Beijing China

5 Memorable Things to Do in Beijing for Chinese New Year

Incredible things to do in Beijing for Chinese New Year, the biggest holiday in Asia, including exploring a completely empty stretch of the Great Wall of China and spectating the biggest street firework extravaganza you've ever seen!
As Korean hagwon ESL teachers with little vacation time, we take even a 3-day weekend as an opportunity to jump ship. So, when Chinese New Year came around and we learned that we’d have 5 days off IN A ROW, we pulled our giddy selves together, scoped Skyscanner for some deals, and thought what better place to go than Beijing for Chinese New Year? Visiting Beijing for Chinese New Year was a refreshing, energetic  blur—a fantastic introduction to the beautiful country of China.

So, what was our trip to Beijing for Chinese New Year like? There are a few things that define the trip: red lanterns, an empty Great Wall, and a citywide fireworks extravaganza that we’d never experienced anything like before.

Here are 5 things you should do in Beijing for Chinese New Year:

Lauren at the Great Wall: Things to do in Beijing for Chinese New Year

Lauren at the Great Wall in Beijing for Chinese New Year


  1. Go to the Great Wall

Shocker, guys. While any first time trip to Beijing must include a trip to the Great Wall, one of the best times to visit this famous landmark is over Chinese New Year. During this time, many people from Beijing travel to their hometowns to visit their families. This means that many places in and around Beijing, including the Great Wall, will probably be emptier than normal. When we went to the Great Wall at Jinshanling on the eve of the Chinese New Year (Badaling is closer to Beijing but notoriously crowded), we encountered no more than 10 people over the 4 hours we were there. There were huge sprawls of time when we had every visible inch of wall to ourselves. If visiting the Great Wall is of interest to you, you might also want to check out this guide to the Jiayuguan Fortress—it’s outside of Beijing but absolutely incredible.

Great Wall of China at Jinshanling: Things to do in Beijing for Chinese New Year

Directions to Jinshanling

Take subway lines 13 or 15 to Wangjing West Station, then take exit C. After exiting station, cross the road to the bus station. During high tourist season (until around November), there is a direct tourist bus from the station that goes to the wall at Jinshanling, leaving at 8 AM. Our trip was outside the high season, so it wasn’t clear if it was running or not. Instead, we took the bus from this station going to Luanping—it will say “滦平” on the front window. The bus leaves every hour starting at 7 AM. When you board the bus, pay 13 RMB in cash, and, if you have a Beijing Metro Card, scan it on the card reader for another 7 RMB (20 RMB total). If you don’t have a card, you’ll have to pay a bit more (32 RMB). After about a 90 minute ride from Beijing, get off at the first stop: the Jinshanling Service Station. When you get off, there will be people offering to drive you to the wall, saying it’s a 2-3 hour walk from there. If you decide to pay them, it should cost no more 40 RMB for a one-way trip.  If you’re going around Chinese New Year, the closer entrance to the wall from the bus stop will probably be closed, and the shuttle bus won’t be running, so it’s a safer bet to just have someone drive you. If you want to walk, just follow the road under the highway for 2 km to the closer eastern entrance, and 5-6 km to the further main entrance.

Great Wall

Great Wall at Jinshanling

  1. Join Beijing’s massive street fireworks celebration

Locals set off fireworks constantly over the Chinese New Year holiday, particularly on the eve—with all the explosives, Beijing sounded like a warzone at times. Even on the Great Wall, the constant boom and bang of fireworks, though muffled by distance, could not be escaped.


The Secret to Cheap Flights
 

We happened to be on Beijing’s Ghost Street (Gui Jie) when it struck midnight on New Year’s Eve, proving a lucky turn of fate as each restaurant owner on the street collaborated in a grand orchestra of flash and boom, setting off a constant string of fireworks, fire crackers, and sparklers for hours straight. Fireworks sequined the entire sky. It left us dazed and giddy, with ears ringing, hair ashy, and hands with sores from stray shrapnel. We have never been able to stand so close to fireworks, nor have we ever seen such an extravagant firework show set up on the sidewalk. It was definitely one of our favorite experiences from this trip.

