The Ultimate Guide to Visiting Beijing with kids

The Ultimate Guide to Visiting Beijing with kids

Beijing is where modern meets ancient in China, while the rest of China is changing at a rapid pace, Beijing being the capital city, seems to to be more respectful of their culture and history. That makes it the prefect place to visit with kids.

Beijing has a population of over 22 million people, nearly the same as the whole of Australia and ancient China was not built to accommodate that amount of people. Beijing is a massive metropolis and changing rapidly but they are trying to maintain some of the history and cultural sites particularly given this is what tourist are going there to see. 

You’re also welcome to join my Hong Kong & China Travel Planning Facebook group – it’s a great resource for all things travel in Hong Kong & China!

I’ve heard people complain about the traffic in Beijing and the smog and I can honestly say,  having been there, that neither of these things were an issue. There are also lots of traffic accidents but they are managed well and cleared very quickly. We were there in the summer, it was very hot and we expected a lot of smog and pollution but overall it wasn’t that bad. I travelled with someone that has asthma and she didn’t have any episodes throughout the whole trip. The Chinese refer to it as ‘haze’ and you often do get haze in Asian countries. 

Beijing with kids

The next question most people ask is about communication, there are communication barriers in China and sometimes it can be difficult. In the major cities you’ll find it a lot easier than some of the smaller cities. If this happens be patient, ask someone for help and if all else fails google translate or any other translating device would be useful. Most restaurant menus have pictures so make use of those. 

Heading to Shanghai as well, we’ve got you covered with our Shanghai with kids, Our ultimate guide!

Beijing with kids
The kids will love these guys!

Now that the one child policy has been lifted you’ll see children everywhere.  The Chinese are now allowed to have two children and with the increase in overall wealth, you’ll note that they are taking full advantage of the lifted ban. 

Great Wall of China

No visit to Beijing is complete without a visit to the Great Wall of China. There are a number of different tours and options for visiting the Great Wall and some are more crowded than others. Some are closer to Beijing than others and some include other experiences within the day tour. It really depends on how much time you have and how fit you are. 

Beijing with kids
The Great Wall of China is a highlight of any visit to Beijing

My advice is choose a tour that gives you the maximum amount of time to experience one of the world’s greatest tourist attractions. My biggest regret is that we didn’t have enough time on my visit (you can read about my TripADeal experience here).  

There are 9 different spots to visit the Great Wall of China from Beijing, the image below sets it out quite clearly. 

Beijing with kids

1. Mutianyu

Fully restored and most popular with foreign tourist, this is rated as the most child friendly section of the Great Wall. This section offers a cable car both up and down and a cart railway down. This section is about a 90 minute drive from Beijing. You can walk between Mutianyu and Jiankou in 4 hours. If you have a private driver, I would do the walk and get the driver to pick you up from Jiankou. 

2. Jinshanling

Very popular for hiking, this part of the wall is partly restored and partly original. This section is a little further from Beijing, around a 2-3 hours drive. However, it is reportedly the most picturesque area of the Great Wall but a decent level of fitness is required. You can hike Jinshanling and Gubeikou over 5 hours or between Jinshanling to Simatai over 3 hours. You’ll need a whole day to visit this section of the Great Wall. 

The recommended tour below is a private charter which includes transport from Beijing to Jinshanling, there are no other group tours available for this section of the wall. This does mean the tour is more expensive than others listed but it does include a visit to the Gubei Water Town.

3. Jiankou

The most dangerous section of the Great Wall, its steep and challenging and requires a high level of fitness. The section crosses mountain ridges and is totally unrestored. This area is a 3 hour drive from Beijing and you’ll require a full day to visit this section of the wall.

3. Simatai

A very popular section of the Great Wall and the only section that runs a night tour. Also a 2-3 hour drive from Beijing this part of the wall boasts many activities that would be fun for kids. Activities include cable cars, battery cars and you can even zip line across to the West Wall and there are boats on the reservoir to the East Tower. As this section is quite far from Beijing it is one of the quieter sections of the wall.

5. Huanghuacheng

Noted for its water scenery as the Great Wall is partly submerged in water and offers some gorgeous ancient unrestored areas to photograph. This is one of the few sections of the Great Wall you can camp on, best time for camping is late March to September. This section is a 90 minute drive from Beijing.

6. Gubeikou

An historically significant section of the Great Wall, 130 plus battles happened here and it provided protection to Beijing from the northern Mongols. This section is totally unrestored and is a 2 hour drive from Beijing. Its another quiet section due to being classed as a difficult climbing section.

7. Juyongguan

This is the section of the Great Wall I visited during my trip, this is home to the greatest of the remaining Great Wall forts. It’s 90 minutes from Beijing and is one of the busiest sections of the wall, it’s also wheelchair friendly and suitable for disabled persons. While it’s rated as busy, in my experience I found it to be quite comfortable and not overcrowded. Our tour guide told us that Genghis Khan once led his troops over this section of the Great Wall in an attempt to conquer the Chinese and claim Beijing, its an historically significant section of the wall and very well restored for this reason.

