Beijing during the golden week

Beijing Golden week: traveling Beijing during the golden week, how is it like? Tips, photos and travel advice to make the most out of your trip.

Beijing is the political center of China for more than eight centuries. It’s famous for its temples, gardens, parks, tombs, walls and gates and the city has seven UNESCO World Heritage Sites. We spend almost a week in this huge capital, and before arriving, we thought it would give us plenty of time to explore the city.

Golden week in Beijing

Unfortunately, we arrived in Beijing at the start of the Golden Week in China. Every first week of October, the Chinese celebrate their national holiday, and every Chinese gets a week off from work. In that week, they travel, and apparently, they all travel to Beijing… It had a major impact on the sights we were able to see or on how we experienced Beijing in general. Just to give some examples of how busy it was:

  • The Tian’anmen square is within the top 10 largest city squares (440.500m2) but we were almost not able to move on the square due to the crowds.
  • At the busiest moments, certain entrances to the subway were closed. If you wanted to enter the subway, you had to go to another station a couple of kilometers further.
  • We tried, but never managed to visit the Forbidden City. Every time we tried, tickets were sold out before noon.

So one practical advice to all travelers: try not to plan your trip to Beijing during the golden week!

Tiananmen square Beijing
Tiananmen square, the largest square of the world.

Map of the top things to do in Beijing

Our stay

The first couple of days, we stayed with an AirBNB host in the Northeast part of Beijing. We shared an apartment with an American girl and a Swedish guy. It was situated in a more modern part of Beijing, next to a large shopping mall and a metro station. Not very clean, but convenient for our first days in China.

We spend our last night in Beijing in one of the best hostels so far: The Beijing Downtown Backpackers Hostel. The dorms are really affordable (and you have a lot of privacy), they have a clean and a well-equipped kitchen, a common space that has a lot of atmosphere and a free (Western) breakfast. If we would visit Beijing again, we would definitely choose this hostel. They also have an affordable tour to the Great Wall.

Four top things to see

Almost every guide book will show you the most important sights in Beijing: The Forbidden City, the Tian’anmen square, the Temple of Heaven, Lama Temple, Summer Palace, … They are all really impressive and worth a visit. Just keep in mind that entrance fees in China easily add up.

Below, you can find some sights and activities that are less well-known, cost next to nothing, but that are certainly equally fun or even more:

  • Jingshan Park: The entrance of this park is opposite the North entrance of the Forbidden City. A really nice park to wander around, observe Chinese people practicing their tai Chi or take part in a local dance. A nice view in Jingshan park is coal hill. The hill offers you an amazing view over the Forbidden City, and the view is especially stunning at sunset.
  • The Donghuanmen Night Market: Not far from the east gate of the Forbidden City, you can find this night market, with very unusual food stalls. If you are keen to eat starfish, scorpions, spiders, and squids on a stick, this is the place. But even if you prefer less exotic food, this market is worth a visit, just to experience the atmosphere.
  • The Dongzhimen neighborhood: This neighborhood is situated in the North of Beijing and has a lot of bars and nice restaurants to offer. We especially enjoyed Jingzun restaurant, with its red lanterns, outside deck and amazing Beijing duck. The beer afterwards in the Great Leap microbrewery was a perfect ending of a perfect evening.
  • The Chaoyang acrobatic show: For 200 yuan each (~26 EUR) we enjoyed a spectacular evening with a little boy balancing on seven chairs, acrobatic motorbike drivers, 15 girls riding one bike at the same time, …
Chinese violin player at temple of heaven
Chinese violin player at temple of heaven

The Chinese wall

Beijing is also the perfect place for a one-day trip to the Chinese Wall. Before going, you have to decide which stretch of the Beijing wall you want to visit: You have very touristic and less touristic parts, you also have parts where you still can visit the original wall, whereas other stretches are completely renovated. We choose for a hike from Jinshaling to Simatai. It offered us a great combination between hiking, few tourists and parts of the wall that are still authentic.

Chines wall Simathai Beijing
Views from the Chinese wall. Image that this is just a very small fraction of how big this wall is.

We booked our tour via the Beijing Downtown Backpackers Hostel for 280 yuan each (~37 EUR). The bus dropped us at the entrance of the Jinshaling Great Wall and picked us up at the Simatai exit. That way, we had three hours to complete the 6 kilometer hike whilst enjoying the great views.

Note that you can also visit the Chinese wall by yourself (without a tour). Because the Golden Week was really exhausting for us (and the cost saving is rather small) we choose for a tour.

If you like this page, please give us a comment!

Inerested how expensive China is? Check out this blogpost about our travel expenses in China.