Beijing in 24 Hours!? Why Not?

Tiananmen Square View

Our first stop in our 24-hour whirlwind tour of Beijing

Beijing in 24 hours?! For a city as large as Beijing, it seems almost wasteful to spend only 24 hours in exploration. But, given we only had 24 hours after we were “stuck” in Beijing after we missed our connecting flight from Vietnam to the USA, we decided that it was only fitting to see as much as possible in the short time that we were given!

So, without a planned itinerary, what would you do to make the most of your stay in the capital of the People’s Republic of China?

As we waited to be issued a 24 hour visa to stay in the country, we pondered exactly what Beijing had to offer…the former Peking, what used to be the communist hub of the country and renowned for being rich in the country’s culture. We thought of all the possibilities: the Forbidden City, the Great Wall, Tiananmen Square…a delicious dinner of Peking Duck.

As we discovered, 24 hours is far too short a time to spend in any place, much less a city so rich in political and cultural history.

First thing on our agenda was to find a hotel that was close to exactly where we wanted to be. We decided that Tiananmen Square was going to be our focal point for our exploration. After a quick conversation with a local at the airport, we realized that exploring the Great Wall of China would be impossible to do in 24-hours if we wanted to also tour around the city, given that the Great Wall was around 60 kilometers away from the city. So, we decided to try to see as much as possible in the city limits, and we weren’t disappointed.

Our first stop was to visit the Forbidden City, an enormous complex that has over 900 wooden buildings that use to be the homes of Chinese emperors for 500 years. We couldn’t possibly see every building, but managed to cover a good amount of ground and see some phenomenal architectural structures, artwork and artifacts from as far back as the Ming Dynasty.

Β Imperial Architecture in Beijing

One of many beautiful gates within the Forbidden Palace

Ornate Architecture, Forbidden City

Ornate detail on the Forbidden Palace structures

View of Hillside, Forbidden City

View of a temple on the hillside in the Forbidden Palace

Our next stop on the whirlwind tour was Tiananmen Square, memorable to our generation for the 1989 protests where Chinese students demanded freedom of press, freedom of speech and social equality with an end to corrupt communism. We remember the vivid images of students being shot down or run over by tanks driven by the Chinese army and the massive worldwide condemnation of these horrific acts.

View from the Entrance to the Forbidden City

View of Tiananmen Square

While at Tiananmen Square, we visited the Mao Mausoleum. Mao Zedong was the Chairman of the Communist Party from 1945 to 1976 and his body was embalmed and placed for viewing in a large structure that was built for him in the middle of Tiananmen Square. Photography is not allowed inside the mausoleum. Mao’s body lies within a glass structure looking remarkably preserved. Some believe that the body is actually covered in a wax sculpture.

Mao Mausoleum

Mao Mausoleum

Mao Mausoleum Sculpture

Β Sculpture in front of Mao Mausoleum

After a long (but fast!) day of touring three sites, we left Tiananmen Square hungry and in search of dinner. On our way we were lucky enough to catch a glimpse of the Chinese army marching down the street.

Army drill in China

What to eat when you only have one shot at dinner in China? A meal of traditional Peking Duck, of course! Considered a national dish of China, this is an exquisite dish consisting of fatty duck with crispy skin served with sweet and salty hoisin sauce and crisp scallions in thin pancakes. We were recommended to dine at one of the more famous of Beijing’s Peking Duck restaurants called Quanjude. It was a fun experience, consisting of a delectable duck served by a skilled chef who carved the duck and prepared each pancake for us while we indulged. At the end of our meal, we received a card that had a number on it which represented the duck that had been served to us…yes, a little bit touristy, but fun nonetheless! According to the restaurant’s website, they serve over 2 million ducks each year! Incredible.

Beijing Peking Duck

So there you have it…Beijing in 24-hours. It can be done. We had a blast and felt we got a great taste of China in just one day. We’ll definitely be coming back for more!


Road Warrior Tips from the best travel adapter, the Road Warrior travel adapter!
Electricity voltage: China – 220V, 50 Hz
Plug type: Varies. A, B, B3, BF, C, O, SE types
Road Warrior plug adapter can be used? Yes, and definitely recommended for China as the plug types vary greatly!


  1. Nice narration of your experience.
    What is that in last pic? A Duck??

    • Hi Girdhar – Thanks for taking the time to read our post on Beijing! Hard to believe we did it in a day. Yes, hopefully you’re not a vegetarian…because, yes, that was a duck in the last photograph (per the caption!). Just took a look at your blog! You have been doing some beaching in Goa – Wow! Take a look at our newest post on Barbados…not quite as much of a “party” scene as Goa, but a relaxing, tranquil place with the most blue waters we have ever seen! Happy Travels!