Fireworks on Ghost Street for Chinese New Year

Fireworks on Ghost Street for Chinese New Year

 

  1. Wander down Beijing’s hutongs

Beijing is known for is its labyrinthine collection of hutongs. Hutongs are old, narrow alleys that crisscross the city’s central historic area—great places to experience Beijing’s local culture. If you explore Beijing for Chinese New Year, you can see many traditional Chinese homes decorated with red lanterns and, if your timing is right, people setting off fireworks a few feet away from you as you wander.

Exploring one of Beijing's hutongs

Exploring one of Beijing’s hutongs

 

Our accommodation in the hutongs was the Super 8 Dong Si Motel. This motel is located within 10 minutes’ walk of the Dongsi subway station. It’s well placed for exploring the hutongs and visiting many of Beijing’s attractions, including the Forbidden City and the Temple of Heaven. The motel is nothing special, but our room was clean and seemed recently renovated. Super 8 also has 24-hour reception, which makes for easy coming and going at any time of day or night.


Super 8 Dong Si Motel:  No.137 Dongsi Wutiao, Dongcheng District, Beijing, China 100010



The Best Travel Deal App Download

  1. Watch a New Year’s Day Parade

Watching a parade on Chinese New Year’s Day in Beijing marks a great way to cap off your celebrations from the night before. You can catch beautiful floats and traditional dances, as well as music from local bands. Catch the parade starting at Qianmen Street near Tiananmen Square before it spreads through the whole city.

 

Yonghegong Lama Temple

Yonghegong Lama Temple


  1. Visit a Temple

On the first day of the Chinese New Year, we visited the Temple of Heaven and the Yonghegong Lama Temple. Both temples host ceremonies featuring traditional costumes and music. While other times it’s nice to have a temple all to yourself and enjoy the solitude, the Chinese New Year holiday is a fantastic time to visit a temple and enjoy the spectacle of the local crowds.  The Yonghegong Lama Temple, unique for its Tibetan influence, was kept open later than usual for the holiday and was absolutely packed with people ringing in the New Year with incense and prayer.

Temple of Heaven

Temple of Heaven

Directions to Temple of Heaven

Take subway line 5 and exit at Tiantan Dongmen station. Leave from Exit A and you’ll be right next to the eastern entrance to the temple.

Directions to Yonghegong

Take line 5 to Yonghegong Lama Temple station and leave from exit C. Walk 400 meters south and you’ll find the temple on the east side of the road.

Lighting incense at Yonghegong

Lighting incense at Yonghegong

 

Any trip to Beijing for Chinese New Year will be a great one, as the festive spirit will pervade your entire experience.  Just remember that some restaurants and stores will be closed in Beijing for Chinese New Year, and others may have different operating hours. If you’ve got your heart set on a specific restaurant during this time, you should research in advance if it will be open. Restaurants on Ghost Street are a safe bet, but they may close early to set up their firework show. However, it will be well worth it to be able to participate in one of the most massive and incredible holidays in the world. A trip to Beijing for Chinese New Year is unforgettable, and we’d highly recommend it!


Heading to Hong Kong instead? Why not check out a Hong Kong dog cafe!


Like this post?

Share it on Pinterest by hovering over the picture below and clicking the red “Save” button!

Incredible things to do in Beijing for Chinese New Year, the biggest holiday in Asia, including exploring a completely empty stretch of the Great Wall of China and spectating the biggest street firework extravaganza you've ever seen!


You might also appreciate…

You Might Also Like

23 Comments

  • Reply
    What I’ve Learned from Traveling to 25 Countries – TLVSION ØF NOMADS
    March 13, 2016 at 4:00 am

    […] 5 Things to do in Beijing for Chinese New Year […]

  • Reply
    20 Best Things To Dо in Bеijing, Chinа
    September 15, 2016 at 10:29 pm

    […] Heading to Beijing during Chinese New Year? Than check out 5 memorable things to do in Beijing for Chinese New Year. […]

  • Reply
    OmniyaFareed Shafik
    October 23, 2016 at 11:56 am

    wow this looks really peaceful. I would have never thought of going to a place like this but you have definitely encouraged me to pay it a visit. Great pics as well. Was it expensive to visit or was it somewhat affordable? I find touristic places to be a bit expensive 🙂

    • Reply
      Lauren West
      October 23, 2016 at 2:03 pm

      Actually, it was pretty affordable! China itself is a pretty cheap country to travel in overall.

