The Best Guided Tours in Beijing

The Best Guided Tours in Beijing

What are the best guided tours in Beijing? Which tour to book among the many Beijing day-tours offered by several local suppliers and travel agencies? Are you looking for an excursion by private car and a personal guide or would you like to join a group tour? A comparison and detailed description of the 3 best private and group excursions you can book in the capital of China to visit the Forbidden City, Tian’anmen Square, the Temple of Heaven and the Summer Palace. With my considerations, some suggestions, all the pros and cons of each tour and direct links to check prices and book easily online by credit card.

Temple of Heaven Guided Tour, Beijing, China
Temple of Heaven Guided Tour, Beijing, China

Photo Credit: Marc Dalmulder

What are the Best Guided Tours to Book in Beijing?

Do you want to visit Beijing with its famous Forbidden City and spectacular Temple of Heaven? Are you looking for a group tour or private tour to see the best of Beijing with a guide?  Would you like to reach the Summer Palace or take a walk in the Hutong, the charming districts of Old Beijing? Are you searching for a day tour of Beijing that includes both transportation and a guide?

  • I have selected tens of guided tours in Beijing organised by locally based travel suppliers and which are sold online, and have chosen 3 different tours. These are not the only ones you can book but in my opinion they are among the best and most complete guided day tours and excursions available on the market.  
  • All tours are described below, in a very detailed way, with full descriptions, my considerations, some suggestions, all the pros and all the cons and all the important things you need to know before choosing. Have a look and see if there is a tour you like.
  • You can book all these tours easily by credit card through Get Your Guide and Viator, the two biggest travel companies specialising in selling tours and activities online. Viator is part of the TripAdvisor family and Get Your Guide gives you the benefit of a customer service reachable by phone 24/7 in all the main western languages. For the great majority of tours you get instant confirmation, while for some, tour confirmation is subject to availability and will be given within 48 hours of your booking.
  • You can read my technical reviews of the most interesting day tours to the Great Wall of China from Beijing in the post The Best Great Wall Guided Day-Trips from Beijing. There are very detailed descriptions and pros and cons of both group and private tours to the Mutianyu Great Wall, Badaling and the Great Wall of Jinshanling and Simatai so that you can quickly get some idea of the several different options and book the tour that best meets your way of travelling.
Forbidden City Guided Tour, Beijing, China
Forbidden City Guided Tour, Beijing, China

Photo Credit: Roman Boed

Group Tour of Beijing with Summer Palace

One long, single but very interesting day to see the best 4 attractions of the capital of China. You leave early from your hotel to go to impressive Tian’anmen Square in the very center of Beijing. From Tian’anmen you enter and visit the Forbidden City, the imperial residence where for almost 500 years the emperors of the Ming and Quing Dynasties lived and ruled over the immense territory of China. You continue to the Temple of Heaven, which is probably the most beautiful place to see in Beijing, walking through the large park and reaching that extraordinary building which is the Hall of Prayer for Good Harvests, the main temple which is truly magnificent. After lunch at a Chinese (obviously) restaurant and an “obligatory” stop at a pearl shop you go to the famous big complex of the Summer Palace, located outside the city limits north-west of the center of Beijing. It was the summer residence of the imperial court at the end of 1800s. About one hour to visit the place before returning to your hotel.

