Beijing is the best gateway city for understanding China with its unparalleled richness of iconic Chinese architecture, and it is an excellent springboard for other interesting China destinations.
If you are wondering how best to experience more of China from Beijing in a fulfilling but quick way, especially if you are based in Beijing, this article will help you find out the best 16 places for day trips from Beijing.
1. The Mutianyu Great Wall Section
Features: less crowded, the most child-friendly Great Wall section
Mutianyu is the longest fully-restored Great Wall section open to tourists. It is less crowded than the Great Wall at Badaling and is popular with foreign tourists.
At Mutianyu, a chairlift, cable car, and toboggan are available, and children can easily ascend/descend the wall with these. You can walk at your own pace to appreciate the beautiful scenery and take photos. If you enjoy picnics in the great outdoors, you should enjoy one there.
How to get there: Mutianyuis about 73 kilometers (45 miles) from Beijing, or 1½ hours’driving.
You could add a visit to the Forbidden City in the same day. The Forbidden City is the best place to learn about the history of China’s Ming (1368–1644) and Qing (1644–1912) dynasty rulers, as it was home to 24 emperors in the two dynasties.
With an expert guide, the stories about the emperors and concubines will make the Forbidden City come alive for you.
The Top 10 Great Wall Sections near Beijing could all make great Beijing day trips.
2. The Terracotta Warriors (Xi’an) by Train
Features: hundreds of ancient life-size terracotta soldiers, horses, and chariots in battle array
The Terracotta Army is one of the most famous attractions in China. It was constructed to accompany the tomb of China's first emperor to guard him in the afterlife.
There are thousands of detailed life-size terracotta statues of soldiers, representing the troops who guarded the first emperor — Qin Shi Huang. They were molded in sections, fired, then assembled and painted.
How to get there:
High-speed train is the best way, which takes 4½–6 hours. Flights are less recommended as the time needed is similar, but flights are more stressful and expensive.
Compared to trains, you would waste you a lot of time on getting to/from airports and checking in/out.
At least 2 hours’ visiting time is needed for the Terracotta Army, so you should take the first train from Beijing to Xi’an (G89 06:53–11:24) to visit the site properly. When going back, you could take the G90 train (18:26–22:52)
You can book a private tour with us to make full use of your time. When you arrive in Xi’an, your guide will pick you up and escort you directly to the Terracotta Army. After the tour, you will be driven back to the railway station.
3. Shanghai by Train
Features: iconic building clusters around the Bund,prosperous modern China
Beijing and Shanghai are the most famous two China cities that most foreign tourists want to visit. Compared to Beijing's rich cultural and historical atmosphere, Shanghai has a modern and fashionable ambiance.
For a classic day trip in Shanghai,first, you should go to Yu Garden, which is another symbol of Shanghai, to see the classical Chinese beauty and the difference between Western and Chinese gardens.
Then explore the French Concession and learn about the colonial past of Shanghai, appreciating the elegant residences. Before going to the railway station, you must pay a visit to the Bund and experience the prosperous Nanjing Road.
How to get there: High-speed train is the most recommendedway, which takes around 4½ hours.
You should arrive in Shanghai before 12pm to ensure plenty of time to explore the highlights of the city. The suggested trains are G1 (Beijing 07:00–11:30Shanghai) and G28 (Shanghai 19:00–23:29 Beijing).
The best option for visiting Shanghai is to join in our 1-Day Shanghai Layover Tour which includes railway station/airport transfers. You can save a lot of time otherwise spent finding a taxi or metro train links.
Features: foreign and Chinese architecture, international commercial city
Tianjin, along with Beijing, Shanghai, and Chongqing, is one of China's four municipalities. Tianjin has long been a transport hub for international commerce, and so a great deal of history has accrued in the city.
For a day trip to Tianjin, you must visit the Five Ancient Avenues and Porcelain House, which well represent foreign and Chinese architecture there.
The Five Ancient Avenuesare a sight not to be missed, from which you can have a view of Tianjin's rare architectural treasure, which was left by Western nationsfrom 1860 to1903. A jumble of fascinating buildings seemingly from various countries are brought together uniquely inthis small area.
The Porcelain House is a traditional French building furnished with antiques. It is located on Tianjin’s Chifeng Road.There you can find exquisite pieces of porcelain ware, as well as stone items of white marble, crystal, agate, and other decorative materials.
If you still have spare time in Tianjin, arelaxing experience is toenjoy a 360-degree view of modern Tianjin from the Eye of Tianjin — Tianjin Yongle Ferris Wheel. >>See more interesting things to do in Tianjin.
How to get there: Tianjinis 120 kilometers from Beijing or 25 minutes by bullet train.
5. The Hanging Temple and Yungang Grottos (Datong)
Features: amazing cliff-face architecture, medieval Buddhist artwork
The Hanging Temple and Yungang Grottoes are the must-sees in Datong. Both of them represent Buddhist masterpieces.
