When we were doing our round the world trip we knew we had to do a stopover in Beijing so we could go and hike the Great Wall of China. But our itinerary meant that we would be visiting Beijing in winter. In this guide we round up everything from Beijing Winter weather and pollution, what to pack and the perfect Beijing in winter itinerary.
Why You Should & Tips for Visiting Beijing in Winter
So when we were planning our trip to Beijing we had no choice other than visiting Beijing in Winter. We had some concerns visiting Beijing in January and there were definitely some advantages and some disadvantages to visiting Beijing in Winter
Why You Should Visit Beijing in Winter
- Beijing and the Beijing tourist attractions are notoriously busy places. Visiting Beijing in the Winter means you are likely (Outside of any public holidays) to find the main tourist attractions in Beijing far less busy than during Peak times.
- Beijing Winter weather tends to be dry (there is very little rain in Beijing during Winter.
Disadvantages to Visiting Beijing in Winter
- It is cold! Very cold! See the next section for a break down of Beijing winter weather by month but if you pack correctly this shouldn’t be too much of a problem.
- There are some big public holidays during the Beijing Winter Months such as New Years Day and Chinese New Year. So while Winter tends to be far less busy these holidays can be some of the busiest days of the year travel wise. As long as you avoid these days you should be find.
- The pollution – this was the number one disadvantage for us travelling to Beijing in Winter. Pollution in Beijing during Winter is far worse than in summer. We used the Air Visual App every day while we were there. While we got good weather and air quality on the day we went to the Great Wall the other days we were in Beijing the Air Pollution was over 400 (the seriously dangerous to health level) especially in the morning s which definitely impacted our itinerary.
Tips for Visiting Beijing in winter
- Always book tickets in advance – even in the off season Beijing tourist attractions can get very busy
- Download the Air Visual app to check the pollution levels each day. We have tips for travelling to Beijing with air pollution here but if you suffer from breathing conditions be sure to speak to your doctor before travel.
- Stay in a hotel with great indoor facilities and access to an indoor mall in case you get awful pollution. We stayed at and would thoroughly recommend staying at the Grand Hyatt Beijing as this has the best indoor pool I have ever seen, fantastic service and access to an indoor mall which meant we still had things to do when the pollution was too high to go outside.
Beijing Winter Weather
There is no two ways about it Beijing Winter Weather is cold – Very cold! But I would not let this deter you from visiting Beijing in the winter. While the winters are cold, the good news is that winter is a largely dry season in Beijing. Here is a brief overview of the Beijing winter weather by month to help you pick when you want to travel
Beijing weather November
November is really the month when Winter starts to hit in Beijing. Beijing weather November tends to be cold and there is a chance that snow may start to fall. The average high in Beijing in November is around 10 degrees and lows of 0. The good news is that you will rarely see rain if you travel to Beijing in November
Beijing weather December
In December the temperatures in Beijing really start to drop. The average high is only four degrees while the temperature can drop to -6. However you usually don’t see any rain in the month of December but there is a chance that you may get snow and that snow tends to stick around because of the low temperatures.
Beijing weather January
Beijing is typically coldest in January. Having travelled to Beijing in January I can attest to it being bitter with temperatures between 0 and -8. We were quite lucky with out Beijing weather in January as we had one particular clear and sunny day where temperatures reached 3 degrees however all other days were well below zero.
Beijing weather February
After the cold of January the weather Beijing weather February starts to warm up with temperatures going above 0 but many days will still be below.
What to wear in Beijing In Winter – A Beijing Winter Packing List
If you are worried about what to wear in Beijing in Winter don’t worry as our Beijing Winter Packing List will make sure you are covered with everything you need to survive a winter trip to Beijing.
This for me is the number one tip for surviving Winter in Beijing. I recommend getting up and out early to see many of the sights especially if you want to visit the Great Wall of China we recommend getting an early start if so you will definitely need thermals as the morning temperatures are cold.
Another essential for me is a good pair of fleece lined leather gloves which I find are best for keeping hands warm.
However if you are an avid instagrammer or you want to take lots of photos with your smartphone while on your trip – and let’s me honest a trip to Beijing is somewhere you’ll be taking lots of photos so you may want to have gloves designed to allow you to carry on using your touch phones with!
Shoes with a good sole!
If you are up and out early you may encounter some slippery streets so be sure to have good soles on your shoes unless you fancy going skating.
We also advise packing proper Hiking Boots for when you are are on the Great Wall of China in Winter as even on the restored sections there are on uneven surfaces which would be better to walk on with hiking boots especially if you are travelling in Beijing in Winter when icy weather will also add to the terrain.
