8 Essential Things to Do During a Layover in Beijing [2024]

things to do at Beijing airport


Embark on an Epic Layover Adventure: 8 Cool Things to Do in Beijing

Looking for things to do on a layover at Beijing airport?

Beijing offers more than just a quick break for weary travelers.

With numerous fantastic attractions, it’s worth venturing out of the airport to explore the city’s classic tourist spots.

Before we conclude, here are some common questions you might have:

Can I leave Beijing Airport During a Layover?

Yes, you can do that.

If you have a short layover confined to the airport, no visa is required.

However, for a longer layover that allows you to explore outside the terminal, you will need either a tourist visa or a temporary entry permit valid for 24, 72, or 144 hours.

Just like other arriving passengers, you must go through customs and immigration before leaving the airport for your tour.

Ensure you return to the departing terminal at least two hours before your onward international flight or one hour before a domestic flight.

This will allow sufficient time for check-in and security procedures.

Can I Visit Beijing During a Layover?

Certainly! Luckily, Beijing, along with the Beijing Tourism Bureau and Beijing Airport, has simplified the process of turning a long layover into a mini-vacation.

If you possess the appropriate “visa” (either a tourist visa or a 24/72/144-hour temporary entry permit) and have a layover duration that allows for sightseeing, you should definitely consider exploring Beijing.

Do I Need a Visa for a Layover In Beijing?

If you remain within the transit lounge at the airport, you do not need a visa to transit through Beijing en route to your final destination.

However, if you desire to explore Beijing as a tourist or short-term visitor, there is a convenient option available.

Beijing provides a 24/72/144-hour temporary entry permit called “Visitors in Transit” specifically designed for individuals with extended layovers who wish to engage in sightseeing or rest in Beijing for a few days (up to 144 hours).

Some Important Information:

  • You need a 24/72/144-hour temporary entry permit to get off the airport. Transit visas are issued to those traveling through Beijing to an onward destination. This transit visa allows you to pass through the transit channels and requires that you depart from the same airport within 24/144 hours. If you stay in the transit area waiting for your next flight, you do not need a visa.
  • Be aware that you need to calculate not only the layover time – but also the time of travel from the airport to the top attractions (like the Great Wall, Forbidden City,  approximately 1,5 hours from PEK airport to Mutianyu Great Wall/Forbidden City), as well as the return and time required for re-boarding procedures–it’s a good idea to skip some attraction if you realize that the time is shorter than anticipated. For international flights, arriving at PEK airport at least 2 hours before your scheduled departure time is often recommended to make your connection.
  • Sketch out a rough itinerary ahead of time. Research the locations of attractions you are interested in. Depending on the duration of your layover, you may want to focus on a single attraction to make the most of the day, such as Mutianyu Great Wall, to save travel time.

Quick Summary–8 Cool Things to Do in A Beijing Layover

Whether you’re traveling on your own, with friends, or with family members, these are the top 8 things you should put on your list:

1. Mutianyu Great Wall
2. Forbidden City
3. Tiananmen Square
4. Nanluoguxiang (Hutong)
5. 798 Art District
6. Wangfujing Snack Street
7. Silk Market
8. Quanjude Peking Duck Restaurant

1. Walk Mutianyu Great Wall

Walking the Mutianyu Great Wall presents an ideal activity, particularly for those arriving at Beijing Capital International Airport (PKE).

Conveniently accessible directly from the PEK airport, this remarkable UNESCO World Heritage site is only a 1.5-hour journey each way.

With the advantage of a more extended layover, it offers a unique opportunity to intimately experience Beijing’s captivating essence while basking in the grandeur of one of the world’s most iconic architectural marvels.

  • Opening hours: 8:00 – 18:00 (March 16 to Nov 15); 8:30 – 17:00 (Nov 16 to Mar 15).
  • Ticket prices: RMB 60.

Further reading:

things to do in Beijing layover -Mutianyu Great Wall


2. Stroll Through the Imperial Garden (Forbidden City)

For history enthusiasts, a visit to the imperial garden in the Forbidden City is a must.

Admire the enchanting array of plants, flowers, and the architectural splendor of the buildings.

Take your time to explore the garden’s charming statues, and don’t miss the unique pavilions, each representing one of the four seasons.