Beijing with kids
I was beyond excited to be visiting Juyongguan section of the Great Wall

8. Huangyaguan

This is where the Great Wall marathon is held each May so if you are visiting during May I would do a bit more research to ensure you’re not there then. This is also another very popular and crowded section of the Great Wall as you are able to get a sightseeing bus to the top of the mountain. Its a 2-3 hour drive from Beijing and is fully restored.

9. Badaling

This section of the Great Wall is very popular with Chinese tourists and is always very crowded. I don’t recommend you visit this section if you can help it. It’s also fully restored and about 3.5 hours from Beijing. There are cable cars at this site for accessing parts of the wall and the Great Wall Museum is located at this site. It is wheelchair friendly in parts.

Camping on the Great Wall of China

There are now a few different areas you can camp on the Great Wall of China. My kids would definitely love something like this, we love a good camping trip. You will have to book directly, I found a great company Great Wall Camping, they offer various options on different parts of the Great Wall with varying levels of fitness required. Some are 1 night others are 2 nights and the hikes between are graded by fitness level. Some sections of the Great Wall can be strenuous and steep, so make sure you read carefully and don’t overstate your fitness level. Click the link and check out which ones would be best for you and your family.

Beijing with kids
You can camp in the towers, I would love to this with the kids

Ming Dynasty Tombs

Also known as the Thirteen Tombs of the Ming Dynasty, they are a collection of mausoleums built during the Ming Dynasty. Built on Tianshou Mountain the site was chosen based on principles of feng shui. Thirteen Ming Dynasty Emperors were buried in the same area. The Ming Tombs were listed as UNESCO World Heritage Site in August 2003.

The Ming Dynasty Tombs are best done as part of a tour of the Great Wall of China. There are a couple of options but I suggest you go with the more experienced one below that includes Juyongguan pass rather than Badaling. Reason being Badaling is much more crowded and is very popular with Chinese tourists.

Ancient Hutongs of Beijing

The Hutongs of Beijing are where old meets new. The Hutongs show how life use to be for all of Beijing before the population exploded and they needed to build apartment blocks to house everyone. Hutong means ‘narrow street’ in Mandarin.

Many of Beijing’s Hutongs have been demolished to make room for new roads and buildings but the remaining ones are mostly protected to preserve the Chinese cultural history and are in themselves a tourist attraction. Hutongs were first established during the Yuan Dynasty which was between 1279-1368. The Hutongs all have names, generally relating to an area, land mark and some are named after people.

There are more than 35 Hutongs still remaining in Beijing. Private homes in the Hutongs don’t have washrooms and the local people share them like in holiday parks. Yet homes in the Hutongs are worth millions, everyone wants to live the traditional way in Beijing and not in the high-rise apartment buildings so many of the Hutong homes are passed down from generation to generation.

I definitely recommend a visit to a Hutong, if not just to see old China but the canals and lakes are really pretty as well. If you can, do a Hutong Tour by rickshaw.

Tiananmen Square

We visited Tiananmen Square on our tour, our guide told us before we got off the bus not to ask about the ‘Tank Man’ incident that didn’t happen, he had a slight smirk on his face when he said it. He also suggested that when we got off the bus, we would be best not to mention it. Chinese censorship at its best.

We were in China for the 30th Anniversary of ‘June Fourth Incident’, not surprisingly there was no mention of it in China. We where at Tiananmen Square on the 12th June, just one week later. Would the Chinese Government react in the same way if those events happened today? It hard to know but probably likely. As i write this there are protests in Hong Kong so we might just see soon how they deal with problems in the 21 century.

Beijing with kids
Tiananmen Square with Chairman Mao front and centre

Tiananmen, meaning ‘Gate of Heavenly Peace’ (ironic), is the gate located to the north of the square separating it from the Forbidden City. Tiananmen Square is home to the Monument to the People’s Heroes, Great Wall of the People, National Museum of China and Mausoleum of Mao Zedong. Tiananmen Square is in the top ten largest square’s in the world, significant historical events took place here including Chairman Mao’s proclamation of the founding of the People’s Republic of China in the square on October 1, 1949.

Visiting Tiananmen Square is free however I recommend doing on a tour which includes the Forbidden City below. See links under Forbidden City.

The Forbidden City

Located right next to Tiananmen Square and separated by the Tiananmen Gate, is a palace complex containing 980 buildings and covering 72 hectares (180 acres). It’s the home of the Palace Museum which now manages the site that, since 2012, receives 15 million visitors annually. This has led to a daily cap of 80,000 visitors.

