Guide on Best Area to Stay for Tourists and First Time Visitors
Traveling to Beijing and not sure what are the best areas to stay in the city? Planning a trip to Beijing might be overwhelming indeed and especially so if this is your time in Beijing.
With over 100 distinct neighborhoods spread amongst Beijing’s main districts, there are so many places to choose from. To ensure that you find the right vacation stay for you, here are several things to consider when deciding the best area to stay in Beijing.
- Travel companions. Do you travel alone or with someone else? Traveling with a family requires careful consideration of everyone’s preferences. Finding a balance between everyone’s preferences is essential if you travel with a family. Solo traveling is much easier since you can decide which area to stay in.
- Budget. Do you feel comfortable staying in a good budget hotel /hostel in Hutong or prefer luxury hotels in central Beijing?
- Modern Hotels vs Traditional Hotels. Do you wish to stay in the traditional Hutong Courtyard hotels in Houhai, Gulou or Nanluoguxiang or stick to the modern Western chains in downtown?
- Your Activities. Do you enjoy crowds and love nightlife in Sanlutun or you prefer peace and quiet in old Hutong?
- Transportation: How you will commute from one place to another during your stay. Will you walk, take a taxi or the subway?
- Type of travel experience you want to have. Do you need to stay near shopping malls, a neighborhood with bustling night lives, boutiques and so on?
- Your Eating Habits. Do you enjoy dining out every meal, eating at local markets, grabbing some street food, or doing some combination of all three? Do you have dietary restrictions and need to make a lot of your own food?
Making all these decisions can be daunting more so to a first-timer who might have no idea of the perfect place to stay. So how exactly does one identify the ideal location to stay in Beijing?
7 Best Neighborhoods to Stay in Beijing
Out of 16 main districts, there are 7 neighborhoods that I consider as the best areas to stay in Beijing for tourists. Each of these neighborhoods offers something special to visitors.
Whether you want to stay somewhere central and near the local life, stay somewhere on a budget, look for an all-night party or to immerse yourself in the city’s dynamic history, there’s a neighborhood that will cater to you.
Quick Summary–7 Best Areas to Stay in Beijing
For those in a rush here’s a quick summary. For detailed descriptions keep reading:
- Where to stay in Beijing for first-timer/family: Wangfujing
- Where to stay in Beijing on a budget: Qianmen
- Where to stay in Beijing for shopping: Xidan
- Where to stay in Beijing for Romantics: Houhai
- Where to stay in Beijing for food and restaurants: Nanluoguxiang
- Where to stay in Beijing for local vibe: Gulou
- Where to stay in Beijing for nightlife: Sanlitun
1: Wangfujing-Where to Stay in Beijing for First-Timers
The questions that get asked a lot by the first-time visitors is what are the best places to stay in Beijing. Hotel in central Beijing can expensive, yet it might be very tempting to choose cheaper accommodation outside the city center, it’s a choice that you’ll quickly regret. First, commuting into the city every day will cost a lot of money and time. Precious time, that you could otherwise use for sightseeing.
Visiting Beijing for the first time? Stay in Wangfujing. Wangfujing is the neighborhood at the heart of Beijing. Home to the city’s most famous attractions, Wangfujing is the right place to stay for you if this is your first time in Beijing.
One of the city’s oldest neighborhoods, Wangfujing is walking distance from many major tourist attractions, including Tiananmen Square, the Forbidden City and more. This allows you to explore most of the major sights in downtown by foot. Furthermore, you can count at least 20 hotels in the area. The hotels range from budget-friendly options to high-end luxurious suites.
1.5 km long Wangfujing street is also one of the most famous shopping streets in Beijing. Whether you’re looking for large modern department stores, old Beijing brands, markets, or even a perfectly tailored suit, Wangfujing has great shopping options for you.
By staying in Wangfujing you can see much more in less time. Ultimately this will save money not just on transportation, but also on your overall trip budget because you’ll need fewer days in order to see just as much.
If you’re travelling with children, Wangfujing is the best place for families visiting Beijing. It is centrally located and provides attractions and sights for the whole family. Within walking distance of many top attractions, little legs won’t get too tired while exploring downtown of the city.
