BeijingTravel Guide

Beijing, the capital city of China, is rich in culture, ancient history, culinary delights and world-famous attractions, making it a top destination in Asia.

Home to several UNESCO World Heritage Sites, such as the Great Wall of China and the Forbidden City, Beijing also boasts numerous museums, galleries, and theatres. Foodies will be in their element with famous dishes to tuck into, such as Peking duck, dumplings, and hotpot.

Shopping in Beijing covers all the bases from designer boutiques and malls to markets. While being known for its urban attractions, Beijing has natural beauty to offer as well. Parks, imperial gardens and the Grand Canal (the world’s longest man-made river) are just some examples.

And did you know? The biggest Universal Studios amusement park and entertainment complex is not in the US, it’s in Beijing! There are many more exciting places and experiences just waiting to be discovered. Read all about them in our Beijing Travel Guide.

Beijing quick facts


National language



Bottle of Coke/Pepsi (330ml)

ZAR R9.33

Local time




Chinese yuan

ZAR R1.00 = CNY ¥0.39

Eating out

Restaurant meal (casual dining)

ZAR R75.89


Plug type: A

2 or 3 pins • 220V

Explore Beijing

Where to stay in Beijing?

When in Beijing, we highly recommend one of the historical areas to stay to get a feel for days gone by. A hutong is a narrow alleyway between traditional courtyard compounds that connects with other alleyways. Having emerged during the Liao Dynasty (907-1125), some are as wide as 32m, others as narrow as just 40cm and hung with red lanterns. The winding alleys represent a way of life and to this day, they are social spots for locals to meet where they share meals, stories and one of the most popular pastimes, a game of mahjong.

The Jingshan Garden Hotel is a four-star in the Sanyanjing hutong district, and it’s true to tradition, offering authentic Chinese massages, tea ceremonies, and cultural events like musical performances, calligraphy, cooking shows and art exhibitions in the open-air courtyard.

Prefer to stay on the outskirts of the City? The Commune By The Great Wall is an upmarket hotel tucked away in the Shuiguan Mountains. The 36 villas are all architectural masterpieces, but the biggest drawcard is that you can get to an untouched and uncrowded section of the Great Wall on foot.

If you’re a luxury hotels sort of traveller wanting to upscale even more, then the five-star New World Beijing Hotel is for you, conveniently situated in the Wanfujing Commercial Centre, between the imperial religious complex of the Temple of Heaven and the notorious Tiananmen Square. It’s popular with business and leisure travellers alike. The rooftop bar offers panoramic views over the capital, excellent cocktails and has in-house DJs, while the Tian Tan Kitchen features live cooking stations, giving you a view of the bustling streets of Qi Nian. And after a day of exploring, some well-deserved pampering awaits at the luxury spa.

For a guest house option, the charmingly named Delight Inn in the Yanqing district, just under 5km from the Great Wall, offers cosy terraced rooms, a swimming pool, bicycles that are free to use, evening entertainment and Continental breakfasts.

Believe us when we say, this is just the start. Book your accommodation today!

Things to do in Beijing

Beijing is a fascinating metropolis to explore. From learning about Chinese history and culture to enjoying the buzz of everything a capital city offers, trust us, you’ll never be bored.

One of the Seven Wonders of the World, the Great Wall of China is an incredible 21,196km long. Several sections, built between the 14th and 17th centuries, are well-preserved and easy to get to. Badaling is the most famous and most-visited section but often crowded (even more so on public holidays) – so get up early to enjoy the 360⁰ views near the No.8 Watchtower. You can hike to the top or get a bird’s-eye view from the cable car before exploring the impressive structure. The scenery at the Juyongguan section features one of the three most famous mountain passes, while Mutianyu has a toboggan ride with a series of zigzag bends.

Beijing is home to the 798 Art District in the Dashanzi area, China’s answer to Soho! A thriving art community lives and works in this urban space where you’ll find many contemporary art galleries, studios, design companies, restaurants and bars. Heading downtown, you’ll find the National Art Museum of China, which exhibits around 100 000 paintings, sculptures and prints. Included are works from the end of the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644), the Qing Dynasty (1683-1840) and the early days of the Republic of China (1912-1949).

Impressive ancient Chinese artefacts, such as ceramics, jade and bronzes are showcased in the Capital Museum of China, Xicheng District. Some items date as far back as 500 000 years ago.

Film enthusiasts should visit the China National Film Museum in the Chaoyang District, where the history and development of Chinese cinema is reflected in a collection of artefacts, memorabilia, and interactive exhibits.

