2-week China itinerary: Day-by-day plans for your trip to China

Visiting Beijing, China: 3 days in Beijing itinerary

If you are planning a trip to China, the options can be overwhelming. The country is thousands of years old, and there are so many amazing things to see and places to visit. Unless you have a year to visit China, you will need to narrow down your visit to a few cities. Here is our 2-week China itinerary.

Click the links below to skip to any of the following sections:

3 Days: Beijing
2 Days: Xian
3 Days: Shanghai
1 Day: Day off
3 Days: Hong Kong

Visiting Beijing

Beijing is an important place to visit — and if you only have time to visit one place in China, Beijing is such an amazing city. In three days, you can see most of what you want to see in the city, and that includes an entire day devoted to visiting the Great Wall of China.

Day 1 – Beijing

Visiting Beijing, China: 3 days in Beijing itinerary

Places we visited:

  • Forbidden City/Palace
  • Tiananmen Square
  • Jingshan Park & Lighthouse
  • Beihai Park
  • Neighborhood Hutongs
  • Lama Temple

When we visited Beijing, we had a loose list of things to visit — but because I had overbooked trips in the past, I decided not to plan anything specific unless we had to (like our Great Wall of China tour).

See more details on our 3-day Beijing itinerary

On Day 1 in Beijing, we visited a number of locations, but all within a close distance to each other.

We started our day at Tiananmen Square, which is so important in history. There is not much there though to see, so it will not take more than a few minutes to see the square and move on.

Across the street from Tiananmen Square is the Forbidden City and Palace. Walking through this beautiful city was life-changing, and took around three hours to see everything we wanted to see. You could easily spend the entire day there though, so if you have more than three days in Beijing, you might want to block out an entire day for the Forbidden City.

After leaving the Forbidden City, we grabbed some lunch quickly in the park and then found ourselves Jingshan Park & Lighthouse, right across the street from the Forbidden City in Beijing, and through a park. This was an amazing location and well worth the visit.

As you continue to walk, you will also find yourself in Beihai Park, a rare oasis of peace in a really busy city. This will also get you near some of the historic hutong neighborhoods of Beijing, which are pretty amazing to see.

Even though we were exhausted at this point, we wanted to spend the most of our time so we also headed to the Lama Temple, a historic temple that will teach you a lot about the Chinese and Buddhist cultures.

Even though this seems like a lot in one day, it is very possible to see all these things in one day.

Day 2 – Beijing

Visiting the Matianyu Great Wall of China - Beijing, China

Credit: Eric Jordan

Places we visited:

  • Great Wall of China

On Day 2, we blocked out the entire day for a tour to the Great Wall of China.

See our full review on the tour we took to the Great Wall of China Mutianyu section.

We woke up early to meet our guide and bus and after picking up some more passengers, we made our way to the Great Wall. We spent a few hours hiking up and down the wall, which was an amazing experience.

We met our guide back down at the bottom of the hill and had lunch before they transported us back to Beijing. We had a quick dinner before relaxing for the rest of the night.

Although it seems we did not do much this day, it took a lot out of us so I would not suggest planning much the rest of the day.

Day 3 – Beijing

Visiting Beijing, China: 3 days in Beijing itinerary

Places we visited:

  • Summer Palace
  • Temple of Heaven
  • Olympic National Park

Day 3 in Beijing we did not plan much but tried to fit in anything we could, without stressing too much about it. We started our day at the Summer Palace, which was beautiful but a little overwhelming (and maybe a little overrated) — just because of how busy it was and how many people you had to deal with to see anything.

Because this compound is huge, we spent a few hours walking around the grounds. We then headed over to the Temple of Heaven, which was also beautiful but took a few more hours to see.

3 days in Beijing itinerary

We ended our day at Olympic National Park, the home of the 2008 Olympic Games. The grounds were still incredibly busy, even though it was night — with dance classes, vendors, and children playing. It was fun to walk around the area and see the beautiful buildings that were built for the Olympics.

Make sure you spend time while you are in Beijing, or any other Chinese city, to find some street food. You will not only find the culture of the city, but also some of the best food you will ever eat.

The train to Xian

One day in Xian, China: Xian Muslim Quarter, Terracotta Warriors, Xian City Wall.

From here, we took an overnight train to Xian. Even though there is a bullet train from Beijing to Xian, the goal was to save money on a hotel night while also having a fun experience (to give you an idea, the bullet train takes around four hours, while the overnight train takes about 13 hours).

Let me tell you — I would not recommend this train to anyone. It was uncomfortable, old, and dirty (and I am not that picky), and I would have rather paid for an extra hotel night. We did not sleep at all, and arrive in Xian exhausted and dirty.

See my full review of the overnight Beijing to Xian train – the Deluxe Soft Sleeper on the Z19 train

We had planned to take a similar train from Xian to Shanghai, but after this experience, we called our travel agent and booked plane tickets (which were actually cheaper than the plane ride anyways).

