Top 10 China tours 2024/2025 for first visits and returns: embark on a lifetime experience. Learn more
Top Beijing Itineraries: From 1 Day to 5 Days with Side Trips

Top Beijing Itineraries: From 1 Day to 5 Days with Side Trips

Written by Chris QuanUpdated Mar. 4, 2024

Beijing, as the capital city, is typically the first stop on a China trip. Are you wondering how to schedule an itinerary that suits your needs and allows you to make the most of your holiday in Beijing? Here are some suggestions for shaping your Beijing itinerary based on our extensive trip-planning experience.

Content Preview

How Long to Spend in Beijing

Generally speaking, we recommend spending at least three to five days to explore Beijing for an authentic and relatively complete experience.

If you have more than five days, you might consider extending your trip to Beijing's surrounding areas. Popular destinations include:

  • Xi'an (for two days): Best for learning about Chinese history
  • Luoyang and Shaolin Temple (for two days): Seeing grottoes and martial arts
  • Datong and Pingyao (for four days): Featuring grottoes, temples, and ancient towns
  • Chengde (for two or three days): Famous for its huge royal garden

For layovers or if you have a limited time of fewer than three days, the itinerary might include only Beijing's most highlights — the Great Wall and the Forbidden City.

Discover real reviews of Highlights Travel Family's best-rated service across trusted platforms.

Beijing in 3-5 Days (Most-Chosen)

Spending three to five days in Beijing is most recommended. It could cover most highlights and gives you a comfortable pace, especially if you are seeking some cultural or food experience. You could spend two to three days on must-see attractions and one to two days for experiential activities.

There are many interesting experiences you could try in Beijing. For families, practicing Tai Chi in the Temple of Heaven with a master or visiting a local family where kids could learn to write Chinese calligraphy are options.

If you are interested in communicating with locals and experiencing local lifestyles, visiting a local market or exploring a Beijing neighborhood/hutong is an excellent way.

  • Day 1: Visit the Forbidden City and the Temple of Heaven
  • Day 2: Go Great Wall hiking, then stay a night by the Wall at Gubei Water Town
  • Day 3: One-day tour in Gubei Water Town with hands-on experiences like tie-dying and kite-making.
  • Day 4: Explore a Beijing neighborhood and try local food
  • Day 5: Visit the Summer Palace and depart

If you are traveling with kids or aren't keen on a long walk, we could also arrange a cable car ride to the Great Wall. If you want a more quiet and romantic environment, we could also arrange a sunset tour of the Great Wall for you, and prepare a picnic.

Gubei Water Town could be an alternative option if you don't have enough time.

Our service is personalized to your needs, interests, travel length, and other requirements. Here are more Beijing itinerary ideas:

Beijing in 1-2 Days (Layovers or Time-Smart Choice)

If you're tight on time, we recommend a one-day itinerary that focuses on Beijing's top two attractions: the Great Wall and the Forbidden City.

However, if you want to immerse yourself further in the city's vibrant culture and lifestyle, we suggest spending an additional day exploring Beijing's neighborhoods (hutongs) or indulging in a food tour.

Feel free to contact us if you have any questions or require assistance. We are here to help manage your tour arrangements, private transportation, hotels, and anything else you need to make your Beijing itinerary hassle-free.

Side Trip Itineraries from Beijing

If you have more than five days, you might consider extending your trip from Beijing. There are several options for different interests.

1. Beijing and Xi'an and Shanghai Itinerary

Beijing, Xi'an, and Shanghai are known as the "Chinese golden triangle," which takes approximately seven to eight days to explore. In this itinerary, you will see the essence of China:

  • Days 1‒3: Beijing
  • Days 4‒5: Xi'an
  • Days 6‒7: Shanghai

In Xi'an, complement visiting the Terracotta Warriors with a special, hands-on experience of crafting your clay warrior. You could also learn about Chinese history by visiting a history museum and its 600-year-old City Wall.

