OK, you’ve got about 10 days and you want to go to China. You know how to purchase round trip flight tickets from where you are to Beijing and back. Now what?
Well, here’s our 10-day trip Itinerary when we visited Beijing and Xi An last year (we went May 29th – June 8th, 2012). We hope this helps you plan your own trip to these two cities!
Forbidden City (aka Imperial Palace), Mao Zhe Dong Memorial Hall, Tienanmen Square, National Grand Theatre
These are the must visits when you’re in Beijing. Plan to spend a day to cover these few attractions. They are all relatively close to each other, so you can walk or take a bus between these places. We opted to walk but was quite sore by the end of the day. Remember, walking “a block” in Beijing is probably equal to walking three or four blocks here in the US.
Great Wall of China – Mutianyu
We highly recommend Mutianyu part of the Great Wall to visit instead of Badaling (the more popular tourist spot). It was less crowded at Mutianyu and you get the option to ride a toboggan down the mountain!
Summer Palace, Olympic Center and Bird’s Nest, Overnight train to Xi An
We recommend taking the local subway to get to all these famous attractions. It is convenient and you avoid the frustration of being stuck in traffic with the meter ticking when in a cab.
Also, get your train tickets to Xi An early to make sure you have seats. You may not get the tickets you need if you purchase it on the day you intend to leave. It’s a lesson from our personal experience. We actually had to move our train ride to Xi An a few days later since we could not secure the tickets we needed.
Terracotta Warriors, Emperor Chin Shi Huang’s Tomb, Great Wild Goose Pagoda, Tang Dynasty Dumpling Dinner Show
Terracotta Warriors is a must see in Xi An. That’s actually the reason most tourists visit Xi An. In the afternoon, visit the Emperor Chin Shi Huang’s Tomb – It’s quite a drive out of the city, so do plan for time and cost for this. In the evening, enjoy a Tang Dynasty Dumpling Dinner while you are entertained by various cultural dances. On hindsight, we probably would’ve been OK skipping the dumpling dinner.
Bell & Drum Tower, Muslim Street, Tang Paradise, Fountain and Music Show near Big Goose Pagoda, Night Market near Central Mosque (behind Drum Tower)
We specifically enjoyed the Muslim Street. It is a maze of a market where various delicacies and food items can be found. We kept going back to this street night after night to try the different things to eat! You’ll need more than one night to visit and try the various food that’s available there. Of particular interest would be the noodles that Xi An is famous for – Bian Bian Mian, Lamb Cumin Noodles, Liang Pi (cold noodles). Also try their Mutton Paomo 羊肉泡馍 (Pieces of chewy bread in lamb soup) as well as Rou Jia Mo (meat sandwich.
Xi An Circumvallation, Shuyuanmen (ancient culture street), Forest of Stele, Night Train to Beijing
We actually ran out of time and did not do the Xi An Circumvallation but we did hear good things about it. Rent a bike for about RMB20 and ride around the wall surrounding the ancient city. Then take a stroll down Shuyuanmen which is about 106m away from the South Circumvallation. Be prepared for a workout!
Again, make sure you have purchased your train ticket back to Beijing ahead of time.
Qianmen Pedestrian Walk, Dashilar, Temple of Heaven, Hongqiao Pearl Market
In the morning, visit the Temple of Heaven. Try to get there before 9:30am – you’ll get to watch the locals do morning exercises like dancing, walking, tai chi etc… as you walk to the temple.
For those who love to shop, Qianmen Pedestrian Walk and Dashilar is a must. No motor vehicles or bicycles are allowed here. Hongqiao Pearl Market is similar to the Silk Market. Be ready to put on your poker face and put your bargaining skills to the test!
Silk Market, Beijing Night Dance Show or Leisure
Be ready to bargain while at the Silk Market. We found that the prices were not very cheap as the vendors are used to many foreigners paying full price without really bargaining. A rule of thumb… we will always offer 10 – 30% of the offered price by the vendor depending on the item. Sometimes they take it, sometimes they don’t. Walk away and they might just hail you back and offer you the price you offered. The key is that you’re ready to walk away if you don’t get the price you want!
Beijing Zoo (Panda bears), Lama Temple, Nanluoguxiang Hutong
Pandas. ‘Nuff said! But do get there early (before 9:30am to catch a glimpse of the pandas). They tend to sleep after being fed for the rest of the day.
In the afternoon, visit the Lama Temple (we ran out of time so didn’t get to visit), followed by an evening stroll down Nanluoguxiang. You’ll get to try various delicacies and food as you walk down Nanluoguxiang!
Night market in Wang Fu Jing, Leisure day or catch up on any missed attractions
We love trying the various local delicacies at the night market in Wangfujing. We did not however try the “exotic” delicacies such as sheep penis and snakes! Would you?
Arriving in Tianjin instead of Beijing?
Here’s some tips based on our experience in 2012 (Some things may change in the future, so do check with official sites of the train station for updated costs and directions):
- After arriving at Tianjin Binhai Airport, go to Gate No. 2, Domestic Exit and take the shuttle bus to Tianjin East Railway Station (cost: RMB10)
- As you enter the train station, the ticket counter is on your left
- You can get to Beijing by bullet train at a cost of RMB58. It’s a half hour trip on the bullet train that goes up to speeds of 330 kmph (~205mph)!
- The bullet train number starts with a “C” and there’s one every 15 minutes during peak hours and 30 minutes during off-peak hours.