The Forbidden City is the former Chinese Imperial Palace and was utilised by Emperors and their families from the Ming Dynasty through to the end of the Qing Dynasty, nearly 500 years (1420-1912). Its a great example of traditional Chinese palatial architecture and influenced many others in East Asia.  The Forbidden City was declared a World Heritage Site in 1987.

Beijing with kids
One of the main buildings in the Forbidden City, one of China's most significant tourist attractions

One of the main buildings in the Forbidden City, one of China’s most significant tourist attractions

I highly recommend doing a tour of both Tiananmen Square and the Forbidden City, you will find it so much more informative than visiting independently. I have provided a link to a tour I recommend below.

Note that the Forbidden City is closed on Mondays. Also, the link below states Forbidden City Only Tour but the tour does commence in Tiananmen Square.

Beijing Olympic Village

Do you remember the hype around the Birds Nest and Ice Cube prior to the 2008 Beijing Olympics? I certainly do! Our hotel was located right near the Olympic Village and we were able to walk over there and explore. It was nice to see but not sure I would go out of my way to see it.

Beijing with kids
The Birds Nest from the 2008 Beijing Olympics

I have included a link above for a Tiananmen Square, Forbidden City and Beijing Olympic Village Tour, I recommend doing a tour such as that as you wouldn’t really want to spend to much time there. You are best to visit at night when the its lit up like a Christmas tree, we went during the day and the night photos were so much better.

Did you know Beijing is hosting the 2022 Winter Olympics? They have a countdown clock in the Olympic village and they are getting very excited about being on the world stage again.

Beijing with kids
Do you remember the Beijing Mascots?

Beijing Zoo

Beijing Zoo’s main attraction is the Giant Panda enclosure which has been recently upgraded. They’re the main attraction and their enclosure is much better than any other in the zoo. I have to be honest, I don’t recommend this as a tourist attraction. However if you really want to see Giant Pandas and you are unable to get to Chengdu then this is probably the only other option.

The rest of the zoo is very much a zoo of old, lots of concrete enclosures and not a lot of stimulation for the animals. I found it quite a sad place and some of the enclosures, particularly the gorgeous tiger one was quite confronting.

Beijing with kids
I'm looking at you, they are adorable

To be entirely honest, I think the giant pandas were even showing signs of stress. One was pacing up and down and another was sitting and very disinterested. Such a majestic gorgeous animal and they were separated and in single enclosures and it just didn’t feel great.

If you can, get to Chengdu and visit the Chengdu Research Base of Giant Panda as it’s a much better experience and you won’t leave sad. The recommended tour below includes a visit to the Beijing Zoo but also includes a visit to the Summer Palace and Lama Temple.

Summer Palace & Lama Temple

Built in 1750 by the Qing Dynasty, the Summer Palace covers an area of over 3 square kilometres three quarters of which are underwater. The main attractions include Longevity Hill & Kunming Lake and is home to a large & priceless collection of cultural relics which are under special State protection.

In 1998 the Summer Palace and surrounding gardens were added to the UNESCO World Heritage List, it was declared a masterpiece of Chinese landscape garden design.

The Lama Temple was built in 1694 by the Qing Dynasty, its a combination of Han Chinese and Tibetan styles. Also known as the Yonghe Temple or the Palace of Peace and Harmony. After Emperor Yongzheng’s death in 1735, his coffin was placed in the temple.

The temple and monastery also houses the Gelug School of Tibetan Buddhism. There are 5 main halls in the temple, Gate Hall of Harmony and Peace, Hall of Harmony and Peace, Hall of Everlasting Protection, Hall of the Wheel of the Law and Pavilion of Ten Thousand Happinesses.

Both these attractions are visited on the Historic Beijing Tour linked above.

Temple of Heaven

Another UNESCO World Heritage Site, the Emperors of the Ming and Qing Dynasties would visit annually to pray for a good harvest. The three gabled circulate structure in the middle is the Hall of Prayer for Good Harvests, reminding us that central Beijing was once farm land! Construction started in 1406 and completed in 1420 and is a masterpiece of architecture and landscape design in Beijing.

The Temple grounds cover almost 3 square kilometres of parkland and is made up of three main groups of constructions. The gardens are tranquil and calm and this site remains a very popular tourist attraction for people visiting Beijing and a significant place of worship for the Chinese.

Chaoyang Theatre Acrobatic Show

Showcasing the best of Chinese acrobatics and choreographed to dramatic cultural music and telling the history of China, you’ll be blown away by the tricks and death defying acts. With bright eye catching costumes, this is a show not to be missed. The tickets in the link below are for VIP seating so you’ll be front and centre for all the action.

Beijing with kids
These guys will blow you away, their talent is undeniable

We didn’t see this show however we did see a similar one in Shanghai and it was definitely worth going to. You’ll be surprised at the skills and won’t be able to take your eyes of the stage. You can also couple this experience with a Peking Duck Banquet to make a real night of it!

