Beijing with Beijingers in 5 Days Itinerary - Part 1


Here we are, at my Beijing travelogue, finally! Procrastination is definitely one of my middle names - I have since gone back to Beijing two more times already, and undoubtedly Beijing is one of my favourite cities in the world. Beijing is generous with its cultural offerings (Old Beijing), and yet, if you are careful in your observation, you'd realize that this city is already very advanced. This travelogue details my first trip to this city, where Lexi brought me around with her Beijing friends for the most comprehensive and well-planned trip ever!

When it comes to land size, in terms of the areas where you can explore, it's huge. The locals give directions based on north-south-east-west, and also with several 'gates' as landmarks. These gates are left behind from the Chinese dynasties, with the external palace walls between them being hacked down. There are a few ways you can travel from place to place, starting with the most costly:

This seems pretty straightforward, but unless you are at the airport or a hotel, there is no guarantee that you can get a flag-down cab easily. Downloading Didi Chuxing and using it to book a taxi/car-sharing option is the main method of booking taxis now in this cash-free country. You can still pay by cash if you do not have a Wechat wallet to link it up. During peak hours, you are definitely better off taking public transport (metro) as the traffic jams can get really bad.

Beijing was where the bike-sharing companies started to experiment first, and I was there at the time when they were just starting out. It has since become a common way of transportation as long as we are not deep in the coldest of winters. I experienced how useful it was when I realized how far each metro station is from each other, and not everywhere (in particular, inside of the first ring road) is easy to hail a cab or board a bus. In fact, it would be a lot more convenient if I had downloaded either Ofo or Mobike so that I can save time walking down long stretches of road to get to another place.

The Beijing metro network is one of the more challenging ones. Line 2 and Line 10 are circle lines, which mean they go in anti-clockwise and clockwise direction on the opposite platforms. If you are not very familiar with the names, expect to take more time to figure it out. Line 1, 2, 6, and 10 are the ones that have the most tourist attractions, so it is best to study a bit more of those.

I have only taken the bus a few times based on the recommendation of Baidu Maps, it works better than the metro as certain areas are still quite far from metro stations.

If you plan your itinerary well, it should consist mostly of walking and metro. You'll see the most by walking as well, so be prepared to wear comfortable shoes.


I was lucky that I got blue skies and clear atmosphere for the 5 days that I was there. But two years down the road, Beijing has gotten their act together and now, their air is mostly clean even in the winter. For folks with asthma, it would be prudent to bring your inhaler and masks, though it is a lot better now. In fact, I haven't seen a day of gloomy weather in Beijing.

OK - Here we go for day 1's itinerary: which includes the most iconic buildings in Beijing!

Temple of Heaven Park 天坛公园

Temple of Heaven is used as a location for the emperors (and their families) to pray for good harvests and rain during Ming and Qing dynasty. It is the largest of such buildings in the world, and is strictly preserved for tourist visits today. There are several key attractions within the Temple of Heaven Park: Circular Mound Altar (圜丘), Qi Nian Dian (祈年殿), Echo Wall (回音壁), Temple of Heaven (天坛公园祈年门), Temple of Heaven - Huang Qiong Yu (天坛公园皇穹宇), and Fasting Palace (天坛斋宫).

Getting there
Qiao Wan 桥湾 metro station Exit C (Line 7)
Bus 36, 120, 122 to Temple of Heaven South Gate

Entrance fees
April - October - Peak period: 34 RMB (for all attractions)
November - March - Off Peak period: 28 RMB (for all attractions)
There are multiple 'tiers' for entry to only some of the attractions, but the more important ones are included only in the main ticket so I would recommend you to just get the main ticket.

This gorgeous tower-like structure is really symmetrically perfect, and even more spectacular in reality. It is so beautiful against the backdrop of the azure blue sky that day, which is really rare in Beijing. Imagination of grand scenes of how the emperors' entourage marching up and down the steps really add to the tour experience.

