When we think of China , there are some places which pop into our minds: the Forbidden City, The Great Wall of China and the Terracotta Army . Then, of course, you cannot not think of Pandas when you think of China.
China is a large country and you’ll need to budget for some domestic flights to get around faster. And before you make any plans, make sure to have the travel documents in order: you need a passport and a visa. If you want to enjoy good weather, plan your trip in April or September. Also, please note that you’ll actually lose a day while flying to/from China (which means the itinerary is 12 days , including flights).
- You’ll be flying into Beijing and out of Shanghai
- You will be staying in budget hotels with easy access to the public transportation
- Use the public transportation system to get around the cities
Day 1, 2 Beijing and the Forbidden City
There are various possibilities to get a walking tour of Beijing onto your smartphone and use it without data support while you are traveling. And it’s always a good idea to get to know the city like this. Alternatively, you can book a walking tour .
Later in the day, visit Tiananmen Square, the world’s largest public square and the most well-known landmark in Beijing. You can also visit the Museum of Chinese History and the Museum of the Chinese Revolution, but leave the Forbidden City for the next day.
In the same Dongcheng District, you can find one of the remains of the medieval city, the Drum and Bell Towers.
On day two, start by visiting the Forbidden City, the Chinese imperial palace from the Ming Dynasty to the end of the Qing Dynasty. It is now home to the Palace Museum. There is a lot to see here, so plan for spending at least half a day checking out the buildings.
The Temple of Heaven in Chongwen District , along with some remains of the medieval city – Ming Dynasty City Wall Site Park and Qianmen — are also worth your time.
The Great Wall of China is another important landmark which can be visited from Beijing. The Badaling section is the closest to the capital and, of course, the most touristy.
>>read more about Getting from Beijing to the Great Wall of China
Day 3, 4 Xi’an and the Terracotta Army
The flight from Beijing to Xi’an takes about 2 h and you can find fares around €83/US$103 one way (in mid-September 2012).
On day 3, visit the City Wall of Xi’an , which is the world’s largest city wall. It’s been restored and you can walk or bike on it. A complete loop (13.7 km takes 4-5 hours). There are also some interesting pagodas and temples to visit in the city, so are set for this day.
On day 4, catch bus 306 which takes you to the Army of Terracotta Warriors and Horses. A museum has been built on site but be aware that the place is very touristy.
Another interesting trip outside the city is the Banpo Village Ruins, which can be easily accessed via bus 42 from the train station. The ruins of a 6,000 years old village includes the remains of the living quarters, the burial grounds , as well as ancient tools.
>>read more about Getting from Beijing to Xi’an
Day 5 -8 Yangtze River cruise
It’s not a cheap affair , as 4-day cruises start at US$359 per person, but many travelers won’t leave China without such as experience. You can take the cruise from Chongqing to Yichang. Shop around because there are many companies offering river cruises. The scenery along the way is spectacular.
So, first catch a flight from Xi’an to Chongqing. The travel time is about 1h and the single fare starts at €58 / US$72 in mid-Sept 2012.
Day 9, 10 Shanghai
Catch a flight from Yichang to Shanghai . It takes about 1 h 45 min and the single fare starts at €39 / US$48 one way in mid-Sept 2012.
The Bund is the famous street of old colonial-era buildings and Shanghai’s Old Town is located close to it. Located along Huangpu River, the Bund is where most of the travelers choose to spend their time. You can take a ferry ride on the river and enjoy the sights (the cruise would be the more expensive choice).
The Shanghai Museum is pretty impressive and definitely worth your time. There are volunteers who offer free tours, so you get a chance to learn a lot more than if you were to visit the museum on your own.
There are also some interesting temples you can check out, such as Jade Buddha Temple, Jing’an Temple and Longhua Temple.
>>book a cheap hostel in Shanghai
If you don’t want to spend 4 days on a river cruise, then you can always stay 4 days in Beijing and 4 days in Xi’an. Both cities offer plenty of things to do and you won’t be getting bored. Or, instead of flying from city to city, you can catch a train or bus (hence spending more time traveling) and spend 3 days in both Beijing and Xi’an.