This weeklong tour follows a route from Beijing to Shanghai—two great metropolises of China. You'll land in Beijing and tour ancient royal stomping grounds like the Summer Palace, Temple of  Heaven, and Forbidden City.  After visiting the Great Wall of China you'll catch a bullet train to Shanghai and tour its most famous neighborhoods plus make a day trip to the ancient water city of Suzhou, known as the "Venice of Asia."

Highlights

  • See the most famous sights in Beijing, including the Forbidden City
  • Take a walk on the Great Wall of China
  • Tour Shanghai's modern neighborhoods and ancient gardens
  • Visit the historic water town of Suzhou

Brief Itinerary

Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Arrival in Beijing - Stroll Wangfujing Street Beijing
Day 2 Summer Palace & Beijing City Tour Beijing
Day 3 Great Wall Guided Tour & Olympic Park Beijing
Day 4 Temple of Heaven - Train from Beijing to Shanghai Xi'an
Day 5 Shanghai City Tour Shanghai
Day 6 Day Tour to Suzhou & Tongli Shanghai
Day 7 Departure from Shanghai  

Detailed Itinerary

Day 1: Arrival in Beijing - Stroll Wangfujing Street

The Forbidden City, Beijing
The Forbidden City, Beijing

Welcome to China!

With a population of over 21 million people, Beijing is the most densely populated capital city in the world. As one of the Four Great Ancient Capitals of China, this metropolis has been the seat of power in the country for eight centuries. It's home to expansive historic landmarks like the Forbidden City, and Temple of Heaven, which date all the way back to the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644). Also here is the Summer Palace, a lakeside royal retreat and imperial garden during the Qing Dynasty (1644 to 1911).

However, Beijing is also a shining example of modernity. Some of the tallest skyscrapers in the world exist here. Also, new developments, high-rise apartments, and shopping malls all but engulf historic hutong alleyways and ancient courtyard houses. This city is a megalopolis hurtling towards the future while keeping one foot firmly in the past, and you'll discover its highlights. 

Upon arrival at Beijing Capital International Airport, you'll meet your private guide at the terminal and transfer to your hotel in downtown Beijing. After check-in, you'll have the remainder of the day free to head out and explore. Time and energy permitting, you can take a guided tour in the evening to Wangfujing Street, a buzzing shopping area home to one of Beijing's most famous night markets. Here you can snack on street food galore.

Day 2: Summer Palace & Beijing City Tour

Tiananmen Gate
Tiananmen Gate

After breakfast at your hotel, you'll take a guided tour of some of Beijing's most famous historical sites. Your first stop is the Summer Palace. This historic royal retreat is located in the northwest outskirts of Beijing and is the largest imperial garden in China, taking up 1.1 square miles (2.9 square km). It's a mere 15 minutes by car from Beijing, but when you arrive you'll feel like you stepped back in time.  

After the Summer Palace, you'll head into the heart of Beijing and Tiananmen Square, the world's largest city square. Built in 1651 and progressively enlarged over the centuries, this massive public space is surrounded by government buildings. These include the Great Hall of the PeopleNational Museum of China, and the mausoleum of revolutionary leader Mao Zedong. 

You'll see an enormous portrait of Chairman Mao on the square's north end at Tiananmen Gate. This is the entrance to the Forbidden City (officially known as the Imperial Palace Museum), which was constructed in 1415 during the Ming Dynasty. You'll enter the gate and tour this UNESCO World Heritage Site, and it will surely leave you awestruck. This vast complex is as big as a neighborhood and has a long history: it served as the Chinese imperial palace from the Ming Dynasty in 1420 through the Qing Dynasty in 1912.  

A walking tour of the Forbidden City takes at least a couple hours. This ensures you see the majority of its some 980 buildings spread across 180 acres (72 hectares). Among other things, you'll see the 32-foot (10-meter) high city walls, the Imperial Garden, ceremonial rooms, emperor's living quarters, and galleries featuring ancient imperial artifacts. You can expect crowds, too, as the Imperial City hosts a staggering 80,000 visitors each day. 

In the afternoon, give your legs a rest with a 30-minute pedicab tour through the hutongs of Beijing. Hutongs are narrow alleyways that crisscross through old neighborhoods in the city. Some of these alleys go as far back as 800 years to the Yuan, Ming, and Qing dynasties. There's a traditional Chinese folk culture here, and many people still live in the old houses that line the hutongs. Sadly, they are a fast disappearing sight as city developers move in to modernize these areas.

Following the tour, you'll be returned to your hotel where you'll have the rest of the evening to enjoy on your own.

