Beijing- 48 Hours in China’s capital city

explorationsbyabi_Tiananmen Squarebeijing china historical sitesGreat_wall_China

Beijing 北京

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

Day 1

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)

Day 2

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.


Travel advice

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)

Getting around

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



Shanghai: Where to go & things to see

shanghai view from the bund

The Bund – a trip to Shanghai is not complete without a visit to the waterfront area of the city. It faces and offers the view of Pudong which every tourist wants to see and as you can imagine it is extremely busy. I recommend going really early in the morning on a clear day.  There are also some historical statues along the bund.  The surrounding architecture which has different influences from Victorian Gothic to  Art- Deco, is very beautiful and a most see at night. One of the most famous buildings around the Bund is Peace hotel (with the Green roof).  I loved my breezy walks along the bund.  The closest Metro is East Nanjing Metro station.

 Shanghai Tianzifang

The French Concession – this remains my favourite area in Shanghai. The area is surrounded by beautiful trees which give it a unique look and makes it easy to identify a specific location as part of the former French Concession. You would also notice the mid-rise buildings with a European style. My best discovery was Tianzifang, which has a combination of bars, restaurants, shops and art. It was a nice place to get away from the hustle and bustle of Shanghai. I had really authentic Indian cuisine at Lotus Land before wandering around the area.

Xintiandi was also a beautiful area to have dinner. It has one of the best restaurants serving local Shanghainese local cuisine (Din Tai Fung). If you have a foreign craving, Xintiandi is one area with diverse restaurants serving up international cuisines.  My friends and I usually had dinner at Din Tai Fung (best placed for steamed dumplings in Shanghai) followed by drinks at Dr. Bar  after a long day at work.

Yong Kang Lu is a very famous street among the expat community. There are many bars, café and restaurants conveniently located together on one street.  Make sure to check out El Luchador, they are well known for their Tacos (30 RMB each) and Margaritas. I also highly recommend Café Del Volcan for one of the best coffees in the city.  To satisfy my fashion desire,  I walked around the Iamp mall which is located right next to South Haungpi metro station, Exit 6/7. It has a luxurious interior, modern feel and contemporary art exhibits from around the world. My best parts to wander around after dinner in the French concession were Tiaziafang and Xintiandi

 Xintiandi – If you do not have time to explore the whole of the French concession area, then  check out this        energetic eating area.  Amongst its many bars and restaurants, lie shops and a fantastic mall (K11 Art Mall). Not to mention, it is perfect to  wander around after dinner.


Nanjing Lu

Nanjing Lu – this street is beautiful at night and most of my evening strolls to the Bund after work started here. It is one of the busiest shopping streets in China and you can find almost everything you want from mind blowing flying toys and selfie sticks on the street sides to beauty, fashion and souvenir stores. Get off the metro at East Nanjing Road on Line 2.

Things to do in Shanghai. Visit Yu yuan garden

Yu Yuan – located in the old city with more traditional architecture. It is home to Yu Market and The Yu Yuan gardens. The Yu Yuan garden has been described as one of the most beautiful places in Shanghai and it leaves up to the description.  I spent some weekend around Yu Yuan because of the ancient feel and Chinese architecture. There are tea houses, famous dumpling shops and local desserts around the area.  The entry into Yu Yuan garden costs about 40 RMB for students and closes by 4:30. Get off at the metro at Yu Yuan Garden on line 10

things to do in Shanghai

Acrobats show – This cultural activity is mind blowing! I have never seen anything as intriguing. From spinning of plates on skinny sticks to crazy bike tricks. It is a must see.

See/have drinks with a view at Jin Mao Tower, the Pearl Tower and the World Financial Centre-  after work on weekdays, my friends and I headed to the tallest buildings in Shanghai to have drinks with a view. we went to Park Hyatt on the 92nd floor of the World Financial Centre, the highest bar in Shanghai for free drinks (look out for ladies night on Wednesdays for free drinks at Park Hyatt).

Here are the things on my list which I haven’t ticked off;

Shanghai Zoo to see some Pandas

Shanghai Science and Technology Museum

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