlyn | From Heart And Seoul

      February 16, 2017

      Thanks Samantha! This was our first visit and it just made me want to explore more of the country! China is fascinating!

  15. Reply

    Indrani

    February 16, 2017

    I wish to do everything mentioned here other than those insects and reptiles. The Great wall of China of course tops the list. One day for it will be ideal. Noting the other suggestions too.

    • Reply

      Ashlyn | From Heart And Seoul

      February 16, 2017

      Glad it was helpful! I don’t blame you for passing on the creepy crawlers 🙂

  16. Reply

    Getty

    February 16, 2017

    Wow! I went to Beijing with my high school and it looks like we missed going to taste the street foods!!! I would love to try a sea horse even if just once!! Looks like you guys had an amazing time and got some good deal too!

    • Reply

      Ashlyn | From Heart And Seoul

      February 16, 2017

      We definitely did! You’ll have to check out Wangfujing snack street if you ever go back!

  17. Reply

    Marissa_Travel Greece, Travel Europe

    February 16, 2017

    OMG. I can never get over the crazy scorpion and insect sticks! I’ve never been to Beijing but heard great things. Looks like you saw a lot of great sights. Great tips!

    • Reply

      Ashlyn | From Heart And Seoul

      February 17, 2017

      I know! There are some crazy things on Wangfujing snack street for sure! For the most part I just look and don’t touch 🙂

  18. Reply

    Cliodhna Ryan

    February 16, 2017

    You almost make Beijing sound easy. This is a great guide for first timers and I’ll definitely be using it when I go there. I don’t think I could stomach anything on Snack Street but I’d definitely go for a look. The Forbidden City is somewhere I would love to visit. You include some great tips that I never would have known about such as the 72 hour visa free entry.

    • Reply

      Ashlyn | From Heart And Seoul

      February 17, 2017

      Thanks! Glad it was helpful. Beijing was really not that hard to navigate – just bring any addresses in Mandarin! Hope you enjoy 🙂

  19. Reply

    Raluca @ Playful Notes

    February 17, 2017

    Beijing seems such a huge and crowded town, I think you had a wonderful experience! I hope to get to visit China some day, I am sure I would enjoy it a lot!

    • Reply

      Ashlyn | From Heart And Seoul

      February 17, 2017

      You definitely would! Beijing is a big city, but that just means there’s plenty to do & see 🙂

  20. Reply

    Alice Chen

    March 3, 2017

    Love this post of the Beijing itinerary! Too bad you only had 3 days – some of the parks in the city are incredible!

    • Reply

      Ashlyn | From Heart And Seoul

      March 4, 2017

      Thanks Alice! I’ll definitely keep that in mind if we’re ever back in Beijing! We do have a 10 year VISA now, so that alone is a good excuse to go back 🙂

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