Beijing Food Culture & Cooking Class

Dining in China is a highlight and taking a cooking class and learning some classic Chinese dishes is a wonderful way to bring a little slice of China home with you that you can then share with family and friends. Your friends will be impressed when you serve up perfect dumplings and sweet and sour pork.

The tour includes going to the market and hand picking all the ingredients you need for your cooking class. You’ll then be guided by expert chefs to expertly create two of China most recognisable dishes!

Silk St/Pearl St Shopping Centres

For all your souvenirs and gifts for family and friends, Silk St and Pearl St are the perfect place to go. Bartering is king, you should expect to barter hard and play the game. In my experience if you walk off and they’re smiling they’ve done well on price, however if they are upset and annoyed you’ve round about hit the mark. Just remember if the price is too low, they won’t sell it to you, aim for the middle ground and make them work for it.

The shopping centres consist of about 5-6 floors and I suggest you look around first and then go back and make your purchases, it gives you a good idea of prices. There is a lot of the same stuff so visiting one or the other will be enough. I visited both and felt there was not a lot of difference.

Legends of Kung Fu Show

Have you really been to China if you haven’t seen a Kung Fu Show?

China is the home of Kung Fu and the skills of these Kung Fu Masters who have perfected their skills over years of practice and training is definitely worth a visit. This ancient culture is steeped in Chinese history and this exciting visual performance follows the story of a young boy found wandering outside an ancient temple.

Beijing with kids
A must see show in the home of Kung Fu

A mixture of Kung Fu, dance and acrobatics, there is no talking in this show the choreographed experience is a fusion of modern dance with Chinese traditional marital arts, it’s a definite crowd pleaser especially for little boys who will no doubt want to try out those skills on their sisters!

Chinese Tea Class

The benefits of drinking green tea is well researched and Chinese green tea is known to be the best in the world. I visited a tea plantation and learnt how to pour the tea, all about the healing properties and how green tea cleans your internal organs. Tea has been part of the Chinese culture for 5000 years.

Beijing with kids

You’ll participate in a tea ceremony in a tranquil garden located near the Forbidden City, learn about the rich history, culture and customs associated with traditional Chinese tea ceremony. There are over 1000 different teas being cultivated in China with green tea being the most popular.

Traditional Cupping Experience

Have you ever had cupping done? I have and it was amazing. It was a little Chinese massage place near Victoria Market in Melbourne. Not quite the same as in Beijing!

The therapeutic methods in cupping date back to the Han Dynasty, it removes impurities and increases circulation in the body. Cupping is said to have many benefits from relieving chronic illnesses such as high blood pressure, relieving small short term problems such as neck pain or congestion from a common cold. The experience goes for 15-30 minutes and you’ll experience a relieving and relaxing experience.

Peking Opera Experience

The Liyuan Theatre is an attraction in itself but to experience a 70 minute opera experience with traditional dramatic costume combined with music, singing, mime, dance and acrobatics its a show you’ll never forget.

The theatre has instant interpretation service that translates to English and Japanese ensuring that you can watch the amazing performance and understand the story behind the show. An unforgettable experience and very traditional show.

Do you need a visa to visit China?

The short answer is yes but there are a few exceptions.

Transit without visa policy (TWOV)

24 hour Transit visa Exemption

To increase tourist numbers, China is now issuing 24 hour transit visa exemptions for some countries, Australia is one of them.  Travellers must have an onward flight booked leaving within 24 hours from arrival. The 24 hour transit visa exemption is available to all foreigners and from most ports of arrival.

72 - 144 hour Transit visa Exemption

Passport holders of 49 countries may be eligible for transit visa exemptions for stays of 72 – 144 hours provided they are transiting through specific airports such as: Shanghai, Jiangsu, Zhejiang, Guangdong, Beijing, Tianjin, Hebei, Shenyang, Dalian, Liaoning, Xiamen, Qingdao, When, Chengdu and Kunming.

Australia and New Zealand are eligible for this exemption as with 25 Schengen countries in Europe, 15 other European countries, 6 countries in North and South America and 11 countries in Asia and the Middle East. You will need to contact the Chinese Embassy nearest to you for further information or click here for a list of the countries that participate.

Tourist Visa (L Visa)

To successfully obtain a Chinese tourist visa you will need to show one of two things, you can either obtain a Letter Of Invitation issued by a resident of Mainland China or a company based in Mainland China or produce your paid round-trip tickets plus the hotel reservations for the duration of your stay in Mainland China. The hotel reservations will need to cover every date that you will be in country.

This means you’ll need to be very organised! One option is to book hotels on any aggregator site, such as Booking.com, Agoda.com or Expedia.com. These generally have free cancellation up to a certain date prior to arrival (sometimes only 24-48 hours), this way you can cancel should you need to and not be out of pocket if for whatever reason you are not granted a visa.

