Beijing: A 2 Day Itinerary Of The Best Things To Do

October 9, 2016

I never wanted to visit China. If you asked me 5 years ago what places I had on my travel bucket list, I would have given you a dozen other places and told you that Asia is just not that appealing to me. Well, obviously, things have changed now that I live in Thailand and one of my favorite travel destinations is now China. 

Traveling through this country really opened my eyes to how much it has to offer as far as places to see and things to experience, and Beijing is on the top of this list. A place I would go back to for sure.

Two days are not nearly enough in Beijing, but here are our recommendations for the top four things you just can't miss while visiting.

Beijing Top Things To Do - Summer Palace

Beijing Day 1 Itinerary

Summer Palace

Even in my half-state of awareness, high fever, body aches, and general crappy feeling, this place is one of the most memorable part of my China Trip. Yes, I happen to be lucky enough to contract some kind of three-day flu that started in the, smack-dab, middle of our China travel. Nevertheless, nothing was going to stop me from enjoying my adventure...well, I was going to try my best not to let it, anyway.

The Summer Palace can be an all day event, or you can squeeze in seeing a temple if you spend only half the day here (unfortunately, I just couldn't make it to the Temple Of Heaven). It's one of the easiest places to get to from central Beijing, and it doesn't take that long to get there, being about 15 kilometers away.

Beijing Top Things To Do for 2 day itinerary- Summer Palace View

 Travel Tip: This place is going to require a lot of walking around. Make sure you have comfy shoes and attire.

The general entrance fee is ¥30 (less than $5 USD), but there are additional fees if you want to go into one the many Halls. You do have the option of buying the combo ticket if plan to visit everything they have to offer and spend the entire day.

Beijing Top Things To Do - Summer Palace , Building

The most memorable image I have of visiting the Summer Palace is the walk around the lake. While I was in a terrible condition by that time, I still loved the views and peaceful nature of this part. The Summer Palace is basically a huge park. One which includes buildings, unique architectural designs, beautiful gardens, a lake you can boat on, and features landscapes of hilly areas with fantastic, breathtaking panoramic views.

Beijing Top Things To Do - Summer Palace Passageway

Walking up the hills was a bit of a challenge for me in my state, but I managed to drag myself up to take a look at the beauty of this place from high above, and it was well worth it.

Beijing Top Things To Do - Summer Palace Passageway Art

While I was unable to make it all the way around the lake, I thoroughly enjoyed the stroll through an open passageway that outlines the lake. The passageway is a covered area with colorful paintings on the inner part of the ceiling, creating a very nostalgic, romantic path to stroll. The energy that you feel here is one of relaxed enjoyment. There are families, couples, friends, all enjoying the summertime. As if there are no cares in the world and time is at a slower pace. Looking out at the lake you can image the ancient residents taking advantage of the peaceful nature and calming ambiance of this grand site on their holiday stay.

Beijing Top Things To Do - Summer Palace - Marble Boat

The park was quite populated since our visit was during the warm summer season that is considered the best time for being here. I don't really feel that this aspect had a huge effect on our experience. The park is so huge that the crowds have plenty of room and there is always a place you can find to take in the beauty.

Trending Tours in Beijing

Where to Stay In Beijing

Our guesthouse was walking distance to the subway, so it provided us a very cheap and convenient way to get around Beijing, including getting to the Summer Palace. We took Subway Line 4 and got off at Beigongmen Station, or you can also get off at Xiyuan Station, get out of the station from Exit C2 and walk west to the East Palace Gate.

Beijing 161 Wangfujing Hotel
No. 161 Li Shi Hu Tong,
Dong Si Nan Da Jie,
Dongcheng District,
Wangfujing Street & Forbidden City,
Beijing, China 100010

Houhai Bar Street

Do not miss Houhai Bar Street when visiting Beijing. I know that from the name it might sound like a place that attracts only 20-something Western backpackers, but it's really not!

Yes, you may have some young visitors here from around the world going from bar to bar, but it's really a place for everyone. It's really a fantastic spot for shopping, eating, and just strolling around people watching.

The area of shops, bars, restaurants, along with street food stalls sprinkled here and there, surrounds a lake. The interesting thing about is the way you enter. Going from the main street down one of the famous Hu Dongs that Beijing is known for, sort of gives you the feel of transforming through time and dimension. Okay, maybe that's a weird way to explain it.

I just felt that it was a cool way to get away. I could imagine that the people who live there would spend the day at work and doing errands and such and as the evening drew close, they would step into these streets and leave the day behind. Entering a fun and relaxing place to cleanse themselves from the stress.

Beijing 2 day Itinerary - Best Things to do: Houhai Bar Street, Bar with live music

The narrow alley that leads to the lake area is lined with small shops filled with souvenirs and clothing. This would be a great place to get some stuff to take home to family and friends.

You also have your choice of some delicious food and snacks. One of our favorites was the grilled oysters followed by some ice cream with churros (warm churros melting that ice cream, oh, I can still taste it)!

