Take your family to 798 (also known as Dashanzi) and visit the galleries that started Beijing’s artistic revival. Formerly home to some of Beijing’s largest factories, this area has been transformed into a vibrant neighborhood for artists and art lovers. Here, you can find works spanning from the traditional to the contemporary. By no means a stuffy museum environment, kids are welcome to wander through this labyrinth of artistic manifestations, dotted with casual cafés, boutiques and kitsch stores.
This tour should take around four hours to complete, including a few café pit-stops. 798 is immense, so this tour is designed to take you to the best places with minimal walking. It’s best to arrive there hungry, as there are lots of opportunities for good eats.
The easiest way to get to 798 is by taxi. Start at the gate with the conspicuous 798 sign. After about 120 meters, you’ll see a huge granite representation of Mao Zedong on your left. Laker’s is a restaurantlocated right at Mao’s granite feet. Here, you can grab an outdoor table for a late breakfast or early lunch. You’ll find all the imports at decent prices, including an American breakfast,pizza, burgers, and pasta.
Once fuelled, continue walking down 798’s central street. Take a right at the curved wall blanketed in graffiti (expect to see a lot of this, but all in good taste). This alley features an outdoor exhibition of caged beasts, twisted in design. After you stare fear in the face, break out into Originality Square up ahead. Behold an amazing sculpture garden where a sworded warrior fends off a pack of ferocious wolves.
Continue along and enter the first doors on your right, just opposite the reflecting pool. Welcome to Pace Beijing gallery. This is an immense space for leading international contemporary artists. A free gallery, Pace Beijing is affiliated with the Pace Galleries of New York, and was the first major American gallery to set up in the capital.
Continue walking and take a right at the T-intersection. Meander through the next intersection, past the various boutiques and cafés. Enter if you dare: The boutiques are full of artsy impulse-buy items. On the right, you’ll see a North Korean art gallery which is worth an inspection. Also note: This road has lots of statues that are perfect for photo-ops.
At the next intersection, turn right and head along 798 Road. Past the statue of the large, obtuse man, there is Dong Books and Café, which features a wide variety of English coffee table books. Your kids might find something here that sparks their interest. Alternatively, head to Espace Pebeo – theart supply shop located down the open-aircorridor next to the bookstore.
Continue along 798 Road. Notice those red caged velociraptors on the left? Thought you would. Just beyond is the entrance for the Ullens Centre for Contemporary Art (UCCA). The RMB 15 admission is well worth it. This gallery thinks big, often displaying humongous artwork that is sure to grab your kids’ attention. The gallery’s store stocks various curios and arty knickknacks to tempt you on your way out. UCCA also hosts regular children’s events and workshops, so check in advance for any upcoming activities.
Afterwards it’s time to eat, and opposite UCCA is Vantt Gallery and Café. Grab a table outside and enjoy a pleasant meal that goes a bit beyond the usual. Wasabi burgers (RMB 50), tuna fish salads with grilled black tuna and tuna tartar (RMB 48) and Korean favourites like bibimbap (RMB 38) fill this well-balanced menu.
Now, head back towards the statue of the obtuse man and the Dong bookstore, but turn down the first alley on your left. This section of 798 feels more like a hutong than a re-appropriated factory space, filled with little shops and low-roofed studios. The road will turn right. At the next intersection, take a left. Keep going until you reach the second alley on your left. Turn here and head towards Galleria Continua. This massive three-storyspace specializes in large installations from Italy and around the world.
Just next door is Tang Contemporary Gallery. Stroll amidst its large installationsand come out the other side – you’re now back on the road you started on. To exit the labyrinth, simply take a left.
798 Art District (Dashanzi) 大山子艺术区
Daily 10am-late. Jiuxianqiao Beilu, 798 Art District, Chaoyang District (5762 3073)
Tues to Sun 10am-6pm. 2 Jiuxianqiao Beilu, 798 Art District, Chaoyang District (5978 9781) www.pacebeijing.com
Dong Books and Café
Daily 10am-6pm. 4 Jiuxianqiao Lu, 798 Art District, Chaoyang District (5978 9602)
Daily 10am-6pm. 4 Jiuxianqiao Lu, 798 Art District, Chaoyang District
Ullens Center for Contemporary Art (UCCA) 尤伦斯当代艺术中心
Daily 10am-7pm. RMB 15, free (students, seniors, children under 130cm), free on Thursdays. 4 Jiuxianqiao Lu, 798 Art District, Chaoyang District (8459 9269) www.ucca.org.cn
Vantt Gallery and Café
Daily 9.30am-9.30pm. 4 Jiuxianqiao Lu, 798 Art District, Chaoyang District (8459 9143)
Tue-Sun 11am-6pm. 2 Jiuxianqiao Beilu, 798 Art District, Chaoyang District (5978 9505) www.galleriacontinua.com
Tang Contemporary Gallery
Daily 10.30am to 6pm. 2 Jiuxianqiao Lu, 798 Art District, Chaoyang District (6436 3518) www.tangcontemporary.com朝阳区798艺术区酒仙桥路2号