Beijing with kids
The Beijing Drum Tower

For Australians, lodging your Chinese Visa application is straight forward provided you have the correct information, along with two passport photos and the application form. Chinese Visa Application Service Centres are located in Melbourne, Sydney, Canberra, Brisbane and Perth. You will need to return to collect your passport containing your visa 3 days later.

Chinese visas are not cheap, when applying in Melbourne I paid AU$109 and multi entry visas are even more expensive. Others have applied for their Chinese visas in other parts of Asia and have reported that it’s substantially cheaper. You’ll need to contact the Chinese Embassy in whatever country you’re in for further details.

I always get my visa information for every country from the Australian Government Smarttraveller website (link takes you to current information regarding entry and exit to China), it provides you with a Chinese Visa checklist, so you can make sure you have the correct paperwork ensuring you only have to lodge it once. There are so many different visas for China, however I’m only covering the L class tourist visa, click here to view other forms of visa.

Choosing the best hotels in Beijing with kids

The best place to stay in Beijing with kids is definitely as central to the activities you want to do and see. Beijing is a huge sprawling city and finding the best hotel and geographical area in Beijing can be difficult.  That’s ok though, I’ve made it easy for you, see below recommendations and breakdown of areas.

Top 5 areas of Beijing for tourists

Below I have broken down the best places to stay in Beijing and recommended a luxury, mid-range and budget hotel. When recommending hotels I generally stick to luxury – 5 star, mid-range – 4 star and budget – 3 star.

Wangfujing

Rated by many as the best place to stay in Beijing for tourists, this area enables you to walk to many of the main attractions including the Forbidden City and Tiananmen Square. There is also a good variety of shopping options in this area as well as restaurants with both local and western options. Wangfujing is located on subway line one and it’s well connected to other subway lines making getting around very easy.

Qianmen

Another very popular place to stay in Beijing and the historical centre of Old Beijing. Located south of Tiananmen Square, this area is popular for first time visitors to Beijing. Close to Mao’s Mausoleum and the Chinese Museum, the area is renowned as Beijing’s foodie area, perfect for those wanting to try Peking Duck a national delicacy. This is also the main Muslim district, halal food is widely available.

Houhai & Nanluoguxiang

Where old meets new in Beijing, this area is close to the Hutongs, Bell & Drum Towers and Lama Temple. Beijing’s emerging area popular with the younger generation searching for vintage clothes and up and coming local designers. Home to Beijing’s biggest lake, perfect for strolling around in summer and transforms into an ice rink during the winter. Known for its convenient public transport options making getting around Beijing so much easier.

Chaoyang/ Sanlitun

Perfect for the business traveller, Chaoyang is home of the Beijing Central Business District and full of skyscrapers, office buildings, hotels, international companies and foreign Embassies. This is one of the largest districts in the central area and plays host to one of the best shopping, dining, and party areas in the whole city. Also home to Beijing 2008 Summer Olympics Village, you can still visit the Bird’s Nest and Water Cube both of which are in Chaoyang District. Sanlitun is popular for its rich nightlife and is popular with the younger generation.

798 District

If 798 District was in Melbourne it would be full of hipsters! Here you’ll find Beijing’s finest art galleries and exhibitions and fantastic street art. You won’t go hungry with a variety of hip and quirky cafes and boutique shops. Don’t miss the Yoko Ono exhibition and the North Korean collectibles store. This area lacks accommodation options.

Top places to eat in Beijing

Most of the restaurants in the touristy areas will have either pictures on the menu’s or someone that at least knows a little bit of English. If you are in an area not usually frequented by tourists it is unlikely you will be able to communicate easily. If you download a translator app that will normally get you through, the serve staff do make an effort to communicate.

I recommend eating local dishes when in Beijing, dumplings are a must and of course when in Beijing, Peking duck must be on the menu as least once. You can eat very cheaply in Beijing or you can splash out at some world class restaurants. Below I have made a recommendation for each area of Beijing:

 

Wangfujing – Wangfujing Snack Street – a pedestrian laneway filled with food stalls with food options from all over China. Walk along and choose from pancakes, dumplings, noodles and scorpion skewers which the kids will love, it will be the cheapest dinner you have with dishes averaging AU$2.

Houhai – Kong Yi Ji Restaurant – a popular pricey restaurant within the Hutong and serves classic Shaoxing dishes such as zuixia (drunken shrimp) and dongpo rou (stewed pork) amongst a proliferation of calligraphy and antique furniture.

Qianmen – Qianmen Quanjude Roast Duck Restaurant – on the more expensive side but very popular for roast duck, note the photos of the famous people in the wall including Fidel Castro.

Sanlitun/Chaoyang – Baoyuan Dumpling Restaurant – affordable and very popular with kids, offers a huge selection of multi coloured dumplings, not much English but the menu is in English with photos.

798 District – Xian Wan Shi Restaurant – one of the oldest and an original restaurants in the 798 District famous for Hunan, Hubei and Sichuan cuisine.