  • Reply
    Jan Michael De Guzman
    October 24, 2016 at 12:07 am

    Interesting stuffs to do. I wonder how you took photos with less crowd around during CNY. I am expecting a crowd in your photos. Well done then!

    • Reply
      Lauren West
      October 24, 2016 at 12:53 am

      Actually, many people leave the city to visit their families in their home town!

  • Reply
    Clare
    October 24, 2016 at 2:06 am

    Sounds like you had a great time. I visited Beijing the day before National China Day and went to the wall on the day. I was expecting it to be packed but was shocked at how quiet it was!!! Great to get to see a place you expected to be crowded with so few visitors!! I would love to see the fireworks, thats my favourite thing 🙂

    • Reply
      Lauren West
      October 24, 2016 at 12:06 pm

      It’s so much more enjoyable when it’s empty, Clare! Glad you were able to have a similar experience!

  • Reply
    Ivy
    October 24, 2016 at 3:36 am

    Glad you guys had a good time! Good use of a long weekend 😉 I’m surprised that there aren’t more people on the Great Wall of China! That’s awesome that you guys had pretty much the whole place to yourself. Did you get some red pockets too! That’s one of my favourite things about Chinese New Years 😛

    • Reply
      Lauren West
      October 24, 2016 at 12:07 pm

      I’m sure it’s many people’s favorite thing about Chinese New Years, but no, we didn’t get any!

  • Reply
    Janine Good
    October 24, 2016 at 3:47 am

    I do love China and Beijing. I did extensive travel there, but sadly wasn’t there to enjoy the New Year festivities. I do agree that the Great Wall would be sparser in visitors which makes for a more enjoyable time! I loved the Temple of Heaven while there and did thoroughly enjoy the Hutongs. The lanterns make for a very festive occasion 🙂

    • Reply
      Lauren West
      November 16, 2016 at 3:13 am

      I could easily go back to Beijing–there’s still so much I wish to see!

  • Reply
    Kris
    October 24, 2016 at 4:17 am

    I never thought of visiting China on a Chinese new year but your hack about getting into tourist spot without tourist competition is amazing. Haha! I always see the great wall of China as a crowded tourist location but your photo was totally bare! Im also glad you mentione the fireworks because I was watching for it. Hehe!

    • Reply
      Lauren West
      October 24, 2016 at 12:08 pm

      Yes! The experience was made infinitely better because we were able to explore it all by ourselves.

  • Reply
    Khansa
    October 24, 2016 at 6:04 am

    Getting a candid shot of the great wall like you sid wouls be a dream come true for me

    • Reply
      Lauren West
      October 24, 2016 at 12:08 pm

      I hope you have your dream come true some day!

  • Reply
    Brittany Hemming
    October 25, 2016 at 12:27 am

    Beijing sounds amazing. The great wall is absolutely on my bucketlist. I never considered going to Beijing for Chinese New Year as I assumed it would be absolutely packed. Good to know it’s a little quieter during that time. I may have to make it there 🙂

    • Reply
      Lauren West
      November 27, 2016 at 2:54 am

      It really is a great time to visit–especially the part of the wall we visited!

  • Reply
    Nadine Smith
    October 25, 2016 at 7:44 pm

    One day, I’m going to go up the Great Wall! I’ve always wanted to! And now that you mentioned that it’s better to go during CNE, I’ll keep that in mind. I need to do more cardio first though!

    • Reply
      Lauren West
      November 16, 2016 at 3:14 am

      We couldn’t believe how empty it was!

  • Reply
    Lisa Martin
    October 26, 2016 at 3:37 pm

    I really like the idea of seeing the Great Wall without the massive crowds, fantastic tip! I love spending festive seasons in other countries, its such a good way to get to know a culture. Beautiful photos too!

    • Reply
      Lauren West
      November 16, 2016 at 3:14 am

      And what better festival than Chinese New Year in China!

  • Reply
    Television of Nomads
    November 26, 2016 at 12:54 pm

    […] 5 Memorable Things to Do in Beijing for Chinese New Year […]

  • Leave a Reply

    Follow

    Get the latest posts delivered to your mailbox:

    Shares