Visiting Xian

One day in Xian, China: Xian Muslim Quarter, Terracotta Warriors, Xian City Wall

We spent only one day in Xian, but I am including two days here, because after seeing the city, I would recommend a minimum of two days in Xian. The city was one of my favorites in China, and if I ever go back, I will spend much more time there.

Day 4 – Xian

Places we visited:

  • Terra Cotta Warriors
  • Xian City Wall
  • Muslim Street Market

Although the city is not a well-known name to foreigners, it is a popular tourist destination because it’s home to the Terra Cotta Warriors. Xian used to be the capital of the country and is home to a number of important historical artifacts and buildings.

See our full itinerary of Xian

One our one day there, we first visited the Terra Cotta Warriors. To do this, you will need to take a bus or taxi out to the site, which takes nearly an hour. The warriors are amazing to see, but when we were there, it was so packed and you could barely see them. It was one of the most underwhelming parts of our trip, but still worth visiting.

We also went to the top of the Xian City Wall and rode bicycles around it. This took hours to do, but it was such a great way to see the city.

When we were done, it was dark outside but we still really wanted to visit the Muslim Street Market. I had heard about this from so many other travel sources, and so I was surprised it wasn’t filled with tourists. It was an authentic street market and the best food I had the entire time we were in China (and that is saying something).

Day 5 – Xian

One day in Xian, China: Xian Muslim Quarter, Terracotta Warriors, Xian City Wall.

Places we (would have) visited:

  • Giant Wild Good Pagoda

If I were to do it again, I would have split Day 1 in Xian into two days. The city is amazing and is worth spending at least a few days in.

One day in Xian, China: Muslim Quarter, Terracotta Warriors, Xian City Wall

I also would have added the Giant Wild Goose Pagoda to the list, as it’s supposed to be just amazing. We ran out of time though, and we were on our way to Shanghai next.

Visiting Shanghai

Shanghai is a beautiful blend of the Chinese and British cultures. Although how they got there is not always pleasant, the modern-day Shanghai is what it is because of their history. You will find both Chinese history and certain pockets of all British history.

Day 6 – Shanghai

Visiting Shanghai, China, 2-week China itinerary.

Places we visited:

  • Explore Shanghai
  • Shanghai Bund waterfront
  • Shanghai Tower & Shanghai Financial Center
  • Oriental Pearl TV Tower

We took an early flight to Shanghai, which took only a little over an hour. After checking into our hotel, we were off for the day.

We spent hours just exploring the city, which is sometimes so much better than planning anything, especially in such large and historical cities as Shanghai.

The most obvious place to explore is the Bund waterfront. You will be able to take some amazing photos and see Shanghai from both sides of the river. There is also a museum of the Bund, which has a ride to take you to the other side of the river.

We also explored near the Shanghai Tower area. Although it’s popular to go to the top of the tower, we decided instead to go to the top of the Shanghai Financial Center. These are some of the tallest buildings in the world and it was great to see the city from a different view.

Another tall building is the Oriential Pearl TV Tower, but we opted to instead view the TV tower from a tall building with a view of the tower, instead of the inside. Keep in mind it’s about $20 per person to go to the top of each of these buildings, so you may not want to do all of them.

These are all located in the Shanghai Financial District, so we did a lot of people-watching as people went to and from work.

After this, we were exhausted so walked back to our hotel and found some street food on the way.

Day 7 – Shanghai

Visiting Shanghai, China, 2-week China itinerary.

The view from the Park Hyatt Shanghai rooftop bar.

Places we visited:

  • Feiyang Skating Center
  • Old Town Shanghai
  • Yu Yuan Gardens
  • Rooftop Bar

This was our first full day in Shanghai, so we wanted to really see a lot.

We started by visiting the Feiyang Skating Center, which may not be a popular destination for most tourists, but both my boyfriend and I play hockey so we wanted to see what hockey options they had in Shanghai. The Kunlun Redstar’s Hockey Club plays at this arena, and it was pretty cool to see.

We then took a walk through Old Town Shanghai and got some delicious street food (again — but one of my favorite things about China), and found the Yu Yuan Gardens. This garden was absolutely beautiful and we spent a few hours walking through it, appreciating the history and green in the middle of this busy city.

It was nearly dark by then, and we decided we wanted to find a cool bar to go to. I found one near our hotel, the Long Bar in the Waldorf Astoria, that is one of the oldest bars from the British era in Shanghai. While it was really cool, it was windowless and not very high in the building.

So I Googled some more, and found that the Park Hyatt had a rooftop bar, called the VUE Bar. This was not close, but still within walking distance, so we made our way down the Bund across the beautiful lighting of the city.

The VUE Bar is on the 32nd and 33rd floor of the Park Hyatt. Although there was a cover, it was completely worth it, even just to get a drink. The views of the city of Shanghai were some of the best I had seen and I would suggest anyone visit this bar, or another rooftop bar, and see the city from that view at night.

After this, we walked back to our hotel and called it a night.

Day 8 – Shanghai

Visiting Shanghai, China, 2-week China itinerary.

