Getaway Compass

How to Spend Two Days in Beijing

Beijing Forbidden City

Beijing, the capital of China, is an interesting city with a lot of history. Follow this itinerary for the best things to do in 2 days in Beijing. Spend one day walking around Beijing and visiting Tiananmen Square, Forbidden City, and Wangfujing Street. On your second day, hike the Great Wall of China, an incredible experience you will never forget.

Best Time to Visit Beijing

The best time to visit Beijing is in the Spring or Fall when the weather is mild and the main tourist attractions are a little less crowded. During the spring the trees around the Great Wall will be beautiful and green, while during the fall you will get to experience the beautiful autumn colors.

How to Get From Beijing Airport to Downtown Beijing

The easiest and fastest way to get to downtown Beijing is to take the Airport Express train from Terminal 2 or Terminal 3 for 25 RMB. The train runs every 10-15 minutes and takes about 20 minutes. The train stops at Sanyuanqiao Station which connects to metro line 10, and Dongzhimen Station which connects to metro line 2 and 13. The hours of the airport express train are from about 6:00-22:30. If you need to get to or from the airport outside of these hours, you will need to take a taxi. The cost of a taxi to get downtown from the airport is about 120 RMB.

How to Get Around Beijing

Beijing has a great metro system that connects the city. There are maps and signs in English in the metro stations, so you can easily get around. Download the Beijing Explore Metro app on your phone for an interactive map of the metro. Note that when you purchase your metro ticket through the kiosk you will need to select the destination station. The cost of a metro ticket is very cheap, only about 3-9 RMB depending on the distance. Make sure to always carry small change with you for the metro as the machine does not accept big bills.
Download the Beijing map through the Ulmon City Maps app in order to find your way around the city. The map will work offline and use your GPS location to show you where you are.

Where to Stay in Beijing

Utilize booking.com to look for a hotel in Dongcheng district near Wangfujing St and Forbidden City so you are in a central location. Make sure to have the name of the hotel and address written in Chinese in case you need to take a taxi or have trouble finding it. Booking.com automatically provides you with both an English and Chinese version of your booking. We stayed in both Park Plaza Beijing and Sunworld Dynasty Hotel and recommend both.

Park Plaza Beijing is really nice and comfortable. This was definitely the nicest place we stayed in during our trip. There is a train station right around the corner, a Starbucks across from the hotel, and many local restaurants a short walk away. The hotel also offers concierge services and will book trips for you like a Great Wall tour.

Sunworld Dynasty Hotel is right on Wangfujing St, a main shopping street in Beijing, and not a far walk from Forbidden City. This big hotel also has concierge services where they can help you book your tickets to the Forbidden City.

Tips for Visiting Beijing

  • Beijing is a huge city and the blocks are a lot bigger than they look. Utilize the metro to get places faster so you can fit more into your day.
  • Since Beijing is in the north it can get very cold in the winter so pack a coat and warm clothes if you are traveling here November – April. 
  •  Consider bringing masks in case the pollution is bad, like this 3M mask we purchased on Amazon. You can check the air quality conditions online each day here.

For more tips for visiting China, continue to our article: Important Things to Know for Your Visit to China.

Day 1: Tiananmen Square, Forbidden City, Wangfujing Street

Tiananmen Square

Tiananmen Square
Tianamen Square People

Start your day at Tiananmen Square, a large square in the center of Beijing. This square is known for the 1989 Tiananmen Square Pro-Democracy Protests, or the June Fourth Incident.

How to Get to Tiananmen Square: Take subway line 1 to Tiananmen East or Tiananmen West stations. Follow the signs for Tiananmen Square and go through the tunnel in order to get across the street.

Forbidden City- The Palace Museum

Beijing Forbidden City
The Palace Museum
Beijing Forbidden City 3
Beijing Forbiden City Close

Forbidden City was built in the early 1400s during the Ming Dynasty and is the largest imperial palace in the world. The palace took 14 years to build, and was completed in 1420. This palace was home to 24 emperors during the Ming and Qing dynasties. In 1925 The Palace Museum was established, and later became a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Walk through Forbidden City and admire the traditional Chinese architecture and gardens. Forbidden City is divided into three parts: The walls and gates, the southern section or outer court, and the northern section or the inner court. In the outer court you will get to see three main buildings: Hall of Supreme Harmony, Hall of Central Harmony, and Hall of Preserving Harmony. Each hall had a different specific use by the emperor that you can learn about through information boards throughout the palace. Forbidden City ends with the Imperial Garden right before the north gate.

How to Get to Forbidden City

The only entrance to Forbidden City is through the south entrance at the Meridian Gate. In order to get here take subway line 1 to Tiananmen East and walk north. If you are already at Tiananmen Square you can walk north and enter through the Meridian Gate. Note that there is a lot of security to get from Tiananmen Square to the Forbidden City, so you will most likely be spending some time waiting in line.

How to Purchase a Ticket to Forbidden City

The best way to purchase your ticket is online before arriving to Forbidden City, as the number of visitors is limited to 80,000. The price is 60 RMB (April – October) and  40 RMB (November – March). The Forbidden City website is in Chinese and requires you to use Alipay or a local bank, so in order to purchase your ticket you should ask the hotel concierge for help. Most hotels will help you purchase your ticket and you can pay them back the cost of the ticket in cash. You can also purchase your ticket at the Forbidden City ticket window located on the right side before the south gate entrance, but there could be a long wait. In order to get into Forbidden City you need a copy of your confirmation number and your passport.

Explore Hutongs

Beijing Hutongs

Experience old Beijing by walking through a Hutong, an alley formed by courtyard homes on either side. Siheyuan are single story connected buildings around a courtyard, forming a Hutong. There are many Hutongs throughout Beijing, so you will most likely run into them as you walk around the city, especially near Forbidden City.

Wangfujing Street

Wangfujing Street Beijing

Wangfujing Street is a popular one mile shopping street, located in Dongcheng District. There are many stores, malls, and restaurants along the street. Half of the length of the street is pedestrian only, which makes it a nice walking street. You can get here by taking line 1 to Wangfujing Station. 

Note: If you have additional time you can visit the Summer Palace and Temple of Heaven, both very popular sights.

Day 2: Hike the Great Wall of China

Great Wall
Great Wall Jinshanling Section
Great Wall View

Spend the day hiking this incredible wall. There are several different sections of the great wall that you can visit on a day trip from Beijing including Badaling, Mutianyu, and Jinshanling. The section we recommend visiting is Jinshanling, a beautiful mountainous part of the Great Wall. Since Jinshanling is further from Beijing than other popular sections, it is a lot less crowded. As you can see from these pictures it is almost empty in November in this part of the Great Wall. You can get to Jinshanling Great Wall from Beijing in about 2 hours by taking the direct tourist bus during the peak season, using public transportation, booking an organized tour, or booking a private driver. Continue to our Guide to Hiking the Great Wall of China for more information.

Jinshanling Great Wall Fees:
Admission Fee: 65 RMB  (Peak Season March 16 – Nov. 15), 55 RMB (Off Season November 16 – March 15)
Cable Car: 40 RMB one way, about 15 minutes (optional)

Disclosure: Please note that some of the links above are affiliate links for products and services I recommend. At no additional cost to you, I earn a commission if you make a purchase. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.

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