I would also recommend traveling with a good thick Winter Coat!
If you are travelling with children then I would definitely make sure you have a good thick winter Snowsuit with you and some children’s hiking boots as well.
We also recommend taking a children’s carrier back pack if travelling with babies or toddlers on the Great Wall! we walked for several kilometres on our trip and even though my little one is a great hiker even she sat in the toddler back pack carrier for a bit.
Best Things to do in Beijing in Winter
Walking the Great Wall of China
Our number one reason for visiting Beijing was to go walking on the Great Wall of China! There are of sections of the Great Wall you can visit:
If you are visiting in Winter and worried about weather then I would recommend considering Badaling or Mutianyu. Out of the two we decided to go to the Mutianyu section and were very happy with our decision. Both these are about the same distance from Beijing but Mutianyu section is not as busy as Badaling and is well restored that even means in snowy or icy weather the wall is accessible.
Visiting the Great Wall of China in Winter means you are much more likely to have a more pleasant and less crowded experience than during peak season. We went on New Years Eve and had concerns about the business (we’ve all seen those photos of the wall crowded with people) but during our half day hike we only saw a hand full of people.
Also the Wall looks absolutely beautiful in the snow – maybe even better than in sunshine which is an added bonus.
We used Great Wall Hiking for our trip and throughly recommend.
But you can find other options on Get Your Guide here!
Again, the Forbidden City is one of the most tourist attractions you can visiting anywhere in the world not just Beijing! In Winter you will find the crowds and the queues much shorter than in Winter.
I would recommend booking your tickets in advance even when travelling in the off season to make sure you don’t have to queue for so long.
Close to the Forbidden City is Tiananmen Square – the site of the famous protest! This places again can get very crowded but in Winter it is less so.
Longqing Gorge Ice and Snow Festival
This festival is actually about a two hour drive north of Beijing and is one I would recommend for those that have slightly longer in the city than the free tourist visa allows! While not as big as the famous Harbin Ice Festival in China the Longqing Gorge Festival is still worth a visit for those visiting in Beijing in Winter. This is an absolute winter wonderland and a must for any Beijing bucket list.
If you aren’t hiring a car on your visit to Beijing – we didn’t and we were really pleased with our decision you can take an organised tour there.
Try Traditional Chinese Cuisine
Traditional Chinese Winter Cuisine is the perfect way to warm up on a chilly Beijing day! The most famous Winter dish is a Chinese hot pot but if you would like to sample a greater variety of cuisines why not take a food tour.
See a Show
If you are wondering what to do in Beijing at Night why not consider watching a traditional Chinese theatre show – a great way to escape the cold nights.
Depending on your tastes you could see:
Click the links above to check prices and book (advance booking is essential)
Skiing in Beijing in Winter
Again north of the city there are a plethora of ski resorts that are easily accessible from the city! The easiest to reach are in Miyun County and located near the Longqing Lantern Festival and the Badaling Section of the great wall. If skiing is your thing and you have a few days in Beijing for Winter then this should be added to your Beijing Winter itinerary.
Beijing Hot Springs
Another great winter activity in Beijing is to visit Hot Springs! There are several hot springs resorts located in the skiing district so this can be combined in the same trip.
Visiting Beijing in Winter Itinerary
Day One of our Beijing Winter Itinerary
Day One of your Beijing Winter Itinerary is dedicated to visiting the Great Wall! Our favourite section is the Mutianyu section and we recommend a half day or full day to this activity.
Advance booking is essential and we recommend taking a private guided tour to make the most of your day
Evening – Book a table and have dinner at Made in China at the Grand Hyatt Beijing – by far our favourite meal we had in Beijing especially the Peking Duck.
Today is all about exploring the central area of Beijing. Get up and out early and start your day at the Forbidden City! Again I recommend booking your ticket in advance or getting a guide to do a walking tour to find out more about the history of the city. You can find more tour and ticket options here.
Once you have spent a long day at the Forbidden City head to Tiananmen Square.
And then pick up a food tour in the evening to sample some traditional authentic Chinese cuisine.
Today is all about shopping and exploring the city.
For those travelling with children or who are interested in seeing pandas should head to the zoo!
A perfect way to explore the Hutongs and the zoo is taking this guided tour!
Evening – Book yourself a ticket to see why of the many Chinese theatre shows.
Day 4 – 5
These days are for those visiting China on more than the free stopover visa! If you have more time and want more winter activities the next two days combine skiing, the lantern festival and the hot springs resorts.
Have you visited Beijing in Winter? What did you do and what advice do you have?