“The world’s most populous country is big, beautiful, and full of mystery and adventure,” proclaims the Lonely Planet, which has ranked China as one of the top 10 countries to visit in 2018.
For those eager to embark on a journey steeped in culture and history, Beijing is a natural choice. After all, it boasts world-famous landmarks such as the Forbidden City, Summer Palace, Temple of Heaven and Tiananmen Square, replete with a panoply of day trip options for touring the Great Wall of China.
Is Beijing a good place to visit with the family? At first glance, its historic attractions may not seem family-friendly, yet young travellers and elderly tourists are an increasingly common sight in the Middle Kingdom’s capital city. If you are visiting Beijing with children or seniors, rest assured that a wonderful time can be had by all.
Below is our guide to a Beijing holiday that the whole family can enjoy.
1. The Forbidden City: A Place for Everyone to Visit
Meeting everyone’s needs in an intergenerational group requires careful planning, consideration of individual needs, and a dash of creativity. To ensure a balanced spread of activities, schedule days for sightseeing together, as well as days for relaxation and solo exploration. Be realistic about your group’s interests and attention span, as well as mobility issues that can hamper your family’s ability to enjoy an attraction.
In Beijing, an excursion to the hallowed Forbidden City (also known as the “Palace Museum”) is considered a must. Yet in summer, it has been described as “big, busy, and boiling hot”—three things that anyone with children or elderly companions may want to avoid.
To ensure a comfortable experience at the Forbidden City, follow these travel hacks:
- Go early (from 8:30 a.m.) or late (last tickets are sold at 3:30 or 4:00 p.m.) to avoid peak-hour crowds.
- Take the path less trodden. The Beijinger advises avoiding the central route that most visitors tend towards. By veering off the beaten path, you may chance upon a quiet museum dedicated to palace architecture or ceramics. Best of all, you will relish having space to saunter with your family. (Directions here.)
- Bookmark family-friendly walking itineraries for reference.
- Exit at the East Gate (or Donghuamen) for better transport options. You can also reward your family’s walking efforts with a delectable feast of Peking duck at the popular Siji Minfu, right out of the gate.
If you or a loved one use a wheelchair, get hold of a Forbidden City map that shows wheelchair-accessible pathways and buildings. Only a number of Forbidden City buildings offer step-free access—one of these is the Palace of Heavenly Purity, built in the early 15th century to serve as the emperor’s principal residence. Arm yourself with patience to deal with crowds, as this is part and parcel of the Forbidden City experience. (More tips on getting around the Forbidden City in a wheelchair here, and for navigating Beijing’s other attractions here.)
2. Enjoy Family Frolics at These Beijing Parks
Despite its cultural gravitas, some travellers have elected to bypass the masses at the Forbidden City entirely, with no regrets. A low-key alternative is the nearby Jingshan Park (across from the Forbidden City’s North Gate), where you will find locals indulging in such simple pleasures as dancing and opera singing.
There are five summits in the park, each with a pavilion. Of these, the Wanchun (“10,000 Springs”) Pavilion is said to offer the best city views and the chance to fully appreciate the majesty of the Forbidden City, minus the overwhelming crowds. For healthy individuals, the uphill trails at Jingshan Park should not pose a challenge.
To amuse the young and young-at-heart, spend a morning or afternoon at Beihai Park. Also located at the north of the Forbidden City, Beihai Park was once an emperor’s private garden, and no expense was spared in its construction. Take a leisurely stroll to admire Beihai’s temples, palace halls, and stone bridge, or go paddle-boating in the lake as a family.
3. The Great Wall of China: For the Elderly and Young
To plan a Great Wall adventure with seniors and wheelchair users, set your sights on Badaling and Mutianyu. Badaling is the most wheelchair-friendly section of the Great Wall, as it is equipped with a flat, wheelchair-accessible lane that will take travellers as far as the third watch tower of the Wall. There is a wheelchair lift too, but you will need to call ahead to book it.
Seniors who are mobile will do well at Mutianyu, which involves a straightforward 2.2 km hike. A reasonably paced walk with rest stops in between should take between two and three hours (about 40 minutes uphill). Should the hike be insurmountable for your young or elderly family members, there are alternative ways to ascend and descend Mutianyu—choose from the cable car, the chairlift, or the toboggan ride, which will exhilarate most children.
If your intrepid family craves a rugged experience, book a tour with a hiking company to discover the unrestored sections of the Great Wall, such as Simatai (the only section that offers a night tour) and Jiankou (considered the most challenging section of the Wall). For details, consult this guide to the 10 most-visited Great Wall sections.
Need some assistance planning your Great Wall tours and Forbidden City tickets? Simply let our associates know and we will help you with your booking or purchase process.
4. Other Fun Things to do in Beijing as a Family
There is no doubt that food brings families together—when in Beijing, take the opportunity to share stories and build bonds over the city’s local delicacies. Follow our links to the best restaurants and eateries in the Chinese capital, or book a private tour with a food specialist such as Lost Plate and UnTour to sample the tastiest local foods that Beijing’s hutongs (alleyways) have to offer.
To further enrich your family holiday, focus on creating experiences, rather than merely checking off popular Beijing attractions. Look for unusual things to do in Beijing that will expose your family to the city’s residents and their way of life.
Here’s one: Bespoke Travel Company’s Beijing Time Chase is a scavenger hunt that will allow you to learn about Beijing’s history and lesser-known sites as you split into teams to find answers to clues—while riding in a sidecar.
You can also search for workshops that involve meeting and learning from a Chinese family, such as this dumpling-making workshop (suitable for participants aged 12 and above), hosted by a Beijing resident in a suburban home.
5. Where to Stay in Beijing
When searching for the perfect home away from home while in Beijing, location is everything. Being in a centrally located hotel such as Pan Pacific Beijing ensures that you are mere minutes away from key attractions such as the Forbidden City and Tiananmen Square. Should your loved ones require a pause from the day’s events, they can easily return to their room or suite for a spot of rest and recovery.
For free-and-easy days, shopping malls such as Joy City and Grand Pacific are close by. You may also dine at nearby restaurants such as the world-famous dim sum chain Din Tai Fung. If you prefer to enjoy a meal on the hotel’s premises, the award-winning Hai Tien Lo serves up classic Cantonese specialities with a contemporary twist.
Welcome to Beijing! Read about the city’s unique tours, and speak to our team at Pan Pacific Beijing to enquire about our latest offers for rooms and suites.