Thanks to an excellent public transport system visitors are able to reach many fascinating day-trip destinations without having to hire a car. Highlights of your visit to Beijing include the Great Wall of China (which can be accessed at several different sections), the sensational Summer Palace, Tianjin and the famous Terracotta Warriors. In addition, you can visit several cultural and historic destinations like Datong and Jimingyi and explore tomb complexes like the Ming Tombs, the Eastern Qing Tombs and the Western Qing Tomb. Outdoor enthusiasts can escape the city bustle to go hiking or walking through several outstanding scenic areas like the Fragrant Hills, Gouya Natural Scenic Area or the Miofengshan Pilgrimage Walk.
1.Badaling Pass and the Great Wall
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Visiting China’s Great Wall is a bucket-list experience for many visitors to Beijing. The Badaling section of the wall is generally acknowledged to be the best preserved section and is directly accessible from Beijing using public transport or by joining an organized day excursion. The Badaling section of the wall is about 7 meters wide at its base and to get a hint of the scale of the wall, this section could once accommodate ten soldiers walking side-by-side. You can ride up to the Badaling Pass by cable car and there is also a fun pulley system which runs from the parking lot. Walking between the 7th and 8th watchtowers is reputed to offer the best views.
Badaling, Great Wall of China, Yanqing, China
2.Caves of Zhoukoudian
The Caves at Zhoukoudian, also known at the Peking Man Site, is located about 30 miles southwest of Beijing. This interesting archaeological site, which is thought to be the cradle of Chinese civilization, was once home to human ancestors more than 700,000 years ago during the Paleolithic Age. The site consists of three separate cave systems where archaeologists have unearthed dozens of animal and human remains. Currently (2019) it is not possible to explore the caves but it is hoped that by 2020 visitors will be able to walk through the improved site again. In the meantime you can visit the on-site Zhoukoudian Site Museum to learn all about this national treasure.
Caves of Zhoukoudian, Beijing, Fangshan, China, Phone: +86-69-30-12-72
Chengde was once the summer residence of China’s elite emperors who sought escape from the oppressive summer heat of Beijing. A day trip to this beautiful mountain resort is a must for anyone interested in ancient Chinese architecture and culture. The massive palace complex took over 90 years to complete and comprises palaces, temples, lakes, gardens and forests covering a massive 6.1 square kilometers. The entire layout of the complex is a wonderful example of feng shui, the perfect harmony of nature and architecture. To round off your day you can visit a few of the beautiful Outer Temples which surround the palace complex. You can reach Chengde by train from Beijing.
Chengde, Hebei, China
Caundixia is an ancient rural village surrounded by beautiful mountain scenery, located about 90km west of Beijing. A visit to this little village will give visitors a glimpse into the rural past of China during the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644), and architecture enthusiasts will be able to see how important Feng Shui principals were employed in the layout of the village. The Beijing-style courtyards found in the village homes display intricate wood and stone carvings which vary from home to home according to the wealth and prestige of the original inhabitants. The best time to visit is during Chinese New Year or other festivals to get an intimate insight into Chinese culture and traditions.
Caundixia Village, Zhaitang Town, Mentougou District, China
Principally famous for its wealth of historic relics, Datong is one of several historical towns in China. Originally a capital city during the Northern Wei, when Buddhism spread rapidly through China, Datong is home to many temples, pagodas and other Buddhist buildings. History and architecture enthusiasts will have the chance to explore wonderful historic highlights like the Yungang Grottoes, the stunning Hanging Monastery, Shanhua Temple and the Datong Great Wall. You can find a detailed one/two day route on the website and explore at your own pace or join a guided tour from Beijing. Since most of the highlights are located a little distance from the city center you are advised to hire a car our use a taxi to get from place to place.
Datong, Shanxi, China
6.Eastern Qing Tombs
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The final resting place of the emperors, empresses and imperial concubines of the Qing Dynasty, the Eastern Qing Tombs are one of the best preserved tomb complexes in China. The tombs date back as far as 1644 and are located near central Beijing. In total, the complex is home to 15 tombs, of which the tomb of Emperor Shunzhi, the first emperor of the Qing Dynasty, is the finest and most prominently placed in the complex. As you pass through the Great Red Gate you will see tombs of different sizes, all linked by brick paths (called the “sacred way”). The tombs are elaborately decorated with marble, colored stone and gold. You can travel to the tombs using public transport or join a guided tour from Beijing.
