Beijing Travel Guide | China DIY
As ancient as its country, Beijing is a treasure trove of Asia’s antiquities. It is a huge capital city packed with attractions. Locating them, let alone the barriers in language, is a serious challenge. This is where your Beijing travel guide comes in action.
Beijing by DIY is complex but possible—just create your own travel guide!
Beijing Travel Guide – City Layout
Above anything else to remember before setting foot in Beijing is to have a visual grasp of how the city is laid out.
- Beijing is laid-out in a series of loops. The Forbidden City is the nucleus & everything else revolves around it.
- The Forbidden City loop includes the attractions immediately outside the perimeters of the old city walls. It hugs the business, entertainment & shopping districts.
- Stretching its radius a little further is a heavy density of temples, hutongs (alley communities), specialty restaurants & museums. Railway hubs & bus terminals are also within this loop.
- On the outermost rings are the Summer Palace & Olympic Center. It also includes the universities, corporate offices & residential buildings.
- Parks punctuate all of the loops.
Beijing Travel Guide – Key Attractions
Downtown Beijing is clustered into districts. These are Chaoyang, Dongcheng, Xicheng, Haidan, Fengtai & Shijingshan. It is just good to know these names. But it is better to spot the site relative to loops because Beijing’s transport system is also laid out in the same orientation.
I sub-clustered the attractions according to their proximities. Listed here are just the sights that matter. For more details about each attraction, please hover your mouse over the name & click it. (Note: This is a work in progress. More stories to come.)
- Tiananmen Square (Mao’s Mausoleum, National Museum, Great Hall of People)
- The Forbidden City
- Jingshan Park
- Beihai Park
- National Art Museum of China
- Wangfuxing Night Market
- The Lama Temple
- Confucius Temple
- Bell & Drum Tower
- Dongbianmen Watch Tower
- Ancient Observatory
- The Temple of Heaven
- Beijing Museum of National History
- 798 Art District
- Ritan Park
- Beijing Zoo
- Purple Bamboo Park
- CCTV Tower
- Yuyuantan Park
- The Summer Palace
- Fragrant Hills
- Botanical Garden
- Olympic Center
To complete these suggested sights, it is best to spend at least 3-4 days in Beijing. Check out Travel China Guide for other information about Beijing. They have very reliable information & responds to inquiries quickly.
Beijing Travel Guide – Transportation
Beijing’s public transport system includes subway trains, buses & taxis. It connects all major attractions in the city making DIY tours easy.
Tip: Get a Beijing Transportation Smart Card. It can be used in airport express train, all subway trains, buses & some taxis. For a minimum load of CNY20, you can start to use it & can be reloaded in numerous POS sites.
Taking the Subway
The subway system in Beijing is laid out in a neat grid. The loops are intersected by straight train lines that terminate in both north-south & east-west directions. Most attractions are located within walking distance from the stations. Fare starts at RMB 3 (USD 0.47) for the 1st 6 km.
The most important lines to remember are Batong Line (Line 1) & Line 5. These are the 2 direct terminal routes that have major interchanges to other lines.
Taking the Bus
Buses in Beijing are numbered according to its route. On the bus, directions are also announced in English. If you do not have a Smart Card, you may pay on-board. Make sure you have ready loose change because they only accept exact fares. Fare starts at RMB 2 (USD 0.31) for the 1st 10 kilometers & additional RMB 1 every after 5 kilometers.
There is only one challenge in taking the bus. The route guides in bus stops are only written in Chinese. Ask your hotel to mark your map with the correct bus stops.
Beijing Travel Guide – Eating Out
Chinese food is one of the most adored cuisines in the world. But the reality is never the same in China. For such a long time, China is plagued with serious food safety issues, especially on street food.
For first time travelers to China, I highly recommend to eat in the following food strips:
- Wangfuxing Snack Complex – West of Wangfuxing Street, Dongcheng District
- Qianmen Street – Qianmen, Xuanwu District
- Fucheng Street – Haidan District (in between Hangtian Bridge & Dinghui Bridge)
Any trip to Beijing will not be complete without sampling the famous Peking Roast Duck. As each one claims to be the best, I have sampled good ones in these restaurants:
- Hua’s Restaurant – Dongzhimen Inner Street, Dongcheng District
- Da Dong Restaurant – Changchong Bridge, East 3rd Ring Road, Chaoyang District
Apart from the quintessential Peking roast duck, must-tries in Beijing are:
- Dumplings – Bao Yuan Jiaozi Wu (Chaoyang Park)
- Handmade Noodles (Zhajiangmian) – Noodle King (Chong Wai Street, near Temple of Heaven)
- Fried Liver, Exotic Insects, Stinky Tofu – Wangfuxing Street
- Aiwowo (glutinous rice balls) – Niujie Muslim Snack Street
For detailed guide into Beijing’s food & party scenes, visit TimeOut Beijing.
Beijing Travel Guide – Where to Stay
As Beijing’s tourism industry is on all-time high, its accommodation business is also very varied. Most of global hotel brands are here. For a more local feel, backpackers may try to stay in hutongs (old communes).
Choose your accommodation within the First Loop because most of the attractions are here. Typical Chinese hostels are generous with space. However, I find their toilet & bath doors in clear glass so weird.
Beijing Travel Guide – Other Important Reminders
- Never look for blue skies in China. It’s polluted, anywhere. Wear a facemask.
- Smoking in public is common in China.
- Watch out for spits. Even the best-dressed people spit anywhere.
- Bring earplugs if you have low tolerance for noise.
- X-ray security checks & frisking are always done in subway trains.
- Don’t expect people to give up seats in trains for children, women, elderly & PWDs.
- Never accept tea invitations from people you do not know. This is a tourist scam.
Most attractions in Beijing are not free. And they’re not cheap! So be ready with your Yuans!