5 Amazing Reasons to Visit Beijing with Kids

We were excited to visit Beijing with kids, to check out the capital of China, and of course to cross off another Wonder of the World from our list.

After a ton of research, we were ready to see the best of Beijing! We had our smog masks and hand sanitizer ready. However, I don’t think any amount of research could have quite prepared us for the smog, the intense traffic congestion, and the number of older people in Beijing spitting on the ground.

Visiting Beijing with kids

Oh, and apparently burping loudly whenever you feel the urge and passing gas is very acceptable in public too. We learned the uncomfortable way that this is a sign of an enjoyable meal. The loud belching and trumpeting sounds from below other tables in restaurants were constant entertainment for the boys. Full disclosure: it was usually older people. Anyway, if I haven’t scared you off yet, read on for our favorite activities when you visit Beijing, China with kids!

great wall of china beijing china with kids

1. Climb the Great Wall of China with Kids

This was the big attraction, the main stop for our family. Just north of Beijing, you’ll find one of the most famous monuments in the world, the Great Wall of China. This was by far the highlight for us. We were excited to visit Beijing with kids, but could take or leave the city itself. This grand Wonder of the World was really quite incredible, and it’s almost impossible to fathom its original size and grandeur. Just seeing the reconstructed section outside of Beijing made us understand how powerful the Dynasties of China were.

Although it’s unlikely you’ll see the whole thing, after all, it measures about 5,500 miles long. There are different sections you can visit, and we chose The Mutianyu Great Wall. We chose this because it’s one of the best-preserved sections, and is only a 2.5 hour drive from Beijing.

This section is less crowded and you can walk for long distances.  I would HIGHLY recommend you bring plenty of water, sunscreen, and snacks, as it gets incredibly hot, smoggy, and there are limited places to purchase refreshments. A cable car takes you up to the entrance.

climbing the great wall of china with kids - it was HOT

You can walk for miles along the wall and there are plenty of places to rest and get some shade should you need it, before you continue hiking.

View of the wall, from the wall

The hike alone is quite strenuous, and with the thick smog and hot weather, it can take its toll on unprepared visitors.

The fun part for us was taking the luge down. I have to say, it’s pretty spectacular luging down the great Wall of China.

 2. Visit Beijing’s Forbidden City with Kids

Visiting the Forbidden City with kids

The Forbidden City, also known as the Palace Museum, once served as the imperial palace for 24 emperors during the Ming and Qing Dynasties (1368 – 1911). This massive complex sits on the northern edge of Tiananmen Square at the epicenter of Beijing. It gets crazy busy with loooooong lines, so I’d suggest you purchase tickets online ahead of time if possible. Once they sell about 80,000 tickets (yes you read that correctly) for the day they close ticket sales.

posing with a statue of a king in the Forbidden City

Despite the crowds, the palace is a beautiful place to visit and the history and architecture are fabulous. Again, be prepared for lots of walking and have plenty of fluids with you.

Forbidden city in Beijing china

3.  See Tiananmen Square

The iconic plaza Tiananmen Square, is among the world’s most famous public spaces, It’s a place most Western visitors and Chinese people want to visit. It’s pretty interesting seeing the large portrait of Chairman Mao staring at you, and even more interesting knowing he is lying in a mausoleum close by. Although Mao had wished to be cremated, his body was embalmed and construction of a mausoleum began shortly after his death.

This highly popular attraction is located in the middle of the square.  Chinese tourists flock here due to their national pride. And, it’s although technically it’s a square shape, it’s not a typical city square – it’s massive. It seems like is a mile on each side. Our cameras at ground level couldn’t capture the real depth of this huge meeting place.

The view of the Forbidden city from Tianamen Square

The heat, the crowds, and the strict security check made for a long and fairly uncomfortable day. You need your passport to visit and foreigners enter through a different entrance than the Chinese, but it’s worth the hassle. It’s free to enter, although there are insanely long lines, filled mostly with Chinese people paying their respects.

kids in the forbidden city being filmed by Chinese tourists

The boys seriously felt like Justin Bieber, as we encountered groups of giggling Chinese school kids (and older people too) who were shocked to see blonde hair. Chinese tourists also looking at the sights wanted to take pictures of the kids at every turn. For many visitors, we were probably the first Western foreigners they have ever spoken to, and the boys’ blonde hair definitely made them stand out.

Strike a poseFamily style, positing with kids in the Forbidden City

Even our tour guide at the end sheepishly asked if she could have a picture with them. The boys were in their element and they were happy to oblige.

4. Temple of Heaven

The Temple of Heaven in Beijing China

The Temple of Heaven was built from 1406 to 1420 and is where the emperors prayed for good harvests. The temple itself is truly impressive as no nails were used during construction, and there is a smaller temple area that you can visit, which was a private retreat for the Emperor.

The green park is a peaceful sanctuary and offers respite from the smog and busy city amongst the old cypress trees.  We were stunned by the beauty (and people-watching) in the park. There’s all kinds of activities going on (card games, Tai Chi, chess, music, sports), and the boys had a blast trying to beat the local old Chinese men at checkers!Travel to beijing china with kids for fun

5.  Eat Dim Sum

If you haven’t had dim sum, try it for breakfast when you visit Beijing, China. It’s not like eggs and bacon, but dim sum is delicious and there are so many varieties and variations.