Day 3: Great Wall Guided Tour & Olympic Park

The Great Wall of China
The Great Wall of China

You're in for a treat as today you'll visit one of the New Seven Wonders of the World: the Great Wall of China. Because this ancient fortification is so massive, it's separated into various sections open to visitors. The area you'll be visiting is Mutianyu, one of the best-preserved portions of the Great Wall. Located 40 miles (64 km) north of Beijing, it was built in 1368 ACE by Xu Da, a general in the army of Zhu Yuanzhang, the founding emperor of the Ming Dynasty.

This section of wall stretches for 13 miles (22 km) and is comprised of 22 stone watchtowers. Sitting atop steep hills blanketed in rich green pines and cypress trees, the views from here on a clear day are nothing short of breathtaking. Walking these ramparts you'll easily understand how this landmark became a prominent symbol of China's history and heritage.

When you arrive at Mutianyu, you can ride the cable car up to the ramparts and then hike back down along the wall for a once-in-a-lifetime experience. After the visit, you'll transfer back to Beijing and visit a landmark of China's recent history: Olympic Park. This complex was built for the 2008 Summer Olympics and includes a number of interesting buildings including the Bird's Nest (National Stadium) and Water Cube (aquatics center).

Day 4: Temple of Heaven - Train from Beijing to Shanghai

The Temple of Heaven
The Temple of Heaven

In the morning, your guide will take you to the Temple of Heaven. This historic complex sits on 670 acres (271 hectares) and is actually comprised of a few buildings. Construction began back in 1407 under the Yongle Emporer, who also commissioned the building of the Imperial City. For hundreds of years spanning the Ming and Qing Dynasties up until 1900, this was the main imperial temple where emperors prayed to heaven for a good harvest. 

Your guide will lead you on a tour of the complex. The first stop is the Hall of Prayer for Good Harvests. This large, three-tiered structure was where the emperors would come for annual prayer ceremonies. Other iconic buildings you'll visit include the Circular Mound Altar, which was the site of winter solstice ceremonies, and the Imperial Vault of Heaven, a circular building constructed in 1530 and which housed the stone tablets used in the harvest prayer ceremonies.

In the afternoon, you'll head to the railway station and hop on a bullet train for the approximately four-hour ride south to Shanghai. This global economic powerhouse and historic port city lies on the Yangtze River delta and offers great food, historic sights, and plenty of high-end shopping.

If you can't wait to discover the city's culture and entertainment options, you could visit an art gallery, take in an evening opera or acrobatic show, or revel in the diverse nightlife options that run the gamut from intimate lounge bars to thumping nightclubs. Or, if you're too jet-lagged, just enjoy dinner at one of the city's Michelin-starred restaurants before having a quiet night in the hotel and resting up for the day ahead.

Day 5: Shanghai City Tour

Yu Garden
Yu Garden

After breakfast, you'll visit the historic Yu Garden. "Yu" translates to "pleasing and satisfying," and the five acres that comprise this historic green space embody those traits perfectly. Dating back over 400 years to the Ming Dynasty, the landscaping features exotic flora like spring bamboo and a ginkgo tree as old as the garden itself. Other impressive design elements include pavilions, ponds, tea houses, rockeries, cloisters, and covered bridges.

Next, you'll head to the Shanghai Museum, located in the upscale Huangpu District at People's Square. This modern building houses China's foremost collection of ancient artifacts dating from Neolithic times. There are over 120,000 items that include bronzes, ceramics, calligraphy, and jade items. Also here are paintings, sculptures, and even furniture dating to the Ming and Qing dynasty.  

Afterward, take a walking tour of Nanjing Road the main commercial street of Shanghai and one of the world's busiest shopping districts. You'll end the day with an elevator ride to the top of the Oriental Pearl Tower for amazing views over Shanghai from 1,152 feet (351 meters).

Day 6: Day Tour to Suzhou & Tongli

The "Venice of Asia"

In the morning you'll head to the river lands about 70 miles (112 km) west of Shanghai to the beautiful city of Suzhou. Regarded as the "Venice of Asia," Suzhou is an ancient city founded back in 514 BCE and which sits on China's Grand Canal. It's also a UNESCO World Heritage Site and the best way to pass the time here is to embark on a romantic gondola ride on the narrow waters amid the old homes, ancient bridges, and flourishing gardens. 

Speaking of which, one green space you'll visit here is Master of the Nets Garden. This neighborhood garden dates back to 1140 ACE and is considered one of the most beautiful in all of China. Following this, you'll travel to nearby Tongli. This water town, with its tree-lined canals and arched stone bridges, is one of the most photogenic locales in all of China. It makes a great spot to hang out, relax, and snap plenty of pics.

Day 7: Departure from Shanghai

Farewell, Shanghai

You'll have some free time in the morning before check out. ( latest checkout time is12am)

Being transferred to the airport for your departure flight.

Map

Map of China's Highlights - 7 Days
Map of China's Highlights - 7 Days
Alice
Written by Alice Fu, updated Feb 11, 2020