The Hanging Monastery— a Buddhist temple built on a cliff face — is considered to be a work of art as well as a marvel of medieval engineering. The whole temple is a wooden frame structure. It was constructed by drilling holes into the cliffside and inserting beams into the holes up to 2–3 meters (7–10 feet) deep.
The Yungang Grottoesare superb Buddhist artistic achievements from the 5th to the 6th century.Theystretch some 1,000 meters (1,100 yards) continuously from east to west and are one of the Four Famous Grotto Complexes in China.
How to get there:
First, you need to get to Datong prefecture.A high-speed train service between Beijing and Datong is available, with a travel time of around 2 hours.
You are suggested to catch the first train to depart Beijing (G2503, 08:10–10:00), and go back on the last train (G2520, 19:00–20:24).
6. The Juyongguan Great Wall Section
Features: most wheelchair-friendly Great Wall (within the lower level of the fort), closest section to Beijing
Also called the Great Wall at Juyong Pass, it was considered one of the three most important fortified passes in the whole length of the Great Wall. It is famous for big battles against Jurchens and Mongols, and then later against the Japanese.
There is a 9.5-meter-tall (31-foot-tall) platform that can be visited. It was built by the Yuan Dynasty in 1342. There are still Mongolian and Uyghur inscriptions on it. The top of the highest part of the wall has a wonderful panoramic mountain scenery view.
There are no lifts or cable cars. Instead of doing the “long hike”of 2½ km (1½ miles) on the Wall on the west side, you can take the shorter east side wall, which is 1½ km (1 mile) long, and only ascends about 200m (700 ft).
Another option is to just walk around the valley bottom fort from the entrance, and not climb up the hill.
How to get there:
Juyongguan is 60 kilometers (37 miles) from Beijing, 1½ hours' drive. It is much more recommended to take a private tour, so that you are able to visit the Ming Tombs or another Great Wall Section as they are also north of Changping District.
7. The Jinshanling Great Wall Section
Features: half restored and halfwild, most beautiful GW scenery, lovely hiking
The Great Wall at Jinshanling is one of the best-preserved parts of the Great Wall with many original features. It got its name because it was built on the Greater and Lesser Jinshan ('Gold Mountain') Ranges.
Jinshanling is the most popular Great Wall hiking section, because it is relatively isolated and offers great views. You can get the most out of China's legendary landmark as you tread across the wall's centuries-old stone steps or walk through the ruins of an ancient watchtower.
The hiking on the Wall takes about 3 hours.Forthe bestday trip to Jinshanling, you should start very early in the morning, say 7:00, and return home very late.
How to get there: It is 2½ hours’ drive from Beijing.
8. The Simatai Great Wall Section
Features: originalappearance,only section open for a night tour
Simatai’s section is the best among the Great Wall sections that retain their original appearance.The wall is divided east-west by Simatai Reservoir, with 16 towers east and 23 towers west.
The eastern part of Simatai’s Great Wall seems perilousness as it was built along steep mountain ridges.
Hiking is a great experience at Simatai’s Great Wall. A popular route is to ascend and descend east Simatai: fromalong the reservoir (1.5 km), via East Tower 1, up to East Tower 10 (where there is a cable carstation nearby) takes about 2 hours.
Simatai is the only Great Wall section that is lit up at night and open for touring. After a day’s hiking, you can enjoy thewell-lit Great Wall in the evening,it is less crowded, making for a pleasant, atmospheric, andeasyeveningwalk in a special setting.
For an evening tour there, you should start very early from Beijing and plan to arrive back very late, for example, from 7:00 am to 11:30 pm.
How to get there: It’s120 kilometers (75 miles) from Beijing, 3 hours' drive.
>>Find out more interesting things to do on the Great Wall.
9. Chengde Summer Resort
Features: expansive Chinese royal gardenarchitecture and landscaping
Chengde Summer Resort, also called Chengde Summer Palace, is where emperors of China's Qing Dynasty (1644–1912) spent their summers to escape the summer heat in Beijing.
It is the largest surviving royal garden in China, occupying an area of 5.6 square kilometers (2.2 square miles), twice the size of the Summer Palace in Beijing.
The architectural style is more like one of the classical gardens in the 'South of the Yangtze River' area, because the two most successful emperors of the Qing Dynasty loved the scenery of that area, represented by today's Suzhou and Hangzhou.
To have a day trip to Chengde, you are suggested to start at 8:30 in the morningfor the drive of about 3 hours to get to Chengde.
Then, have some Chengde food: taste some typical local snacks of Chengde, such as almond tea, almond tofu, and stir-fried doughballs.It is suggested to spend 2 hours in the summer resort in the afternoon.
How to get there: Chengde Summer Resort is in Hebei Province, 3 hours’ drivingnorth of Beijing.