A major challenge though when staying in the Wangfujing area is getting a taxi, especially on weekdays.
2: Qianmen-Where to Stay in Beijing on a Budget
Qianmen was also a famous red-light district during the Qing Dynasty. It offers the best budget accommodations in Beijing with traditional snack stalls, stores of global brands, Peking duck restaurants, old hutongs with hidden bookstores and courthouses. From backpacker hostels to boutique hotels, there’s something for travelers of all styles and budgets in this bustling Beijing neighborhood.
Being the historic center of Beijing, this amazing neighborhood is a mix of old and new, calm and energy, and the perfect place to enjoy the iconic Qianmen Avenue, as well as a number of cultural and historic attractions (like the Forbidden City, the Tiananmen Square and the Temple of Heaven).
3: Xidan-Where to Stay in Beijing For Shopping
Xidan is the best neighborhood to stay in if you want to be in the center of all the excellent shopping. As the traditional commercial hub in Beijing, Xidan features an extensive street that houses shopping malls, boutiques and clothing stores, etc.
Most of these shops trade in fast fashion, classic and fancy International brands like Zara, Gap, H&M, and DKNY. There are, however, others that deal with less pricey, locally manufactured garments and accessories.
When it comes to accommodation and restaurants, Xidan has numerous modest hotels and hostels to suit anyone’s budget. Furthermore, it is only two kilometers away from Tiananmen Square, making it the perfect choice for a holiday stay.
4: Houhai-Where to stay in Beijing for Romantics
With tranquil waters and the fringe of willow trees, Houhai, (literally ‘rear lake’), is a wonderful area for couples and honeymooners.
As a leisurely oasis in this fast-paced capital, Houhai offers unique ethnic shops, traditional tea houses, and hole-in-the-wall cafes and cocktail lounges.
Houhai doesn’t have many must-see sights besides the former residence of Soong Ching-ling and the mansion of Prince Gong, but that just adds to the sense of exclusivity.
You can take part in a variety of activities on the lake including paddle boating, dining, fishing, kite flying, and winter ice-skating. And you can always stroll along the water, people-watching or just enjoying the picturesque views with your significant other.
Houhai is a perfect place for Valentine’s break, for the honeymoon of your dreams, or simply to spend some time with the love of your life. Exploring this romantic place as a couple will give you plenty of opportunities to enjoy some quality time together.
5: Nanluoguxiang-Where to stay in Beijing for Food and Restaurants
Nanluoguxiang is a lively walkable area with great restaurants, nightlife, and close to everything if you love food and nightlife.
Nanluoguxiang courtyards have a history of seven hundred years, covering the Yuan, Ming, and Qing dynasties. Both sides of Nanluoguxiang are lined with restaurants bound to delight your tastes buds.
Furthermore, it is only two kilometers away from the most famous night time restaurant strip-Ghost Street, where some of Beijing’s best eating is done.
With traditional courtyards, red lanterns, and hundreds of restaurants along the street, 1.5km long Ghost Street is a popular food street offering mostly Sichuan-style spicy crayfish, bowls of frog, fish or beef in hot chili oil, etc. Some restaurants carry both Sichuan cuisine and Beijing local delights like Peking duck, cow’s stomach and scorpions.
Moving within this area is also quite comfortable thanks to the subway line 6. Take subway line 6 to Beixinqiao where the exit is right along Ghost Street. Staying in Nanluoguxiang offers you the perfect opportunity to sample the cuisines from different parts of China.
6: Gulou-Where to Stay in Beijing for Local Vibe
Gulou (literally drum tower) offers a slice of authentic Beijing if you want to avoid staying in a touristy area. The historic alleys in this area represent the “real life” of Beijing, where alley ways connect to the traditional courtyards.
This area is a good mix of independent shops, neighbourhood markets and popular eateries that draw the locals as well as students and tourists. It’s a nice place to get lost and feel like you’re back in ancient times
When the weather’s nice, it’s great to head to the nearby lake to mingle with the locals. It has become very trendy in recent years but still retains something of a local vibe.
