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Travelling in Beijing – An Introduction

 

Travelling in Beijing? Read on and discover all you need to know about this fascinating city!

Beijing is the capital city of the People’s Republic of China. Formerly known as Peking, it is one of the most significant cultural places in China and has been the political seat for centuries.

Some of the major tourist attractions in and around Beijing include the Forbidden City, Tiananmen Square, Lama Temple and Summer Palace and even the Great Wall of China; all of which you can read more about below.

The city is made up of five main districts; Dongcheng (East), Xicheng (West), Chaoyang, Haidian and Fengtai.

The city has a population of around 21 million people making it one of the most populous on earth.

Beijing Quick Facts

Population: 21.5 million

Language: Mandarin

Currency:  ¥ Renminbi (CNY)

$1 USD = 7¥ CNY

Time Zone: GMT +8

VPN For China

If you wish to surf the net uninhibted while travelling in Beijing, you will need a VPN (Virtual Private Network) to get around the “Great Firewall”. ExpressVPN is one of the best and cheapest VPN services for travellers to China.

Top Beijing Attractions

Tiananmen Square

Better known in the west for the 1989 massacre, Tianenmen Square is the central area of the city and home to many of the top tourist sites in China such as the Forbidden City, Great Hall of the People and Museum of Chinese History among others.

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Practical Info

Address: Tiananmen Square, Dongcheng, Beijing, PRC

Metro: Take line 1 to Tiananmen East (Exit A) or Tianenmen West (Exit B)

Opening Hours: 24 hours, 7 days

Entrance Fee: free

Forbidden City

Home of the imperial court during the Ming and Qing Dynasties (from 1420 to 1912), the Forbidden City is home to one of the most historical palaces in the world. Unlike many other such places in China, it was left relatively unharmed during the Cultural Revolution.

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Practical Info

Address: 4, Jingshan Front Street, Doongcheng, Beijing, PRC, 100886

Metro: Take line 1 to Tiananmen East (Exit A) or Tianenmen West (Exit B)

Opening Hours: 08:30 to 17:00 daily

Entrance Fee: ¥40/$6 (Nov to Mar) ¥60/$8 (Apr to Oct) 

Bell & Drum Towers

The Bell and Drum Towers in central Beijing were constructed in 1272 (they have been rebuilt after several fires). These beautiful towers were used to mark time with a morning bell and a dusk drum. Drum performances are held throughout the day from 09:00 to 16:45.

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Practical Info

Address: 临9号 Zhobglouwan Hutong, Andingmen, Dongcheng, Beijing, PRC

Metro: Take line 8 to Shichahai Station (Exit A2)

Opening Hours: 09:00 to 17:00 daily

Ticket Price: Bell Tower: 15¥, Drum Tower 20¥ (you can buy a combined ticket for 30¥)

Temple of Heaven

A temple dedicated to the worship of heaven; it was created during the Ming Dynasty in 1420. The park in which the temple is situated showcases ancient philosophy art, history and religion.

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Practical Info

Address: 1 Tiantan East Road, Dongcheng, Beijing, PRC, 100061

Metro: Take line 5 to Tiantan Dongmen Station (Exit A)

Opening Hours: 06:30 to 22:00

Ticket Price: ¥34 ($5)

Yonghe "Lama" Temple

The Yonghe Temple in northwest Beijing was built in 1694 and the former home to Emperor Yongzheng of the Qing Dynasty. In 1744 the use of the building was changed to a lamasery (monastery).

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Practical Info

Address: 12 Yonghegong Street, Dongcheng, Beijing, PRC, 100007

Metro: Take line 2 or Line 5 to Yonghegong (Yonghe Temple) Station (Exit F)

Opening Hours: 09:00 to 16:30 daily

Ticket Price: ¥25 ($3.50)

Hutongs

The hutongs represent the capital at its most traditional. Get lost in the winding alleyways and courtyards and marvel at the ancient architecture. A real taste of China and a must see for anyone travelling in Beijing!

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Practical Info

You can find many hutongs around Shichahai and Dashilar.

Metro: Take subway line 8 to Shichahai or lines 2 or 7 to Dashilar.

Be aware that people live within the hutongs and are going about their daily lives, so please be respectful when taking photos. 

Beihei Park

One of the best preserved imperial gardens in all of China, Beihei Park dates back over 1,000 years. This pleasant park and gardens is set around a large lake with temples, pagodas and pavilions. A great escape from the city.

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Practical Info

Address: 1 Wenjin Street, Xicheng, Beijing, PRC, 100034

Metro: Take line 6 to Beihai Bei Station (Exit B)

Opening Hours: Nov to Mar 06:30 to 08:00 and Apr to Oct 06:30 to 21:00

Ticket Price: ¥10 ($1.40)

Summer Palace

The UNESCO listed Summer Palace lies 15km northwest of central Beijing and is home to the beautiful Royal Gardens. Set on a tranquil lakeside, it makes a great escape from the city. The palace is especially beautiful in summer.

