I never thought my first time in China would be a quick four day trip, but its surprising how much you can see when you hit the ground running. As luck would have it I found a nonstop red-eye arriving in time for breakfast. When I landed I was surprised how much traffic there was. It felt like my morning drive to work in Los Angeles. When I pulled up to the Rosewood Beijing Hotel where I stayed it was 5 star service from greeting, check-in and my beautiful suite. I highly recommend the Rosewood Hotels.
My trip was short so I scheduled everything back-to-back. Tianamen Square was a quick 15 min subway ride from my hotel so I dove right into my first taste of Chinese public transit culture shock. I had to make a few transfers to reach the square so I made friends with the locals who were friendly enough to help navigate me. Side note — everything in Beijing is spoken and written in traditional Chinese also referred to as Pinyin and most locals do not speak English. After I visted Tiananmen Square I walked to the hutongs. I read the best way to find the hutong alleyways was to get lost in old Beijing so that is exactly what I did. Some blogs advised tourist to stay in the siheyuan of the hutongs for an authentic experience but I was traveling alone so I stayed in a luxury hotel with English speaking staff. On my walk through the beautiful narrow streets and alleys lined with Chinese lanterns I made three Chinese girlfriends who stopped me to compliment my blonde hair. Blondes are a rarity in Beijing which can be a bit overwhelming when people stare at you, but I was flattered. The three Chinese women invited me for tea to get to know more about them. I learned they taught English and were very knowledgable about America.
After tea we walked around the Forbidden City snapping photos enjoying the view. Make sure to check the hours of operation everywhere you go because some venues are closed on Mondays: If possible I suggest buying tickets in advance to save you time as well. I visited Beijing during a slow travel season so I was able to avoid the crowds, but spring and summer are known for higher tourist traffic. Finally we reached Jingshan Park. It was too dark to take photos by this point so we stopped inside a tea shop that is well liked by the locals so I could buy Chinese tea for my friends back home. The next day I got up at 6AM and made the trek to the Great Wall of China. The Great Wall was absolutely surreal. The drive was approximately 1.5 hours from my hotel (3 hours round trip) so plan accordingly. Don’t miss the opportunity to hike the wall, its phenomenal. I also advise going as early as possible. I had anticipated staying there 45 mins but once I arrived I was blown away by the wall and had to climb to the top to see the view for myself. The Great Wall was truly the most memorial experience I had in Beijing.
Since my four days in China flew by I spent the remainder of my trip enjoying the 798 Art District. You can spend an entire day at the 798 indulging on cafes, shops, street vendors, art exhibits and more. With its trendy concept stores and industrial neighborhood be sure to pack money and a camera.
After a perfect 4 days I ended the trip on a relaxing note. I spent my final hours enjoying a 90 minute travelers massage at the Rosewood spa. Hands down the best massage I have ever gotten. I guess I needed it since four days in Beijing can be quite adventurous and exhilarating!
Quick geography tip
China is located in East Asia. Covering approximately 9.6 million square kilometres (3.7 million square miles). It is the world’s second largest state by land area. China’s coastline along the Pacific Ocean is 14,500 kilometers (9,000 mi) long, and is bounded by the Bohai, Yellow, East China, and South China seas. I visited Beijing which is the capital of China and surprisingly not the largest city: Shanghai is the largest city. Fun Fact: Shanghai is the most populous city proper in the world, with a population of more than 24 million as of 2014.
What’s the best way to get around Beijing?
Beijing is a big grid that runs North and South, East and West. It is easy to navigate the city on foot, subway or by car service. Unfortunately, the convenience of Uber is not available in Beijing so I hired a private car service via Simon Service to drive me around to places that were far from the city center. Simon offers competitive prices that other companies cannot beat. He is punctual, flexible and very knowledgeable. He is well connected in Beijing providing faster access to fast park and long lines at certain venues. Simon will also provide you with a cell phone to use while you’re with him. Taxi’s in Beijing are not always reliable and may ignore your attempt to hail a cab: They are known to keep their cab lights on when they are off duty or have passengers in their cabs. Although public transportation is vey convenient metros aren’t accessible everywhere so I recommend scheduling transportation to and from everywhere you go. I used the subway to go to places within 10-15 miles of city center and it was very easy and convenient.
Where to stay
I like to feel at home so I typically book accommodations via Airbnb, Home Exchange and Home Away. Popular hotels I really like: Rosewood Beijing, EAST Beijing, The Peninsula Beijing, The St. Regis Beijing, Red Wall Garden Hotel, Sunrise Kempinski Hotel Beijing, and The Opposite House.
I had a difficult time finding food I thoroughly enjoyed so I had to search far and wide. But as always, it depends where you stay and what you like. A few of my favorites are: Capital M, Moka Bros, Susu, Georg, Okra.
There is so much to see in Beijing four days was not sufficient to dive in and see everything, but if you have more time a few places worth looking into are:
- Forbidden City
- Great Wall of China
- Tiananmen Square
- Temple of Heaven
- Summer Palace
- Yonghe Temple
- Beihai Park
- Ming tombs
- Jingshan Park
- Juyong Pass
- National Museum of China
- Beijing National Stadium
- Beijing Ancient Observatory
- Niujie Mosque
Language: Traditional Chinese also referred to as Pinyin
Climate: The average temperature has been estimated at 27°C (81°F) and the coldest is January at -4°C (25°F) (can be cooler) with the most sunshine hours at 12 in June.
Currency: RMB aka Renminbi
Credit Cards and Banks: All restaurants and hotels accept Visa and Mastercard, most accept American Express, but always carry cash: A lot of street vendors only accept cash.
Australia or Thailand! Still undecided. Cheers 🙂