Beijing Travel Guide: How Many Days to Spend in the City

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Complete Guide on How Much Time to Spend on Vacation to Beijing

Traveling to China or Beijing for the first time and wondering how much time you should spend in Beijing?

Beijing is huge, and there is no way to see everything in just a few days or even a few weeks… Don’t come to Beijing thinking that you can see it all in just one or two days. So how much time do you need to see it all? 

Length of Stay on Vacation in Beijing

For first-time visitors, I recommend spending at least three days in Beijing. This should give you enough time to

  • feel the city
  • see the prominent landmarks
  • visit a few attractions
  • take the best Beijing tours

The tourist attractions in Beijing are spread out and usually considerable. You will immediately see and experience more by going to fewer places. You feel you could use more time in Beijing, and also, you think you may never have enough time there.

Don’t Try to See ‘Everything.’

This is not possible and will leave you tired and frustrated—plan to visit no more than three big attractions every day and leave some time for unexpected discoveries.

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The Important Factors to Consider When Deciding How Many Days in Beijing

The exact amount of time may vary from one person to another. There is never one perfect answer. However, several essential factors influence your decision-making:

  • Time of the year
  • Budget
  • Transport
  • Things you are interested in
  • Is Beijing part of your China itinerary?
  • Trips out of Beijing

How Many Days to Spend in Beijing: Time of the Year

September, October, and November are great months to visit Beijing as the weather is not as cold as in winter nor as hot as in the summer. There is usually a low chance of rain.

Five days in Beijing is the perfect amount in September, October, and November. With five days, you can take your time and look around in the shopping areas, and hike the Great Wall for a day or two. Although you can spend three days in Beijing, it’s cutting it close–and you’ll need to come back again.

Winter is not the best time to visit Beijing. Yes, we have unique Chinese new year celebrations.

In winter three days is good enough if your main goal will be touring Beijing all the top attractions,

The quietest times of the top attractions are weekdays during the winter. It’s cold and even icy, but there’s almost no crowding. It will probably take you less time to see the attractions in winter.

Besides September, October, and November and cold winter, for the rest time of the year, we recommend spending at least four days taking some best Beijing tours, seeing the main landmarks, and visiting a few tourist attractions.

How Many Days to Spend in Beijing: Budget

The budget will play a massive role during your trip to Beijing. It will determine how many days you can afford to book a hotel and which places you will visit in Beijing.

Determining a budget for a trip to Beijing is quite complicated. It would help if you considered various expenses; some are more important than others.

The flights and accommodation rates vary depending on the season. The cheapest season is from December to March. You can always find cheap Beijing vacation packages between December and March.

The 8 Factors That Will Shape Your Decision Are:

  1. the flight (round trip)
  2. accommodation (hostels, hotels, Airbnb, apartments…)
  3. transportation (from the airport, railway station, taxis, subway…)
  4. meals (breakfast, lunch, and dinner)
  5. visits, attractions, and shows
  6. take Beijing private tours or not
  7. shopping
  8. extra expenses (bars, cakes…).

All the main attractions will cost you a bit or more, but you can also see some (like the Olympic Stadiums) from outside, saving you money and time in Beijing. Below are a few examples of top attractions in Beijing with prices:

  • Forbidden City: from RMB60
  • Temple Of Heaven: from RMB30
  • Summer Palace: from RMB30

Each of the attractions will take you from 1.5 to 3 hours to fully complete, which can already make almost a whole day in Beijing.

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How Many Days to Spend in Beijing: Transport

Beijing is large. Going from west to east can even take you 2 hours on the subway. The city is well-connected by the subway.

You can get to wherever you need to go, or close to it, with public transportation… Still, many attractions (like the Great Wall and Ming Tombs) are located very far from each other. This might impact how much time you will spend in Beijing.

In the Wangfujing area, you quickly get to the main attractions (like Tiananmen Square, and Forbidden City) by foot, without any public transport. But for the more remote places to visit (like the Summer Palace, the Olympic Park).

How Many Days to Spend in Beijing: Things You Are Interested In

Have you got any must-see places in Beijing you want to visit? Do you wish to see historic buildings, nightlife, and nature? If yes is the answer, you should plan more time in Beijing.