Eastern Qing Tombs, Malanyu Town, Hebei, China
7.Fragrant Hills Park (Xiangshan Park)
Located in the Western Hills, 28km northwest of Beijing City, Fragrant Hills Park covers 400 acres of forested hills, providing an exceptional outdoor recreational area for Beijing residents and visitors. The best way to enjoy the beauty of the park is to take a cable-car ride along two scenic routes. Along the north route you can see the Spectacles Lake, the Study of Reading Heart and the Bright Temple, a large Tibetan complex built in 1780. The south route is equally beautiful offering access to Tranquility Green Lake, Fragrant Temple and the must-see Shuangqing Villa. The best time to visit to see the fall foliage is late October/early November.
Fragrant Hills Park, 40 Maimai St, Haidian District, Beijing, China
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8.Gouya Natural Scenic Area
Located just 40km from Beijing City center, the Gouya Natural Scenic Area is a wonderful place to visit to escape the hustle and bustle of the city for a few hours. Here you will find valleys, mountains, gorges and peaks as well as numerous temples waiting to be discovered. You can spend an entire day hiking along numerous trails or enjoy a range of other activities including rafting, fishing, rock climbing, picnicking, mountaineering and much more. The scenic area boasts at least 70 Taoist temples, some of which you can admire as you explore this unique and beautiful recreational area.
Gouya Natural Scenic Area, Deshengkou Village, Shisanling Country, Beijing, China
The Jietai Temple is located just 35km west of central Beijing. Here you will find one of the oldest royal Buddhist temples in Beijing, constructed way back in the Tang Dynasty (618 – 907). Expect to explore an extraordinary temple complex covering 11 acres and home to the largest ordination terrace in China. Here you can stand in the footsteps of hundreds of aspirant young monks and nuns who were initiated into Buddhism on this spot. Apart from admiring over 100 statues of Buddha and the amazingly preserved buildings, it is the sacred plants and flowers which attract visitors to the site. You need to see it for yourself to fully appreciate this beautiful and sacred place.
Jietai Temple, 2 Fu Shi Lu, Mentougou, Beijing
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Jimingyi is an ancient post station located about 150km from Beijing, en-route to Datong. Of interest to history and architecture enthusiasts, Jimingyi is well preserved and maintains its original layout as a walled square town with two gateways. In this historic town which dates back to the Yuan Dynasty (1206-1368) you can walk the narrow city alleyways to see temples, frescoes, typical lanes and courtyards. Numerous temples are a reminder of the town’s importance during the Ming Dynasty. The town is easily explored on foot and you can climb up to the top of the thick defensive walls for excellent views of the surrounding countryside.
Jimingyi, Huailai, Zhangjiakou, Hebei, China
Located 130km northeast of Beijing, visitors can find one of the best preserved sections of the Great Wall of China at Jinshanling. This particular section of the Great Wall is located in a mountainous area and is especially popular with hikers. As you make your way along this very scenic section you will come across inscriptions which date back to the mid 1500’s, when this part of the wall was rebuilt. There are no fewer than 31 impressive watch towers to admire as you walk the most popular hiking route from Jinshanling to Simatai, which should take you around four hours. This hike is easily accessible from Beijing using a direct bus or you can join a guided one-day hiking tour from the city.
Jinshanling, Luanping, Chengde, Hebei, China
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Fully deserving of its UNESCO World Heritage designation, Juyongguan Pass is an impressive defensive section of the Great Wall of China located about 60km from downtown Beijing. The imposing structure was responsible for keeping the ancient city of Beijing safe from marauding intruders from the north and is just as impressive today as when it was constructed between 770 – 476BC. You can explore the entire loop of the pass in a day – the eastern approach is less challenging than the steeper western approach and is suggested for less energetic visitors. There are two gate towers along the route which offer wonderful views of the surrounding area. You can explore at your own pace to join a guided tour from Beijing City.
Juyongguan, Changping, Beijing, China
13.Marco Polo Bridge (Lugou Bridge)
Located a mere 15km from the center of Beijing, the Marco Polo Bridge is worthy of a place on your list of day-trips from Beijing. The bridge got its’ name from the famous Italian explorer Marco Polo who was most impressed by the stone lions which line the bridge. The bridge spans the Yongding River and as you walk across the bridge you can admire 281 lion statues, one on each of the bridge’s supporting pillars. But that is not all; these are no ordinary lion statues and visitors will have some fun searching for many smaller lions hidden within the larger statues. (It is believed that there are over 480 statues in total).
Marco Polo Bridge, Fengtai District, Beijing, China
The Miaofengshan Pilgrimage Path is one of four pilgrimage paths leading to the Miao Feng Shan Temple, and it is also a popular scenic hiking trail called the Miaofengshan Super Loop. The trail lies within the Yangtai Mountain Scenic Area and follows a mountain ridge where you will find many lookout points offering excellent views over the surrounding countryside. The entire loop covers 16km and the highest peak is located at an altitude of 291mt. Along your route are five ancient tea shelters, some of which still offer a chance to rest for a while and enjoy a refreshing cup of tea.
