Wanderlusty Layover: The Beijing Travel Guide
China’s capital city is place of beauty, rich history and modern industry. After our smog ridden voyage we laid out this Beijing Travel Guide: Where to Eat, Where to Stay and What to Do while in Beijing (or call it behind the red curtain). Word of the wise – get a VPN before you go as China has some of the most restrictive internet in the world.
Beijing is a large spread out city so our recommendation for transfer from the Airport is a taxi. Costing around $100 Yuan to city center a cab takes about 45 mins to an hour depending on traffic. Traffic in Beijing can be crazy so plan accordingly. We feel it is also important to note that you will be asked by several “taxi drivers” if you need a cab, these fake drivers will walk up to you while you are in the airport and will triple charge you to get you into the city. Make sure you follow the signs to the taxi cab line and ignore the ladies with the taxi sash as they are not selling you a cab ride but a “private car service” and again they charge more than it actually costs to get into town. Lastly when getting into a cab in Beijing make sure they turn on the meter.
Where To Stay
In most cases you’ll want to stay in or around central Beijing as most of the attractions you’ll want to see are located in this area. On our trip to Beijing we stayed at the Hilton Wangfujing on the infamous Wangfujing Blvd. We found the location of our hotel to be perfect as we were steps away from great restaurants, luxury shopping and the Forbidden City. Hotel prices in Beijing are on the cheap side so this is the place you can splurge a little and live large.
What To Do
The top tourist attraction in Beijing is the Great Wall of China – there are 2 popular locations to walk the wall in the Beijing area, The Badaling Section and The Mutianyu Section. We chose the Mutianyu section because of it’s higher elevation and stunning views of the valleys below. We hired a guide who provided us with a driver, making the commute to The Wall stress free and quick. When arriving at the base of the wall you’ll make the trek through the tourist shops and restaurants…you can even find western food chains here such as Burger King. Once you make it out of the “shopping area” you have 2 choices on how you actually get to the wall; a cable car or an open air ski lift. We chose the ski lift route. The ride up is pretty stunning providing views of the below valleys and the wall for as far as the eye can see in both directions. If you take the open air ski lift you also have the option to take a bobsled back down the mountain which we highly recommend for the adventurous type. It is a little on the sketchy side but worth the near death experience! Just kidding it was still a little sketch tho! We were very lucky in that our trip to the Great Wall fell in December and while it was bone chillingly cold, with snow on the ground, the crowds were almost non existent. If you plan to go during the summer you can expect very large crowds at the Great Wall which doesn’t sound like the best experience.
Once you’ve experienced The Great Wall there are other beautiful sites to see around Beijing. The Summer Palace is a must see as well as The Temple of Heaven. We were fortunate to do both and experience The Forbidden City and Tiananmen Square. Our recommendation is to book a private guided tour, so you can see of all the above places in a short amount of time. We did ours with A Private Guide To Beijing by Mary Yin who sent us great guide. Our guides name was May and she spoke perfect English and had extensive knowledge of the area. May really made our trip special and allowed us to customize our itinerary to meet our personality. We highly recommend requesting May by name.
Where to Eat
Beijing has long been known as the place to get Dumplings and one place we couldn’t get enough of was the Michelin Star Rated Din Tai Fung. The dumplings at Din Tai Fung are by far the best we’ve ever had! If Dumplings aren’t your thing, you can try a interactive alternative like Hot Pots. Hot Pots are like a Chinese-style Fondu where you cook meats, veggies and fish in a spicy broth with oils. The food cooks more like boil than a fry and the flavor of the Hot Pots vary from savory to spicy. We chose one side spicy and one side mushroom based broth. Both were very good.
Lastly if you are looking for something more laid back you can visit the Dong Hua Men Night Market on the corner of Wangfujing Street and Dong’anmen Street. This night market features street foods from all over China as well as some crazy off the wall offerings like Scorpions, Snakes, Spiders and Seahorses. This market is not for the squeamish but there were also some normal things to eat like chicken, dumplings, pork dishes and noodles. If you are a fan of bananas we suggest trying the fried banana…it was delicious!
If you’re looking to get the most cultural bang for your buck then Beijing is the place to be. With an exchange rate of 6 RMB to 1 USD you can do a lot without breaking the bank. We hope you enjoyed our Beijing Travel Guide and Remember….Adventure is Out There!