A tour to the Bund is a must in Shanghai. Step into the old Bund buildings that will bring you their golden age and backstories. Go up to the top of Shanghai Tower, the tallest building in China, to overlook the whole city. Take a cruise on the Huangpu River to see its skyline rise above you.

2. A Tour to Luoyang and Shaolin Temple from Beijing

If you are a big fan of Chinese kung fu, you couldn't miss a trip to Shaolin Temple. Luoyang regarded as one of the birthplaces of Chinese civilization, is famous for the Longmen Grottoes.

  • Day 1: Luoyang (visit Longmen Grottoes)
  • Day 2: A trip to Shaolin Temple with a kung fu show

Spending one day is enough to visit Shaolin Temple, and Luoyang's highlight could also be visited in one day. But if you have enough time, you can also spend an extra day in Luoyang to see its famous peonies. April is the best time to see them.

It takes a four-hour bullet train journey from Beijing to Luoyang, and it's about 1.5 hours' drive from Luoyang to Shaolin Temple. We will help arrange transportation when booking with us.

3. A Datong and Pingyao Tour from Beijing

If you're interested in Chinese civilization and culture, Datong and Pingyao, stops between Beijing and Xi'an, are great choices.

They are one of the origins of the Central Plains culture (the main body of Chinese culture). You could spend two days in each place without missing their highlights:

  • Days 1‒2: Datong (visit grottoes and temples)
  • Days 3‒4: Pingyao Ancient Town

In Datong, visit the Yungang Grottoes, one of the biggest Buddhist grottoes in China. Marvel at the magical Hanging Temple. You could climb up to find out why it was built on a cliff.

In Pingyao, you could find the first draft bank in China. Visit an interesting museum — the Armed Escort Company Museum and learn about why it was built and how it was run.

4. A Trip to Chengde from Beijing

After learning about the imperial past in Beijing, if you still want to know more about the royal families' life and stories, Chengde is the ideal choice, especially in summer. For a richer experience, we recommend spending about three days on a visit to Chengde:

  • Day 1: Jinshanling Great Wall
  • Day 2: Chengde Mountain Retreat
  • Day 3: Gubei Water Town

If you've been to the Great Wall, you could choose to go directly to Chengde Mountain Retreat. Chengde Mountain Retreat was where emperors spent their holidays in the summer. You could enjoy its cool weather, exquisite lakes, and pavilions, and also try some local snacks.

When back to Beijing from Chengde, visit Gubei Water Town. Walk around the town and try many interesting hands-on experiences, such as kite-making and tie-dying.

Tour China With Us

All our tours are customized to your needs, interests, travel length, and other requirements. Our private tours are designed to be the most convenient and fulfilling option for your trip to Beijing or China. We would create an itinerary according to your flight times, interests, and anything else you might need.

Popular tours
Make the most of your time
Choose the best time to visit
Start planning your tailor-made tour with 1-1 help from our travel advisors. Create Your Trip

Sign up to Our Newsletter

Be the first to receive exciting updates, exclusive promotions, and valuable travel tips from our team of experts.

The China Highlights Experience

1-to-1 Expert Planning

1-to-1 Expert Planning

Your tour will be tailor-made by your personal travel advisor — a destination expert. Every reply will be within 24 hours.

Personal Journeys

Personal Journeys

Enjoy your personal local guide and ride. Explore destinations at your own pace. Have unparalleled flexibility, which is impossible on a group tour.

Authentic Experiences

Authentic Experiences

Discover the hidden gems. Experience local culture by practicing it. Try new and exciting activities, and unveil the stories behind the sights and people.

Well-Selected Local Guides

Well-Selected Local Guides

Knowledgeable, enthusiastic, and attentive — your personal local guides will share interesting stories, insider information, and even create unexpected highlights!

China Highlights tailor-makes China tours to help travelers discover China their way. We're a passionate team of one hundred avid travelers who love to share our knowledge of China with those looking for a more authentic travel experience, more ...
China Highlights International Travel Service Co., LTD
Corporate Number: 914503003486045699
Featured on