If you want to see my 10 biggest Beijing mistakes click here or inside the Forbidden City here or read what I did here.
Where To Stay
Qianmen is one of the best areas to stay in Beijing for tourists that want to be within walking distance to Tiananmen Square and the Forbidden City. The area is targeted more for budget travelers, which I typically am. You can make it to this area off Metro Line 2 - I highly recommend you be near a subway station! The area is thought of as a historical center of old Beijing, with a slower pace of life and not the new or modern architecture.
Wangfujing is another great area as it is centrally located and within walking distance of the famous landmarks like Tiananmen Square and the Forbidden City. It also offers a wider variety of hotels, restaurants, and shopping. If you want to combine sightseeing and shopping this is the place to be.
Gulou, Nanluoguxiang, or Houhai are good areas to stay in for people looking to stay somewhere relatively central, convenient areas that and looking for more a local lifestyle and traditional Beijing. These areas are filled with winding alleys and courtyard hotels. They offer convenient access to public transportation and a good mix of hotels, hostels, traditional courtyard Hutongs, as well as bars, cafes, and restaurants.
Chaoyang District is the most developed place in Beijing and is the home of the Central Business District. This is where you'll find all the skyscrapers, hotels, and office buildings. The area is quite large and not really near the city center but has different areas within it like Sanlitun and 798 District.
Sanlitun is great if you are looking to be close to the nightlife or a more upscale part of the city. This isn't where you'd want to be if you wanted that traditional feel. This area is quiet far from the city center though.
798 is the artiest part of Beijing and is where you'll find galleries, art spaces, and street art. There are limited hotels and is also bit out of the way. This may be a better place to visit and not stay in.
What To Do
1. Summer Palace
Pictured above and this place is huge! if you really wanted you could make it a full day thing. Also, there are multiple entrances so be aware of that. I went into one on the north east side and that was pretty cool but I also wanted a picture by the lake so I went to a different entrance. Pretty sure I wasn't supposed to be able to get in but I think the ticket taker felt bad and just let me in.
2. Forbidden City
You'll need to buy ticket ahead of time. I bought through a third party company and pretty sure I messed it up because luckily I was able to get a ticket. That process was something as I had to use a text translator with the person to be able to get in.
3. Great wall
I used a tour and imagine you'd have to do the same. As a part of tour we stopped by the Ming tombs which I could have done without. The wall is really impressive but I felt an hour was more than enough time as I wasn't trying to walk the whole thing.
4. Beihai Park
The park is near the north side of the Forbidden City and I stopped by after. You'll need a ticket to get in and then a ticket to get access to other parts of park.
5. Panjiayuan Antique Market
It is a giant flea market that will have arts, crafts, and other collectibles.
6. Tiananmen square
It is like Time Square in New York City but bigger and fits like a million people. Honestly, it's just like a big plaza and I wouldn't go out of my way to check it out but luckily it is on the south side of the Forbidden City so you don't have to
7. Ritan Park
This is one of the oldest parks in Beijing and initially was the home of the Temple of Sun.
8. Nightlife in Sanlitun
If you want to check out the nightlife in Beijing this will be the place to be. If you want to know where to go you can find out more here.
9. Bell and Drum Towers
They used to be for musical performances but not are just tourist attractions. I drove by them on my way back from see The Great Wall and it looks like I actually spent time doesn't it?
10. Olympic Park
Speaking of things I saw as I drove around this was another. It was alright, may have been cooler if I spent more time there but I felt I got the gist as at this point it is just buildings.
11. 798 Arts District
It is also called the Dashanzi District. It is a group of old military buildings that has turn into a more Chinese contemporary art section with sculptures, studios, coffee and brunches.
12. Temple of Heaven Park
Again be careful of the ticket you are getting. I got one but apparently it was the cheap option which limited the places I was able to get into. I wasn't able to get into the actual stairs but just up to the gate. Looked cool though..
13. Central Perk
If you've seen the TV show friends this place was supposed to be a replica. I was in the area and tried to stop by but my maps got out of sync and wasn't able to find it. I looked it up later and apparently its in one of the buildings and not on a street front.
It is an older part of the city centre that has narrow alleys that has traditional architecture.
15. Wudaoying Hutong
This is an area of town but is near to Nanluoguxing. It also has older architecture, narrow alleys and shops. It is right by Confucius Temple and Lama Temple. I accidentally walked through this area as I tried to see the temple.
16. Lama Temple
It is just a pretty sweet looking temple. It is right by the Confucius Temple and nearish to the two areas above. I tried to check it out but by the time I got there it was closed.
17. Confucius Temple
Just like the Lama Temple I tried to go but it was already closed and was never in that area again.
18. Dashilar Area
If you are in between the Temple of Heaven and Tiananmen Square you can check this old neighborhood for old architecture, shops and more.
19. Old Summer Palace (Yuanming Yuan Park)
It was originally the imperial gardens and now has ruins and bodies of water. It looks like it is huge and is right by the Summer Palace. I'm sure you could spend a full day checking out these two if not more.
20. Dragon Escalator
It's exactly what it sounds like, a really long escalator that looks like a dragon. It is about 85 kilometers north of Beijing so it may not be worth it but if you are in the area, like dragons, or escalators, then you may want to check it out.
