Beijing is a great destination and I really enjoyed my trip here. China is not an easy destination to get a visa for but I do believe a trip to China is worth the visa effort. It’s also quite easy to get here if you are within East Asia Here are my top 5 things to do in Beijing.
#1 Visit the Great Wall
The Great Wall was one of the main reasons that I wanted to visit China. I planned to go during Autumn/Fall as the foliage was so beautiful and colourful all around the area. The day I planned to go just so happened to have the most horrendous fog and I could barely see anything. These things happen, and if you want to be sure that you will have a clear day, choose to go in the summertime.
The part of the wall that I chose to go to was Badaling, it is the most visited section of the wall but it’s beautiful and I don’t think it should be avoided. I got there by taking the Tourist bus which was definitely the cheapest option for getting there. Since I stayed around the Qianmen area I took the Qianmen ⇔ Badaling bus. There were buses lined up around the Zhengyangmen gatehouse at the end of Tiananmen Square when I went at 7:00 am, apparently, they run frequently until 11:00 am.
The journey takes 100 minutes and the ticket costs ¥20 ($2.85, €2.50, £2.25) one-way. Then from Badaling, you can take the same bus back during these times: Apr. – Oct.: 9:00 – 17:00; Nov. – Mar. 31: 11:00-16:30.
For the Great Wall itself, I bought my tickets there as it was during the off-season. During the summer they say you should book tickets in advance as it can get very busy. You can book tickets here
#2 Eat roast duck at Quanjude restaurant
Roast duck with Hoisin and pancakes is one of my favourite Chinese dishes. This restaurant is one of the most famous restaurants for roast duck in the world. The duck comes to your table whole and a chef carves it in front of you. This is something you should be sharing with four people. But I decided that as a solo traveler I could finish a whole roast duck by myself.
This is a little bit on the pricey side for one person but it definitely is a special experience. The whole roast duck, all the condiments, and sides with a beer cost ¥360 ($51, €45, £41). There are lots of locations in China, and also around the world but I went to the Qianmen branch.
Opening Hours: Daily: 11:00AM – 13:30PM. 16:30PM – 20:00PM
Address: 30 Qianmen St, Dongcheng, Beijing, China
#3 Stay at The Emperor Tiananmen
This hotel was so nice, it was in such a good location for exploring the city and it ticked all the boxes, it had a rooftop bar, a freestanding bath in the room and it wasn’t crazy expensive. I paid ¥600 a night ($87, €77, £69). It also has a rooftop pool which is open in the summer. Book it here.
#4 Walk around the Forbidden City
The Forbidden City is a palace complex that was the former Chinese imperial palace and state residence of the Emperor of China from the Ming dynasty to the end of the Qing dynasty between 1420 and 1924. The Forbidden City served as the home of many Chinese emperors, and it was also the ceremonial and political center of the Chinese government for almost 500 years.
Security was strict here and you had to show your passport to gain entry. Something I noticed around the Forbidden City was that a lot of Chinese women were taking pictures in large groups all wearing red leather coats. Red is a popular colour in China because it is believed to symbolize good fortune and happiness.
Opening Hours: Daily: 08:30 AM – 05:00 PM
Address: 4 Jingshan Front St, Dongcheng, Beijing, China, 100886
#5 Rent a Bike and cycle around the city
Do you remember that song that goes like “There are 9 million bicycles in Beijing” by Katie Melua? This is actually true! Well, you can rent public bikes in the Beijing area and it’s free for the first hour; ¥1 ($0.14, €0.12, £0.11) for each extra hour; The maximum daily rental fee is ¥10 ($1.42, €1.26, £1.13). The bikes are available 24 hours a day. This is how you do it:
1. Buy a Beijing Transportation Smart Card, top it up, and make sure the balance is more than ¥30 ($4.28, €3.79, £3.40).
2. Activate the card for bicycle rental function: which can be done at a public bike service center.
3. Find a bike rental site/docking station.
4. Swipe the card to unlock a bike and ride away.
5. Return the bike to any of the docking stations and swipe the card again.