Kids eating dim sum in beijing

We ate Dim Sum every day for breakfast and lunch. The native steamed buns stuffed with meat and vegetables, along with Chow mein, rice and soup, were simply delicious. The food in Beijing is incredible.

Beijing has experienced a period of rapid growth and change over the years. While much of the country and facilities have seen modernization and Western amenities are now available, there are still many areas that might catch you unprepared.

Beijing, China with Kids: Travel Tips

Here are our top 10 family travel tips. And here are some tips specifically for Beijing:

  1. The internet in China is censored! The Great Firewall of China is a censorship and surveillance project that blocks potentially unfavorable incoming data from foreign countries, and is very real. There are strict restrictions and many social sites such as Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, Google etc. are blocked. don’t expect to access social media, and don’t expect that your communications are private unless you use a VPN.
  2. Almost all public restrooms are squat-style, and most of them do not provide toilet paper. Bring small packages of tissue with you EVERYWHERE. You’ll need it.
  3. The Chinese roads are insanely chaotic, so self-driving is only recommended for the particularly brave.
  4. Prepare for the poor air quality. The pollution levels are no surprise, and the air quality will have a bigger impact on your trip than you expect. Be sure to bring surgical masks… you’ll need them!
  5. Be prepared for security and passport checks wherever you go. You may be frisked and patted down before entering public places, but just go with it and realize it’s all part of the experience.
  6. Unlike most other places we travel to, most people in China do NOT speak English. Hire a bi-lingual guide, or bring a language app or translation book, you’ll need it.
  7. Don’t ever plant your chopsticks upright in a bowl of food. This is considered an offensive gesture.

great wall of china with kids, outside of Beijing

Exploring Beijing: Hidden Gems and Insider Secrets

When we I decided to venture to Beijing, we were as excited as we were curious. With so many things we wanted to learn and experience, we had a lot of questions. Here are the top questions we had and the answers we found when traveling:

What’s the best time to visit Beijing?

We discovered that the best times to visit Beijing are during the spring and autumn months, specifically April, May, September, and October. The weather is the most pleasant during these times—not too hot and not too cold. And the air quality is the best. It’s worst in the winter, and it’s really quite hot in the summer!

How do we get around in Beijing?

We decided to use a guide to navigate us around the city and had a dedicated driver. This made translation and getting around much easier. Road signs are mostly Chinese-only, so driving yourself without knowing Mandarin would be a challenge. Taxis are everywhere, but not all drivers speak English, so it’s handy to have your destination written in Chinese.

What are some basic Chinese phrases that might come in handy?

We learned a few simple phrases like “Nǐ hǎo” (Hello), “Xièxiè” (Thank you), and “Duōshǎo qián?” (How much?). Knowing these made our interactions a little smoother and always brought a smile to people’s faces.

What cultural norms should we be aware of to be respectful?

One important thing we learned is to never stick your chopsticks upright in a bowl of rice, as it resembles incense sticks burned for the dead and is considered bad luck. Also, showing up a bit early for a meeting or dinner is seen as polite.

Aside from the Great Wall and Forbidden City, what other places should we visit?

We explored some less crowded but equally fascinating places like the Summer Palace and the Hutongs. These spots gave us a deeper look into Beijing’s rich history and culture.

What’s a must-try food in Beijing?

Peking Duck was a must for the boys, and they thought it was a culinary delight. I didn’t agree, but that’s why family travel is so fun. We also loved trying different foods from pictures on the menu, and had some great things we’ve never seen at Chinese restaurant outside of China.

Is tap water safe to drink?

We found out that it’s better to stick to bottled water as tap water in Beijing isn’t recommended for drinking. Hotels may provide complimentary bottled water in the rooms, which is very convenient.

Can we visit the Great Wall without a tour?

Yes, we went to the Mutianyu section of the Great Wall and it was quite straightforward to gain entry and give ourselves a self-tour. It allowed us to go at our own pace and avoid the crowds and frequent stops that come with organized tours.

How can we learn more about the history and culture during our visit?

Hiring a guide for some of the historical sites was incredibly worthwhile. They provided insights and stories we wouldn’t have learned on our own, making history come alive in a way that was engaging for the whole family.

Our trip to Beijing was more than just sightseeing; it was a deep dive into a culture and history that was both ancient and incredibly busy (the traffic in Beijing equals or beats any city, including Los Angeles). We made sure to approach each day with a sense of adventure and that opens up so many wonderful experiences and interactions. The best adventures often lie just off the beaten path, so don’t be afraid to explore beyond the main attractions.

We visited Beijing on a great 14-day exploration of China with our kids. After Beijing, we traveled to Xian, Chengdu, then to Lhasa, Tibet, and ended in Shanghai.

Have you visited Beijing with kids?
What were your favorite things to do or see?

Let me know in the comments below and join me on Instagram and Twitter!

About The Author


I’m a travel and health writer, digital brand consultant, breast cancer survivor, and supermom to two boys! I keep it real and share stories of raising an active family, life after a cancer diagnosis, and family travels around the world! Each story is shared with my dry, and sometimes naughty sense of humor.

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