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3 Days in Beijing

A lot of the wikitravel itinerary 3 Days in Beijing is based on this trip I took in September 2010. If this causes any funky licensing conflict, please let me know.

Getting There

Itinerary, Day 1

The first morning consisted mostly of getting to the city from the airport (airport express train to Dongzhimen and then some dogfighting in the subway trains), finding my accomodation at the Forbidden City Hotel and getting settled.

Luckily, the accomodation wasn't far from Tiananmen Square and I headed there straight after checking in. A huge plaza, indeed. Complete with the famous portrait of Chairman Mao hanging above the Gate of Heavenly Peace. As expected, the place was very crowded, but at least I had beautiful blue sky that actually stayed for my entire trip.

North from Tiananmen Square through the famous red Gate of Heavenly Peace and on towards the Forbidden City. The huge Palace Museum (i.e. the forbidden city proper) is one of the Beijing must-sees, and thus fairly crowded and expensive (admission 60 RMB, no student discount). It took me about two hourse to stroll through the magnificent area and explore some of the hidden courtyards. However, due to crowds, noise, and the fact that they charge extra for all the side exhibitions, I was not absolutely blown away by the place. But it was nice. Left it by the north exit.

From the north end of the Forbidden City I headed West to Beihai Park (10 minutes walk along the Forbidden City moat, some beautiful views). Beihai Park (admission 25 RMB) has a nice lake and a central hill with the White Dagoba that can be seen from afar. I walked around, had some little snack and checked out the lake and some of the little walkways after I had been up to the Tibetan monument. Left Beihai on its east end.

From Beihai Park I went east to the next park, Jingshan (admission 2 RMB), which is at least as beautiful as Beihai, though not as big. Climbed the hill for some great views of the Forbidden City as well as the rest of Beijing. The flora in the park is also rather nice, some bonsai and such.

Even though I was slightly footsore, I headed east from Jingshan and straight into one of the narrow Hutong areas (somewhere around Jingshan Dongjie), and kept going east until the next major road, Beiheyan Dajie. Parallel to this runs a narrow strip of green park due south. Another half an hour's walk sout on in that park until I came to Dong'anmen Dajie, and then east for one more block to the Donghuamen Night Market.

For dinner I first tried some bites of snake and scorpion, and then shared some Beijing duck in one of the restaurants.

Itinerary, Day 2

Ein neuer Tag, ein neues Glück.

The tour desk in my hotel was quite competent and helpful when I booked a hiking tour to the Great Wall at Jinshanling. In fact, seeing the Wall was the part I had most been looking forward to. The extensive research I did on the wall and its sections paid off. The tour was great and delivered exactly what it promised. No shopping and lots of time on this mostly untouched part of the Great Wall. Unfortunately it wasn't possible to hike from Jinshanling to Simatai, but I had to turn back halfway.

The tour was 230RMB, including breakfast and buffet lunch as well as the 2x3hr bus ride. The entrance to the actual site is another 50RMB. The cable car they have there, however, seems a little superfluous, as it will only save you 10 minutes or so, compared to walking but costs another 50RMB for the round trip.

The place was great, the infrastructure in place was sufficient but not overly touristic. And the greatest thing: it wasn't crowded. Which is quite rare for any sight in China. Although, to be fair, there were more people than on the Nanjing city wall.

Itinerary, Day 3

An event that is seemingly quite popular among domestic tourists, but much less so among foreigners, is the Flag Ceremony at Tiananmen Square. I got up at 5am and made my way through the waking-up Beijing to Tiananmen Square. As expected, the place was already full of Chinese tourists and I couldn't see too much. The music was nice, though. The whole event, however, takes less than 15 minutes and the crowd is rather intent on taking many pictures as opposed to cherishing this solemn patriotic moment.

Later in the morning, I resumed sightseeing at the Lama Temple (Yonghegong), easily reached by metro line 2. The temple (20RMB admission) is a fairly big complex with several gates and halls with countless buddhas and other figures. The largest of the statues is at the very back of the temple, an 18m buddha figure that fills a large building up to the ceiling. The place shouldn't take more than an hour to explore. Again rather nice, again rather crowded.

From the Lama Temple I headed west (only a few hundred meters) to Confucius Temple (25 RMB admission, student discount available), which is much more quiet compared to where I had just been. I liked this temple much more than Yonghegong. The adjacent academy was practically deserted and the views and reflections in the little bodies of water were quite enjoyable.

I continued heading west from Confucius temple and entered one of the more popular Hutongs (=traditional neighborhoods with narrow alleyways and winding lanes). This is a great area to explore just randomly, and also to have some coffee or a little lunch. Of course I got a little lost, as it is very easy to walk in circles and those tiny streets are not to be found on any map. Not a big deal, though. The area was also full of Riksha tours that apparently take everybody exactly to this Hutong.

Heading west I finally arrived at the last sight of the trip, the Drum and Bell Towers (near Gulou Dajie), which are again popular among tourists, and thus slightly crowded. I opted not to go inside and up, though. Eventually I took the metro at Gulou Dajie station (10 min walk north of the towers) and made my way back into town and to the airport. That's it for three great days in Beijing.

Last update 01-Dec-2016.

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