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5 Days in Beijing: A Journey Through Time and Tradition

Things to do in Beijing: Visit the Forbidden City, Tiananmen Square, the Great Wall of China, Temple of Heaven, Hutongs, and many more.

Spending 5 days in Beijing is the perfect length of time to immerse yourself in its contrasting worlds. Despite being a sprawling metropolis home to over 21 million people, you’ll capture the city’s ancient spirit and pulsating modern life. Imagine starting your mornings to the serene sounds of ancient drums and witnessing the graceful movements of tai chi in lush parks. 

This 5 days in Beijing itinerary promises a daily adventure through Beijing’s layered history. Savor the bold flavors of street food and meander through vibrant markets teeming with centuries-old secrets. As dusk settles, watch as the city transforms under a canopy of neon lights, guiding you into bustling neighborhoods alive with endless tales. Beijing is set to redefine your travel expectations, one incredible moment at a time.

5 Days in Beijing: A Journey Through Time and Tradition (Inside Forbidden City)
5 Days in Beijing: A Journey Through Time and Tradition (Inside Forbidden City)

Getting Around Beijing

Exploring Beijing during your 5-day stay is a breeze, thanks to its extensive and efficient public transport system. Most major tourist attractions are just a short walk from subway stations, making the metro your go-to option for quick and affordable travel. Buses offer a more comprehensive coverage, reaching even the less accessible spots. Taxis are readily available for direct routes or late-night journeys. With apps like DiDi, hiring a ride is as easy as a tap on your phone. Rest assured, each destination is just a ride away, allowing you to explore with confidence.

Where to Stay in Beijing

Finding the right place to stay enhances your visit during your 5 days in Beijing. For budget travelers, The Great Wall Box House offers a cozy and social atmosphere, perfect for meeting fellow travelers. Alternatively, Hotel Eclat Beijing provides a luxurious stay with uniquely designed rooms filled with contemporary art and state-of-the-art facilities in the heart of Beijing’s bustling business district. Both options sit conveniently near subway stations, making it easy to explore. 

On the other hand, compared to AgodaBooking, and TripAdvisor, I find Trip.com more convenient for booking hotels and trains in China. Remember, there are many in China that travelers can’t access. 

5 Days in Beijing: A Journey Through Time and Tradition (Beijing Skyline)
5 Days in Beijing: A Journey Through Time and Tradition (Beijing Skyline)

Do You Really Need to Join a Tour in Beijing? 

Do you really need to join a tour while exploring Beijing in 5 days? Generally, no—if you can walk and prefer freedom, navigating the city on your own might suit you best. Just ensure you have a reliable Wi-Fi connection for Google Maps; an eSIM from Airlo simplifies staying connected without the hassle of a local number. However, consider a tour for ease and convenience in visiting the Great Wall, particularly if time is tight. For dependable tour bookings, both GetYourGuide and Viator offer excellent options. 

Tiananmen Square (Chairman Mao Memorial Hall)

Start your tour at Tiananmen Square, where the vastness captivates. Visit Chairman Mao’s Memorial Hall and observe the striking monument. Cross Chang’an Avenue to the north, leading directly to your next stop.

Forbidden City (Gate of Heavenly Peace)

Enter the Forbidden City through the Gate of Heavenly Peace just across the street. Roam through its ancient rooms, filled with imperial artifacts. Plan for a thorough exploration lasting at least 2-3 hours. Upon exiting the north gate, your next destination is directly ahead.

5 Days in Beijing: A Journey Through Time and Tradition (Entrance to the Forbidden City at Night).
5 Days in Beijing: A Journey Through Time and Tradition (Entrance to the Forbidden City at Night).

Beihai Park

After leaving the Forbidden City, first head to Beihai Park, a tranquil oasis just a 10-minute walk northwest. You can wander through expansive, lush gardens and visit the iconic White Dagoba on its central island. Enjoy a peaceful stroll around the lake or take a serene boat ride, embracing the calm atmosphere as you transition from the grandeur of imperial palaces.

Jingshan Park

Next, go to Jingshan Park. A gentle uphill walk leads you to the park’s highest point, offering a panoramic view of Beijing’s sprawling cityscape. Spend about an hour here, especially near sunset, to witness the city bathed in golden light—an ideal end to a day of exploration. 

Dinner: Peking Duck at Quanjude or Da Dong Roast Duck Restaurant

End your day with a dinner at Quanjude for a traditional take or Da Dong for something more modern on Peking Duck. Both are about a 15-minute taxi ride from Beihai Park. Ensure you book in advance to secure a spot.

Great Wall of China (one-day hike from Jinshanling to Simatai)

Start early for a thrilling one-day hike from Jiankou Great Wall To Mutianyu. This less crowded section offers breathtaking views and authentic Wall experiences. Capture stunning photos of the rugged landscape and ancient watchtowers. The whole tour takes 10 hours, starting in early morning in Beijing. Wear comfortable shoes and bring water. Afterward, relax as you head back; it’s about a 2-hour drive to Beijing.

5 Days in Beijing: A Journey Through Time and Tradition (The Great Wall of China).
5 Days in Beijing: A Journey Through Time and Tradition (The Great Wall of China).

