24 Hours in Beijing: what to do, where to eat and what to see
If you are following me on Instagram, you would have seen that I had a quick stop-over in Beijing on my way to Seoul. China wants to attract tourist business and allows stop-overs of various lengths in its major cities if you are travelling to a third county. I decided to use this opportunity to see two countries in one trip, as having a stop-over in China did not increase the price of my ticket.
At first, I thought to make a dash for the Great Wall, but when I decided against it. I have never been to Beijing and its Forbidden City can easily be called another Wonder of the World. I decided to stay put and discover what Beijing had to offer.
Start the day with a visit to the Forbidden City. I was astonished how big it is and even though I spent about 4 hours in there, I do not think I saw everything which was open for visitors. I suggest you go as early as possible to allow your head and eyes to take in as many sites as you can manage. If you are travelling with kids, you can take the buggy and there are plenty of seats /benches inside, so you will be able to rest whenever you like. Also there are plenty of food and drink options inside, which is helpful if you are visiting on a hot day or did not bring any food with you.
Top tip: Please do not forget your passport, as in order to get to the Forbidden City you need to go through the security gates at Tiananmen Square and when you buy your entrance ticket they will also scan your passport.
I took an audio guide, which was only 40 RMB and the device is clever, as it tracks your movements via GPS and will automatically start telling you about an object/building once you approached it. No need to press buttons and there is a handy map to show where you have already visited.
I am not going to write how beautiful Forbidden City is and will let the pictures do the job. Enjoy!
Don’t be afraid to visit Beijing Hutongs, which are traditional streets and alleyways where a lot of people still live. At first I was hesitant to go, as I was worried I will get lost and would not know my way around. I have downloaded maps.me app and was relieved to discover that the offline maps are pretty reliable and I used them everywhere, while walking in Beijing. In hutongs you are never too far from the main street or a big road, so wander to your heart content! And the names of majority of the hutongs are in English, which is helpful, some of them even have plaques telling you who lived in a particular building or a little bit about the history of a particular hutong. For lunch you can start at Nanluogu Xiang street, as it is full of little restaurants and street food vendors, and then venture into any of the hutongs around.
After all this walking around, you deserve a big and relaxing dinner. It may be a cliche, but I suggest you go for Peking duck restaurant, as you don’t have that much time in Beijing and it is one of the specialties here. It is worth it, I can assure you!
I chose Siji Minfu restaurant, it was very easy to find, just a few steps from the main Wangfujing street. If you come and there is a queue, take the number and ask how long you will need to wait. They are pretty accurate with their timings, so if it is a long wait you can go to Wangfujing street to do some souvenir shopping if you want. I was impressed with the quality of duck, they present it beautifully and also show you how to eat it in the correct way. I did not know, but you can dip crispy duck skin into sugar, which intensifies the flavour somehow. They cook the ducks on site, so you would be able to see the process and there are plenty of chefs around preparing the duck for other customers, which is a lesson in knife skills on its own!