The Great Wall of China

#1 in Best Things To Do in Beijing
The Great Wall of China picture1 of 3
The Great Wall of China2 of 3
Image Source/Getty Images

Details

Hiking, Monuments and Memorials, Sightseeing Type
Half Day to Full Day Time to Spend
4.7scorecard
  • 5.0Value
  • 3.0Facilities
  • 5.0Atmosphere

Just north of Beijing, you'll find one of the most famous monuments in the world: the Great Wall of China. Although it's unlikely you'll see the whole thing, you should aim to experience a portion of it. That begs the question: Which section?

Only an hour's drive northwest of Beijing, the Badaling section is convenient, hosts a large souvenir market, and has a gondola to whisk visitors up and down the wall. Sounds perfect, right? Well, and that's why thousands of tourists decide to venture here. This can create mob-like scenes that can spoil the trip, but it's unpredictable. Plenty of visitors rave about this section of the wall and say a visit is a must. Entrance to the Badaling section of wall (not including the gondola ride) costs 40 yuan (about $6) in the winter and spring and 45 yuan (about $6.60 ) in the summer and fall. You can start hiking the Badaling portion at 6:40 a.m., and you must be down by 6:30 p.m. every day.

The Mutianyu section, an hour's drive northeast of Beijing, is the favorite of recent travelers. Here, you'll find majestic mountainous vistas, a cable car for quick and easy access, a fun sled ride down, and (best of all) fewer tourists. Admission costs 40 yuan (about $6), and visitors are welcome from approximately 7:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. every day, depending on the season.

Farther from the city, the Juyongguan, Simatai, Jinshanling, Huanghuacheng, Jiankou and Gubeikou sections offer adventurous travelers more challenging hikes and unique landscapes. If you opt for one of these sections, take the time to carefully research it beforehand. Each portion meanders through different terrain and has its own pros and cons. Some sections are in better condition than others, and transportation to and from them can be less reliable.

You can reach the Great Wall of China via public bus (with Badaling and Mutianyu being the easiest to access), but some routes may include transfers. For convenience, some past visitors suggested hiring a driver from Beijing. Guided tours are also a popular option for many recent travelers (though several warn against purchasing tours that include stops at the underwhelming Ming Tombs).

Whichever portion you choose, be sure to bring plenty of water, sunscreen and snacks. The hike alone can be tiring, and hot weather can take its toll on unprepared visitors (especially young kids and seniors). You'll see vendors stationed along each route hawking souvenirs and water, but you'll pay a pretty penny for the convenience. For more information, speak with your hotel's concierge, who can arrange the appropriate transportation for you.

See all Hotels in Beijing »

More Best Things To Do in Beijing

Summer Palace (Yiheyuan)1 of 15
Forbidden City (Imperial Palace)2 of 15
Type
Time to Spend
#2 Summer Palace (Yiheyuan)

When the bustle of Beijing becomes too much for you, do as the emperors would do and retreat to the Summer Palace. Located in the northwest suburbs, this oasis – literally, an oasis with serene Kunming Lake – is home to several attractions. Nearly every gate, pavilion, hall and tower has a unique history and merits a photo. Despite the palace's historic appeal, most tourists are charmed by what's outside: The Summer Palace possesses the largest imperial garden in China. The Seventeen-Arch Bridge stretches into Kunming Lake, providing excellent views of the east bank and South Lake Island. And at an impressive 2,388 feet in length, the Long Corridor garners lots of attention.

Travelers are rarely disappointed by the wonders of the Summer Palace. Many advise visiting early in the day to avoid crowds, but regardless, most call the palace amazing. Reviewers suggested setting aside at least half a day to wander the grounds. Visitors also recommended seeing the site with the help of a guide, who can help you understand its vast history.  

Read more
Yaorusheng/Getty Images
See full list of Best Things To Do in Beijing »

Explore More of Beijing

If you make a purchase from our site, we may earn a commission. This does not affect the quality or independence of our editorial content.

Recommended

30 Top Florida Weekend Getaways

Spend sun-filled days exploring Florida's beautiful beaches, cities, parks and small towns.

Gwen PratesiDecember 9, 2019

The Best Travel Backpacks for 2020

U.S. News rated the best travel backpacks using recommendations from experts and consumers.

Lyn MettlerNovember 25, 2019

30 Top Wellness Retreats

Rejuvenate your mind, body and spirit at one of these relaxation-focused properties.

Kyle McCarthyNovember 21, 2019

30 Fun All-Inclusive Family Vacations

Book one of these all-inclusive trips that cover food, accommodations and activities galore.

Holly JohnsonNovember 14, 2019

5 Ways Cruise Lines Are Becoming More Environmentally Friendly

Industry considers impact as it looks to the future.

Gwen PratesiNovember 12, 2019

11 Unique and Quirky Cruise Destinations

Venture off the beaten path for an authentic cruising experience.

Christine SmithNovember 12, 2019

The 2020 Best Cruise Lines for Families

Gather up the gang and head out to sea with one of these six kid-friendly cruise lines.

Nicola WoodNovember 12, 2019

The Top Pyramids in Mexico to Visit

Add these ancient marvels to your Mexico vacation itinerary.

Lyn MettlerOctober 28, 2019

30 Top Babymoon Destinations, Trips and Ideas

From romantic beach getaways to big city adventures to glamping in the forest, these locales will inspire your babymoon planning.

Gwen PratesiOctober 15, 2019

15 Tips for Traveling While Pregnant

These tips will help pregnant women travel the world in comfort and style.

Holly JohnsonOctober 10, 2019