This mega theme park and entertainment resort complex features everything Universal Studios, from shows, rides and attractions to a Universal-themed resort hotel. With loads of excitement and fun for visitors of all ages, word on the street is that this complex is even bigger than the Universal theme parks in Florida, USA!

The Forbidden City was the centre of the Chinese government and home to 24 emperors who ruled from the Ming Dynasty to the Qing Dynasty. Ordinary people were not allowed to set foot here, hence the name, but luckily times have changed, and you don’t need to have royal blood or a high-level connection to enter. Behind the tall walls are some of the best examples of traditional Chinese architecture, and more than a million rare artworks and artefacts are safely guarded in the Palace Museum. The stunning Imperial Garden is also worth walking through, situated behind the Palace of Earthly Tranquillity.

A UNESCO World Heritage Site, the Grand Canal was built 2 500 years ago and is the world’s longest man-made waterway system. It stretches from Beijing in the north to Zhejiang province in the south and was built to transport grain from the farmlands to the capital city. Explore the beautiful Grand Canal Forest Park, which straddles both sides of the Grand Canal and features forests, orchards, lakes and bridges. Or take a boat cruise down the Suzhou section and see how the Suzhou locals live.

Walk around the beautiful Beijing Botanical Garden, home to more than 10 000 plant species and the world’s largest variety of peach blossoms. The fruit-bearing peach tree is embedded in the culture (in Chinese Taoist mythology, it’s the sacred tree of immorality). You’ll also come across the rose and medicinal herb gardens, among others.

Looking for an immersive experience? Then a tour is the way to go.

Flights to Beijing

Beijing food and drink

Don’t leave China’s capital without sampling traditional foods like Peking duck and spicy crayfish, washed down with plum juice and topped off with pea flour cakes.

If you had trouble choosing between chicken or beef on your flight to Beijing, prepare for a serious challenge when visiting the Qianmen area between Tiananmen Square and the Temple of Heaven. This is where you’ll find the “food streets”: Xianyukou Food Street, Taiwan Food Street and the Menkuang Hutong known for Beijing-style snacks.

These streets are dotted with restaurants and stalls featuring Chinese cuisine and street food such as roast duck, roast trotter and noodles with soybean paste. Many restaurants in the area date back to the 15th century, like the Bianyifang Roast Duck restaurant.

Huguosi Street is named after the Huguo Temple built during the Ying Dynasty (1271-1368). While the temple is no longer there, the backdrop of old architecture remains and food is a focal point, with authentic snacks made from recipes handed down from generation to generation. Stalls and restaurants along the 600m stretch also offer famous snacks from the Sichuan, Yunnan and Xinjiang areas.

Just like you can’t leave Beijing without seeing the Great Wall, you also can’t leave without feasting on Peking duck (crispy skin and succulent meat carved at your table and served with thin pancakes, sauce and julienne veggies). Depending on where you go, prices vary.

For a casual dining atmosphere and affordable Peking duck, you can’t go wrong at the Jingzun Peking Duck Restaurant in the Chaoyang District. Looking for an upscale experience? Head over to the Dong Cheng District to Duck de Chine, which features a variety of duck dishes, combining French roasting styles with the traditional Beijing style in an elegant setting strung with lanterns and the added drawcard of a Bollinger Champagne bar.

For hotel dining vibes, the Made in China restaurant at the Grand Hyatt Beijing is our top pick, serving up authentic Peking duck roasted for more than an hour in a traditional Beijing date-wood-fired oven.

Gui Jie Street (also known as Ghost Street) in the Dongcheng District is all about shopping, eating and having a good time 24/7. It’s a street that never sleeps and is home to more than 100 restaurants. Many people come here to sample the local dish – spicy crayfish – and Huda Restaurant, with several branches in the street, is the most popular place to do so. They use more than 10 seasonings and serve it smothered in chillies, Sichuan peppercorns and garlic. Also, try the plum juice, which combines sweet and tart to help you handle the heat.

Get a real taste for the local cuisine by booking a tour.

Beijing through your eyes

Where to shop in Beijing?

From entire shopping streets and antique markets to one of Asia’s largest shopping malls, Beijing has a lot to offer.

The Wangfujing Street has been Beijing's number one shopping destination for decades. But take note: wear comfortable shoes and have an empty suitcase waiting in your hotel room.

Here you’ll find anything from international high-end clothing brands to those unique to the city, such as the Tongshengshe shoe shop and Wuyutai teahouse.

This pedestrian-only shopping zone is home to one of the largest shopping malls in Asia, the Oriental Plaza, which also connects with the five-star Grand Hyatt hotel. Imagine 120 000m² of modern retail heaven packed with well-known Western and Asian brands.

