Day One

  • Temple of Heaven Park & Dōngchéng South

You’re jet-lagged anyway, so what the heck? Get up at the crack of dawn and head straight for Temple of Heaven Park. Běijīng is blessed with some fabulous city parks, but this is arguably the most captivating of them all, and early morning, when it’s filled with locals rather than tourists, is the best time to visit. Don't miss the park's crowning edifice, the magnificent Hall of Prayer for Good Harvests – Ming dynasty architectural perfection.

  • Lunch It's time to try Běijīng's most famous dish at Déyuán Roast Duck.
  • Temple of Heaven Park & Dōngchéng South

Join the crowds of domestic tourists on their pilgrimage-like tour of China’s most famous public space, Tiān’ānmén Square, before spending the afternoon exploring the immense palace grounds of the Forbidden City.

  • Dinner It's only a short walk to cute courtyard restaurant Little Yúnnán.
  • Drum Tower & Dōngchéng North

Start your evening with cocktails in Mao Mao Chong Bar, north of Little Yúnnán, before catching some live music at School Bar or Yúgōng Yíshān.

Day Two

  • Drum Tower & Dōngchéng North

Ease yourself into day two with a calming stroll around the incense-filled courtyards of the Lama Temple before visiting the equally peaceful and historic Confucius Temple. Grab a coffee at nearby Cafe Confucius, or a craft beer at Stuff'd, before lunch.

Stroll through the hútòng to the magnificent Drum Tower. Catch one of the drumming performances here before hopping across the square to climb the equally majestic Bell Tower. In the late afternoon, locals congregate in the square for formation dancing and you're welcome to join in.

  • Dinner Head to stylish hútòng restaurant Toast, a short walk from the Drum Tower.
  • Běihǎi Park & Xīchéng North

Join the knowledgeable crowd who gather at the nearby East Shore Jazz Café to listen to the best local jazz musicians, as well as overseas bands, before drinking the night away by the lakeside on the Hòuhǎi Bar Strip.

Day Three

  • The Great Wall

Make an early start. You're heading for the Great Wall at Zhuàngdàokǒu. It's not the most remote section of the Wall, but it still takes a while to get there by bus, via Huáiróu.

  • Lunch Stop for lunch at Zǎoxiāng Yard, a small village guesthouse.
  • The Great Wall

Leave the village, and follow the stony pathway up to the Great Wall. When you hit the Wall, turn right and begin the steep, 45-minute hike to the top (where you'll get fabulous views of the Wall snaking off into the distance), before descending (15 minutes) to the main road by Huánghuā Chéng Great Wall. You can climb another section of the Wall here, if you like, or just catch a bus back to Huáiróu.

  • Dinner Authentic Běijīng eats at Bàodǔ Huáng, near the bus terminus.
  • Sānlǐtún & Cháoyáng

If you still have any energy left, head to one of Sānlǐtún's buzzing cocktail bars: try Janes + Hooch or Migas.

Day Four

  • Summer Palace & Hǎidiàn

Head to the western outskirts for a morning trip to the Summer Palace. The imperial court used to decamp here to flee Běijīng’s midsummer heatwaves. Food options are poor (although it's great picnic territory), so have lunch at 798 Art District, where you'll be spending the afternoon.

  • Lunch Try the Japanese and Western menu at Timezone 8, one of the key 798 hangouts.
  • Sānlǐtún & Cháoyáng

Spend the rest of the afternoon at 798 Art District: wander the galleries, stop for coffee and chat to young artists, while keeping your eye out for quirky souvenirs.

  • Dinner Head to Gǒubùlǐ for quality dumplings.
  • Dashilar & Xīchéng South

Spend your last evening in Běijīng being wowed by the city's best performance artists. If it's Peking opera you fancy, there's nowhere better than Húguǎng Guild Hall. Acrobatics more your thing? Head to Tiānqiáo Acrobatics Theatre. Can't decide? Try the mixed-performance shows at Lao She Teahouse.