Best Options For Your Layover In Beijing
Wondering what to do on a layover in Beijing airport? Beijing is much more than just a place to refuel and stretch your legs during a layover. There are many fantastic things to do during a layover in Beijing. It’s worth leaving the airport, and taking a day or two to see the classic tourist attractions. Before we jump to the conclusion, here is our selection of questions you may ask:
Can I leave Beijing Airport During a Layover?
Yes you can do that. For a short layover within the airport a visa is not needed, for a longer layover which will see you leaving the terminal you will need either a tourist visa or a 24/72/144-hour temporary entry permit.
Just like other arrival passengers, you will have to clear customs/ immigration before you can leave the airport for the tour.
Make sure you’re back at the departing terminal at least two hours before your onward/international flight, or at least 1 hour before a domestic flight.
Can I Visit Beijing During a Layover?
Yes, you can. Fortunately, the city of Beijing, the Beijing Tourism Bureau and Beijing Airport have made it easy to make a mini-vacation of an otherwise long wait between connecting flights. If you’ve got the right “visa” (either tourist visa or 24/72/144-hour temporary entry permit), and your flight layover is long enough for sightseeing, you should be visiting Beijing.
Do I Need a Visa for a Layover In Beijing?
No, if you will not leave the transit lounge at the airport, a visa is not required to transit through Beijing on the way to another destination.
However, if you wish to enter Beijing as a tourist or short-term visitor, Beijing offers 24/72/144-hour temporary entry permit for ‘visitors in transit’, which is intended for people who have longer layovers before transiting and want to go sightseeing or resting in Beijing for 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 at 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.
- Checked baggage is usually forwarded to your final destination. However, it’s worth checking with your airline if your baggage goes to the final destination or not, especially if you need to keep the bag until the time of the boarding.
- 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 top 8 things you should put on your list:
- Cool things to do in a Beijing layover: Mutianyu Great Wall
- Cool things to do in a Beijing layover: Forbidden City
- Cool things to do in a Beijing layover: Tiananmen Square
- Cool things to do in a Beijing layover: Nanluoguxiang (Hutong)
- Cool things to do in a Beijing layover: 798 Art District
- Cool things to do in a Beijing layover: Wangfujing Snack Street
- Cool things to do in a Beijing layover: the Silk Market
- Cool things to do in a Beijing layover: Quanjude Peking Duck Restaurant
The Map on 8 Cool Things to Do in Beijing Layover
1. Walk Mutianyu Great Wall
If you want an activity you can reach easily, consider visiting the Mutianyu Great Wall. You can access this straight from the airport. Reaching Mutianyu from the airport will take about 1.5 hours each way, so if you have a longer layover, this can be a lovely way to see some of Beijing up close and personal.
- Opening hours: 8:00 – 18:00 (March 16 to Nov 15); 8:30 – 17:00 (Nov 16 to Mar 15).
- Ticket prices: RMB 45.
2. Stroll Through the Imperial Garden (Forbidden City)
For history lovers, a visit to the imperial garden in the Forbidden City is a “must.” View the lovely plants and flowers, explore the buildings, and even observe lovely statues that fill this space. Each corner of the garden houses a small pavilion. These pavilions represent the four seasons of the year.
Make sure you visit each one on your visit to the garden. You may notice that some of the footpaths boast colorful rocks and pebbles. This is a purposeful representation of good luck! Remember to book your ticket in advance on the internet so you do not waste time in line!
- 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.
3. Walk Around Tiananmen Square
Don’t forget to explore Tiananmen Square during your stopover in Beijing. This is located around 1 hour from the airport and is the perfect way to spend an afternoon enjoying Chinese culture and history. View Tiananmen Tower, the Monument to the People’s Heroes, or even the Memorial Hall of Chairman Mao on your visit.
- Opening hours: 5:00 – 18:00, free.
4. Explore Hutong–Nanluoguxiang Area
Nanluoguxiang is known for being a lovely historical part of Beijing. When you visit, you’ll find shops and bars located in beautiful historical buildings. What better place to experience a bit of Chinese culture than by walking around, shopping, eating, and exploring? Enjoy new foods or even shop for souvenirs.
- Opening hours: 8:30 – 23:00, free.
5. Soak Up Some Culture at 798 Art District
If you like nothing better than seeing lovely sculptures, paintings, and other creations by local artists, you must visit 798 Art District on your stopover. Spend a few hours walking around and exploring the different art displays you’ll see.
- Opening hours: 10:00 – 20:00, free.
6. Grab Some Food at Wangfujing Snack Street
If you love to eat, you absolutely must visit Wangfujing Snack Street during your stopover in Beijing. Whether you want western food, like KFC, or you’re more interested in local street vendors, you’ll find everything your stomach desires.
- Opening hours: 16:00 – 20:30, free.
7. Pick Up Some Souvenirs at the Silk Market
No great vacation is complete without shopping for souvenirs, and your trip to Beijing should be no exception. Visit the Silk Market to explore clothing, watches, jewelry, and more. Whether you’re shopping for yourself or a loved one, you’ll be delighted to discover just how many fantastic items are available for purchase.