Pay attention to the footpaths adorned with vibrant rocks and pebbles, symbolizing good luck.

To optimize your experience, it is recommended to book your tickets in advance online to avoid queues and save time.

  • Opening hours: 8:30 – 17:00 (Apr to Oct); 8:30 – 16:30 (Nov to Mar). Closes on Mondays, except for legal holidays.
  • Ticket prices: From November to March (Low season) RMB 40. From April to October (High season), RMB 60.

Further reading:

things to do in Beijing layover- Forbidden City


3. Walk Around Tiananmen Square

During your stopover in Beijing, make sure to allocate time to explore the iconic Tiananmen Square.

Located approximately one hour from the airport, this vast square offers a rich immersion into Chinese culture and history.

Admire the grandeur of Tiananmen Tower, pay homage to the Monument to the People’s Heroes, and consider a visit to the Memorial Hall of Chairman Mao.

By experiencing these historical landmarks firsthand, you’ll gain a deeper understanding of China’s captivating past and its enduring significance in the present day.

  • Opening hours: 5:00 – 18:00, free.

Further reading:

things to do in Beijing layover- Tiananmen Square


4. Explore Hutong–Nanluoguxiang Area

Nanluoguxiang, a charming historical district in Beijing, beckons travelers with its enchanting allure.

Stroll through its narrow lanes to discover a tapestry of shops and bars housed within picturesque historical buildings.

This vibrant locale offers a delightful immersion into Chinese culture, allowing you to meander, shop, savor delectable cuisine, and embrace the atmosphere.

Indulge in culinary delights, from local delicacies to international fusion, or browse for unique souvenirs that capture the essence of your visit.

Nanluoguxiang is an idyllic destination for an unforgettable cultural experience.

  • Opening hours: 8:30 – 23:00, free.
things to do in Beijing layover- Nanluoguxiang


5. Soak Up Some Culture at 798 Art District

Immerse yourself in a world of art and creativity by visiting the renowned 798 Art District during your stopover in Beijing.

This vibrant hub is a haven for art enthusiasts, showcasing captivating sculptures, paintings, and a myriad of other artistic expressions by local talents.

Take your time to wander through the district, marveling at the diverse art displays that adorn its galleries and open spaces.

From thought-provoking installations to stunning masterpieces, 798 Art District offers an enriching experience that will leave you inspired and captivated.

  • Opening hours: 10:00 – 20:00, free.
things to do in Beijing layover -798 art zone


6. Grab Some Food at Wangfujing Snack Street

Indulge your taste buds at Wangfujing Snack Street, a culinary haven that you simply cannot miss during your Beijing stopover.

Food enthusiasts will delight in the array of options available, catering to both international and local palates.

Whether you crave familiar Western flavors like KFC or are eager to sample authentic street food from local vendors, this bustling street has it all.

Embark on a gastronomic adventure, savoring delectable treats that range from savory to sweet, and experience the vibrant culinary culture of Beijing firsthand.

  • Opening hours: 16:00 – 20:30, free.
things to do in Beijing layover wangfujing snack street


7. Pick Up Some Souvenirs at the Silk Market

Enhance your Beijing experience by exploring the Silk Market, a treasure trove for souvenir shopping.

No trip is complete without acquiring mementos, and this bustling marketplace offers a wide array of options.

Browse through the vibrant stalls to discover clothing, watches, jewelry, and more, perfect for gifting or as a special treat for yourself.

Immerse yourself in the vibrant atmosphere as you navigate the diverse offerings, and be amazed by the abundance of fantastic items awaiting your perusal.

Embrace the joy of finding unique keepsakes that will forever remind you of your memorable time in Beijing.

  • Opening hours: 9:00 – 21:00, free.
things to do in Beijing layover - silk market


8. Eat Roast Duck at Quanjude Restaurant

During your layover, a visit to Quanjude is a must to savor one of China’s most renowned culinary delights.

With a staggering annual serving of over two million roast ducks, this esteemed restaurant has earned its well-deserved reputation.

Indulge in an unforgettable dining experience as you order one of the most delectable meals you’ve ever tasted. T

he name “Quanjude,” meaning perfection and unity, aptly reflects the exceptional quality and harmony of flavors that await you.

