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Bucket list destination:


  • Beijing, China

Last updated: 08 July, 2023
Expert travel writer: Thomas O’Malley

The Chinese capital sits at the heart of the national consciousness as its political, cultural and emotional nexus.

A vast city, Beijing is best known for its ancient temples, palaces and proximity to the Great Wall of China, but dig a little deeper and you’ll find a thriving contemporary art scene, walkable old neighbourhoods with stylish cafes and boutiques, and a culinary safari of regional Chinese delicacies.

A megacity in the making, vast malls and skyscrapers are juxtaposed with a shrinking number of charming traditional hutong (historic residential alleyways) and backstreet lanes.

Greater affluence and an increasingly youthful vibe have created a diverse dining and nightlife scene, while mall shopping is a well-catered-to pastime for Beijingers.


A huge city with a population of more than 20 million (if you include the outer districts), Beijing’s major sights extend along the city’s historical north-south central axis, with the Forbidden City dead centre, adjoining the vast concrete expanse of Tiananmen Square.

Neighbouring Wangfujing is home to shopping malls and the city’s best hotels, while to the south is the Temple of Heaven.

The leafy hutong neighbourhoods around the Drum and Bell Towers and Houhai Lakes offer a more relaxed, village-y vibe.

A number of temples and palaces are dispersed across the urban landscape, including the Sumer Palace in the northwestern suburbs. Prime attractions like the Great Wall and the Ming Tombs are beyond the city itself. Sanlitun is the destination of choice for nightlife and international dining, while the hutong alleyways are home to hip cafes, boutique hotels and cocktail bars.

Tours, tickets & transfers


Our selection of the best Viator tours of this destination, plus helpful tickets and transfers

Beijing Mini Group Day Tour: Great Wall, Forbidden City and Tiananmen

  • Beijing

Join the worry-free Beijing mini group day tour with Price Beat Guarantee and No Shopping Promise. Start with a morning walk through the Tiananmen Square, and skip the ticket line to visit the 600-year-old imperial Forbidden City. Enjoy the 2 to 3 hours' hiking on the Mutianyu Great Wall. Lastly stop by the bustling Nanluoguxiang Hutong at night. · Mini group of only 1 to 6 members, with more personal service. · No shopping detours, no factory, no tea ceremony and no shopping site restaurant, which at least save you two hours today for a pure sightseeing experience. That's the reason why you can have more time at the attraction sites. This tour are running for guests' interests rather than the shopping commission. · Avoid the ticket line at the entrance of all attractions. · Professional English-speaking guide offers in-depth commentary and photography inspirations.

Price $139

Min age 0

Rating 4.94 / 5 [609 ratings]

Tour supplied by:

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All-Inclusive Private 2-Day Beijing Highlight with optional Show

  • Beijing

Come with us on a discovery journey in the 2 days tour. Here you have the chance to visit the most sights seeing in Beijing during such limited time. Start the tour from your hotel each day to explore Beijing in the city and Mutianyu Great Wall. One day to Tiananmen Square, Forbidden City, Hutong, Temple of Heaven and followed day to Summer Palace and Mutianyu Great Wall. You can upgrade to have an evening show. Guide, entrance fees, and transfer service Lunches and round cable car up and down or chairlift up and toboggan down the wall are all inclusive.

Price $380

Min age 0

Rating 4.97 / 5 [305 ratings]

Tour supplied by:

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Mini Group: 2-Day Beijing Highlights and Great Wall Tour

  • Beijing

Join a 2-day mini group tour with our friendly and professional tour guide in Beijing, visiting the Great Wall at Mutianyu, Forbidden City, Summer Palace, Hutong, and the most of highlights of Beijing.

Price $379

Min age 0

Rating 4.84 / 5 [239 ratings]

Tour supplied by:

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Beijing Essential Full-Day Tour including Great Wall at Badaling, Forbidden City and Tiananmen Square

  • Beijing

See all of Beijing’s cultural and historical highlights on a comprehensive and captivating full-day tour of China’s capital city. Stroll amid the majestic charm of Tiananmen Square; marvel at the imaginative architecture at the Forbidden City; and see the verdant splendor that surrounds the Badaling Great Wall of China. Alongside your knowledgeable guide, gain fascinating insight into the rich history and distinctive culture of Beijing and enjoy convenient round-trip transportation from selected hotels. •Full-day tour of Beijing's essential attractions: Tiananmen Square, Forbidden City and Great Wall at Badaling •Visiting one of the best preserved sections of the Great Wall of China at Badaling •Shopping at the Longdi Jade Factory •Pickup and drop off from hotels within 4th ring circle road •Important Notice: For any bookings within 3 days prior to the tour date, you will visit Jingshan Park instead of Forbidden City if the entrance tickets of Forbidden City are fully booked.