You won’t have a problem finding delicious food in Beijing, just get out for a walk from your hotel and you’ll be certain to find somewhere decent to eat.

Getting to and from Beijing

As the capital city of China, there are many options for transport in and out of Beijing. Beijing has two airports, Beijing Capital International Airport (PEK), the primary airport and Beijing Nanyuan Airport (NAY). PEK is rated as the largest airport in Asia and the second busiest airport in the world. However, Beijing is building the Beijing New Airport due to open in 2019 and will likely become the world’s biggest airport with a total of 7 runways, knocking Atlanta off its top perch.

Terminal 1 of Beijing Capital Airport is for domestic flights and you’ll find a the following airlines flying domestically from Beijing: Fuzhou Airlines, Grand China Airlines Domestic, Capital Airlines, Hainan Airlines Domestic, Tianjin Airlines, Spring Airlines and Lucky Air.

China United Airlines is the only commercial airline operating from Nanyuan Airport and the airline flies domestically only. The airport is 13kms from Tiananmen Square, south of Beijing.

If travelling domestically you should also consider travelling on the China Rail system, I have written a comprehensive post on how to book the Beijing to Xian train tickets both in person and online. This guide can be used for booking all trains in China.

Beijing with kids
Quick and efficient, great option and you’ll see some of the country side

Getting around Beijing

There are many options for getting around Beijing, it can be challenging though due to the language barrier and the vast majority of signage is in Chinese.

Metered Taxi – metered taxis are cheap as many Beijinger’s don’t have cars, however that is slowly changing as the economy is currently bursting. You will experience difficulty communicating with many taxi drivers as it is likely they will only know the Chinese name of most places. We took a card from our hotel with the hotel address written in Chinese so we could get back and make it easier for the taxi driver. Beijing is massive and not all taxi drivers know every area which can make it a little difficult at times;

Didi App – Didi is a Chinese version of Uber, if you download the app, it will be much easier than attempting to communicate with taxi drivers that don’t speak English and minimising the risk of a miscommunication. The app will tell you the cost prior to getting in the car which will also minimise the chance of getting ripped off like I did!

Beijing with kids
Didi App, makes getting around so much easier

Beijing Subway –  like all subways Beijing’s train system appears overwhelming, however once you get in there and experience it, things will all fall into place. Due to the traffic congestion the Beijing subway has to be efficient, especially when you are moving 25 million people around this massive metropolis. The subway stations are clean and trains are always on time, they have to be to keep the city moving.

Beijing with kids
Overwhelming much!

Train stations are announced in Chinese and English, you can purchase Transportation Smart Card for longer stays or make sure you have plenty of loose change. Most stations you can buy your ticket from at the Customer Service Centre or self-service ticket vending machine. Tickets are issued for one day use only.

Some stations are only equipped with ticket vending machines which accept 1RMB coins or 5RMB and 10RMB banknotes, if you are having trouble ask someone for assistance, the Chinese are generally willing to help, a translator app will assist with the language barrier if required.

Beijing Bus – the Beijing bus network is one of the most extensive, affordable and widely used  forms of public transport with over 1200+ routes to get you to where you need to go. I don’t recommend using it over the subway as they are often crowded and are subject to the same traffic congestion as getting a taxi. Buses are great if you know where you are going as you’ll likely have significant language barriers.

Walk – I always recommend getting out and walking in new cities where possible. Obviously with Beijing being such a big city, you’ll be unable to walk everywhere. However, exploring by foot will enable you to experience things others normally wouldn’t if in a car.

Best time to visit Beijing with kids

Autumn and Spring are the recommended best seasons to visit Beijing, best time is September/October however May and early June is also a good time. Summer and winter experience extremes temperatures.

I visited Beijing in mid-June and we had fantastic weather although it was very humid. We had one overcast day but the rest were clear blue skies. We were incredibly lucky to get no rain.

Beijing has very distinct seasons, summer is hot and humid and experiences a good deal of rain. Winter is freezing and the city will be blanketed with a layer of snow for a good part of the January.

Beijing with kids
We had cracking weather, hot and humid but no rain in early to mid June

Smog and air pollution are an issue in Beijing, however it does tend to be worse in summer when it is muggy and smoggy as well as winter when it is cold as extra smog is created from keeping the homes and buildings heated.

The Chinese Government is rewarding people for purchasing new electric vehicles, this is reducing the air pollution and evidently will have a huge impact on pollution levels going forward.

What to pack when visiting Beijing with kids

Make sure you pack comfortable shoes that you can walk in and if visiting the Great Wall of China I recommend hiking shoes or hiking sandals. These will support your feet as most parts of the wall are steep and uneven.

A light rain jacket would also we beneficial, one that’s easy to pack. Layers in winter will be your best friend. That will mean you are prepared for all types of weather, you can layer up or down to keep you comfortable all day. Peel them on or off as needed.

