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I’ve been living here in China’s capital city for over three years now. In that time, I’ve played tour guide on numerous occasions, whether it be for friends visiting, couch surfers, or whoever else ends up hanging out with me and wanting to explore this amazing city. Even after three years, there are still some things that I have yet to see in Beijing; it really is that big with that much to do. That being said, I realize that most people who come here simply as tourists rarely have more than a few days to spend here, before heading off to see other famous sites such as the Terra Cotta Army in Xi’an or the bustling Bund of Shanghai. In an effort to help you plan for a potential visit to Beijing, while also helping you improve your Chinese at the same time, here’s a short crash course guide to the city I’ve called home since 2008. First, here’s the whole itinerary in Chinese:
Learn some Beijing related vocabulary with this video I made.
Now, here it is broken down with pinyin and English translations:
dì yì tiān
The 1st Day
zǎo shàng: nǐ yīng gāi zǎo qǐ. xiān qù tiān’ān mén guǎng chǎng, kàn shēng guó qí yí shì. rán hòu qù qián mén dà jiē chī zǎo cān, xiū xi yí xià. běi jīng rén xǐ huan chī zhōu, hē dòu zhī.
Early morning: You should get up early. First, go to Tiananmen Square to see the flag raising ceremony. Then, go to Qianmen Street to eat breakfast and have a rest. Beijingers like to eat porridge and drink soybean milk.
shàng wǔ: qù běi jīng guī huà zhǎn lǎn guǎn, kàn shì jiè shàng zuì dà de chéng shì guī huà mó xíng zhī. yīn wèi wǒ bú tài xǐ huan gù gōng, suǒ yǐ wǒ jué de nǐ yīng gāi tiào guò tā. nǐ kě yǐ qù jǐng shān gōng yuán. nà lǐ de fēng jǐng hěn měi. nǐ kě yǐ kàn dào lǎo běi jīng (gù gōng) hé xīn běi jīng (CBD).
Late morning: Go to the Beijing Planning & Exhibition Hall to see the word’s largest urban planning model. Since I don’t really like the Forbidden City, I think you can skip it. You can go to Jingshan Park. The scenery there is beautiful. You can see old Beijing (the Forbidden City) and new Beijing (the CBD).
xià wǔ: zhǎo yì jiā fàn diàn, chī wǔ cān. nǐ zuì hào chī zhá jiàng miàn. chī wán fàn hòu, nǐ yīng gāi qù hòu hǎi. xià tiān de shí hou, nǐ kě yǐ zuò chuán. dōng tiān de shí hou nǐ kě yǐ liū bīng. nà’er yǒu hěn duō jiǔ bā, fàn diàn, hé shāng diàn. nǐ yě kě yǐ kàn běi jīng de hú tòng.
Afternoon: Find a restaurant and eat lunch. You’d better eat fried bean paste noodles. After lunch, you should go to Hou Hai Lake. In the summer, you can go boating. In the winter, you can go ice skating. There are a lot of bars, restaurants, and shops there. You can also see Beijing’s hutongs (alleyways).
wǎn shàng: xiān qù wáng fǔ jǐng dà jiē. wǎn shàng de shí hou, nà’er yǒu gè yè shì. nǐ kě yǐ mǎi jì niàn pǐn, chī xiǎo chī. rán hòu, nǐ yīng gāi qù quán jù dé. nà shì gè zhù míng de fàn diàn. tā men zuò běi jīng de tè sè cài – běi jīng kǎo yā. chī wán fàn hòu, nǐ kě yǐ qù kàn jīng jù huò zhě zá jì. yīn wéi míng tiān hái yào zǎo qǐ, nǐ zuì hǎo huí jiǔ diàn shuì jiào.