Miaofengshan, Mentougou District, Beijing, China
A visit to the Ming Tombs is often combined with a visit to the Great Wall of China if you are joining a tour in Beijing City. These tombs are the final resting place of 13 of the Ming Dynasty’s Emperors. Only three of the thirteen tombs are open to the public and they are located a fair distance from each other – visitors usually just visit one of the three. If you are up for a fair amount of walking and can manage stairs you should head to Dingling – the superb underground palace. Visitors with restricted mobility are advised to forget Dingling and head to the more approachable Changling instead. Whichever one you choose you should not miss walking the famous statue-lined Sacred Way.
Ming Tombs, Changping District, Beijing, China
Miyun is a suburban area of Beijing where nature, history and culture come together to offer visitors a great day trip. Miyun is close to two sections of the Great Wall namely Simitai and Gubeikou, both of which offer a quieter and more intimate visit to the Great Wall than the other more popular sections. Other lovely cultural and historic sites to visit near Miyun include the Gubei Water Town, Yungmeng National Forest Park, the Black Dragon Pool and the Nine Waterfall Eighteen Pool Scenic Area. The last two areas offer superb natural scenery and fabulous walks/hikes as well as fishing and swimming. Miyun is accessible from downtown Beijing using public transport.
Miyun, Beijing, China
If you would like to escape to the coastline for a day or two Qinhaungdao is an ideal destination. Not only will you find a beautiful stretch of beach here, but you are also close to a few Great Wall attractions like Longevity Hill, Jiaoshan Hill and Yansei Lake. If you would like to go hiking or enjoy some water sports you can visit Beidaihe Scenic Area which boasts a 14ml coastline, wetlands and forests for outdoor enthusiasts to enjoy, as well as a Safari Park. Other attractions include the Xin’ao Marine World, Lianfeng Mountain Park and the lovely Dove Nest Park where you can do some excellent bird watching.
Qinhaungdao, Hebei, China
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Shijiazhaung is the modern capital of the Hebei Province and is home to around 9 million people. A day trip to the city offers the opportunity to visit the famous Anji Bridge (aka Zhaozhou Bridge) which is the oldest stone-arch bridge in China, dating back to 605-618AD.
You can also visit Qiaoloudian Hall, one of China’s three hanging temples, and Xibaipo Village, which was once the headquarters of the Central Committee of the Chinese Communist Party. Here you can see various revolutionary relics and visit the Garden of Monuments, the Sculpture Garden of Former Chinese Leaders and the Youth Garden. The city also boasts several malls where you can enjoy great shopping.
Shijiazhaung, Hebei, China
19.Shilinxia Glass Viewing Platform
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Dramatically protruding 32.8mt from the cliff face, the Shilinxia Glass Viewing Platform (aka the UFO), is suspended 400mt above the Shilin Gorge in Pinggu District, Beijing. The platform is the largest of its kind in the world, surpassing the famous Grand Canyon Skywalk by a massive 11mt. You will need to have a good head for heights before you venture onto the glass floor of the platform, which offers outstanding views of the Shilin Gorge and the surrounding area. You can reach the viewing platform using a cable car or a strenuous 90min walk. The stunning views and the thrilling experience are well worth the effort.
Shilinxia Glass Viewing Platform, Diaowo Village, Pinggu District, Beijing
20.Simatai Great Wall
Not as popular (or crowded) as the more popular sections of the Great Wall, a visit to the Simatai Great Wall is an interesting day trip from Beijing. In this section restoration has been confined to essential reinforcements only and you will get a very accurate idea of what the wall has looked like for centuries. This is only the only section of the wall which is open for night tours, which offer an exceptional and unforgettable experience. You can access this part of the great wall by cable car, which means a visit is suitable for seniors, children and even those with restricted mobility. You can combine Simatai with a visit to the Gubei Water Town which lies at the base of the wall.
Simatai Great Wall, Miyun, Beijing
The sumptuous Summer Palace is one of the most popular tourist attractions in Beijing and is a must-see day-trip destination for all visitors. The name is a little misleading – the Summer Palace comprises a vast complex of gardens, lakes and palaces. The Summer Palace was once the summer residence of the Qing Dynasty royalty, dating back to 1750 and is considered to be the epitome of Chinese architecture and garden design. A few of the highlights of the complex include the Garden of Virtue and Harmony, the Tower of the Fragrance of the Buddha, the Wenchang Gallery and the Suzhou Street and Hall of Serenity. You can reach the Summer Palace by bus, train or taxi from central Beijing.
