A Beijing Itinerary: The Perfect Three Day Itinerary for Beijing

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The sun setting over an ancient Chinese temple in Beijing, China
An ancient temple in Beijing China

Beijing, China's capital city, is a big city known for never-ending parties, famous historical and traditional Asian landmarks, and luxury shopping malls.

This 3 day itinerary for Beijing will help you see the city from a different angle and teach you about its rich history. You will only need to research the best areas to stay in Beijing and how to get around by public transport.

Beijing was previously known as Peking and has a history full of Chinese dynasties, communist stories to tell, and modern tales to share. It is usually described as having ‘too much of everything’.

The Chinese capital is one of the most diverse and ancient capitals of the world! Several of China's most famous landmarks are also located in Beijing, making it the perfect place to start your trip around China.

To see everything in and around Beijing, you will need at least three days. This 3 day Beijing itinerary will take you through the most important sites you can't miss. I also suggest reading up on Beijing travel tips before your visit, so you know what to expect.

  • 3 day guide
  • Average of 7 stops per day

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Beijing 3 Day Itinerary

Beijing Map

A map of Beijing. Use the map to explore all the days and stops.

Traditional Beijing

Imperial Palace, Beijing, China

You are going to start the first day of this 3 days in Beijing itinerary quite early, so be prepared to be ready just after sunrise. Don't forget to grab a quick breakfast from a convenience store.

You will start your journey with Beihai and Jingshan parks where you will learn their importance to the city. After discovering the parks head towards the Forbidden City to see the magnificent grounds of the palace which welcome millions of tourists every year.

Later, you will have a chance to get to know Wangfujing district, which is well-known for it's Peking duck restaurants. After lunch, you will visit historic Tiananmen Square, the iconic Mao Zedong Mausoleum, lively Qianmen, and the peaceful Temple of Heaven.

You are going to finish your day with a heart-warming hot pot from Hongyuan Nanmen Meat in Hot Pot restaurant.

I advise that you to wear comfortable and modest clothes as you are going to walk around a lot and visit significant and sacred sites. You won't need a car for this day, however, if you are running late, I suggest taking a subway to save some time.

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The famous white temple in Beihai Park, Beijing
Beihai Park, Beijing, China

Explore Beihai Park

Situated a half kilometre away from the north gate of Forbidden City, Beihai Park, also known as North Sea Park, is one of the top places to visit in Beijing, China. It is also the oldest, largest, and the best-preserved imperial gardens in the country.

Park covers about 70 hectares and is more than 1000 years old. It used to be Winter Palace during Liao, Jin, Yuan, Ming, and Qing Dynasties. The main attractions of the park are Beihai Lake and its Jade Flowery Islet which has a well-known White Dagoba temple.

Apart from those two attractions, you will also find other scenic areas, including the Eastern Shore, the Northern Shore Area, and Circular City. Don't forget to stop and admire the beauty of Five-Dragon Pavilions.

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The temple at the top of Jingshan park in Beijing
Jingshan Park, Beijing, China

Enjoy views from Jingshan park

Located in the centre of Beijing, Jingshan Park is an imperial garden which is most known for magnificent views of the Forbidden City. The park itself is situated on the Jingshan Hill (Wansui Hill) and has several summits. The mid-summit is the highest point of the city.

All five summits of the hill have a pavilion placed on the top, making them perfect places for resting and views. The mid-pavilion is named Wanchun Pavilion (Ten Thousand Spring Pavilion) which is known for the clearest views of Forbidden City from above.

The park is also home to the largest peony roses garden in China. It has more than 200 varieties of peony roses (about 20,000 flowers) which are in full bloom during May.

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Hall of Supreme Harmony, The Forbidden City in Beijing
Hall of Supreme Harmony, The Forbidden City in Beijing

Get lost in the Forbidden City

One of the top things to do in Beijing, the Forbidden City, also known as the Palace Museum, is a massive palace complex located in the city centre. Built-in the 15th century, the Forbidden City was once an imperial palace of the Ming and Qing dynasties.