Evening: First go to Wangfujing Street. In the evening, there’s a night market. You can buy souvenirs and eat snacks. After that, you should go to Quan Ju De. That’s a famous restaurant. They make Beijing’s specialty – Beijing roast duck. After diner, you can go to see Beijing opera or the acrobats. Since tomorrow you also have to get up early, you’d better go back to the hotel to sleep.
dì èr tiān
The 2nd Day
zǎo shàng: jīn tiān nǐ qù cháng chéng. máo zhǔ xí shuō guò, “bú dào cháng chéng, fēi hǎo hàn.” nǐ kě yǐ dǎ chē huò zhě zuò gōng jiāo chē. wǒ tuī jiàn nǐ qù mù tián yù cháng chéng. nà’er bǐ bā dá lǐng cháng chéng hǎo
Early morning: Today you’re going to the Great Wall. According to Chairman Mao, “You aren’t a real man until you’ve climbed the Great Wall.” You can get a taxi or take the bus there. I recommend you go to Mutianyu Great Wall. It’s better than Badaling Great Wall.
A video I made about a trip to the Mutianyu Great Wall.
xià wǔ: huí dào shì lǐ, hē chá, xiū xi.
Afternoon: Go back to Beijing city, drink some tea, and have a rest.
wǎn shàng: qù guǐ jiē. nà’er yǒu hěn duō fàn diàn. nǐ yīng gāi chī huǒ guō. rú guǒ nǐ xǐ huan kàn yí xià běi jīng de yè shēng huó, nǐ zuì hǎo qù sān lǐ tún. qù yì jiā jiǔ bā, hē jiǔ, liáo tiān, tiào wǔ.
Evening: Go to Ghost Street. There are a lot of restaurants there. You should eat hot pot. If you want to see Beijing’s nightlife, you’d better go to Sanlitun. Go to a bar, drink some booze, chat, and dance.
SLT – the place to be for nightlife in Beijing.
dì sān tiān
The 3rd Day
shàng wǔ: yīn wèi nǐ hěn lèi, suǒ yǐ nǐ yīng gāi shuì lǎn jiào. zǎo cān nǐ yīng gāi chī gè jiān bing. jīn tiān nǐ qù yí hé yuán. nà’er hěn piào liang. wǒ zuì xǐ huan qù yí hé yuán.
Late morning: Since you are really tired, you should sleep in. For breakfast, you should eat a jian bing (egg pancake). Today, you’re going to the Summer Palace. It’s very beautiful. The Summer Palace is my favorite place to go.
xià wǔ: nǐ kě yǐ qù 798 yì shù qū. nà’er yǒu hěn duō yì shù huà láng hé kā fēi guǎn. zài zhè’er kàn yì shù pǐn, chī fàn, hē kā fēi. xià wǔ sì diǎn nǐ yīng gāi qù běi jīng gǔ lóu, zhōng lóu.
Afternoon: You can go to 798 Art District. There are a lot of art galleries and cafes. Here, you can look at art, eat, and drink coffee. At 4 PM, you should go to the Beijing Drum and Bell Towers.
wǎn shàng: wǒ de péng yǒu men yǒu yì jiā cān ba zài gǔ lóu de páng biān. tā jiào “sì jiǎo cān ba.” zài zhè’er chī fàn, hé jī wěi jiǔ, tīng yīn yuè. rú guǒ nǐ shì gè yè māo zi, nǐ yě kě yǐ qù gōng tǐ. nà’er yǒu hěn duō yè diàn.
Evening: My friends have a bar/restaurant next to the Drum Tower. It is called “4 Corners.” Here, you can eat, drinks cocktails, and listen to music. If you are a night owl, you can go to the Worker’s Stadium. There are a lot of nightclubs there.
Wow… that was a helluva tour, right? I know it seems like a lot, but it’s totally doable. Plus, if you’re only going to be spending 3 days here, you might as well take full advantage of them and try to do as much as you possibly can. After all, this city has a 3,000 year history, so anything less would be selling it short. I’ll leave you with something that I’ve heard countless times since moving here back at the time of the 2008 Olympics – Beijing welcomes you (北京欢迎你! – běi jīng huān yíng nǐ)!!