When travelling I always recommend dressing respectfully when visiting religious and culturally significant locations. While China has no restrictions like other Asian countries, its always nice to respect local custom. Preferably no skimpy tops or really short skirts/shorts, dress appropriately for the weather and conditions.

I have the weather app on my iPhone and I download each city I will be visiting prior to leaving so I have a good idea of what weather conditions to expect over the first week. This helps with packing and ensure I’m prepared have have packed appropriately.

You will be able to purchase most things you need there if you have forgotten something.

Budget for visiting Beijing with kids

Budgets are always hard for me to recommend as I’m never really great at keeping to one!

Beijing is one of the more expensive cities in China which you would expect given it is the capital. However by western standards its still pretty reasonably priced. Hotels are of a high standard for what is charged and on the ground costs such as transportation are very affordable and efficient.

If you decide to travel independently around Beijing, you can save a good amount of money however you need to be patient and ask for help when you don’t understand.There is usually someone that will try and help you, particularly the younger generation.

Beijing with kids
Visiting independently will keep costs down but will be challenging

You might find doing a tour, most of which include hotel pick up and drop off, a much easier option. I recommend doing part tours and part independent, this will ensure you have a bit of a break from the challenges of independent travel. That’s not to say independent travel is impossible, its not, but its definitely more challenging and leaves you open to opportunistic scammers.

Do I recommend travelling to Beijing with kids

Definitely, Beijing is an amazing city and the highlight of course is visiting the Great Wall, no visit to Beijing is complete without a visit. There’s a lot of culture and history in Beijing and the oriental gardens and their ancient beginnings are definitely worth visiting.

I definitely recommend getting out and about in Beijing, it’s very safe and people are welcoming and happy to assist tourists. They are proud of their capital city and regardless of what the rest of the world thinks of their president, they are very complimentary of him.

Beijing with kids
Beijing Museum, filled with culture and history

I also think a mixture of independent and tours is perfect for visits to Beijing. I also recommend travelling by China rail fast train to other areas of China, including Xian, Shanghai and Chengdu.

Should you not yet be confident to tackle China independently, there are plenty of great and affordable China tours groups, covering everything from a week to 3 plus week tours. Tours are a great way to get your bearings and then you might be confident to return independently and explore an amazing country.

Have you been to Beijing? Do you have any questions? Please leave them in the comments section below and I’ll do my best to answer them for you.

Happy travels,

Sal, Craig and Our3kids.

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Beijing with kids

This Post Has 22 Comments

  1. Such an extensive post with lots of useful information. The Great Wall has been on my bucket list for a while and the pandas have been a favourite of mine since I was a kid. My parents would take me to London Zoo to see them 🙂

    1. Hi Wendy,

      Thanks for your comment.

      It is an extensive post, I hope you have found it helpful. If you can try and make the trip to Chengdu as the Beijing Zoo is very disappointing. I’m a fan of some zoo’s when their overall contribution to conservation outweighs the captivity issues but I found Beijing was a zoo of old, like they use to be before we knew better.

      Thanks
      Sal & Co.

  2. I visited the Great Wall of China years ago when I went there for a wedding. I can’t remember the name of the section but it was reasonably close to Beijing and was restored. It was beautiful and we saw a group of monks in their safran robes. Sadly, they were well ahead of us in the opposite direction so I couldn’t take photos. Generally, I thought China was interesting but I struggled with the dust and pollution, I hope it wasn’t too bad for your kids!

    1. Hi Delphine,

      Thanks for your comment.

      What an amazing place for a wedding, I’m sure the wedding photos would have been spectacular. Yes the wall has been restored at the busier sections for the benefit of tourism. If I ever get the opportunity to return I will definitely look at the less developed areas and hopefully camp out for a night. I little hike from one section to the other would be great too.

      Thanks
      Sal & Co.

  3. I really like this post, it has so much great information. I hope to visit the Great Wall. Some of it looks quite steep. I noticed on your chart that the quieter parts are the unrestored sections of the wall. A tour might be the way to go. Saving for future reference. And the Giant Pandas at Beijing Zoo would be a must too.

    1. Hi Tania,

      Thanks for your comment.

      Yes the unrestored sections definitely see less tourists. If I ever return I would love to hike between the sections and really get away from other people and explore the raw areas of the wall. I would also love to camp for a night as I think watching a sunset would be superb.

      I recommend travelling to Chengdu to see the pandas but yes if Beijing Zoo is your only option they are definitely worth seeing. Such majestic animals and so playful.

      Thanks
      Sal & Co.

  4. This is a great comprehensive guide. We had mixed emotions when we visited Beijing but I think overall we did enjoy it and we will visit again in the near future. We didn’t manage to do everything in this guide but we will try to tick a few more things off next time!

    1. Hi Nicola,

      Thanks for the comment.