This palace complex is listed in the UNESCO World Heritage List and is the largest palace complex in the world. It has more than 980 buildings that tell you the story of Chinese imperial rule and lifestyle. Forbidden City welcomes about 14 million visitors per year.

I highly recommend booking one of the daily tours to learn more about the palace complex's history. The tours usually last for about 2 to 3 hours.

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Have lunch at the Quanjude Roast Duck Restaurant

Before continuing your exploration, I suggest having an early lunch to avoid the crowds. Situated in the Wangfujing area, Quanjude Roast Duck Restaurant is one of the best traditional restaurants serving Peking duck (Beijing roast duck).

It is a chain of restaurants that has more than 150 years of history. Quanjude also has several branches in other countries, and it is associated with the creation of Peking roast duck.

The restaurant serves a variety of roast duck variations including famous Quanjude Whole Duck Banquet which has often been served for government state banquets.

Be aware that the branch near Wangfujing subway station is usually bustling, so I suggest reserving your table in advance.

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People visiting stalls in Wangfujing Snack Street in Beijing
Wangfujing Snack Street in Beijing, China

Wander around Wangfujing Pedestrian Street

Surrounded by big shopping malls and traditional restaurants, Wangfujing Pedestrian Street is the most famous street in Beijing. It can't be omitted from your Beijing 3 day tour.

The 1,600 meters long street got its name from eight royal mansions (Wangfu) and a well (Jing) that were on the street a long time ago. Today, it is the busiest Beijing's street which welcomes nearly 600 000 people every day.

You will find various boutique and traditional shops, tons of street food stalls for snacks, and old bookstores. It is a perfect place to take a break before continuing to explore Beijing's history.

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A landscape of the main building in Tiananmen Square, Beijing
Tiananmen Square, Beijing, China

Stop by Tiananmen Square

Tiananmen Square was named after the Tiananmen Gates (Gate of Heavenly Peace or Tiananmen Tower) that separate the Forbidden City from the Square. It is one of the largest squares in the world and has several monuments and museums inside of it.

You will find well-known Tiananmen Tower, Monument to the People's Heroes, National Museum of China, and other important monuments.

Tiananmen Square is also a very iconic square that hosted a couple of significant events in Chinese history, including the 1989 Tiananmen Square protests. If you visit it on the national holiday, you will see the square covered in thousands of fresh flowers.

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The front facade and statue of the Mausoleum of Mao Zedong
Mausoleum of Mao Zedong, Beijing, China

Visit the Mausoleum of Mao Zedong

The Mausoleum of Mao Zedong, also known as the Chairman Mao Memorial Hall, is a resting place of Mao Zedong - the leader of China's communist party until 1976.

The mausoleum is situated to the east of Tiananmen Square and stands on the site of former Gate of China (Zhonghuamen).

You will be able to see the leader’s embalmed body lying in the main hall. You can also see several of Mao Zedong’s statues lying around as well as other items that used to belong to the leader.

Make sure to wear suitable clothes, have a valid ID with you, and don't bring any cameras or phones inside the hall. Also always check other regulations before your visit.

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A street view of the restored Qianmen Gate in Beijing
Qianmen Gate, Beijing, China

Coffee break in Qianmen

Quite recently restored street of Qianmen (Zhengyang) has to be included in your three day Beijing itinerary.

The street begins with a Qianmen Gate which served as a South Gate during Qing Dynasty. It is also sometimes regarded as the Gate of the Nation.

Qianmen street consists of the main road and several narrow alleys crowded with cafes, restaurants, food stalls, and shops. It is a perfect place to taste the famous Qianmen's doughnuts and wheat cakes.

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The stairs leading up to The Temple of Heaven in Beijing
The Temple of Heaven, Beijing, China

Relax at the Temple of Heaven

Another destination of your Beijing travel itinerary is situated a bit further from previous attractions. If you are a bit tired of walking, I suggest taking a subway to reach the Temple of Heaven site.