7: Sanlitun-Where to Stay in Beijing for Nightlife
If you’re looking to enjoy Beijing’s famous nightlife and club scene, then the Sanlitun neighborhood is the best place to stay. Its colorful lanes are awash with bars and cafes, and every night it buzzes with activity as crowds of locals and tourists pile in to enjoy the party vibe.
With many 24-hour joints, Sanlitun is crowded especially over the weekend, so don’t be surprised if you find yourself in what you think is a bar that suddenly turns into a nightclub or a club that suddenly starts drawing in the brunch crowd.
On the opposite of Sanlitun bar street is the multi-floor Taikoo Li shopping center (formerly Sanlitun Village)Beijing’s top shops including China’s first Apple store, and a lot of the major brands that you would find in New York.
If you are a real foodie, you won’t regret trying as many restaurants as you can in this area as there are many ethnic communities living here, each of them with their own amazing cuisine, so you will get to taste the real deal!
The mix of luxury boutique, hipster coffee shops, upscale restaurants, craft beer, cocktails, even live music or film screenings creates a neighborhood with an international vibe where it’s a pleasure to stay. Do your research and preserve your energy by hitting only those you’re most interested in.
As the coolest parts of Beijing, Sanlitun is also the best area to stay in Beijing for tourists who want to experience the city through a hipster’s eyes.
Map of 7 Best Neighborhoods to Stay in Beijing
Stay Near a Subway or Train Station in Beijing
Although Beijing is best explored on foot, the sheer size of it can make that almost impossible. Thankfully, the city boasts an efficient and extensive subway system. The subway system is definitely the quickest and most efficient way to travel around the city, not to mention the cheapest.
Staying in hotels within walking distance to major subway/train stations is highly recommended to save money, time and energy. Easy to navigate, you’ll have no trouble exploring Beijing’s top seven neighborhoods by subway, no matter where you make your base.
- Line 1 is one of the most convenient lines in Beijing for tourists as it crosses Tiananmen Square, Xidan, Wangfujing and the military mesuem. From Tiananmen Square, you can easily get to National Grand Theater, Forbidden City, Qianmen, and Wangfujing Street. It is a heavily used line because it crosses Beijing from west to east.
- Line 2 serves important stations particularly for tourists, such as Yonghe Lamasery Temple, Drum & Bell Towers, Qianmen Street, Houhai, and Ghost Street. It’s a good idea to pick a hotel that is within 5-minutes walking distance to a subway or train station within the central area of Beijing, which is bounded by the circular Loop Line 2.
- Line 4 will take you to key spots like the Summer Palace, Yuanmingyuan Park, Beijing Zoo (Panda House), Xidan and Peking University. Line 4 runs across Beijing from northwest to southeast.
- Line 5 serves these three famous stations the Temple of Heaven, Nanluogu Xiang and National Art Museum of China. It crosses Beijing from north to south.
- Line 8 passes by Olympic National Stadium (Bird’s Nest), Gulou, Shichahai, Nanluoguxiang, and National Art Museum. It was created exclusively for the Beijing Olympic Games in 2008.
- Line 10 mainly serves Sanlitun Bar Street (Tuanjiehu station), Agriculture Exhibition Center, Guomao (Beijing central business district). It’s the longest subway loop line in Beijing.
Is Beijing Safe For Tourists?
The short answer is it is absolutely safe. The truth is that Beijing is one of the safest big cities in the world. Visitors are constantly under the protection of the city’s friendly and vigilant police force. Yet that doesn’t mean that tourists in the city don’t need to be cautious to stay safe.
How Many Days Do You Need in Beijing?
3-5 days in Beijing is actually the perfect amount if it’s your first visit. It is also kind of the best compromise when you take time, budget and number of attractions into consideration. You can spend 2 days in Beijing, but it’s cutting it close–and you’ll need to come back again.
It’s also a great idea to do a 1 week Beijing itinerary for all willing to spend up to 7 days in the capital city.
How Do You Get Around in Beijing?
