3 days in Beijing itinerary: Visiting Beijing, China

Visiting Beijing, China: 3 days in Beijing itinerary

If you are planning on visiting China, Beijing is a must-see city, for so many reasons. Beijing, China is full of history, culture, and of course, the Great Wall of China. But even if you only have a few days to visit Beijing, you can still see a lot of it. Here is our 3 days in Beijing itinerary.

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

Day 1

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

Day 2

Great Wall

Day 3

Summer Palace
Temple of Heaven
Olympic National Park

Day 1 in Beijing

Day 1 in Beijing will be full of things to do. Especially if you only have three days, you will want to do as much as you can on that first day — because you just never know what your time will be like the next two days. Our suggestion is to get up early and know that it will be a busy and action-packed day.

Tiananmen Square

Visiting Beijing, China: 3 days in Beijing itinerary

Tiananmen Square is such an important piece of history, and so important to visit. But other than that, it won’t take more than a few minutes to visit. This is because it really is just a square, with no other activities — not even any food to eat.

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So after walking to Tiananmen Square, plan for a few minutes to get through security and a few minutes to walk the square. But other than that, this location will not take very long.

Forbidden City & Imperial Palace Museum

Visiting Beijing, China: 3 days in Beijing itinerary

Unlike Tiananmen Square, you should actually plan hours at the Forbidden City and Palace Museum. This is because it is one of the largest museum complexes in the world and there is so much to see. With nearly 1,000 buildings, the Forbidden City covers more than 180 acres.

The site is the former Chinese imperial palace, beginning with the Ming Dynasty and ending with the Qing dynasty — 1420 to 1912. Forbidden City was both the center of Chinese government and the homes of the emperors in those years.

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In 1987, the Forbidden City was names a World Heritage City by UNESCO.

Forbidden City sees more than 17 million visitors each year, so along with the sheer size of the complex, expect it to be incredibly crowded. This will be another reason you should budget at least a few hours to walk though the many buildings and museums.

We bought our tickets in advance through GetYourGuide.com, which allowed us to just use our passports to get through the ticket gate — no need to even pick up our passes anywhere.

Jingshan Park & Lighthouse

Visiting Beijing, China: 3 days in Beijing itinerary

After you leave the Forbidden City, you are so close to quite a few other amazing locations. Across the street from the exit, you will see a large park, temple, and lighthouse. You are going to be exhausted after spending hours at the Forbidden City, but it’s completely worth it to see these.

You will walk up a path to get to the top of the hill where the temple sits. This is the point where you won’t be guided, but just need to wander around and take in the beauty of everything around. Jingshan Park is one of the best views of Beijing.

The history of how the buildings were created is centuries old, and pretty amazing. You can then walk over to the lighthouse, which is also beautiful but you are not able to climb to the top.

Beihai Park

Visiting Beijing, China: 3 days in Beijing itinerary

When you leave the lighthouse, you will walk down some stairs and through a few more buildings. At the bottom, you will find some food and tables where you can relax for a few minutes and eat some lunch. You will then be close to Beihai Park, which is another amazing location you definitely need to see in Beijing.

You could spend hours wandering through the park if you wanted to, because it’s large, beautiful, and peaceful. You can rent a boat, take a stroll, or just sit and people watch. Beihai Park is a must-see while you’re in Beijing, and it be different than many of the stressful locations you will be visiting.

Lama Temple

Visiting Beijing, China: 3 days in Beijing itinerary

Lama Temple in Beijing is another important place to visit while in China. It will be the end to a long day, so you may want to move it to another day. But it is possible, and if you only have three days, your schedule is going to be packed every day already.

The Yonghe Temple, the Yonghe Lamasery, or the Lama Temple, was built in 1694 during the Qing dynasty. The temple has been opened to the public in 1981.

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To get to the Lama Temple, you can take the metro, where there will be a stop right next to the temple. The Lama Temple has become busier in recent years, so you will likely have to stand in line before you get in.

Once you get in, you can pick up some incense (it’s free) at the gift shop. After that, feel free to walk around and enjoy the beautiful history of the building. And make sure to be respectful, it is a religious temple.

After leaving the Lama Temple, you have the rest of Day 1 to do whatever you want. I would suggest grabbing some dinner and wandering the streets. Day 2 will start early and you will want to rest before climbing the Great Wall of China.