Built-in 1420, the Temple of Heaven, also known as Tiantan, is an imperial religious building complex which symbolizes a relationship between Earth and Heaven. It used to be visited by emperors who prayed for a good harvest and prosperity for the empire.

The temple is also listed in the UNESCO World Heritage List, like the Forbidden City, and is one of the most iconic temples in China and the world.

Be aware that the temple closes in the early evening, so arrive at least an hour before the closure. If you are running out of time, skip previous stops (walking streets) and visit them after the temple.

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Have evening meal at the Hongyuan Nanmen Meat in Hot Pot

The last stop of the day is the Hongyuan Nanmen Meat in Hot Pot restaurant situated near the Temple of Heaven.

It is a traditional hot pot restaurant which is very popular among locals due to food quality and price. This chain restaurant offers lamb, vegetable, or beef hot pot served with fresh produce from outskirts of Beijing.

The portions are very generous so that you won't be leaving hungry. Just be aware that the restaurant is bustling on evenings and you might need to wait for a table.

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Long Adventurous Day Out of Beijing - The Great Wall of China

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A well preserved portion of the Great Wall called Jinshanling Great Wall
Jinshanling Great Wall, Hebei, China

On the second day of this Beijing trip itinerary, you will head out of the city and visit one of the greatest wonders of the world – the Great Wall of China. You should be prepared to leave very early in the morning if you want to avoid crowds.

The Great Wall of China is easily accessed from the city. If you don't like travelling with other tourists in a group, you can rent a car, hire a driver for a full day, or take a taxi to your destination. Of course, the most comfortable way is to hire a driver who will take you everywhere and pick you up.

During the day, you are going to travel to a less touristy and wilder part of the Great Wall of China - Gubeikou Wall (runs for more than 20 kilometres). It is divided into 4 parts: Gubeikou Wohushan, Gubeikou Panlongshan, Jinshanling, and Simatai.

You will hike the ancient Gubeikou Panlongshan, Jinshanling (the most beautiful part of the wall), and Simatai (the only part that is lit at night). In the evening, you will be able to relax and grab dinner at Gubei Water Town, which is the famous Qing Dynasty town.

On this day you will visit fewer attractions and will have more time to relax in nature. Wear comfortable clothes and good shoes, and be prepared for an all-day walk and hike.

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An unreconstructed part of the Great Wall of China near Gubeikou
The Great Wall of China, Gubeikou, China

Start hiking at Gubeikou Panlongshan (Unreconstructed) - Great Wall of China

Gubeikou Town is located over 130 km northeast of downtown Beijing (depending on where you are staying in the city of course). You might be wondering how to get to the Great Wall of China in general. Well, the best way to reach this part is to drive or hire a driver.

The town has several inns that serve quick snacks and traditional meals where you can get quick breakfast. There are also several grocery shops which sell packed lunch for hiking.

Gubeikou Panlongshan, also known as Gubeikou East, was first built in 556. The last part of construction took place in 1567, and since then, no other renovations have taken place. The 5-kilometre section is also the original part of the Great Wall of China.

The highlight of the wall is the destroyed General Tower and 24-Eye Tower, which once had 24 observation windows and once stood at over 400 metres tall. Now, only the west and south walls remain.

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The Jinshanling section of the Great Wall of China
The Jinshanling section of the Great Wall of China

Enjoy picturesque views from Jinshanling Section of the Great Wall of China

The Jinshanling Section of the Great Wall is the best part to visit as it is one of the most well-preserved areas and offers the most spectacular views of the mountains and the wall itself.

This part of the wall was built during the Ming Dynasty and was restored in the 16th century. It is known for the broad field of vision and elegant architecture. Jinshanling was listed as the world cultural heritage site in 1987.

The total length of the section is about 11 kilometres. It has an elevation of 700 metres. The wall is also second only to the Badaling section in its completeness. The greatest feature of this area is its 31 watchtowers that come in different shapes and sizes.

Due to its panoramic open views, Jinshanling is regarded as one of the most beautiful parts of the Great Wall of China, so take your time to admire the views. It also has fewer tourists than Badaling.