- Opening hours: 9:00 – 21:00, free.
8. Eat Roast Duck at Quanjude Restaurant
Each year, Quanjude serves over two million roast ducks to customers. Make sure you visit during your layover to enjoy one of the most famous restaurants in China. You’ll be able to order one of the most delicious meals you’ve ever experienced. This reflects perfectly with the name, “Quanjude,” which means perfection and unity.
- Opening hours: 10:30 – 21:00, RMB150 – RMB 300 per person.
How Much Time Do You Need For a Beijing Airport Layover?
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:
- 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.
- 10-20 minutes to walk to the vehicle in the parking lot
- Approx. 1.5 hours journey to Mutianyu Great Wall
- At least 1 hour on the wall to really enjoy the trip
- Approx. 1.5 hours to return from Mutianyu to the airport
- 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 your flight layover is 8 hours, you’re really not going to be able to leave the airport. Beijing Capital Airport is big, with this amount of time, you’ll need to think things to do in the airport.
Many a wise traveler has warned against traipsing off into central Beijing with 8 hours to spare before the connecting flight. It’s best to play it safe and wait out your layover at the airport.
Things to Do in A 9-Hour Layover
No time? No problem! 9 hours may be a bit of a rush, but you keep moving, focus on the one or two things you really care to see. You’ll need to make some choices:
- Option A: Mutianyu Great Wall (1 hour). A quick meal of fast food somewhere if time permits.
- Option B: Forbidden City (1-1.5 hours).
Don’t waste time on lunch, instead grab a quick takeaway or fast food. Remember it takes approx. 1.5 hours each way to and from Beijing, so don’t spread yourself too thin.
Things to Do in A 10-Hour Layover
Luckily, with a 10-hour layover, you have time to explore a quiet part of the Great Wall – Huanghuacheng at your own pace. Travel for approximately 2 hours from PEK airport to Huanghuacheng. You would focus on either:
- Option A: Huanghuacheng Great Wall (1 hour)
- Option B: Tiananmen Square (30 minutes), Forbidden City (1.5 hours).
10-hour layover might be plenty of time to get out and explore the Great Wall. To play it safe, it’s best to calculate what you can do, always take into account the round trip time to the airport.
Things to Do in A 11-Hour Layover
An 11-hour layover will allow you a more stress-free visit to the Great Wall or city sites. You’ll be able to explore Mutianyu Great Wall/city sites at a fairly leisurely pace, enjoy an excellent sit-down Peking duck meal in between. I recommend focusing on:
- Option A: Mutianyu Great Wall (2 hours), sample a leisurely Peking duck meal near the airport (1 hour).
- Option B: Tiananmen Square (30 minutes), Forbidden City (1.5 hours), taste a leisurely Peking duck meal in the city (1 hour).
You should be able to complete one of the “must-see” sites – either the Great Wall or Forbidden City/Tiananmen Square. It’s best to stay on schedule and set an alarm for when you need to return to the airport.
Things to Do in A 12-Hour Layover
This may seem like a lot of time, but you’re going to have to make compromises. Still focusing on Mutianyu Great Wall, Tiananmen Square. It’s best to skip lunch to save your valuable time.
- Best option: Mutianyu Great Wall (1.5 hours), Tiananmen Square (1 hour).
Things to Do in A 14-Hour Layover
This is a good, long, proper layover in Beijing. This is really the answer to what to do in Beijing for a day. My recommendation is to focus on the itinerary: Mutianyu Great Wall, Tiananmen Square, and Forbidden City.
- Best option: Mutianyu Great Wall (2 hours), Tiananmen Square (30 minutes), Forbidden City (1.5 hours).
If you have any extra time, get a Peking duck dinner in the city before returning to the airport.
Things to Do in A 16-Hour Layover
You should easily be able to explore the Great Wall, Forbidden City, Tiananmen Square in this amount of time, with a leisurely dinner in the city. While a few hours stop can give little more than a takeaway or fast food to finish a busy day.
- Best option: Mutianyu Great Wall (2.5 hours), Tiananmen Square (30 minutes), Forbidden City (2 hours), Peking duck dinner (1 hour).
Things to Do in A 20-Hour Layover
There are plenty of things for you to discover and experience if you have a 20-hour layover in Beijing. I recommend focusing on:
- Option A: Mutianyu Great Wall, Tiananmen Square, Forbidden City, Wangfujing food street, and Nanluoguxiang.
- Option B: One day Great Wall hike from Jiankou to Mutianyu
- Option C: One day Great Wall hike from Jinshanling to Jinshanling East
If you are an avid hiker, you probably already know about some of these unforgettable Great Wall hiking trails. It’s absolutely worth taking a day trip from the airport to the Great Wall for a once-in-a-lifetime experience.
Beijing is a city full of rich cultural history, beautiful buildings, and lovely shops. During your next layover, make sure you take the time to fully visit beautiful Beijing and explore some of these fantastic attractions.
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