      It is a comprehensive guide and I think it would be difficult to tick them all off, I did hope to cover just about something for everyone though! Choosing which section of the Great Wall to visit is always confusing so I tried to set that out as clearly as possible so people can choose a section that suits their particular interests.

      Thanks
      Sal & Co.

  5. Reading this post sure brought back amazing memories of my time in Beijing. I loved my time there and would love to go back to this region of China. Very detailed guide with handy tips for those first timers. 🙂 I did the Great Wall in January, and there was nobody (ok, it was bloody freezing cold but it was an amazing experience). 😀

    1. Hi Danik,

      Thanks for your comment, oh I bet it was freezing in January however a great way to beat the crowds! Was it covered in snow? I reckon seeing it covered in snow would definitely be worth freezing your butt off for!

      Glad you enjoyed the reminiscing! Beijing is a great city, I really want to go back as well.

      Thanks
      Sal & Co.

  6. This is such a comprehensive post on Beijing covering all useful information, a tourist needs to know. The Great Wall has been on my bucket list for a while and I would love to visit Beijing just for that. And for pandas. I so want to see a real one.

    1. Hi Ketki,

      Thanks for your comment.

      Oh you will love Beijing and the Great Wall is the icing on the cake. It has been on my bucket list for a long time, walking on the Great Wall was a little overwhelming for me, a real pinch yourself moment, I am incredibly lucky to have all the opportunities I had.

      Thanks
      Sal & Co.

  7. Although my daughter moved to Southeast Asia at the end of 2018, I have yet to visit the places she’s been, like Thailand, Vietnam, Malaysia, and India. With those higher on my priority list (because, hello, I miss my daughter!) I hadn’t given much thought to visiting China. But giant pandas are absolutely amazing creatures, and I’d love the chance to visit the Chengdu Research Base of Giant Panda. (I think I’ll skip the zoo, though, especially based on your experience.)

    1. Hi Sage,

      Thanks for your comment.

      Oh you must get there, Australian’s are well travelled in Asia however it might be a bit foreign for America’s as it isn’t close to home. Not many Australian’s travel to the Caribbean where you guys go all the time! I think you will love it. Its very different and the food is delicious. I really hope you do get over and experience Asia, however you might find yourself wanting to go back again and again!

      Thanks
      Sal & Co.

  8. Wow, this looks like an amazing and intense holiday even for adults. How did your kids handle it? Were they tired or constantly excited?

    1. Hi Mirela,

      Thanks for your comment.

      Yes was intense but all our holidays are intense. I’m a terrible itinerary planner and always try to pack to much into our day. Its one thing I really need to focus on going forward on our holidays. We all generally come home from our holiday needing another holiday but I have terrible FOMO and treat every place like I’ll never be returning.

      Thanks
      Sal & Co.

  9. This is really helpful thanks! I am really considering a visit in the near future but until recently I thought I might take a tour – something we rarely do but this post and a few others I have seen lately make me think I can do this independently which makes it far more attractive 🙂

    1. Hi Paula,

      Thanks for your comment.

      I would definitely do it independent, it will be challenging but definitely doable. While communication is difficult, the local people will make an effort to communicate and we were fine with menu’s most had pictures or were in English. There is always someone around that speaks English and they are happy to assist in my experience.

      Thanks
      Sal & Co.

  10. Whilst I don’t have kids, this is still a very helpful guide. I’ve always wanted to see Tiananmen Square and the Forbidden City. I know there’s a lot of censorship around what happened all those years ago – but I still think it would be a fascinating place to see. Thanks for a great guide!

    1. Hi Jim,

      Thanks for your comment.

      There are so many UNESCO World Heritage Sites in China and it really is an amazing place to visit. The censorship issues should decrease over the next decade as the younger generation know how to get around it with VPN’s and so forth. I think they will be a much more informed group of people going forward.

      It will be interesting to see how China deal with the current issues in HK going forward.

      Thanks
      Sal & Co.

  11. We’ve often talked about taking the kids to Asia but I’ve always been a bit hesitant. I love Europe but Asia seemed so much harder with kids. Beijing seems to be the perfect place to start! I’m so glad to hear about the lack of smog because my kids have asthma too. I know they’d just love to explore the Great Wall (I had no idea there was a cable car to part of it!) the acrobatics show and the kung fu show. I know that they’d love to see the Giant Pandas but that is so sad how they’re penned up. We’d skip that. Do you know if there’s another way to see the Panda’s outside the zoo?

    1. Hi Joanne,

      Thanks for your comment.

      I think a lot of people think that Asia is a bit overwhelming but it actually isn’t, its very easy and they local people generally love kids and will make a fuss of them and interact and make them feel very welcome. I know that people have real issues with the required vaccinations and I suppose if your kids aren’t use to it, it can be a bit of an ordeal. My kids are good now and only have a little of anxiety on the way.

      Thanks
      Sal & Co.

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