Price $99

Min age 0

Rating 4.16 / 5 [218 ratings]

Tour supplied by:

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2-Day Small-Group Tour of Beijing Highlights

  • Beijing

Explore Mutianyu Great Wall, Forbidden City and Tiananmen Square in the first day and visit the Summer Palace, Temple of Heaven, Lama Temple and old Hutongs with Rickshaw ride in the second day tours. Besides, you will also have a photo stop at the National Stadium (aka Bird's Nest) and stop by the bustling Nanluoguxiang Hutong at the first night. This 2-day mini group tour with maximum 6 guests ensures a more personal experience. Avoid the ticket line at the entrance of all attractions. No shopping detours, no factory, no tea ceremony and no shopping site restaurant, which at least save you two hours today for a pure sightseeing experience. That's the reason why you can have more time at the attraction sites. This tour are running for guests' interests rather than the shopping commission.

Price $259

Min age 0

Rating 4.94 / 5 [192 ratings]

Tour supplied by:

Viator Logo
Website >

Travel advice

When to go

The weather is at its most pleasant in spring, from May to June, and in autumn, from September to early November. Hotels are busier and prices are higher during these periods.

Summer (July and August) can be intolerably hot and humid. The freezing winter months (December to March) are quieter, and the icy lakes and hot pot feasts lend Beijing a unique seasonal appeal.

Beijing gets very crowded with Chinese tourists during the week-long public holidays of Chinese New Year (late January or February) and National Day (from 1 October).

Getting there and away

Beijing has two major international airports. The closest to the city is Beijing Capital Airport, a thirty-minute ride via the Airport Express train into central Beijing.

Beijing Daxing Airport, opened in 2019, is about 1 hour and 10 minutes from the city centre, using a combination of Airport Express and subway.

A taxi from Beijing Capital Airport takes 30-45 minutes to downtown. From Daxing Airport, allow at least an hour.

The high-speed ‘bullet’ train arrives from most major Chinese cities into one of Beijing’s three main stations: Beijing Railway Station, Beijing West Railway Station, and Beijing South Railway Station.

Getting around

Beijing is a huge, spread-out city, and distances on maps often look shorter than in reality. Utilise taxis and the subway to full effect to save unnecessary walking time.

Taxis are plentiful, but drivers don’t speak English so have your destination written in Chinese characters and ensure the driver uses the meter. Uber isn’t used in China, but the equivalent Chinese app, Didi Chuxing, has an English interface and can be used by overseas tourists to hail metered taxis (not private cars), paying with cash at the end of the journey.

The subway system is cheap, efficient and easy to navigate. Car rental is not an option unless you have a Chinese driving licence. Traffic can get congested, so leave plenty of time for your journey, especially at rush hours.

With dedicated cycle lanes on many roads, cycling can be a great way to explore, especially through the quiet hutong lanes. You’ll see dockless hire bikes everywhere, but you will need to enlist the help of a Chinese person to use them.

Where to stay

For first-time visitors, Beijing can seem rather spread out and sprawling, so it’s important to choose your hotel location carefully.

Wangfujing is the safest all-round bet – it’s central, with a huge choice of places to stay, and within walking distance of the Forbidden City. A little further out, the Central Business District has some very swanky international hotels and good subway links.

Sanlitun, with its trendy design hotels, is the location of choice for night owls, while those seeking a more authentic hutong experience can opt for the neighbourhoods around the Drum and Bell Tower and Houhai Lakes, home to a few notable boutique hotels.

Health & Safety

Petty crime rates are low, but always take sensible precautions especially in crowded areas and on public transport. Traffic is very congested during weekdays, and Beijing drivers are impatient so cross streets with care. Pay special heed to zippy electric scooters, which you won’t hear coming.

Although improving year on year, air pollution can still be an issue, particularly in winter. The summer heat and humidity is draining. Tap water is not safe to drink, but safe bottled water is sold everywhere.

If English-speaking Chinese approach you outside major tourist sites, it might be one of two well-known scams. One leads to a hard-sell on student art, the other is the infamous tea scam, where an invite to drink tea could mean end up footing a hefty bill.

Get a VPN (Virtual Private Network) subscription if you want to use Google, Facebook or other banned sites extensively while away. Note that these while these sites are blocked over Wi-Fi and local mobile networks, they are still accessible if you use your own carrier’s roaming service.