For a fascinating experience, go to the Wangfujing Department Store and take the escalator down to Heping Guoju, an immersive museum that spans about 2 400m². Step back in time to experience what Beijing’s streets looked like in the 1980s, and get your hands on traditional shadow puppets, calligraphy sets and silk.

Embark on a treasure hunt at one of the most popular markets in Beijing, if not the whole of China. The Panjiayuan Flea Market covers 48 500m² and has the most complete collection of antiques in the country, with more than 4 000 shops selling traditional writing tools, porcelain, old books, handicrafts and jewellery. From a distance it might look overwhelming, but there’s order to the hustle and bustle as the market is divided into six sections: roadside stands, ancient architecture, classical furniture, modern collections, sculptures or stone engravings, and catering.

Looking for a safe and simple way to bring your money when you travel? Our Travel Money Card has you covered!

When is the best time to travel to Beijing?

Beijing has a continental climate, where winters are cold and sunny, and summers are rainy, hot and muggy. Air pollution is high, especially in winter. There are four distinct seasons. Spring is from mid-March to mid-May with average temperatures between 10℃ and 22℃. The average maximum in May is around 27°C (81°F), and there can even be heatwaves in spring!

Summer is June, July, and August, with highs around 35°C (95°F), but the heavy humidity makes it feel much hotter. Temperatures can sometimes soar to 40°C (104°F).

Autumn is from September to November, and while September is still quite warm, around 26°C (78,8°F), October drops to 19°C (66°F) and November to 10°C (50°F).

In winter, the average temperature is a few degrees below freezing 0°C (32°F). It can often drop below this even during the day.

If you’re looking for the perfect ‘in-between’ weather, set your sights on autumn. September has the lowest pollution levels with comfortable temperatures for exploring and the maple and ginkgo trees will be dramatic shades of yellow, orange and red. The annual Fragrant Hill Red Autumnal Leaves Festival starts around mid-October and lasts for about 20 days. Hiking up Fragrant Hill or visiting the surrounding temples, you’ll be able to see the dramatic red leaves of the smoke trees up close.

Spring is among the best times to visit Beijing as the city puts on its most colourful floral show. The Summer Palace’s blooming magnolia trees are stunning, while the apricot trees take centre stage at the Temple of Heaven. About 80km northeast of Beijing, a sea of pink peach blossoms erupts in Pinggu District where you’ll find the world’s largest peach orchard and the annual Pinggu Peach Festival.

If you’ve always wanted to experience Chinese New Year, what better place than in Beijing? Just be prepared that it’s a busy time of year with tourists everywhere and locals will also be travelling in droves to be with their families during this most important holiday on the Chinese calendar. It’s celebrated on a different date every year but generally between January and February. Check the date before booking your holiday!

Don't miss out. Book your flight today!

How to get around Beijing

In a city known for extreme traffic congestion, the Beijing Subway is the answer to fast, reliable, punctual and inexpensive transport. The extensive network of 25 subway lines extends over 780km and has 463 subway stations, linking to tourist attractions, airports and shopping districts. Signs and announcements are in both Mandarin and English, making it easy to get subway savvy. You can buy single tickets or get a reloadable IC swipe card (with a refundable deposit). With about 10 million daily passengers, morning and evening rush hours, the subways can get quite crowded, so it’s best to load up your prepaid card beforehand to avoid the queues.

If you’re not fluent in Cantonese or Mandarin or you don’t have a local showing you around, you’ll probably find the buses challenging, especially as bus stop names are hardly ever written in English – not to mention that they get very crowded (beware of pickpockets).

Taxis are a popular form of public transportation, affordable and a fool-proof way to reach your destination but of course, they also have to contend with traffic. Official taxis can be recognised by a yellow band going from bumper to bumper, a sign on the roof and the licence plate starting with the letter B. Not all taxi drivers can speak English, so here’s a tip: have the name of your hotel written in Chinese, and agree to a fare by writing it down on a piece of paper.

Let us help you organise your own wheels for exploring. Hire a car today.


The current requirements for travelling to Beijing

Talk to a Beijing Travel Expert

Our dedicated team of experts know all the ins and outs of travel and love sharing their knowledge. If you're looking for help planning specific sections of your trip or full itinerary planning, our team is ready and waiting to help create your perfect holiday.
Enquire now
Flight Centre

© Flight Centre Travel Group (Pty) Ltd. Registration No. 1994/000253/07.

*Prices are in ZAR and subject to availability. Please refer to specific product’s terms and conditions.