There are many different museums in the city so you can spend days in Beijing just visiting a few of them. From experience, you will be happy to add at least an extra day for a side trip you’d like to take. Some of the places you could visit in such a case include Jinshanling Great Wall, Longqing Gorge, and the the Shilinxia Glass Viewing Platform from Beijing.

On the other hand, if you are very quick at visiting places and are more interested in buildings and the top sights, you will need less time in Beijing. Pre-booking a good driver can also shorten the time you need in Beijing as you will be able to see Beijing attractions in a relatively short time.

How Many Days to Spend in Beijing: Is Beijing Part of Your China Itinerary?

If you are visiting Beijing as part of the China vacation package, you will probably be limited by time. A tour to visit the main cities in China (like Xi’an, Shanghai, Chengdu, and Guilin) will easily take 2-3 days in each of the destinations.

How Many Days to Spend in Beijing: Trips out of Beijing

If you have a few extra days while visiting Beijing, you should go for one of the best day trips from Beijing. I recommend visiting Datong & Pingyao, where you will experience the famous Yungang Grottoes, Hanging Temple, and Pingyao Ancient City. There are many great places to visit in China, so that you can plan an additional few days on top of the days you will stay in Beijing.

What Is the Perfect Amount of Days Needed in Beijing?

Most visitors spend 3-4 days in Beijing, which is the best compromise when you consider timebudget, and the number of attractions.

If you only have three days, make good use of time then you will cover and have a memorable tour of all the top attractions. 4 days, on the other hand, is enough to get a feel for Beijing and see some of its best parts. It’s just a taste, though. To delve in, I think you’d need at least five days. However, you could easily spend a week in Beijing and not get bored.

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For First-Time Visitors: See All the Major Traditional Tourist Sites

The Great Wall, Forbidden City, Tiananmen Square, Summer Palace, Temple of Heaven, Hutong (ancient alleyway), and Bird’s Nest &Water Cube.

For Regular Visitors: Explore the Lesser-known Sights

Lama temple, Confucius temple, 798 art district, Houhai bar street, Beijing Zoo(Panda House), The Ming Tombs, Beihai Park, Jingshan Park, Prince Gong’s Garden, Grand View Garden (Daguanyuan), Fragrant Hills, Marco Polo Bridge, The Ruins of The Garden of Perfection and Light and so on.

The Ultimate 3-Day Beijing Vacation Package For First-Time Visitors

Beijing offers lots of good places to stay for your trip. Here is a suggested 3-day itinerary for Beijing, so not everything may be your cup of tea. Feel free to pick from the days (and activities), but keep in mind that Beijing is big, so you might have a lengthy subway or taxi ride between places if you change up this itinerary.

Day 1: See the Ancient City

This day is all about experiencing Beijing at its best: history, Peking Duck, and iconic views.

  • Walk around Tiananmen Square, Forbidden City
  • Visit the Temple of Heaven
  • Try the famous Peking Duck in the evening

There is no doubt that Tiananmen Square is the heart of Beijing, and almost any trip to this city starts from here. The square has an abundance of sights to see, and you should probably expect to spend at least 1 hour here.

Though the line for the Memorial Hall For Chairman Mao is long, you can avoid most of it if you get there early. It gets more crowded on the weekend. The Monument to the People’s Heroes is spectacular to see up close.

You will find the very impressive Great Hall of the People on the western end of the square. This building serves as the site for meetings of the Chinese Congress. The sunrise flag-raising ceremony is stately and quite enjoyable. There’s such a great sense of history there that you can’t help but be impressed.

The Forbidden City is right next to Tiananmen Square. It’s perhaps the most famous museum in China. The halls, pavilions, gardens, and over one million treasures visit 80,000 visitors daily. I highly recommend you purchase advance tickets online through a third-party website. Don’t forget to bring your passport with you; you need it to get in.

The Temple of Heaven is a fantastic place to visit after lunch. It’s located about six kilometers southeastern of the Forbidden City. The temple comprises three historical buildings that are hard to miss: the Hall of Prayer for Harvests, the Imperial Vault of Heaven, and the Circular Mound Altar.