  • Pick-up and drop-off: your hotel in Beijing, the hotel must be located inside the 2nd ring road of Beijing, (as are most Beiing hotels booked by tourists).
  • Duration: approx. 9 hours, morning departure between 7am and 7:30am, sometimes even earlier, as there are so many things to see.
  • Guide: English.
  • Features: group tour. During reservation process please write all passport numbers and names for Forbidden City tickets advance booking.
  • Price: is per person. Considering that in addition to transportation and the guide, it also includes lunch, entrance fees to the Forbidden City, Temple of Heaven and Summer Palace, then the cost is really advantageous.
  • Pros: pick-up and drop-off directly at your hotel; the chance to take a look at the best of what the capital of China has to offer.
  • Cons: do NOT expect an in-depth visit; if you consider the traffic in Beijing, the distances and the supersized dimension of the Forbidden City and the Temple of Heaven, clearly the stops at each of the 3 main attractions will be extremely limited, about an hour each, maybe an hour and a half if you are lucky, you must be prepared for this; you see Tian’anmen Square but do not access it; you may not find the “obligatory” time-wasting shopping stops at a traditional Chinese medicine center and pearl shop exciting, but as long as you know this in advance and nobody really forces you to buy anything.
  • Good to know: the Forbidden City is usually open from Tuesday to Sunday; it is closed on Monday but on national holidays and in July and August it is also open on Monday. The day of the tour do NOT forget your passport, it is compulsory to enter the Forbidden City.
  • Recommended: if you only have one single day at your disposal and for a really cheap tour you would like to see the best of Beijing without missing any of the 4 key attractions of the city.
Summer Palace Guided Tour, Beijing, China
Summer Palace Guided Tour, Beijing, China

Photo Credit: Jeffry

Private Tour to Temple of Heaven, Tian’anmen and Forbidden City

A fully private tour with lunch included to visit the 3 stellar attractions in the center of Beijing. After leaving your hotel, you first go to the Temple of Heaven Park, many Beijing residents and Tai-chi lovers go there in the morning. Here you visit the three main temples, the harmonious Hall of Prayer for Good Harvests, the evocative Imperial Vault of Heaven and the Circular Mount Altar. Then you reach Tian’anmen, the historic and political heart of China and one of the biggest squares in the world, admiring from the outside the Monument to the People’s Heroes, the Great Hall of the People, the National Museum of China and the Mausoleum of Mao Zedong. The tour ends with an in-depth visit of the Forbidden City, the biggest museum complex of all China, once the Emperors’ residence. This tour is well-balanced, without having to rush about too much. The return to your hotel in mid-afternoon allows you to relax a bit, get changed and go out again to pleasantly enjoy your evening in Beijing.

  • Pick-up and drop-off: your hotel in Beijing.
  • Duration: about 6 hours, departure in the morning at about 9am, back to your hotel around 3pm or 3:30pm.
  • Guide: driver plus English and Spanish speaking guide.
  • Features: private tour with car and guide reserved only for you. During reservation process please write all passport numbers and names for Forbidden City tickets advance booking.
  • Price: don’t be lured by the price you see in the first instance, the real cost depends on the number of participants. Select the date and insert the number of adults and children to get the correct price. It includes transportation, guide, lunch and all entrance fees.
  • Pros: private car and an expert guide in history and culture; no jewelry and souvenir stop.
  • Cons: only one, the price; this is an expensive tour, if it is too much for you, take a look at the following tour whose cost is much more reasonable.
  • Good to know: wear comfortable shoes, you will walk a lot, the enormous spaces of Tian’anmen Square, the Forbidden City and the Temple of Heaven park require kilometers on foot, even if you have a car to move around in. Remember that the Forbidden City is usually closed on Monday, but on national holidays and in July and August it is also open on Monday. The day of the tour do NOT forget your passport.
  • Recommended: if you have a good budget and want to see the greatest attractions inside the city center of Beijing using a private car to move from one point to another.
Roof in Forbidden City, Beijing, China
Roof in Forbidden City, Beijing, China

Photo Credit: Colin Capelle

One Day in Beijing with a Private Guide

A brilliant tour. And without spending too much. There’s no car, instead there is the guide who comes to your hotel. Together you work out a plan of where to go and what to visit, you explain what you are interested in seeing. Your guide accompanies you while you travel throughout the city using public transport and tells you about the history and attractions of Beijing. To get about you use the fast, super-efficient Beijing subway to better see and understand the city and to feel like a local. Doing without a car means a drastic reduction in costs compared to all the other traditional excursions arranged by private car, so the price of this tour is really advantageous. It’s the perfect solution for your first day in Beijing, just to settle in and rapidly learn about the way things work around here.

