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Layover in Beijing – the ultimate guide 2021

Published by: Bounce16 August, 2021

Beijing Capital International Airport, also known as PEK, is the biggest in China and one of the biggest in Asia, second only to Tokyo. Beijing airport is almost like a city in itself, and it may take you a while to navigate your way around. Also, the airport is 10 miles or 32 kilometers away from the city it serves, so you need to allow time for travel between them. But Beijing is such a fascinating city that the temptation to explore can be overwhelming.

If you find yourself on a Beijing stopover, you can see some of what the city has to offer. Ditch your bags at a Bounce luggage storage in Beijing and make the most of your Beijing layover with this guide.

6 hour layover in Beijing

The quickest way from the airport to central Beijing is to take the Airport Express train which leaves from terminals 2 and 3. The train takes around 20 minutes to reach the city, and you can choose to get off at either Sanyuanqiao or Dongzhimen stations. When it comes to exploring the city with limited time, Dongzhimen is your best bet, being more central than Sanyuanqiao. 

Once you’ve gotten past customs, dropped off your bags at a suitcase storage in Beijing, and made your way into the city, you’re not going to have time to do justice to some of Beijing’s major attractions. Instead, take a short walk or bus ride to the Lama Temple. Opened in 1694, this gorgeous temple is the most important site for Tibetan Buddhism outside of Tibet. It’s a fascinating place to explore the spiritual side of China.

  • Take the train to Dongzhimen to get as close as possible to the main attractions of the city.

  • Visit the Lama Temple for insight into Tibetan Buddhism and some incredible photo opportunities.

  • Leave yourself time to get back to the airport.

8 hour layover in Beijing

An eight hour Beijing layover gives you enough time to see one of the city’s most famous attractions. The Forbidden City will take at least two to three hours to explore, and that’s not including the time it will take to get there. Subway line 2 connects Dongzhimen with Qianmen Station, and from there it’s just a short walk to the Forbidden City. So if you have an eight hour Beijing airport layover, forego the Lama Temple and devote your time to this attraction instead.

Built in 1420 by Emperor Chengzu, the sprawling palace complex contains 980 separate buildings and is reputed to have 9999 rooms. Once forbidden to commoners, this wonder of the world now receives millions of visitors every year. It’s a truly stunning place to visit, offering a glimpse into China’s imperial past and the opulence of its former rulers. Make sure to drop off your bags at a Beijing luggage locker before you take on this vast site.

  • Take subway line 2 from Dongzhimen to Qianmen to visit the Forbidden City.

  • This complex of 980 buildings will take at least 2 to 3 hours to explore.

  • It’s a good idea to book tickets in advance to this popular attraction.

10 hour layover in Beijing


A 10 hour layover means you can explore without the same sense of urgency. If you’re really into history, you could easily spend the extra couple of hours more fully exploring the Forbidden City. But Beijing has more to offer.

Right outside the Forbidden City, you’ll find the famous Tiananmen Square. This is the place to understand more about China’s modern history and culture. The Square is home to the National Museum of China, the Monument to the People’s Heroes, and the mausoleum of Mao Zedong. With only an hour or two extra before you have to make your connection, you’ll have to be selective in what you explore in and around the Square. But no matter what you choose, it’s a great way to understand more about China’s current political culture.

  • Tiananmen Square is a center for Chinese culture and is located right outside the Forbidden City.

  • The square is home to many important monuments, and you may not have time to explore them all.

12 hour layover in Beijing

A 12 hour long layover gives you time to get some fresh air and stretch your legs. Just to the north of the Forbidden City, you’ll find Jingshan Park. This park was once the palace gardens, but now it’s a great place to take a walk among the lush foliage. There’s also a hill in the center of the park that you can climb and get incredible views, not just of the Forbidden City but of much of central Beijing. Plus, the park offers an oasis of relative calm after the busy crowds of Beijing’s most impressive historical monuments. Take an hour or two to enjoy the serenity of the park before heading back to the airport.

  • Get some peace and quiet in Jingshan Park.

  • Climb to the top of the hill for extensive views of Beijing and the Forbidden City.

  • Stretch your legs on the walking trails and enjoy the well-tended gardens.

24 hour layover in Beijing

An overnight layover in Beijing lets you really dive into what the city has to offer. You’ll need to find a place to stay, and its location may influence what you choose to see. But for many people, China is synonymous with its Great Wall, and a 24 hour layover in Beijing will give you enough time to see this historical wonder of the world for yourself.

It takes about two hours to reach the section of the Great Wall nearest Beijing. This will give you the opportunity to see more of the country outside of its capital. You could take a bus or hire a taxi, but the easiest way to see the Great Wall from Beijing might be to take a guided tour. However you choose to get there, the Great Wall is a major bucket list destination and a place you simply have to see if you have the chance.

  • It takes approximately two hours to reach the nearest section of the Great Wall of China from Beijing.

  • A guided tour may be the easiest option to reach the Wall.

  • You’ll also get to see more of the countryside around Beijing on your way.

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