If you can spend three days in Beijing, go ahead and stick to the Day 1 plan, and then add these:
- Dinner on Ghost Street
Drinks in SLT
According to Mao Zedong, “You aren’t a real man until you’ve climbed the Great Wall.” Plus, no trip to Beijing would be complete without a stop at one of the new Seven Wonders of the World. From the city, you have plenty of options for visiting the Wall. If you’re looking for the easiest way possible, you’ll probably end up at Badaling. If you want a bit more of an adventure, you’ll most likely visit Mutianyu. If you want to see the rugged, wild Great Wall, and not hordes of tourists, you’ll check out one of the less restored sections, such as Jinshaling, Gubeikou, or Jiankou. We’ve got some more detailed info for you on these various Great Wall options, and we’ve even got you covered if you want to try and camp on the wall overnight.
A trip out to the Wall will take most of your day and can be quite tiring, so when you get back to Beijing it’s best to relax for a bit. If you’ve got the energy to go back out, there’s plenty more to do. Start your evening with a stroll along Wangfujing, a huge pedestrian street full of shops and vendors. You can find all your souvenirs here, and you can also check out a wild night market that has tons of delicious snacks and plenty of weird ones, such as seahorse, lamb testicles, and even scorpions. It’s incredibly touristy and overpriced, but you can put your haggling skills to the test and have a good time anyways.
From there, you can check out the incredible acrobat performance at the Chaoyang Theater. Shows go on every day at either 5:15 or 7:15, and tickets can just be purchased at the door.
Get dinner under the red glow of lanterns hung along Ghost Street, where you’ll find a ton of Chinese restaurants. We’d recommend hot pot, a very Chinese and very fun dining experience. Order up meat, seafood, vegetables, and whatever else you like, and cook it yourself in a pot of boiling oil and spices. If terrible Chinese liquor is not for you, you can have imported wine delivered right to your table from a local store called Cheers.
Since your dogs are probably barking from the hike on the Wall, it’s time for you to enjoy a cheap foot massage. These can be found literally everywhere in Beijing, and they vary from very good and expensive to mediocre and cheap. Head to Sanlitun, where you can choose to go big at a place like Dragon Fly or take the cheaper route in one of the many small salons.
While you’re there, you might as well sample some of the nightlife. If you get there early enough, there are some great Happy Hours – half-price drinks at Flamme comes to mind – and if you get there later on, the party should be raging, with bars packed full of people and plenty more eating and drinking in the streets.
- Summer Palace
- Lunch in the Wu
- Lama Temple
- Hutong walk
- Dinner on Wudaoying or Fangjia
- Live music/bar hopping
A great place to be on a clear day in Beijing.
For your third day in Beijing, spend the morning wandering around the Summer Palace. You can get there by bus, subway, or taxi, so take your pick. On a clear day, there isn’t much that beats hanging out at the Summer Palace. Featuring gardens, temples, and a lake, this massive palace was where the emperor would escape the intense summer heat of Beijing.
Forego eating in the expensive restaurant inside the Summer Palace and instead jump on bus 331 or 375 and take it to Wudakou. This student hangout is home to China’s top universities, as well as plenty of great restaurants. For Chinese, we highly recommend a little spot called Lanzhou Old Horse Beef Noodles (兰州老马牛肉拉面), more commonly referred to amongst our friends as “Meat Table.” Don’t let our silly nickname throw you off – this place is cheap and delicious, and it’s definitely a legit local favorite. If you’re looking for something else, you can also find ½ price sushi at Isshin, sandwiches and burgers at Lush, pizza at Sugar Shack, or burritos at La Bamba.
From the Wu, you can hop on the subway and take it to the Lama Temple station on line 2. Head in and check out this impressive Tibetan Buddhist monastery, which features a 26-meter tall wooden statue of the Maitreya Buddha. Around the Lama Temple, you’ll find plenty of traditional alleyways, known as hutong. Cruise down any of these and get lost in old Beijing for a while. If you get deep enough into the hutong, it’s hard to imagine you’re still in the middle of an overcrowded, bustling metropolis.
After a few hours of exploring, you’re bound to get hungry. Thankfully, there’s no shortage of great restaurants in the surrounding hutong. Should you find yourself on Wudaoying hutong, you’ve got a great vegetarian spot in the Veggie Table, a quaint courtyard with the Vineyard, and some incredible Mexican food at Sand Pebbles Lounge. Over in Fangjia hutong, you’ll find the amazing Aimo Town, a Yunnan restaurant that cooks up fantastic grilled fish and more.
Stay in the hutong after dinner, where wandering in any direction will eventually land you at a bar or live music venue. Any night of the week, you’re sure to find people hanging out with drinks or rocking out at a show. Beijing has a variety of venues large and small, and there’s always something going on in terms of live music. From rock, to jazz, to drum & bass, to folk, you’re sure to find a place to get down. Some of our favorite spots for live music are: Temple Bar, 4 Corners, Mao Livehouse, Salud, Jianghu, and Yugong Yishan.
It’s been a great three days in Beijing, but there’s still so much more to do here. If you can swing it, we highly recommend tacking on another two and making it a full 5 days in Beijing. If it’s time to move on, some of the best places to go to next on your China trip include Chengde, Xi’an, or Pingyao.