- Subways. The easiest and quickest way to travel around Beijing is by the subway. Riding the subway is also a fantastic way to feel like a local during your stay in Beijing. Sometimes subway routes change or trains temporarily stop running—especially on weekends and late nights during weekdays—so be sure to check for up-to-date subway service information at: bjsubway.
- Buses. Public buses are a scenic way to see the city and reach destinations not convenient to a subway stop. And a large number of Beijing buses are hybrid-electric and electric models. Buses run about every 15 to 30 minutes, or at longer intervals, depending on the time of day.
- Taxis. Grabbing a cab can be ideal when tired feet, heavy luggage or shopping bags weigh you down. Taxis are available 24 hours a day, but depending on the area and time of day, you might not even see a cab nearby especially during rush hour.
- Car. There are numerous local car services, as well as popular app-based options like Didi, to get you from place to place. They don’t have the same pricing system as cabs, and they’re usually a lot cheaper than taxis.
- Bike. Biking the city is the most fun and quick way. It’s good for the environment and your body, and can often be faster and cheaper than fuel-powered transportation. Cycling hot spots like Houhai, Nanluogxiang area are great options for hitting the city on two wheels.
- Walking. Walking is a healthy, free and environmentally-friendly way to get around Beijing. Walking means you can beat the traffic while soaking up the view. Many landmarks like Foribdden City and Tiananmen Square are closer to each other than you might think, so walking can often save time. Remember that cars drive on the right in China, so be careful to look in the correct direction for oncoming traffic when crossing the road.
- Boat: Travelling by river is a great way to get around Beijing. You’ll beat the traffic and enjoy fantastic views of willows and peach trees along the way. Changhe river cruise starts at the Beijing Exhibition Center wharf and ends at the Summer Palace. You will see Beijing’s famous landmarks from the water.
Since you would wish to visit as many tourist attractions, markets, shows and restaurants, make sure that you take your time to identify the best location for stay. Determining beforehand what you want for your Beijing vacation is a nice starting point
List of Hotels/Hostels Used by Our Previous Clients
You can print the address in both English and Chinese to get to your place by taxi.
- Xiao Yuan Alley Courtyard Hotel(小院客栈-东城区朝阳门内南小街礼士胡同12号近王府井大街 65212658)
- Red Wall Garden Shijia Hotel (红墙史家花园酒店 – 东城区史家胡同41号近东四南大街51692222 )
- Crowne Plaza International Airport Beijing hotel (临空皇冠假日酒店 北京市顺义区天竺地区府前一街60号 58108888 )
- Ibis Beijing Jianguomen (宜必思(北京建国门酒店) 朝阳区建华南路6号院1号楼地杰长安驿 65671588)
- Citytel inn (都季商务快捷酒店 -南河沿大街华龙街D座 85116665)
- Holiday Inn Express Shangdi (上地智选假日酒店海淀区上地东路33号 82709999)
- Inner City (清风雅筑四合院客栈 – 西城区赵登禹路大茶叶胡同20号 66160200)
- Hotel Holiday Inn Dongzhimen (东直门智选假日酒店 -春秀路1号 64169999)
- Days Inn Forbidden City 北京香江戴斯酒店 – 东城区南河沿大街南湾子胡同1号 65127788
- Somerset ZongGuanCun Beijing 盛捷中关村服务公寓 海淀区海淀中街15号（近中关村海龙大厦）58730088
- Beijing Hyde hotel
- Crown Plaza Hotel 48 Wangfujing Ave Dongchen District
- Lee Garden Service Apartments 18 Jinyu Hutong Wangfujing
- Downtown Packpackers Nanluoguxiang
- Liuhe Courtyard Hotel
- Novotel Peace Hotel
- JW Marriott Hotel
- City Walls Courtyard House 57 Nianzi Hutong Jingshanhoujie Dongcheng District
- Flowering House Courtyard Hostel Beijing
- Holiday Inn Express Temple of Heaven
- Park Plaza Hotel (丽亭酒店 – 东城区金宝街97号（地铁5号线灯市口站C口出东行50米）85221999)
- The Opposite House Beijing Building 1, No. 11 Sanlitun Road, Chaoyang Dstrict
- Hotel G Beijing