You can eat your packed lunch and take a rest from hiking, or you can go down to the parking lot (East side) where you will find several farmhouses and restaurants serving simple dishes.

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The Simatai section of the Great Wall of China
The Simatai section of the Great Wall of China

Exciting hike on the Simatai Section of the Great Wall of China

Simatai section of the Great Wall is one of the few sections to have the original appearance of the wall. It is also the only section that offers a night tour and is the best enjoyed at night time.

Simatai is 5.4 kilometres long and has 39 watchtowers. The elevation rises from 295 meters to 986 meters, making the section a perfect spot for scenic views.

The Simatai section is very steep and narrow. The steepest and narrowest parts of the section are located on the eastern side of the wall: Heavenly Ladder (50 cm wide and goes up at 45 degrees to the peak) and Sky Bridge (40 cm wide brick path).

The wall is divided into two parts by Simatai Reservoir: east (with 16 towers) and west (with 23 towers) parts that are linked by the chain bridge. If you are an adrenaline lover, take the zipline over the lake to another part of the wall.

If you have the time, you can wait until sunset to enjoy a great view of the mountains and the Great Wall of China. Or you can take a night walking tour (after you visit Gubei Water Town) departing from the cable car station. The tour usually lasts about 2 hours.

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The stunning canals in Gubei Water Town
Gubei Water Town, Beijing, China

Spend the evening at Gubei Water Town

Gubei Water Town is another location that I couldn't exclude from my 3-day Beijing tour. This little town surrounds the scenic Mandarin Duck Lake Reservoir and leans against the Simatai section of the Great Wall.

The water town was built during the Qing Dynasty and later reconstructed to represent elegant and peaceful sightseeing attraction. Gubei Water Town is packed with elegant houses, river channels running along the streets, and narrow alleys.

You will also find Chinese wine distillery (you can try the finest wine), Yongshun Dye House (learn more about dyeing fabric), traditional temple, and Yinghua Academy (get to know customs of the Confucian scholar).

Gubei Water Town is a very tranquil town where you can relax at one of its famous hotels and resorts, enjoy a scenic view of the Simatai lights or try delicious food from local restaurants.

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A Different Side of Beijing

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Historical architecture and boats in the Summer Palace in Beijing
Summer Palace, Beijing, China

The final day of this Beijing in three days itinerary you will explore a different side of the city that is more peaceful and a bit out of the city centre. You don't need to get up very early, take your time and relax.

You will start your day by wandering around the massive Summer Palace and exploring Yuanmingyuan Park. You are going to learn more about Chinese imperial gardens and enjoy the fresh air.

Later, you are going to move to the impressive Beijing Zoo, where you will have a chance to admire the beauty of giant pandas - China's symbol. You can grab a quick coffee break before heading to another destination - Lama Temple.

After the temple, you are going to have late lunch at the well-known vegetarian restaurant, the King's Joy which will teach you the meaning of food and simplicity.

The last stop of the day is going to be the Olympic Park, where you will see the 2008 Beijing Olympics venues. During this day, you will be able to expand your knowledge of Chinese history and culture.

I suggest using a subway to get around as it is the easiest and cheapest option.

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An aerial view of the Summer Palace in Beijing
Summer Palace, Beijing, China

Spend the morning at the Summer Palace

The Summer Palace is a huge imperial garden that is said to be the best-preserved imperial garden in the world. It is located about 15 kilometres from downtown Beijing. It is just another attraction that you can't miss out on your visit to Beijing.

The palace used to be a ‘summer retreat’ for the imperial family and was meant to symbolize harmony between nature, water, and people. The main attractions of the imperial garden are Kunming Lake, The Long Corridor, Longevity Hill, The Marble Boat, and the Garden of Virtue and Harmony.

You can easily spend a couple of hours walking around and enjoying tranquil environment.

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Ancient ruins in Yuanmingyuan Park in Beijing
Yuanmingyuan Park, Beijing, China

Brunch at Yuanmingyuan Park

Yuanmingyuan Park, also known as the Old Summer Palace or the Ruins of the Yuanmingyuan (the Garden of Perfection and Light), is another massive park near the Summer Palace.

