Beijing in a Day

beijing in a day PS

Ok, I admit, the title is incredibly misleading! We didn’t actually see Beijing in a day because that would be impossible. However, we were able to take advantage of a 14-hour layover in Beijing on the way to Thailand.  So, we booked a layover/airport tour to visit The Great Wall, Tiananmen Square, and Forbidden City.  Here’s a little photo essay showing what we saw in Beijing in a day! 🙂

The Tour:

Once we cleared customs with our shiny new 72 hour Visas (read about how we got them, HERE), our guide was right there waiting for us. We were given a run down of the day’s activities and then we hopped in the car to begin our journey.The first stop on our tour was the Great Wall of China.

The ride to the Mutianyu section of the Great Wall took almost, or a little over, an hour from the airport. Our guide explained that we needed to get there as early as possible to avoid the crowds who would arrive in droves.  So, we drove through the countryside as our guide pointed out notable landmarks.  At one point, Anthony and I fell asleep (not because we were bored) because we were exhausted from the long flight.  Our Guide, Anna, was sensitive to the fact that we were exhausted so when she noticed us sleeping she let us catch a quick nap


me great wall of china chair lift psOnce we arrived at Mutianyu, we didn’t have to stand in line to buy tickets because they were included in our tour package.  Anna joined us in the chair lift so she could show us around a bit when arrived at the top of the Wall. We appreciated having Anna with us because she snapped a couple of killer photos of us, showed us which way to go and told us what time to meet her at the bottom of the Wall.  At this point, we were on our own and free to explore!

We had about an hour and a half to enjoy the Great Wall and we did just that.  We walked from one tower to the next and on and on.  This section of the Great Wall has roughly 23 watch towers, one about every 100 meters (~328 feet) and we climbed 10! My buns were burning but it was so incredible up there we just didn’t want to leave. As the morning went on, we noticed the crowds getting larger and larger so we knew it was about time to go.

great wall of china 2--

Our next stop was a tiny Cloisonné factory where craftsmen/women combine copper and porcelain to create intricate design pieces.  This process is called Cloisonné.  This ancient craft involves “soldering” hundreds of tiny wires to an art piece and filling the spaces with enamel paint.  You can see the bowl of copper wire (left) and the intricate detail (right).


cloissone beijing china ps

After the wires are attached, different colored enamel paints are placed in between the wires.  Then, the pieces are “fired” at least 3 times which gives the wires the look of gold.  Below is a piece that is nearly finished and you can see the wires, the paint, and the gold finish.

cloissone beijing china 2

If you’re really into the art, they have a beautiful shop on premise where you can purchase souvenir or two (they’ll set ya back a pretty penny though).  After the arts and crafts, we sat down for a traditional Chinese lunch at a nearby restaurant. If I ever go back to Beijing, I’m going there (if I can remember the name)!   Seriously, I couldn’t even believe how flavorful the vegetables were.  I mean, I could have eaten another plate full!

beijing china meal ps

Tiananmen Square

It was pretty surreal being there and I was happy we had Anna on hand to give us a bit more insight into the history of the Square. Guards as they march across the square.marching guards beijing china tiananmen square ps

Forbidden City & the Palace Museum 

I’ll be honest with you, I couldn’t tell one building from the other inside Forbidden City!  I would give you more information but I can guarantee I’d be wrong.  So, enjoy the pretty pictures instead!us beijing china tiananmen square ps

forbidden city beijing china ps3

Imperial Garden

This is Ten Thousand Springs Pavillion (left) and Lianli Tree or Love Tree (right). This garden was constructed during the Ming Dynasty and almost exclusively used by the Imperial Family.  Today, the garden is open to the public.pavillion tree beijing china ps -With a 14 hour layover in Beijing on the way to Thailand, this was absolutely worth every penny. Even though we went to Beijing on the way back from Bangkok, I’m glad we got some of the touristy things out-of-the-way early on.  I would, highly, recommend this tour to anyone who wants to take advantage of the free trip to the city of Beijing.  See more about the tour HERE.