Don’t miss the opportunity to immerse yourself in the culinary mastery of this iconic Chinese establishment.

  • Opening hours: 10:30 – 21:00, RMB150 – RMB 300 per person.
things to do in Beijing layover


The Map on 8 Cool Things to Do in Beijing Layover

How Much Time Do You Need For a Beijing Airport Layover?

A round trip into Beijing or the Great Wall of China, including the time you need at the airport for passing through security, is 5.5 to 6 hours. You can expect to spend:

  1. Approx. 2.5 hours to apply for a 24/144-hour transit visa, possibly longer when they have more arrivals during weekends or Christmas week.
  2. 10-20 minutes to walk to the vehicle in the parking lot
  3. Approx. 1.5 hours journey to Mutianyu Great Wall
  4. At least 1 hour on the wall to enjoy the trip
  5. Approx. 1.5 hours to return from Mutianyu to the airport
  6. 2 hours in advance at the airport to check in before an international flight

So, to make this worthwhile, you need at least a 9-hour layover in Beijing airport if your layover is all during the day. The longer the layover, the more you’ll be able to discover Beijing.

Things to Do in A 8-Hour Layover

If you have an 8-hour layover at Beijing Capital Airport, exploring the city may not be feasible.

However, there are still plenty of activities to make the most of your time within the airport itself.

Consider these options:

  1. Enjoy a meal: Beijing Capital Airport offers a variety of dining options, ranging from local cuisine to international favorites. Treat yourself to a delicious meal and sample some authentic Chinese dishes.

  2. Shopping: Explore the airport’s retail outlets and indulge in some shopping. From luxury brands to duty-free shops, you can find a range of products, including souvenirs, clothing, electronics, and more.

  3. Relax in lounges: If you have access to airport lounges, take advantage of the amenities and services they provide. Unwind in a comfortable environment, enjoy complimentary snacks and beverages, or catch up on work with available Wi-Fi and business facilities.

  4. Visit airport attractions: Some airports have unique attractions within their premises. Check if Beijing Capital Airport offers any art exhibitions, cultural displays, or observation decks that you can visit to pass the time and gain insights into Chinese culture.

Things to Do in A 9-Hour Layover

If you have a 9-hour layover, you can make the most of your time by focusing on a couple of key attractions.

Here are some options to consider:

Option A: Mutianyu Great Wall (1 hour) – Visit the Mutianyu Great Wall, which offers a breathtaking experience.

Spend an hour exploring the magnificent wall and taking in the scenic views.

If time permits, grab a quick meal from a fast-food establishment nearby.

Option B: Forbidden City (1-1.5 hours) – Immerse yourself in the grandeur of the Forbidden City, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Spend 1 to 1.5 hours exploring this historic imperial palace complex, admiring the architecture and rich cultural heritage.

Opt for a quick takeaway or fast-food option to save time instead of sitting down for a traditional lunch.

Remember, traveling to and from Beijing can take approximately 1.5 hours each way, so it’s important not to spread yourself too thin.

Consider the time needed for transportation and factor in any possible delays to ensure a smooth experience.

Additionally, be sure to check the opening hours and any entry requirements for the chosen attractions to maximize your layover experience.

Things to Do in A 10-Hour Layover

Fortunately, with a 10-hour layover, you have ample time to immerse yourself in the beauty of Huanghuacheng, a serene section of the Great Wall.

To make the most of your layover, consider the following options:

Option A: Huanghuacheng Great Wall (1 hour) – Travel for approximately 2 hours from PEK airport to Huanghuacheng and spend an hour exploring this picturesque section of the Great Wall.

Take in the stunning surroundings and enjoy a leisurely stroll along its ancient ramparts.

Option B: Tiananmen Square (30 minutes) and Forbidden City (1.5 hours) – Start your layover with a visit to Tiananmen Square, spending 30 minutes absorbing the historical significance of this iconic landmark.

Next, venture into the nearby Forbidden City, allowing yourself 1.5 hours to explore the opulent imperial palace complex and appreciate its architectural marvels.

To make the most of your time, plan your itinerary carefully and consider transportation time to and from the airport.

It’s advisable to allocate extra time for unforeseen delays.

Additionally, remember to check the opening hours of your chosen attractions and consider any entry requirements to ensure a smooth and enjoyable layover experience.