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Practical Info

Address: 19 Xinjiangongmen Rd, Haidian District, China, 100091

Metro: Take line 4 to Beigongmen, (Exit D)

Opening Hours: Nov to Mar 07:00 to 17:00 and Apr to Oct 06:30 to 18:00

Ticket Price: 60¥ ($8.50) for a combination ticket allowing access to all areas  or 30¥ ($4.25) just the summer palace.

The Great Wall at Badaling

The Great Wall of China is one of the most iconic historical sites in the world. Many sections, restored and otherwise, are easily accessible from Beijing. Badaling is the easiest to get to by bus and train from the city centre. 

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Practical Info

Bus: Bus 877 from Deshengmen to Badaling takes 1.5 hours and costs 12¥.

Train: Take the fast train from Beijing North/Qinghe Station straight to Badaling. Journey time is 40 minutes and costs around 30¥

Opening Hours: 06:30 to 19:00 daily

Ticket Price: ¥40 ($6)

Getting to Beijing

Beijing is served by two main airports; Beijing Capital International Airport and Beijing Daxing International Airport. Both operate domestic and international flights. Each airport has an airport Express service which links up with the Beijing metro system.

Beijing Stations

Beijing is serviced by four main railway stations; Beijing Railway Station (Central), Beijing West Railway Station, Beijing South Railway Station and Beijing North Railway Station. All four stations are connected to the metro system.

 

VISA Free Transit

It is possible to get a VISA exemption for 144 hours if you are transiting China through Beijing. You can apply for this at the counter as soon as you exit the plane. Once you have your exemption you can go to immigration to exit the airport (Do not go to International Transfer).

For more information on VISAs for China, see my China page.

Getting Around Beijing

Travelling in Beijing On Foot

 Beijing is a massive metropolis, but it’s possible to walk the central area between some attractions on foot (for example The Forbidden City, Tiananmen Square and some of the old Hutongs are all in working distance from each other).

 

Travelling in Beijing by Bus

 Beijing has a great bus network covering the city, but unless you speak Chinese and know the city well, they are probably best avoided as it can be a little confusing to non-Beijing natives. The airport shuttle buses are a different matter though and easy to take from the main stations to the airports.

 

Travelling in Beijing by Taxi

 Taxi’s in Beijing can be hit or miss. Unlike other cities in China, it’s often hard to find a taxi, and especially one that is willing to take foreigners. Fares are cheap if you can find one, or if you are staying in Beijing then ask your hotel or hostel to book you a taxi using Didi (Chinese Uber). Traffic in Beijing can be very heavy so all in all, it’s not the best method of transport and better to rely on the metro.

Beijing Metro

The Beijing metro (subway) is massive and has 17 lines covering metropolitan and suburban areas. Tickets are extremely cheap by world standards and cost just 3 to 9 RMB (less than $2 to travel anywhere, excluding the airport express).

Ensure you have small denominations of coins or cash and buy your (one way) ticket at the machines in the station. All machines have an English language option. Most metro stations also have a manned ticket office if you get stuck.

Beijing Weather

Beijing typically experiences long, hot summers with plenty of downpours. Winters are cold with snow typical from December to February. 

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Safety and Scams

Travelling in Beijing is very safe by world standards, but there are some scams to be aware of.

Only take official taxis from the rank at airports and stations. Ignore people who try and offer you a taxi service as you will likely be charged anything up to 10 times the official rate.

Tea House Scam

In areas with a lot of tourists, especially at the exit of the Forbidden City, be aware of “friendly” locals who will strike up a conversation and offer to take you to drink tea and leave you with a massive bill. I was approached by a well-dressed, chatty man, but I knew of this scam so was able to see through it. Increasingly the scam uses attractive women to lure unsuspecting backpackers or lone travellers.

Food and Drink in Beijing

Beijing is famous for its roast duck (Peking duck) and for those that eat meat, no trip to the city is complete without trying this local dish that dates back centuries. There are many restaurants around Tiananmen Square, the Bell and Drum Towers and the Hutongs.

Try one of the Gualin Home Style Restaurants that can be found across the city including at Fangzhuang, Zhongguancun, Wudaokou and Xuanwu.

Street food can be found on Gui Street in Dongzhimen. This kilometre long area of stalls and restaurants is a must for any foodie!

 

Traveller Resources for Baku

 

Accommodation

Booking.com

Hostelworld

Trip.com

Tours

Get Your Guide

Transport

Cheap Flights & Trains: Trip.com

Insurance

World Nomads

Beijing Hotels & Accomodation

Tourists to Beijing will not have a problem finding a huge range of hostels and hotels to suit all budgets.

Happy Dragon Hostel is a great place to stay for those travelling in Beijing on a budget. There is a small bar/restaurant on site and it's very close to a large open air market.

The Nostalgia Hotel (Zhongye Temple) is a wonderful place in the Hutongs a stone’s throw from the Lama Temple. This charming boutique hotel will greet you with a cup of traditional tea and leave you with a small gift. Excellent price for the service and location.

 

Check Booking.comor Hostelworld for more great deals on Beijing hotels.

More of China

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