If you have any questions about this tour or the 72-hour visa, feel free to email me at mia@travelwithmia.comm and I’d be happy to help you!

Have you been to Beijing?  The Great Wall? I’d love to hear about your experience in the comments!


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  1. Reply

    Perfect timing as I am organising a trip to China for some clients who want to see the Great Wall of China without the crowds. My advice will be a very early start. The food looks amazing too.

    1. Reply

      That’s great, I hope it all works out! Getting the visa was incredibly easy too so there shouldn’t be any issues. Good luck!

  2. Reply

    Wow hahaha what an efficient use of your time! Looks both wonderful and exhausting 🙂 Didn’t know of the 72 hour visa, I will definitely check it out if ever I have a layover in Beijing.

    1. Reply

      The tour lasted 8 hours but surprisingly it wasn’t exhausting. We had plenty of time to relax once we returned to the airport before our flight!

  3. Reply

    I love the detail you provided. We have some friends that did that tour a year or two ago and they loved it. When we were flying from SEA to the US, we tried to get a layover and do the same thing, but it just didn’t work with our schedule. We had been nomadic for 11 months and were just exhausted. Now I am kicking ourselves for not making it happen anyway. Next time.

    1. Reply

      That’s so cool that your friends did the same tour! I tell everyone to book it if they’re going. With as much traveling as you do, I’m sure you’ll get there soon!

  4. Reply

    Sounds like a great way to spend a layover! You covered a lot of ground in a day and it all looks like a lot of fun! Would love to do this if we ever end up with a day layover there 🙂

    1. Reply

      Many cities have layover tours, I’m going to check whenever I have a layover from now on!

  5. Reply

    So much in one day! This is a great choice for a layover in Beijing – we were there for a week but this seems so well organized and touches some of the great highlights of the city! If we ever have a layover in Beijing, we may just take a tour and re-visit these!

    1. Reply

      It was a lot to do but it was so worth it because I don’t know that we’ll get back to Beijing any time soon. Glad we had the opportunity to do these great things!

  6. Reply

    Amazing to have the Great Wall all to yourselves in the morning 🙂 Anna took such great shots of you guys! Love that Cloisonné art too!

    1. Reply

      Anna was amazing! I’ve seen pictures of people on the Great Wall and there are tons of people behind them. I’m so glad we got there early to snap these pics. It probably didn’t hurt that it was New Year’s day and freezing cold!

  7. Reply

    This is a great itinerary for a layover, not too rushed, but enough to keep you occupied for the day and some pretty cool experiences too!

    1. Reply

      We had a great time and I can’t wait to do another one of these layover tours!

  8. Reply

    Layover airport tours are THE best! I did one in Seoul, Korea. This one sounds awesome too. I’ll keep it in mind if I find myself on a long layover here.

    1. Reply

      A layover tour is so much better than sitting around the airport all day/night. Although, I hear the airport in Seoul is pretty amazing.

  9. Reply

    I love doing this! Sometimes I purposely make the layover a little bit longer, so I can explore the area. Pictures look great as well!

    1. Reply

      Thanks, Joe! It’s a nice treat to get a free day in another city or country. Two-for-one vacations!

  10. Reply

    WOW you packed so much in!! I’m impressed! Thanks for the link with info on getting a 72 hour visa – I’ve had so many layovers of around this time in Beijing before, though I’ve always hunkered down in the airline lounges. Never again – next time I’m heading out to explore!!

    Thanks for the inspiration and proving that it IS worth the effort and it CAN be done!

    1. Reply

      Yes, it was a lot to do in a day but it was worth it! We never felt rushed or worried we wouldn’t make it back and that made the tour even better. Now, I’m always looking for a layover so I can book a tour in a different country.

  11. Reply

    Amazing photos!! 🙂

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