Summer Palace, 19 Xinjiangongmen Rd, Haidian, China
Located about 40km from Beijing, Tanzhe Temple was constructed during the Jin Dynasty (256-316) and is a must-see attraction for history and culture enthusiasts. Tanzhe Temple is the oldest Buddhist temple in Beijing, comprising a complex which covers over 2.5 hectare. A few of the interesting features of the temple complex include an enormous bronze cooking pot which is almost 2m wide, the beautiful Mahavira Hall which is adorned with yellow-glazed tiles and much ornamentation. The complex also includes many other ancient relics and beautiful old trees. You can reach the temple using public transport from Beijing - Subway Line 1 or bus.
Tanzhe Temple, Mentougou, Beijing, China
23.The Terracotta Warriors
Viewing the remarkable Terracotta Warriors is a must-do activity for any visitor to China. Imagine – these fascinating statues were made over 2000 years ago and were found purely by chance in 1974. The warriors were made to guard the tomb of China’s first Emperor, Qin Shihaung, whose mausoleum you can also view as part of your visit. The highlights of the museum are the three pits where you can view the terracotta warriors and the Bronze Chariot Exhibition Room. Pit 1 is the largest and contains 2000 warriors – this is where you should start tour. Since there is very little English signage you are advised to rent an audio-guide, hire tour guide or join a guided tour.
The Terracotta Warriors, Lintong, Xi’an, Shaanxi, China
The coastal city of Tianjin is the economic and political center of North China and is filled with historic and cultural gems for tourists to uncover. Depending on your interests, you can visit some outstanding attractions including the Eastern Qing Tombs, the Huangyaguan section of the Great Wall of China, Tianhou Palace and the Tianjin Drum Tower. If you love visiting temples you can choose from the Tianjin Confucian Temple, Dabei Buddhist Monastery and the Solitary Joy Temple. Everyone should visit the lovely Tianjin Peoples Park and the Garden of Serenity for a break from the hustle and bustle of the vibrant city. Don’t leave without taking a walk down the beautiful Tianjin Ancient Cultural Street.
Tianjin, Tientsin, China
25.Western Qing Tombs
Throughout the ages, emperors, their concubines, wives and other members of the royal family have been buried with great attention to detail and honored by lavish tomb complexes. The Western Qing Tombs is one of the largest and best-preserved examples you will find of a royal mausoleum complex and should feature on your list of day-trips from Beijing. Each of the four tombs which make up the Western Qing Tombs is located a few kilometers from the next, and it is advised that you hire a driver and guide if you are visiting on your own. It is also possible to visit this beautiful, serene and spiritual place by joining a guided tour from the city.
Western Qing Tombs, Yongning Mountain, Yi County, Baoding City, Hebei, China
25 Best Weekend Getaways and Day Trips from Beijing, China
- Badaling Pass and the Great Wall, Photo: Mikhail Semenov/stock.adobe.com
- Caves of Zhoukoudian, Photo: SergeyCash/stock.adobe.com
- Chengde, Photo: aphotostory/stock.adobe.com
- Caundixia Village, Photo: junrong/stock.adobe.com
- Datong, Photo: sergeymugashev/stock.adobe.com
- Eastern Qing Tombs, Photo: Takashi Images/stock.adobe.com
- Fragrant Hills Park (Xiangshan Park), Photo: Qiao/stock.adobe.com
- Gouya Natural Scenic Area, Photo: acrogame/stock.adobe.com
- Jietai Temple, Photo: aquatarkus/stock.adobe.com
- Jimingyi, Photo: Sven/stock.adobe.com
- Jinshanling, Photo: SeanPavonePhoto/stock.adobe.com
- Juyongguan, Photo: Giancarlo Liguori/stock.adobe.com
- Marco Polo Bridge (Lugou Bridge), Photo: onlyyouqj/stock.adobe.com
- Miaofengshan, Photo: shidzuochan/stock.adobe.com
- Ming Tombs, Photo: Naj/stock.adobe.com
- Miyun, Photo: bonandbon/stock.adobe.com
- Qinhuangdao, Photo: Xiangli/stock.adobe.com
- Shijiazhaung, Photo: Jiri Dolezal/stock.adobe.com
- Shilinxia Glass Viewing Platform, Photo: Kostas Koufogiorgos/stock.adobe.com
- Simatai Great Wall, Photo: trialartinf/stock.adobe.com
- Summer Palace, Photo: frenta/stock.adobe.com
- Tanzhe Temple, Photo: chjy/stock.adobe.com
- The Terracotta Warriors, Photo: wusuowei/stock.adobe.com
- Tianjin, Photo: kalafoto/stock.adobe.com
- Western Qing Tombs, Photo: YuanGeng/stock.adobe.com
- Cover Photo: Leonid Andronov/stock.adobe.com