The capital of China is a very majestic city filled with history and marvellous architecture. The bustling city is China’s culture centre, well-known for its palaces, Great Wall, gardens, and art. I only got to spend a weekend in Beijing and my aim was to visit all the ancient sites (I think that was an over-ambitious goal, haha, I only got to see a few). My favourite historic site is the Forbidden city, it was home to emperors and was off-limits to citizens and visitors for about 500 years. It is an architectural marvel and holds a lot of Beijing’s history. A trip to China is not complete without visiting the Forbidden city.
What to do with only 48hours in Beijing
The Forbidden Palace– was my favourite place to explore in Beijing because of the amount of history it holds. It is advisable to get an audio tour guide which costs about 40RMB (about £5). If you are a student make sure to take your ID with you for a student discount. The palace is very close to Tiananmen square so you can easily do both on one day
Tiananmen Square– is right across The Forbidden Palace and holds several notable sites such as the Monument to the People’s Heroes and the Mausoleum of Mao Zedong.
Wander around Wangfujing– Wangfujing is the number 1 shopping street in Beijing. It is a 15minutes walk from Tian’anmen Square. I walked from Tiananmen to Wangfujing because I wanted to see as much of the city as possible (instead of walking, you can take the subway line 1 from Tiananmen to Wangfujing). In this famous area, you will find many shops(perfect to get Chinese snacks or gifts for family and friends) and the Wangfujing Snack Street where you would find the most authentic food ( you might want to head to Wangfujing after exploring Tiananmen)
Great wall– I wish someone told me this, you would need a whole day if you really want to enjoy the Great Wall. It is one of the greatest wonders of the world and a trip to Beijing isn’t complete without hiking up the Great Wall. I recommend visiting the Mutianyu part of the Great Wall because it is the most preserved part and has been reconstructed for a safer climb (not to mention the awesome cable carts that take up the wall before the hike and the amazing slides which bring you back down after it). Make sure to bring a lot of water with you and some snacks because you will need to stay hydrated and they are rather expensive to buy at the Great Wall.
Planning your trip to the Great Wall- you would need to plan your trip to the specific part of the wall which you want to visit (I highly recommend Mutianyu). It was very far from the Tiananmen area, I had to take a bus, coach and a minibus. You can ask the receptionist at your hostel/hotel as they were of great help to my friends and I when we were planning our trip.
I only spent 2 days in Beijing so I could only put together a little list;
Things to know before going to Beijing
VPN- you would need to download a VPN on your phone and laptop to use sites that are blocked in China such as Facebook, Instagram and Snapchat.
When to go
Beijing gets very hot in the summer and really cold in the winter. Make sure to bring really light clothes in the summer (it got up to 40°C this summer). Be ready to wrap up and have many layers as it gets really cold and snows in the winter.
Spring (March – May) or Autumn (September – October)
Metro: you can buy a metro card at the metro station which you can top up for your transport(it works like an oyster card). The metro will take you to historical sites like Tiananmen Square and the Forbidden City. The metro is affordable and costs about 3RMB per trip, it takes a bit of getting used but if I could use it you sure can!!.
Taxi: the taxis in Beijing are affordable and convenient way to get around
Visiting areas around Beijing and Shanghai
Bullet Trains: bullet trains are a great way to travel to different cities in mainland China. I visited Suzhou (Venice of the East) and Hangzhou which were very close to Shanghai using them (I recommend planning day trips to Suzhou and Hangzhou). You can buy tickets from Shanghai to Suzhou, Hangzhou and Beijing from the Ctrips website