Day 2 in Beijing

Day 2 will be slightly different, because there is only one thing on our list today. That is because it will take you a few hours to get to the Great Wall of China, and a few hours to get back.

The Great Wall of China

Visiting the Matianyu Great Wall of China - Beijing, China

Credit: Eric Jordan

Visiting the Great Wall of China can be very daunting, but it doesn’t have to be. There are three sections of the Great Wall that you can visit, and they are all very different in their own ways.

The three sections of the Great Wall of China that you can visit are Badaling, Mutianyu, or Jinshanling.

Badaling

Badaling is the one section you can reach by public transport, so if you don’t want to book a tour or just don’t have the time to spend a whole day, then this is the section for you to visit. However, this is also the most crowded and touristy section, so expect to be around large crowds of people most the time.

Mutianyu

Mutianyu was the section I decided to visit while in Beijing, and I am happy with my decision. It took only 1.5 hours by bus to get to the Great Wall, and we had an amazing tour guide. This section was not very busy and we had plenty of time to walk on our own.

One of the other reasons I chose Mutianyu is that it’s the section with the toboggan ride down from the wall.

Learn more about our trip to the Mutianyu section of the Great Wall and how to book an amazing tour.

Jinshanling

The Jinshanling section of the Great Wall of China is more than two hours from Beijing, but is also a good day trip for anyone staying in Beijing. You will need to book a tour to this section, mostly because a tour will be less expensive than trying to take a taxi on your own out to the site.

Day 2 of your trip to Beijing will be exhausting, mostly because you will be hiking up the Great Wall of China, which includes many, many stairs. You may be back to Beijing as early as 5 p.m., so you can either take your time and wander some more or you can relax and have some dinner.

Day 3 will be less busy and less exhausting, and you will be able to see some other amazing things in Beijing.

Day 3 in Beijing

Day 3 will be a catch-up day in Beijing, China. You will want to see anything you did not see in the first few days.

Summer Palace

Visiting Beijing, China: 3 days in Beijing itinerary

You will want to start your day at the Summer Palace for a few reasons. The first is that the Summer Palace tends to get incredibly crowded, and you will want to be there before the majority of crowds get there. The complex is huge, and you just never know how long it will take you to explore, which is another reason to start your day there.

Surprisingly, the heat is not necessarily a reason to get there early. Although it can get very hot, as much of Beijing can, it’s much cooler than the rest of the city. The ability to stay cool was one of the major reasons it became the summer getaways of past Chinese emperors.

You will want a minimum of a few hours to wander through the Summer Palace in Beijing. The property encompasses many acres and houses dozens (or maybe hundreds) of buildings.

There are living quarters, boathouses (with a giant lake in the middle), as well as more modern gift shops and restaurants. It really is amazing to see what was built for past leaders of China, and how much land was given in a large city to house those emperors of China.

Temple of Heaven

The Temple of Heaven is another must-see location while visiting Beijing. We actually ran out of time and so ended up not seeing the Temple of Heaven, but it is a beautiful and amazing location. When traveling, it’s important to decide what is important to you — and how tired you want to be at the end of each day vs. how much you want to see.

The Temple of Heaven is a complex of religious buildings, and was built for ceremonies of prayer for a good harvest each year.

The Temple of Heaven began construction in 1406 and was visited by Chinese emperors each year. Although it was an important complex for many dynasties, it was turned into a park and opened to the public as early as 1918.

Beijing Olympic Park

Visiting Beijing, China: 3 days in Beijing itinerary

Beijing Olympic Park is last on our list of must-visit locations to visit in Beijing, and it’s last because it’s great to visit at night.

Olympic Park in Beijing was built for the 2008 Beijing Olympics, but is still maintained and used as a very social location. We visited at night, and there was dancing, exercise classes, and other events happening on and near the Olympic Green.

You can visit the Beijing National Stadium (the “Bird’s Nest”), The Beijing National Aquatics Center (or “Water Cube”), the Beijing Olympic Tower, and all of the other buildings. It really is an amazing way to see what is built for this event, and how Beijing has maintained the area instead of abandoning it like many locations.

Take some time to walk around really enjoy the area, because it’s a pretty remarkable feat of architecture and building.

Beijing is an amazing city to visit, but it can be overwhelming because there is so much to see and do. But if you follow our three-day itinerary, you can see a lot in a short amount of time. It may be exhausting, but you will not want to miss any of the important places to visit in Beijing, China.

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