Things to Do in A 11-Hour Layover

With an 11-hour layover, you have ample time to explore either the Great Wall or city sites without feeling rushed.

You can make the most of your layover by considering the following options:

Option A: Mutianyu Great Wall (2 hours) – Travel to Mutianyu and spend two hours exploring this magnificent section of the Great Wall.

Afterward, indulge in a leisurely Peking duck meal at a nearby restaurant near the airport, taking an hour to savor this iconic dish.

Option B: Tiananmen Square (30 minutes) and Forbidden City (1.5 hours) – Begin your layover with a visit to Tiananmen Square, spending 30 minutes to absorb its historical significance.

Then, proceed to the nearby Forbidden City for a 1.5-hour exploration of this grand imperial palace.

Afterward, venture into the city to enjoy a leisurely Peking duck meal, dedicating an hour to indulge in this culinary delight.

It’s important to prioritize either the Great Wall or the Forbidden City/Tiananmen Square to ensure a satisfying experience within the time constraints.

Plan your itinerary carefully, allowing for transportation time and any potential delays.

Set alarms or reminders to ensure a timely return to the airport, as punctuality is crucial.

By selecting either of these options, you can enjoy a stress-free exploration of Beijing while savoring a delicious Peking duck meal.

Remember to consider the opening hours of the attractions and make any necessary reservations for the dining experience.

Things to Do in A 12-Hour Layover

With a 12-hour layover, you have a decent amount of time to explore key attractions in Beijing. To make the most of your layover, consider the following options:

Best option: Mutianyu Great Wall (1.5 hours) – Allocate 1.5 hours to visit Mutianyu Great Wall, one of the most magnificent sections of the wall.

Enjoy a scenic journey and immerse yourself in the history and grandeur of this UNESCO World Heritage site.

Take your time to walk along the ancient ramparts, capture breathtaking views, and appreciate the architectural marvel.

Next, proceed to Tiananmen Square for an hour-long visit.

As the heart of Beijing, this vast square holds immense cultural and historical significance.

Marvel at the iconic Tiananmen Tower, explore the Monument to the People’s Heroes, and soak in the atmosphere of this symbolic landmark.

Things to Do in A 14-Hour Layover

In a 14-hour layover in Beijing, you have ample time to explore some of the city’s most iconic attractions.

Consider the following itinerary:

Best option: Mutianyu Great Wall (2 hours), Tiananmen Square (30 minutes), Forbidden City (1.5 hours).

Begin your layover with a visit to Mutianyu Great Wall, allowing for a comprehensive exploration of this remarkable section.

Spend two hours walking along the ancient ramparts, soaking in breathtaking views, and immersing yourself in the rich history.

Next, proceed to Tiananmen Square, where you can appreciate its cultural and historical significance in just 30 minutes.

Marvel at the grandeur of Tiananmen Tower and reflect on the importance of this symbolic square.

Continue your journey to the nearby Forbidden City, a majestic imperial palace complex.

Allocate 1.5 hours to wander through its splendid halls and discover its architectural wonders.

If you find yourself with extra time, treat yourself to a delectable Peking duck dinner in the city before heading back to the airport.

Indulge in this iconic dish and savor the flavors of Beijing’s culinary heritage.

Things to Do in A 16-Hour Layover

With a generous 16-hour layover in Beijing, you have ample time to immerse yourself in the city’s rich cultural heritage.

Consider the following itinerary to make the most of your day:

Best options: Mutianyu Great Wall (2.5 hours), Tiananmen Square (30 minutes), Forbidden City (2 hours), Peking duck dinner (1 hour).

Begin your exploration at Mutianyu Great Wall, allowing for 2.5 hours to fully appreciate this majestic structure and its scenic surroundings.

Take a leisurely stroll along the ancient ramparts and capture the awe-inspiring views.

Next, visit Tiananmen Square, where you can spend 30 minutes admiring its historical significance and iconic landmarks.

Marvel at the monumental Tiananmen Tower and reflect upon the square’s cultural importance.

Continue your journey to the nearby Forbidden City, allocating a generous 2 hours to explore this magnificent imperial palace complex.

Immerse yourself in the opulent halls, exquisite architecture, and rich history of this UNESCO World Heritage site.