You may find inspiration from our 3-Day Chengde Tour with Gorgeous Great Wall
10. The Eastern Qing Tombs
Features:underground palaces, largest imperial mausoleum, less crowded
Short for Eastern Royal Tombs of the Qing Dynasty, Eastern Qing Tomb covers an area of 80 square kilometers, is the largest existing imperial mausoleum complex with the most appropriate layout in China.
Construction of the Eastern Royal Tombs of the Qing Dynasty began in 1661 and lasted for 247 years. Five emperors, 15 queens, 136 concubines, three princes, and two princesses were buried there.
It is less touristy and much quieter than the 13 Mausoleums of the Ming Dynasty, which are closer to Beijing.
You will see magnificent "palaces" and halls on the grounds, and you can also go into the underground "palaces" where the coffins of Emperor Qianlong and the 'Dragon Lady' Cixi lie.
How to get there: The site is in the city of Tangshan, Hebei Province, 125 kilometers (80 miles) east of Beijing — about 3 hours’ driving.
11. The Peking Man Site at Zhoukoudian
Feature: the largest collection of Homo erectus fossils
Also called Peking Man Museum or Zhoukoudian Anthropological Museum, it has the largest collection of Homo erectus fossils of any single site.
The fossils at houkoudian represent about 40 individuals and account for about one-third of the fossils from the species worldwide.
Among the bones discovered were five skullcaps, numerous facial and cranial elements, and 147 teeth. The most famous of these remains is cranium XII, which is commonly referred to as "Peking Man."
How to get there: It is located southwest of Beijing, 46 kilometers (29 miles) from the downtown area.
12. Tanzhe Temple
Features: an ingenious layout of temple architecture, most well-known and worshipped by visitors
Tanzhe Temple was the first temple to be built after the introduction of Buddhism to Beijing.
With an inner temple area of 25,000 square meters (about the size of a city block) and an outside temple area of 112,000 square meters (5 city blocks), Tanzhe Temple is grand in scale.
It has received many tourists and pilgrims throughout its history. You can still see a great number of people worshipping there every day. You can also wander around to see the ancient ginkgo and magnolia trees and appreciate the temple's architectural style.
Most travelers like to combine it with Macro Polo Bridge as they are on the same walking route. If you are interested in bridge architecture or listening to China-Japan history, it is worthy of astop.
How to get there: Itis about 20 kilometers (6 miles) west ofdowntown Beijing.
Contact us for a tailor-made day trip to Tanzhe Temple (and Marco Polo Bridge).
13. Fragrant Hills (Xiangshan)
Features: beautiful landscape, maple leaves in fall
Xiangshan Park was a royal garden,and it has 900 years of history. In the 10th year of the Emperor Qianlong era of the Qing Dynasty (1735), Jingyi Garden was set up there, which consists of 28 scenic sports and was known as the famous ‘Three Hills and Five Parks’in the suburbs of the city.
It features a beautiful landscape, especially in fall, when the maple leavesmake you feel like you are walking in a sea of red. Apart from the beautiful scenery, you can appreciate imperial architecture and visit temples and memorials.
The best time to visit is in mid-October,whenthe maple leaves begin to fall and you can join in the Fragrant Hills Red Leaves Festival.
How to get there: It is in Haidian District, about 20 kilometers (12 miles) northeast of the city center. Contact us for a tailor-made day trip with private transport.
14. Jingdong Stone Forest Gorge (Shilinxia Gorge)
Features: glass sightseeing platform,forest views with a waterfall, stone pillars
The number one highlight of this site is the glass sightseeing platform. Claiming three world records, the walkway is supposedly the world's largest glass platform with a circular surface area of 415 square meters (4,470 square feet).
Protruding 33 meters (108 feet) over the cliff edge in Jingdong Stone Forest Gorge, it is also the longest in the world. The third record is for the first time aviation titanium was usedin the construction of a “building”.
How to get there: The gorge is 100km (60 miles) east of Beijing city —a 2-hour drive.
15. Qinglongxia Scenic Resort
Features: forest park, outdoor activities
Qinglongxia (‘Green Dragon Gorge’) Scenic Resort is a good place for people to escape the hustle and bustle of the city, enjoy a quiet atmosphere, and return to nature. You can take a boat trip to appreciate the beautiful scenery alongside the river.
You can go swimming, play football or volleyball, or sunbathe on the beach in summer. A variety of exciting activities are often provided such as bungee jumping, rock climbing, and downhill racing.
How to get there: Itis located in Huairou District, 65 kilometers (40 miles) or about a 1-hour drivenorth from central Beijing.
16. Nanshan Ski Resort
Features: Skiing, hiking, water fun, harvest activities
Nanshan Ski Resort is the largest ski resort in northern China. You can enjoyall four seasons at the resort: skiing in winter, hiking in spring, playing in the water in summer, and joining in with the harvest in autumn.
How to get there: It is in Miyun County, which is 78 kilometers (50 miles) northeast from central Beijing —1½ hours’driving.
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