Every single inch of the structure is carefully thought of and maintained. It is the best to see the Temple of Heaven in the morning.

Experience the warmth of the older folks in the park as they engage in parade dances, bird watching, and even calligraphy on the floor! The friendly calligraphy master wrote a very nice "Singapore 新加坡" on the floor with water when he knew I was a tourist from Singapore. Despite my best efforts, I wrote a very juvenile-looking "I love Beijing 我爱北京" 😂

The brick red walls are everywhere and very pretty for a photo backdrop.

Although there are a lot of people within the park grounds, they are all very well distributed, so it didn't feel crowded.

I really like how they use dark blue for their roofs instead of brick red roofs all the time.

Visitors are not allowed to enter into the grounds where they conduct the actual ceremony in the past. You can tell they really put a lot of emphasis on praying to the heavens. In the olden dynasties, the 'sky' is considered their religion as they believe that the emperor is the 'son of the heaven' and chosen by geological hints, weather signs and harvest results. By inference, this must be also an important ceremony for the emperor to communicate to the heavens to prove that he is the chosen one.

Now, we can walk the grounds in the most carefree way even as a commoner.

Lexi leads the way for our lunch stop to...

Xiao Chang Chen 小肠陈

 Here we are at Xiao Chang Chen! It is a pun on the 'Great Wall' (Chang Cheng) and the word 'intestines' (Chang). It is one of the quintessential traditional Beijing meals to have - "卤煮 - Braised Cooking!" Now, they already expanded to have 8 branches of Xiao Chang Chen.

The signature dish at Xiao Chang Chen is a hearty bowl of braised pig intestines with coriander - Lu Zhu - 卤煮. Not everyone would like it on the first try, as this is an acquired taste. For me, it is not the first time I am eating pig intestines and therefore it is not difficult for me to start enjoying it! The braised soup base was very fragrant and thick, not overly salty. The pig intestines were also really chewy! Highly recommended to try it, except that if it is the first time you are trying, you may want to share. I'm not sharing though!

Lexi was also introducing to me her all-time favourite food - this is also the most addictive side dish ever. It is called Zha Guan Chang 炸灌肠, and enjoyed by dipping it in garlic sauce, essentially made of garlic, salt and water! Oh dear, it is something I can eat every day and I am so craving for it now. It is not the healthiest thing, but I must say... it is worth the calories.

Nothing can be better than washing it down with a bottle of Bei Bing Yang 北冰洋, which I always see characters drinking in idol dramas of the 1990s! It is an icy orange fizzy drink which is very refreshing, though the plus point comes from truly immersing myself in the wholesome experience.

After a satisfying lunch, we headed to the second highlight of the day, and a greatly anticipated one - The Forbidden City and Palace! After all these years of watching Return of the Pearl Princess, Scarlet Heart, The Story of Zhen Huan etcetc, we are finally here at this historically rich place and the heart of Beijing. It is also literally the centre of the city and everything else surrounds it.

The Forbidden City / Palace Museum 紫禁城/ 故宫

It is a long (and hot, in the thick of summer) walk but happy to have Lexi with me :)

This is one of the corner towers, with a surrounding moat that looks to the outside. I guess if you were the emperor, you'd also be this paranoid about intruders! There are many entryways, and we entered through Wumen 午门 where the ticket sales are.

Getting there
Tian An Men East Metro station (Line 1) and walk towards Wu Men (South Gate of The Forbidden City)

Entrance fees
April - October - Peak period: 60 RMB
November - March - Off Peak period: 40 RMB
Student Price: 20 RMB

There are various festive prices, such as International Women's Day on 8 March etc.

Opening hours
April - October: 0830 - 1700 (Stops entry at 1610)
November - March: 0830 - 1630 (Stops entry at 1540)

The whole touring grounds require at least 2 hours to cover properly, so be sure to reach here before 3PM.

Oh my, look at the crowd! This is even bigger than Temple of Heaven but it feels really crowded 😱 Everyone was braving the sun to look at each of the palace rooms.