21. Dongyue Temple
Located on the Eastern most hill in Beijing it can provide a non crowded tourist look into Chinese culture.
22. Top of Jingshan Hill
When you exit the Forbidden City you'll instantly notice the temple on top of a hill. This provides a great overlook in the heart of Beijing. It has more than that though and is covers like 53 acres. I didn't go in because I didn't have the time.
23. Obligatory Cooking Class at The Hutong
If you wanted to take a. cooking class this is the place to do it apparently.
24. CCTV Building
If you are into cool and funky architecture this is building is cool.
Where To Eat
3. Jing Jiang Rou Si is a traditional dish in Beijing. It's a sauteed shredded pork in sweet bean sauce and you can get it at
5. King’s Joy - This will be on the more expensive side but has a lot of positive reviews.
6. Pure Lotus - If you are looking for a vegetarian option this is your place but it is on the pricier side.
7. Traitor Zhou Non-kosher Delicatessen - There are a couple spots but if you are looking for bagels this is the spot!
8. Country Kitchen - This is on the more expensive side but uses recipes from the pre 1950s Beijing countryside.
9. Hot Pots are a Winter specialty in the north of China. They take lamb (most popular), beef, fish, shrimps, bean curd products and fresh vegetable and cook it in water or soup in pots made of copper, aluminum or clay.
11. Chuan Ban - Supposed to be one of the most authentic Chengdu/Sichuan restaurants in town.
12. Southern Fish - Spicy Hunan food in a hutong!
13. Dian Shan Yun Shui - If you are looking for Yunnan cuisine this place is legit!
14. Hai Wan Ju - Some of Beijings best hand-pulled noodles.
15. Na Jia Xiao Guan - Moderately expensive traditional food. There are multiple locations but the Yong'an Li has a cool courtyard!
16. Judian Chuanba - A well established brand with multiple locations for authentic food!
17. Bistro B - Interested in trying a French restaurant while in Beijing? Here is your place!
18. Huguosi Hutong Snack Street - It is a touristy and if you are looking for unique combinations this is the place to go.
Grab A Drink
1. Great Leap Brewing #6 - This places looks legit if you are into craft beer! I tried to find it but wasn't able to so hopefully you'll have better than me!
2. NBeer Pub - A craft beer bar I did actually make it to and recommend. By this point I was looking for any food I could order comfortably and could use a drink.
3. Lao She Teahouse - A well known teahouse view varying reviews depending on locations.
4. Sentosa Teahouse - They say it's one of the top 500 teahouses in the world for whatever that means!
5. The Chaplin - I stumbled upon this place after one place was too busy and another I wasn't able to find. I almost just gave up and went home but glad I went back and checked it out. Good cocktails, spoke English, and I could use a credit cards which are all winners to me!
6. Xiao Diao Li Tang (old Beijing pear drink) - If you want to try a traditional drink you this can be it. It's made from sweet pears, edible white fungus, crystal rock sugar, green plums and Chinese Wolfberries!
What To Bring
If you wanted to know what I bring on my backpacking trips you can find that here.
If you are interested in getting travel insurance I recommend TravelInsurance.com. They are considered one of best in the industry, you can easily compare coverages and get the right one for you.
My Personal Tips
Getting Around: 5/10
The city is huge with crazy traffic, there are long distances if you want to walk so I found the subway the easiest way to get around.
Things to do: 7/10
The main reason I went to Beijing was to see the Great Wall. Other than that I found things to do that were cool like the Summer Palace and the Forbidden City. There were parks and stuff around but just make sure you have the right ticket to get in where you want and you check the times they are open.
This is probably lower than it could but I just had a hard time ordering anything. The things I did I wasn't blown away by any of it. I did think the roasted duck was good though!
I definitely had a like/hate relationship with Beijing. Some parts were really cool and others were for sure a challenge. It didn't help that I strolled in knowing only English and thought I'd be fine. The people were really helpful and definitely tried to communicate and I always appreciate that - I only got laughed at once!
I found the city to be very big which made it hard to walk but also difficult to use a taxi because the traffic was crazy. I found it was best to navigate using the subway. But even using subway I would still have a long walk. My main reason for going was to check out the Great Wall of China but found a bunch of other things to do like the Forbidden City or Summer Palace. I had a lot of things I tried to do that I wasn't able to fully do because I either didn't have the right ticket or they were closed already. With the language barrier I had a difficult time ordering food and when I was successful I wasn't ever blown away. When it comes to Beijing, I'm glad I went but am not in a rush to go back. You can see where that ranks against the other places I've gone here.
If you want to see what I bring on my backpacking trips you can see that here or if you want to see my 10 biggest Beijing mistakes click here or inside the Forbidden City here or read what I did here.
**This post contains affiliate links. If you make a purchase through one of my links, I will receive a small commission at no extra cost to you and allows me to keep the lights on around here. All thoughts and opinions are my own.
HELLO AND WELCOME!
I'm Jake, a dude interested in personal finance and travel creating the life I choose.
In 5 years I went from living in a basement with Craigslist roommates to paying off 90k of debt, backpacking 3 continents, getting a house for myself and 5 rental units.
Read my story in the about me section.
All photos on the blog are from my travels
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