Based on ground-based data, meteorological observations and atmospheric environmental monitoring data, a comparative analysis of aerosol microphysical, optical properties and radiative forcing was conducted between three stations in different developed environments during a severe air pollution episode in the Spring Festival holiday over Beijing. During the most polluted period, daily peak values of aerosol optical depth were ~1.62, ~1.73 and ~0.74, which were about 2.6, 2.9 and 2.1 times higher than the background levels at the CAMS, Xianghe and Shangdianzi sites, respectively. Daily peak values of single scattering albedo were ~0.95, ~0.96 and ~0.87. Volume of fine-mode particles varied from 0.04 to 0.21 µm3 µm–2, 0.06 to 0.17 µm3 µm–2, and 0.01 to 0.10 µm3 µm–2, which were about 0.3 to 5.8, 1.1 to 4.7, and 1.2 to 8.9 times greater than the background values, respectively. Daily absorption aerosol optical depth was ~0.01 to ~0.13 at CAMS, ~0.03 to ~0.14 at Xianghe, and ~0.01 to ~0.09 at Shangdianzi, and absorption Ångström exponents reflected a significant increase in organic aerosols over CAMS and Xianghe, and black carbon over Shangdianzi. Aerosol radiative forcing at the bottom of the atmosphere varied from –20 to –130, –40 to –150, and –10 to –110 W m–2, for the whole holiday period, indicating the cooling effect. The potential source contribution function and concentration-weighted trajectory analysis showed that the local Beijing, the south part of Hebei and Shanxi and the middle north part of Shandong province contributed greatly to the pollution.