It is immensely grand and the architecture is very wide, even bigger than my memory of how it is like in dramas.

Where the emperor calls for assembly with his subjects. Again, visitors are not allowed to enter into the halls, but only to view afar from the outside.

The palace corridors where many secret conversations occur in the past. But now, when night falls, this is one of the most haunted places in the world. There have been incidences where people trespass into The Forbidden City and they bump into spirits of palace maids and wronged concubines. Now, the palace grounds are closed after 5pm with heavy surveillance to allow the spirits to wander free.

Kunning Palace, Qin An Dian, Bao He Dian, Tai He Dian, etc - They are all familiar names to us and now we get to see what they are actually like.

My favourite scene with the corner tower :) Lexi says that The Forbidden City is even more beautiful in the winter. When it snows, the roofs are all capped with a blanket of white, which adds to the romantic feel of the whole place.

Alas, it is summer now, and it is HOT AF. Yes, even for a Singaporean. After we are done with The Forbidden Palace, we went into a cafe to rest our legs and an afternoon tea at the foot of Jingshan (Jing Mountain).

Jing Shan 景山

Climbing up Jing Shan after a whole day of walking is really no joke - it is after all, a hike! But the thought of being able to see The Forbidden City, and by extension, the whole of Beijing, from a height is very motivating. Just look at that view! It is a 10-15 minutes hike with a few steep slopes. Luckily, it is a paved walkway all the way up, so it's not that bad.

At the top of the mountain, they even allow you to rent traditional costumes at RMB 20 to take photos! It would have been fun if it'd been allowed within the palace, but I guess the backdrop at the top of the mountain is not bad as well. I chose red because well, I am inspired by Little Swallow from Return of the Pearl Princess.

Rogue princess has to take some 'glam' photos as well...

This is probably a crime that should be dealt with the death punishment - sitting on the emperor's dragon throne?!

Geographically, this shows how the Palace and Jing Shan sits right in the middle of Beijing, and where each of the gates are relative to the palace. It really gives a whole new understanding to how organized everything is here.

Three Brothers 北平三兄弟涮肉(簋街店)

After the whole day of touring, we found ourselves at one of Lexi's favourite places to enjoy lamb shabu shabu hotpot and a good meal - 'Three Brothers' 北平三兄弟涮肉(簋街店)! It is one of the hottest restaurants in Beijing, and a must-try - they whip up a really comprehensive list of Beijing delights, especially the traditional ones that cannot be found in many restaurants. However, I would say that I loved all my meals in Beijing even up till date, only to varying degrees, so I might be pretty biased.

Yes, Beijing cuisine is one of my favourite, sitting right next to Vietnamese cuisine!

Soy milk and round fried fritters (豆汁焦圈) - the soy milk that they have is really quite something... it is uniquely Beijing and they just love to see the look of outsiders' faces as they try it! It's the same when we see tourists eat durian and smelly tofu...ha! It is not too unbearable, I guess, and it's best to drink it while it's still hot!

Beijing snacks - buttery and sugar cake and more!

Squid in the foreground, fried ma tofu in the background.

The freshness and dryness of the lamb meat is showcased with a slanted board, cut right before they served it to us. I was not very used to eating lamb meat then, but I have grown to love it! The lamb meat in Beijing and Shenzhen are the absolute best - even better than the ones in Europe or Australia. For one, their lamb are from the wild grasslands (well, the Southeast Asia equivalent of kampung chicken) and they are also mountain lambs - plus, they are so fresh! I also enjoy the feeling after eating lamb - the feeling of a lingering warmth and happiness that I just couldn't get with other types of meats. OK, this may sound disturbing to vegetarians but I am too much of a carnivore to give it up.

Dipping sauce for the lamb meats!

I miss this meal so much! 😍😍😍

Awesome recommendation!


We come to the end of DAY 1 of my virgin Beijing trip! Stay tuned for the second day's shenanigans that's coming right up.

Till the next time ❤ 

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