Beijing Top Things To Do - Houhai Bar Street Food

Take some time to walk around and enjoy the scene as the night provides the stage for the street and store lights to dance on the lake water. Pick one of the many chill bars or clubs and have a drink or two. It's really a great spot for nightlife in Beijing!

Beijing 2 day Itinerary - Best Things to do: Houhai Bar Street, street food

Having left the Summer Palace early that day and not being able to go to the Forbidden Temple due to my fever, this was the perfect ending to the day.

Beijing Day 2 Itinerary

Mutianyu Great Wall

Is any visit to China complete without seeing The Great Wall? I don't think so.

We have a whole other post explaining in full detail our experience of the Mutianyu Great Wall. It was a bit challenging trying to decide which section to visit. I had done a lot of research on each section, and each provides different pros and cons. There are sections that are less visited and not as well kept. There are sections that are very popular and crowded but are easy to get to, closer, and restored. Some sections provide views; some provide great hikes.

I think you can imagine our dilemma at this point. We were playing Goldilocks, trying to find the perfect section of the Great Wall.

After much debate, we agreed that Mutianyu would be the one for us. We were right!

Beijing Things to Do- 2 day Itinerary, Mutianyu Great Wall, China

This section is about an hour and a half away from Beijing.  Taking the bus there was easy and VERY cheap. Additionally, the views of rolling, lush, green hills were absolutely mesmerizing.

You can choose to hike most or all of this section of The Great Wall, or you can ride the cable-car or both! You can even toboggan down for a fun and unique experience that gives a different perspective of this historical and extremely impressive structure.

We visited The Great Wall in the middle of Summer so, as you can imagine, it was quite warm but we made sure to stay hydrated the whole way!

My sister had also visited during the winter with my mom, but the icy path made it difficult to walk very far at that time. If you do visit Beijing in the winter months, we would suggest a trip to Harbin. The Harbin Ice Festival is a must see for anyone looking for the perfect winter destination in China!

It is easy and convenient to get to Harbin on the high speed train from Beijing. So, don't miss it!

Beijing Things to Do - two day Itinerary, Mutianyu Great Wall

Wangfujing Shopping

I have to apologize that I don't have any photos of this area. My GoPro was lost, well, stolen before we got here. We accidentally left in on a bus bench and when we realized it and went back for it (took about 7 minutes), it was gone. Of course, I was really bummed about this, so I didn't even take any pictures with my phone.

Anyway, the best way for me to describe this area is to compare it with Shanghai's Nanjing Road. You can even say it's a tiny bit like Time Square, NYC.

The wide walking street is packed with modern buildings housing Western and Chinese shopping, eateries, hotels, etc. It's bustling with people in the summertime. You could spend hours just sitting and people watching without a single boring moment.

Travel Tip: spend your time on the snack street. So much good street food here, your tummy will thank you!

Some Things To Help You With Your Trip

What's your favorite thing to do in Beijing? Let us know if the comments below. We'd love to hear your thoughts on this article as well as any experiences you could share with us!

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Taiss Nowrouzi

About the Author

Taiss Nowrouzi

Hi! I'm just a California girl addicted to travel and adventure with a passion for art and dance on the side. Born in Iran, but I consider myself a citizen of Earth, adhering to the belief that "The world is but one country and mankind its citizen." I strive to make a positive impact on everyone I meet and learn as much as possible from them. My degree out of college is in Marketing. However, I entered the hospitality business at an early age and worked my way up to hotel management. After about 13 years in that industry (5 of which I was a hotel assistant manager), I made the decision to move to Thailand and leave the 9 to 5 grind behind. My husband and I set off for a life of living abroad and hopes to continue traveling the world, just 3 months after our wedding. It all started with the two of us, along with our cat, together in Thailand. Can't wait to see where life takes us next!

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I love China! I lived in Yunnan province (Kunming) for around 9 months and am dying to get back there. I love the food (it’s a bit more spicy than in Beijing I believe), the people and everything else…well except for the air pollution ha. We had to leave China early as I started getting health problems which were probably caused by a mix of air pollution, polluted drinking water and weird stuff put in food. But nonetheless, I want to go back to China. This time I’ll install an air purifier and always wear my face mask outside haha.

I only spent 2 or 3 days in Beijing. Can’t say it was my favorite place in China, but definitely worth a visit. And obviously visiting The Great Wall of China is an amazing experience! Although I can’t remember which part of the wall I visited..all I remember is that it was SO CROWDED, so I think you’ve chosen a better spot haha.'
    Taiss Nowrouzi

    Hi! Yea, China can have it’s ups and downs. On the one hand we absolutely loved trekking through the Zhangjiajie Forest and walking on the glass pathways hanging on the side of Tianmen Shan, but the pollution and heat of Beijing was unbearable even for two days! I’m sorry to hear that you had to leave China early due to what it was doing to your health! My sister lived in the north and always complained of the food and “mystery” stuff they must put in there…Hope you get a chance to get back there and visit some of the awesome natural sites. They are really amazing!

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