  • Pick-up and drop-off: your guide picks you up and brings you back to your hotel.
  • Duration: 8 hours.
  • Guide: English.
  • Where you go and what you visit: you decide the itinerary, of course you can go to the Forbidden City and the Temple of Heaven but you can ask your guide to take you to the Hutong, the charming districts of Old Beijing, to be discovered exclusively on foot. Don’t hesitate to ask your guide about any interests you have regarding shopping, hidden markets and unknown places…
  • Features: private tour with your own exclusive guide, all visits are on foot or using public transport or taxi, you can personalise the itinerary; for this tour there are options including a private car but costs rises abruptly and the tour changes substantially.  Ignore these options. It’s better to use public transport.
  • Price: the cost is very reasonable and includes the assistance of a guide, to know the real price insert the number of participants and date, if by chance you select one of the previous tours remove it from the shopping cart. Instant confirmation is given at time of booking, then 48 hours before the tour date you MUST contact the local supplier (you immediately receive phone and email contacts) to personalize the itinerary. Lunch, entrance fees and transportation costs are not included for both you and your guide and are at your charge.
  • Pros: an unconventional way to explore the city, perfect for knowing and learning something more about local habits and customs, this is your chance to ask your guide questions about China that you could only ask travelling with a local; in addition your guide will give you good suggestions for restaurants, what to do in Beijing in the evening and what you can do on your own the following day.
  • Cons: public transportation tickets are not included but the Beijing subway is super cheap and takes you everywhere including to all main attractions; although taxis are not so expensive, using the subway is faster; and in the end, it will not be lunch and transport costs that make a dent in your day’s budget.
  • Recommended: if you wish to explore Beijing like a local, visiting what you want, when you want at your own pace.
Hutong at Night, Beijing, China
Hutong at Night, Beijing, China

Photo Credit: Roman Boed


  • I am not the organizer of these tours, I do not arrange any of the excursions and day trips you can read about in this blog. And I have never even taken part in them. To write all the guides published in the blog I travel independently arranging all transfers and all visits on my own.
  • But not everybody likes or has the time to study and prepare where to go, what to visit, how to organise things and transportation in advance. So, I have researched and compared tens of guided tours of Beijing sold by the two main online travel companies and have described the tours which I think are the best and the most complete. The results are the tours presented in this article.
  • Before booking read the full description of the tour you like in the official page of Viator and GetYourGuide carefully, please check what is included and what is not, meeting points, times of departure and cancellation policies. After booking, if you have any queries or doubts, immediately contact Viator Customer Care or GetYourGuide Customer Service in order to receive assistance.
  • And, most importantly, the day before the tour, please reconfirm the pick-up time with the local supplier. You receive phone and email of local supplier of the tour immediately after your booking. Maybe your hotel can help.
  • Read the reviews. If the majority of the reviews are positive that’s a good thing. And always check all the info you read here in the official page of each tour, things change and the official site provides the latest updates.
  • Do your travel plans take you to other cities in China? Are you looking for a guided tour? Hopefully you might be interested in reading my technical reviews of the most complete and value for money day-trips and excursions in Xian, Shanghai and Hong Kong. In The Best Guided Tours in Xian you can find my comments about the best travel options to visit the world famous Terracotta Army Museum and the highlights of the city; including the City Walls, the Great Mosque, the Muslim Quarter and the magnificent Big Wild Goose Pagoda. The Best Shanghai Guided Tours and Day-Trips invites you to discover the biggest metropolis in China, the UNESCO listed traditional Chinese gardens of Suzhou and the ancient and charming watertowns of Zhujiajiao, Zhouzhuang, Tongli e Xitang.

Last Update: May 18th 2019

Creative Commons 2.0 GenericFront cover photo credit: Impressive Forbidden City, Beijing by Ray Devlin, a big thanks for this great shot! Photos come from Flickr: Creative Commons Attribution Licensed Photos. Please read here the Summary of the Legal Code. Terms of license are valid at the time of publishing this post.