Alternative: Mutianyu Great Wall and Ming Tombs Combine Tour

Would you prefer less walking? Join a tour combining the scenic and restored Mutianyu section of the Great Wall with a visit to the historic Ming Tombs. Spend the morning at Mutianyu, which features a cable car to the top and a toboggan ride down. After lunch, explore the Ming Tombs, where 13 Ming dynasty emperors were laid to rest. This full-day tour includes travel time; expect short walks and lots of history.

Temple of Heaven

Arrive early at the Temple of Heaven, ideally before it opens, to watch locals practice wushu, tai-chi, and fan dancing in the surrounding park. Explore the stunning architecture and serene altars where emperors once prayed for good harvests. Spend 2-3 hours here, soaking in the peaceful atmosphere and cultural displays. Then, take a 40-minute subway ride toward your next destination.

5 Days in Beijing: A Journey Through Time and Tradition (The Temple of Heaven)
5 Days in Beijing: A Journey Through Time and Tradition (The Temple of Heaven)

Summer Palace

Head to the Summer Palace by 11 AM via the metro; it’s a 40-minute journey from the Temple of Heaven. Spend your afternoon wandering through this expansive royal garden. Admire the beautiful Kunming Lake, the Long Corridor with its painted scenes, and the ornate Marble Boat. Given its vastness, a half-day visit lets you appreciate its beauty without rushing, capturing the essence of imperial leisure and landscaping art.

798 Art District

Start at 798 Art District, the core of modern Chinese art, with UCCA as the highlight. Spend 2-3 hours enjoying innovative art and exploring street installations. After soaking in the creativity, grab a 20-minute taxi to dive into some shopping.

Silk Market

Head to the Silk Market for silk, electronics, and unique gifts. Engage in lively bargaining with vendors over the next couple of hours. Post-shopping, take a taxi back to your hotel to freshen up; this is a great time to drop off your finds and relax.

Things to do in Beijing 5 Days in Beijing: A Journey Through Time and Tradition (The Temple of Heaven)
Things to do in Beijing

Sanlitun Bar Street

Revitalized, head out to Sanlitun Bar Street for the evening. Just a 15-minute taxi from most central hotels, it offers a vibrant nightlife with diverse bars and clubs. Sanlitun provides the perfect atmosphere to cap off your day, from craft cocktails to live bands.

Alternative Evening: Hutong Culinary Food Tour

Instead of bar-hopping in Sanlitun, consider a Hutong Culinary Walking Tour. Meet at Dongsi Subway Station at 6:00 PM for a food lover’s dream. Explore the historic Hutong neighborhood and savor over 15 tastings at six unique stops, including local favorites like sesame cakes, soup dumplings, and crispy fried rings. The tour, full of surprises like Donkey burgers and 1000-Year-Old Eggs, lasts about 3-4 hours, giving a deep dive into Beijing’s culinary culture.

Begin your last day in Beijing with a morning exploration of one of its historical hutongs. This early stroll is your chance to see the city wake up and sample authentic local breakfast flavors, offering a perfect end to your visit.

Nanluoguxiang Hutong: As one of Beijing’s oldest and most preserved hutong districts, Nanluoguxiang bursts with life, blending the charm of old Beijing with modern boutiques and cafes. While it’s an excellent spot for buying unique souvenirs and experiencing a lively local atmosphere, be prepared for crowds and a somewhat commercial vibe. For breakfast, indulge in traditional Beijing yogurt or savor the taste of freshly steamed buns from bustling street vendors.

Wudaoying Hutong: For a quieter morning, Wudaoying Hutong offers a more subdued yet equally enriching experience. This lesser-known hutong is less crowded, allowing for a more authentic glimpse into the daily lives of Beijing’s residents. The lack of English signs and commercialization helps preserve its authentic charm. However, it may pose a slight challenge for those who need to speak Mandarin. Start your day with a hearty jianbing from a local vendor, or enjoy a peaceful breakfast in one of the quaint teahouses.

For your final hours in Beijing, choose between Nanluoguxiang’s vibrant energy and Wudaoying’s tranquil authenticity before heading back to pack up and catch your flight.

5 Days in Beijing: A Journey Through Time and Tradition
5 Days in Beijing: A Journey Through Time and Tradition

As your 5 days in Beijing conclude, you’ll carry home a treasure trove of vivid memories. The seamless blend of ancient traditions and modern dynamics offers an enriching travel experience. Furthermore, the ease of moving through the city amplifies your exploration, allowing you to soak in the local culture and lifestyle deeply. This journey enriches your perspective and sparks a longing to return or continue discovering more of China. Beijing’s unique allure ensures it remains a highlight of your travels long after you’ve left.

5 Days in Beijing: A Journey Through Time and Tradition
5 Days in Beijing: A Journey Through Time and Tradition

Onward to Other Destinations in China

After spending 5 days in Beijing, continue exploring China by train, which offers convenient travel. Head to Tianjin in 30 minutes or reach Nanjing and Qingdao within 4 hours. Shanghai, a bit further, takes about 5 hours. For booking these trips, Trip.com is your best resource; it’s comprehensive for train tickets and hotels and operates smoothly under China’s Great Firewall, with no VPN needed. This platform ensures seamless planning, allowing you to extend your journey and explore more of what China offers without hassle.

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