Places we visited:

  • Jade Buddha Temple
  • Shanghai French Concession

We spent our third day in Shanghai doing more exploring, and one of my favorite things was the Jade Temple. The temple was an amazing view of Buddhism, and is nearly 150 years old. It was a peaceful place to visit and learn about a different culture.

The Jade Temple is not large, so it will not take you more than an hour to go through, but is worth visiting while in Shanghai.

From there, we made our way to the Shanghai French Concession, which was an interesting piece of France in the middle of Shanghai. There were blocks and blocks of almost New Orleans-looking streets, with shops, bars, and plenty of restaurants. You could spend all day walking around these streets, enjoying the food and people watching.

Visiting Shanghai, China, 2-week China itinerary.

You definitely should visit the Shanghai French Concession in Shanghai, even if you just walk through it for a few minutes.

Visiting Hong Kong

Hong Kong is also an interesting mix of Chinese and British cultures. We visited before the protests began, but you could already see the influence of the Chinese government throughout the city.

We ended up staying on Kowloon, rather than Hong Kong island, but either place is a wonderful place to stay. I would suggest either way, staying near a metro stop to help you get easily from place to place.

Day 9 – Hong Kong

  • Day off

On Day 9, we woke up and flew to Hong Kong. When we originally decided to visit China, we planned to fly into Beijing and out of Hong Kong, with no plan on what to do in between. Because of this, Hong Kong as our last city was a perfect end to a great trip.

Because we were exhausted at this point, we took this day as a day off. After arriving in Hong Kong, it was nearly 5 p.m., so we grabbed some dinner, walked around a little, but then called it a night.

See our full 3-day itinerary of Hong Kong

I would suggest taking an easy day sometime throughout ANY two week trip, because it will allow you to relax and see as much as you can on the other days. It is a vacation, after all.

Day 10 – Hong Kong

Visiting Hong Kong, China — our top things to do in Hong Kong include visiting Victoria's Peak, Tian Tan Buddha, Hong Kong Waterfront, Hong Kong Beach, Hong Kong Shopping Markets, and Bruce Lee's Hong Kong home.

Places we visited:

  • Shopping Markets
  • Hong Kong Waterfront

On our first full day in Hong Kong, we were rested and started the day ready to go. We explored the city, including visiting Hong Kong’s shopping markets.

There are at least a dozen of these shopping markets throughout the city, and are just a fun time. There are plenty of booths with knockoff brand name items, but also high quality locally-made items as well.

Many of these street markets also include street food or restaurants, so you can spend an evening perusing the different booths while also getting plenty to eat.

After it turned dark, we spent the evening out at Hong Kong’s waterfront. You can take riverboat cruises on the river, which was pretty amazing. And they do light shows every night of the beautiful cityscape.

Day 11 – Hong Kong

Visiting Hong Kong, China — our top things to do in Hong Kong include visiting Victoria's Peak, Tian Tan Buddha, Hong Kong Waterfront, Hong Kong Beach, Hong Kong Shopping Markets, and Bruce Lee's Hong Kong home.

Places we visited:

  • Victoria Peak
  • Hotpot

On day 11, we wanted to take a trip up to Victoria Peak. You can hike, take a bus, or take the skytram up to the top of the peak. The funny part is, like many things in Hong Kong, that most tourist places will place you in a mall before you get to your final destination. This was no different.

We visited Hong Kong in April, and the weather was not in our favor most the time we were there. It was actually warm but not too warm, so no complaints, but there was fog most of the time we were there.

So, even though Victoria Peak has some of the best views of Hong Kong, we did not get to see it because of the fog. But it was still worth the trip.

After this, we headed back to Kowloon and found a hotpot place to eat dinner, which was amazingly delicious. And although it was more expensive than all of the other food we ate in China, it was worth splurging for one night.

Day 12 – Hong Kong

Visiting Hong Kong, China — our top things to do in Hong Kong include visiting Victoria's Peak, Tian Tan Buddha, Hong Kong Waterfront, Hong Kong Beach, Hong Kong Shopping Markets, and Bruce Lee's Hong Kong home.

Places we visited:

  • Tian Tan Buddha
  • Hong Kong’s beaches

We started off Day 3 in Hong Kong by visiting the Tian Tan Buddha. This was an amazing location to visit because you get to take a gondola across the sea and mountains to get there (we actually tried to visit the buddha on our first day, but there was lightning in the area so the gondola was closed).

When visiting the Tian Tan Buddha on Lantau Island, you should also visit the Po Lin Monastery, and ancient monastery located on the grounds of the buddha.

This visit took a few hours, but it was still early so we decided to make our way to one of Hong Kong’s beaches. We chose one that was much further than we expected, with multiple bus rides and a hike, so by the time we got back to our hotel it was late at night.

2-Week China Itinerary

Even though it’s a two-week itinerary of China, I included one day to arrive and one day to depart. If you are spending 14 days, not including travel time, I would suggest spending an extra day in Beijing or Xian.

The two weeks we were in China were an amazing view of history and culture, and I would suggest a visit for anyone who is looking for new experiences. China is one of the oldest cultures in the world and there is so much to see.

Do you have other suggestions? Please post them below!

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