Things to Do in A 20-Hour Layover

With a generous 20-hour layover in Beijing, you have the perfect opportunity to delve deep into the city’s attractions and embark on memorable experiences.

Consider the following options:

Option A: Mutianyu Great Wall, Tiananmen Square, Forbidden City, Wangfujing food street, and Nanluoguxiang.

Immerse yourself in history by visiting Mutianyu Great Wall, explore the iconic Tiananmen Square, delve into the majestic Forbidden City, savor delicious local cuisine at Wangfujing food street, and soak up the charm of Nanluoguxiang’s historical alleys.

Option B: One day Great Wall hike from Jiankou to Mutianyu.

If you’re an avid hiker seeking adventure, embark on a challenging and rewarding one-day hike from Jiankou to Mutianyu.

Traverse breathtaking sections of the Great Wall, taking in the stunning vistas and capturing unforgettable moments along the way.

Option C: One day Great Wall hike from Jinshanling to Jinshanling East.

For another thrilling hiking experience, consider a one-day hike from Jinshanling to Jinshanling East.

This route offers scenic beauty and a chance to appreciate the remarkable engineering of the Great Wall while enjoying an immersive outdoor adventure.

Final Words

Beijing, with its rich cultural history, magnificent architecture, and vibrant shops, offers a captivating experience for travelers on a layover.

Don’t miss the opportunity to immerse yourself in the beauty of this city during your next visit.

Whether you choose to marvel at the Great Wall, delve into the historical wonders of Tiananmen Square and the Forbidden City, or wander through the charming streets of Wangfujing and Nanluoguxiang, Beijing has something for everyone.

Make the most of your layover by venturing beyond the airport and creating unforgettable memories in the heart of beautiful Beijing.


Q: How much time do I need to visit the Mutianyu Great Wall during a layover in Beijing?

A: To visit the Mutianyu Great Wall, it is recommended to allocate about 3-4 hours, including travel time from the airport and back.

Q: Can I visit both Tiananmen Square and the Forbidden City in a short layover?

A: Yes, it is possible to visit both Tiananmen Square and the Forbidden City during a layover.

Allocate about 2-3 hours for these two attractions.

Q: Is it necessary to book tickets in advance for the Forbidden City?

A: It is highly recommended to book tickets in advance for the Forbidden City to save time and avoid long queues at the entrance.

Q: Are there any food options near Wangfujing Snack Street?

A: Wangfujing Snack Street offers a wide range of food options, including local street vendors and international fast food chains, ensuring there is something to suit every palate.

Q: Can I buy souvenirs at the Silk Market?

A: Yes, the Silk Market is a popular destination for buying souvenirs, clothing, watches, and jewelry.

Remember to practice your bargaining skills to get the best deals.

things to do at Beijing airport


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4 Responses to “8 Essential Things to Do During a Layover in Beijing [2024]”

  1. Michal Safarik

    I would like to ask…
    I have a transit visa for 144 hours. I would like to visit the great wall and that is Jinshanling. I think I can only move within the territory of Beijing. The ticket office is just beyond the border of Beijing province. If I cross the border, will I be punished? Thank you

    • Ricky

      Great news – you’re all set to visit the Jinshanling Great Wall with your 144-hour transit visa! Our previous guests have had a smooth experience doing just the same, so you don’t need to worry. Just remember to carry your passport, as there’s occasionally a police checkpoint for random checks when returning to Beijing. Have a fantastic trip to the Great Wall!

    • Ricky

      For the 24-hour visa-free transit in China, you generally don’t need to apply for it in advance. You can handle it upon your arrival at the airport. Here’s what you typically need to bring:

      Valid Passport: It should have at least six months of validity left.
      Onward Ticket: Proof of a confirmed onward ticket to a third country or region within 24 hours. This must be to a different country than the one you’re arriving from.
      Fully Completed Arrival/Departure Card: This is usually provided during your flight or can be filled out upon arrival.
      It’s a good idea to have all travel documents handy, including any visas for your next destination if required. When you arrive, follow the signs for the 24-hour visa-free transit counter where the officers will process your transit.

      Make sure to confirm the details with your airline as they might have specific requirements or updates about the transit procedure.

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