The old cypress trees are worth checking out as some of them are over 600 years old. It is always lovely walking around the park and enjoying the sight of the local people engaging in singing, dancing, and practicing kung fu, among others.

End your first day in Beijing by tasting the Peking duck on Wangfujing street or Qianmen street. The Peking duck is almost as famous as the Great Wall of China

Bianyifang or Quanjude maintains several locations in the city. Another popular and well-regarded restaurant is Da Dong. Half a duck goes for about 140 RMB. Both Wangfujing street and Qianmen street have a wide range of restaurants with food catering to all budgets.

Day 2: Explore Beyond Beijing

On the second day of this Beijing itinerary, I suggest exploring the magnificent Great Wall. There are several sections of the WWallto visit. Thus I will only mention one of my favorites.

  • Walk Jinshanling Great Wall to Jinshanling East
  • Watch a Kongfu show in the evening.

Although Jinshanling is a lesser-known section than Badaling and Mutianyu, it’s one of the most beautiful sections of the Wall in China. This tranquil and charming Jinshanling has long been known as a place popular with outdoor enthusiasts. However, only a handful of tourists make their way here. If you are a keen hiker, I recommend walking from Jinshanling to East Gate.

Of course, you could also head to Badaling as part of your Great Wall trip as it’s closer to the city but busier. Treat yourself to a kung fu show at Red Theatre based on the famous Shaolin Temple in the evening.

Day 3: Iconic Beijing

  • Visit the Summer Palace
  • Take a glance at Olympic Park/Bird’s Nest/Water Cube.
  • Explore Nanluoguxiang Hutong, Houhai Lake bar street
  • See Pandas at the Beijing Zoo
  • Taste Dumplings in the evening

The third day in Beijing starts with another Beijing highlight-the Summer Palace. The Summer Palace is excellent all year round and is very large. You can easily spend 2-3 hours here. Take a picnic or pick up some instant noodles if the weather permits.

Once you’re done with the Summer Palace, you can head to the next stop- Bird’s Nest/Water Cube. The Bird’s Nest Stadium and Water Cube were built for the 2008 Olympic Games. Those of you who appreciate unique architecture will love this place.

Nanluoguxiang Hutong/Houhai bar street area is one of the oldest neighborhoods in Beijing. It dates back to the 15th century and allows you to enjoy the authentic ambiance of the ancient city.

The Panda House is quite close to the entrance of the zoo. Within 5 minutes, you can see pandas chilling in the enclosure.

Stop at one of Beijing’s many yummy restaurants for dumplings in the evening. Dumplings are both cheap and convenient to eat. The humble Chinese dumpling will bring you closest to the mysteries of the real Beijing.

So that brings an end to the three days in Beijing. As packed-in as this itinerary might seem, Beijing still has so much more to see, so do feel free to adjust it to meet your interests.

Optional Places to Add to the 3-Day Beijing Itinerary

  • Mutianyu Great Wall: If hiking is not your cup of tea, you would love to visit the most beautifully restored Mutianyu Great Wall by cable car/toboggan. The 6-seater cable car ride is gentle, taking you from the lower station to the top in around 8 minutes. It operates seven days a week, and trips occur within 5 minutes of each other. Furthermore, Mutianyu toboggan provides a fast run to the bottom. The toboggan is a short, exciting, exhilarating, and fun activity for youngsters/children. Kids would love it.
  • Yonghe Temple (the Lama Temple). If you only have enough time to visit one temple in Beijing, make the Lama Temple your priority. The holy temple is the place of worship and meditation for Tibetan Buddhist monks and has centuries of history built into the temple walls and grounds. It remains the largest and most perfectly preserved lamasery in China.
  • Silk Market. While shopping at a mall is comfortable, and you get high-quality products, the best shopping experience in Beijing is at its markets like Silk Market. Here you will find the best in fashion, accessories, electronics, and home décor, all at a much lower price, so make sure to polish your bargaining skills before heading out.
  • 798 Art District. Art in Beijing doesn’t always require an elaborate venue or exclusive ticket —798 Art District is a worthwhile location for finding and watching art around the city. With regular art exhibitions, fashion shows, galleries, design shops, cafes, and hipster locals, it’s easy to see why so many art lovers visit the 798 Art District each year. The best part: it’s free!

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