24 Hours in Beijing, China: How to make the most of your layover

Transiting through Beijing Capital International Airport with 12 hours or more between flights? Be sure to make the most of your layover by visiting Beijing, the capital of the People’s Republic of China. This 24 hour suggested itinerary will lead you to Beijing’s famous tourist attractions and will help you make the most of your layover. Depending on your traveling priorities, you can certainly fine tune this itinerary to suit your needs. Enjoy Beijing!

Things to know before traveling to Beijing, China:

Language – Standard Chinese and Mandarin Chinese are the official languages of China. Learning the language is not necessary, especially in big cities like Beijing and Shanghai, but speaking at least some Chinese phrases or attempting to learn is greatly appreciated by locals.

Currency exchange – Chinese Yuan (also known as Renminbi) is the official currency of China. Exchanging money is easy and follows the same standard to elsewhere in Asia. You can exchange currency at the airport, hotels, malls, local banks, and money changers throughout Beijing. ATMs are plentiful, all accepting international credit cards and debit cards, so it’s easy to withdraw your money in CNY. Credits cards are commonly accepted in most mid-range to high-end restaurants and hotels.

Chinese Yuan currency bills
Chinese Yuan currency bills (Club4traveler/Shutterstock.com)

Tourist visa – Visitors who have a layover in Beijing, China are eligible to get a free 72-Hour Transit Visa.  Nationalities from Schengen countries (Austria, Belgium, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Slovakia,         Slovenia, Spain, Sweden and Switzerland), the United States of America, Canada, the United Kingdom, Russia, Ireland, Cyprus, Bulgaria, Romania, Ukraine, Serbia, Croatia, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Montenegro, Macedonia, Albania, Brazil, Mexico, Argentina, Chile, Korea, Japan, Singapore, Brunei, United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Australia and New Zealand are qualified to take advantage of 72-Hour Visa Free Transit Policy.

Getting around – Beijing is the second largest city in China. Getting around is very easy thanks to its comprehensive road system and subway system. Taking the subway is the most convenient and reliable way to get to your destinations. You only have to pay 2 Yuan (0.30 USD) to get to any destinations within the city. Before your trip, make sure to download a map of Beijing Metro on your smart phone or secure a paper copy.

Where to stay – There are many types of holiday accommodation in China, whether you’re looking for luxury hotels to cheaper accommodation like youth hostels and bed and breakfast. In Beijing, hotels/hostels nearby subway stations are recommended for travelers. If you don’t plan to stay overnight and go straight to the airport after your layover tour, then you can store your luggage at the luggage counters of Beijing Capital International Airport Terminal 1, 2 and 3. For more information, please check out this link.

Where to stay in Beijing during a long layover:

NUO Hotel (No.2A Jiangtai Road, Chaoyang District)

Hotel Eclat (Floor 16-21, No. 9 Dongdaqiao Road Parkview Green FangCaoDi, Chaogyang District)

Four Seasons Hotel (No.48 Liangmaqiao Road)

Rosewood  (Jing Guang Center, Hujialou, Chaoyang District)

Red Wall Garden Hotel (No.41 Shijia Hutong | Dongcheng District)

DETAILED ITINERARY: 24 Hours in Beijing, China: How to make the most of your layover

Day 1

After your arrival at Beijing Capital International Airport, check into your preferred accommodation. The airport is less than 30 minutes away from the city center and there are various ways to get to downtown (best of them is via Airport Express Line). Begin your tour at The Great Wall of China, a UNESCO World Heritage site located on the northern part of Beijing. People say that armies are the most significant type of military power. But if a country cannot defend its own territory, then it’s all for naught. The Great Wall of China is perhaps the greatest military defense project ever constructed. With a total length of over 20,000 kilometers, its impressive fortifications will leave everyone in awe. There are 8 sections of the wall that are open to visitors – Badaling, Mutianyu, Juyongguan, Huanghuacheng, Jiankou, Simatai, Gubeikou and Jinshanling. Since you are coming from Beijing City, we recommend Mutianyu.

The Great Wall of China at Mutianyu section nears Beijing, China
The Great Wall of China at Mutianyu section nears Beijing (Parichart Patricia Wong/Shutterstock.com)

After your tour of the Great Wall of China, make your way back to downtown. A trip to Beijing would not be complete without a visit to The Forbidden City, which houses one of the world’s best collection of Chinese art. The museum has rich and diverse collection of traditional Chinese art from Ming and Qing Dynasty, ancient halls and other objects of cultural and historical significance. Completed and opened in 1925, its attraction is not only the items on display but also its extravagant architecture and setting. To appreciate the Forbidden City, we recommend joining one of the guided tours.

A watchtower at the Forbidden City, Beijing, China
A watchtower at the Forbidden City (QiuJu Song/Shutterstock.com)

In the afternoon, do not miss to visit Tiananmen Square (means “Gate of Heavenly Peace”), the largest city square in China. This square is controversial because of what occurred in 1989 when thousands of pro-democracy protesters were brutally repressed and killed. This savagery of the Chinese Government shocked the world. Nonetheless, it’s a great place to visit. End the day at one of the top rated restaurants in the city like King’s Joy Beijing ( Wudaoying Hutong, Dongcheng Qu), TRB (Temple Restaurant Beijing, 23 Shatan N St, Dongcheng Qu), Black Sesame Kitchen (28 Zhonglao Hutong, Dongcheng Qu) or Garden At Lama Temple (14  Guanshuyuan Hutong, Yonghegong Inner street, Dongcheng District).

Tiananmen Square, Beijing, China
Tiananmen Square. in Beijing. With 440,500 m2 it is one of the world’s largest squares and has great cultural significance as place of important events in Chinese history (TonyV3112 / Shutterstoc.com)

Day 2

Today is your international flight out of Beijing. If you still have time, fit in an amazing breakfast or lunch in the city. You could even squeeze in some souvenir shopping before you travel to the airport. Head to the airport in time to check in for your international flight and do not forget to come back to Beijing!

This is the end of our 24 hour suggested itinerary to Beijing,China. If the pace gets too hectic, just chill out and prioritize which area you would really like to visit. Enjoy your layover in Beijing!

Have you been to Beijing or anywhere else in China? Do you have any tips or suggestions to share? If so, you can leave your comments below.

Featured image: Beijing airport layover (06photo/Shutterstock.com)

China, City exploring, Culture, History, layover

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