  2. Thats Looks Wounderfull , Still cant beleife you don it in one day .

    • Thanks, Ahmed! We had a great time running around seeing everything we could in the short amount of time we had! It was a blast!
      We hope that everything is well in Egypt (we were in Dahab in 2005 and can’t wait to get back there…amazing, AMAZING diving!). Stay in touch and Happy Travels!

  3. Nice article guys, The photo’s were great. That’s crazy over 2 million ducks!

    Safe travels!


    • Thanks for taking the time to read our post, Frank! We are eagerly awaiting the bucketlist rebellion! Sounds a bit controversial! πŸ™‚
      Happy Travels and stay in touch!

  4. Truly some great photos! This makes me wish I had had a better camera with me when I visited Beijing for four days in 2005.

    Did you have time to notice the smog though? In those four days when we were there, we did not see any sun, just grey everywhere.

    Now that you have hit the most important sites in Beijing, would you consider a second visit?

    • Thanks, Maria! We’re so happy you visited our site!
      Believe it or not, this was taken with just a simple point and shoot camera…we’ve since upgraded to a better digital SLR.
      The smog was disgusting, wasn’t it? I remember blowing my nose (sorry for the reference!) and thinking…this place is DIRTY!!!!!!!
      I have to admit…we probably wouldn’t go back there…do you think that the Great Wall would be worth another visit? That would be the only reason to head back. We would definitely like to see Shanghai and Xian (for the terracotta warriors!) but China wasn’t one of our favorite places. How about you???

      • If you had the chance, then yes, the Great Wall would be worth a visit. It is an amazing sight. But if it were your sole purpose, I would reconsider.

        We had a chauffeur drive us to the Great Wall and what I saw passing through tiny villages was just as interesting – poor villagers squatting and talking at the roadside. The real life outside the city… the same things our hosts tried so hard to hide from us…

        We had been to Beijing, Dezhou, Qingdao, and Shanghai. Out of those four cities, Shanghai was my favorite one. This city has some flair, IMO.

        On the other hand, Shanghai was the only city we did not have our driver at hand and did everything on foot. After two hours in the streets, we noticed how blackened our feet had become once we stepped into the shower. Your nose = our feet πŸ™‚

        I’m glad I had the chance to see as much as I did, but there are other places I’d rather go back to.

        In my case, they are the southern island of Kyushu/Japan (lived there for three years) and the Faroe Islands (visited there for three days). These are my favorites.

        • Awesome recos. Thanks! Hmm…maybe we will have to put China back on the list and make a trip to Shanghai then!

          That’s great that you lived in Kyushu. We lived in Tokyo for a couple of years, which is where we found the Road Warrior and got the idea to distribute it. We love the country (and the gadgets!).

          We haven’t been to the Faroe Islands — that sounds amazing! We like “small islands” :)…so this would be perfect. You should write a guest blog post for us as I’d love to learn more about the islands. Our personal favorite place to visit thus far has been Palau (also a small island in the middle of nowhere)!

          We are quite envious that you are living in Europe and can travel through the region!

          • Spent three very good years in Kitakyushu, where our first child was born too.

            We also love small islands, so we went to Taketomi (via Naha, then Ishigaki) while in Japan. This island is car-free, ideal for Japanese non-conformists – yes, they do exist! – and rich in culture, especially dance and music.

            A few years ago, we also traveled to the Azores. We were on one of the nine major islands, Faial, and this was also very interesting.

            And yes, we are lucky to live in Europe when it comes to traveling! Other things are pretty good too πŸ™‚

            About writing a guest blog post about the Faroes, sounds good.

          • Wow, that all sounds great!
            We have never been to the Azores…again, we love islands, so we are envious!
            Great! Please keep me posted on the blog post…we sure would love to learn more about the would be really fun (and I can’t wait to see photos!).
            Happy weekend!

  5. I like your post it is quick and informative especially in Tiananmen Square and Quanjade.

    • Thanks for checking our our post on Beijing! You’ll have to visit if you haven’t already been…but maybe spend more time than just 24 hours! πŸ™‚
      Happy Travels!

  6. I’ve yet to travel to China – But can’t wait to visit on my next trip around the world now!

    • Thanks, Dave. I can’t imagine cycling there, though. Would be challenging (with the smog and the disorderly traffic!!!).
      Are you going to be going there for certain on your next trip?
      Happy Travels!

  7. We loved the photographs!
    We’ve been in Beijing for many times.
    Recently we are trying to avoid it – too much pollution and noise πŸ™‚

    But for the first time 24 hours is OK πŸ˜‰

    • Thanks guys for joining us! πŸ™‚ We enjoyed reading some of your posts on your time in China (and we really want to see Xian — nice post on the Terracotta Warriors!).
      Happy travels and look forward to following your adventures!

    • Thanks, guys! Have you been to Beijing, or even China? We’d love to hear about it (and find out what we missed!) πŸ™‚
      Happy Travels!