The park contains old Summer Palace that was destroyed during the Second Opium War. It has lovely passages with thick wood that run through the ruins and gorgeous lotus flower gardens.

It is a well-loved place for a relaxing brunch as there are tons of cafes and restaurants near the park. If you want something more simple and light, I recommend getting snacks and drinks from a convenience store and eating while sitting near the lake in the park.

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Visit Beijing Zoo

Situated in the Xicheng District, Beijing Zoo is the largest zoo in China. It is home to pandas, elephants, gorillas, dolphins, sharks, and more. The zoo is one of the top sights to see in Beijing.

Established in 1955, City Zoo of Beijing's main attraction is a 'hall of giant panda' where visitors can see several giant pandas in their (almost) natural habitat.

The zoo also has an aquarium called Beijing Ocean Hall that occupies the area of 35,000 square meters. You will be able to learn more about sharks, dolphins, and other deep ocean creatures.

I suggest spending at least several hours to see most of the zoo. You can also grab a quick coffee break as there are several cafes in the area.

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The front facade of the Lama Temple in Beijing
Lama Temple, Beijing, China

Explore vibrant Lama Temple

Lama Temple, also known as Yonghe Temple (Harmony and Peace Palace Lamasery), is regarded as the oldest and the best-preserved lamasery in China. It is a vibrant Tibetan Buddhist temple complex that attracts tourists from all around the world.

Established in 1744, the temple has three world-record masterpieces: the largest wooden Buddha in the world; the bronze Buddhas of past, present, and future; and the 500-Arhat-Hill.

You must visit Lama Temple if you are interested in Chinese history, culture, and architecture. You will also have a chance to see locals praying and hear monks chanting.

If you haven't rented a car, take subway line 2 or subway line 5 to reach the temple.

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Have lunch at the King's Joy

Having a meal at the King's Joy is a must to do during your 3 perfect days in Beijing. Situated near the Lama Temple and Beijing Temple of Confucius, the restaurant is the best place to try traditional Chinese, vegetarian food.

Founded half a century ago, the King's Joy is an innovative world-famous restaurant which focuses on healthy living, sustainability, and natural lifestyle. It only serves vegetarian food and supports the minimalist lifestyle of Buddhist monks.

Be aware that the restaurant is quite expensive and charges extra for the service. However, I highly suggest treating yourself for the nice meal on your last day!

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Beijing National Aquatic Centre, Beijing, China
Beijing National Aquatic Centre, Beijing, China

Wander around the Beijing Olympic Park

Beijing Olympic Park, also known as Olympic Green, is the site where the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games took place. The Olympic Green occupies an area of 2,864 acres (1,159 hectares) and was designed to contain 10 Olympic venues, the Olympic Village, visitor services, and shops.

The park is divided into three areas: The Central Section (contains Aquatic Centre and the National Stadium), The Northern Section (Olympic Park Forest filled with futuristic statues), and The Southern Section (contains China Ethnic Culture Park and former National Sports Center).

The Olympic Park is a perfect place to relax, enjoy nature and learn more about the Olympics.

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In Summary

Overall, Beijing is a magnificent city and a great place to have the best vacation of your life. From gigantic historical monuments to little secluded alleys, the capital of China has everything for everyone.

This 3 day Beijing itinerary is equally suitable for first-time visitors and travellers looking for capital's hidden gems. I have included popular and less crowded places that are worth seeing while in Beijing.

I hope you have enjoyed this itinerary, found some interesting places to visit, and will have 3 perfect days in Beijing.

This article was first published on May 19, 2019 21:27 UTC.

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Written by Agne Civilyte

031226hug WRITER I am a Lithuanian living in the UK and trying to travel all around the world. I love visiting places that are still not well-known to tourists. My favourite part of the world is Southeast Asia as I can find beautiful mountains and temples there. My absolute favourite country is South Korea as I feel at home there.

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