Imagine going to sleep in smoggy Beijing then waking up the next morning in a cute provincial French town with blue skies and a fresh dusting of snow on the ground. No, you’ve not taken an overnight international flight, you’re at Chateau Changyu AFIP Global on the outskirts of Beijing and this is what you’ll get. Sort of.
Built by everyone’s favorite Chinese winery, Changyu, the complex includes an exact replica of a French town square, complete with church and pavement cafes, a full-size chateau, and a small vineyard. You can pay a small fee (RMB 50 and up, depending on which package you choose) to tour the chateau and vineyard, and have a wine tasting. Entry to the town is free, and there is a wine shop and several restaurants on site. Bearing in mind you’re in Miyun, the accuracy of the architecture makes for a completely surreal experience.
Since you’re going to be driving over an hour to get out there, you may as well stay overnight in one of hundred or so rooms available on site. The cheapest twin rooms currently start from around RMB 400 on Ctrip, going up to over RMB 1,000 for a suite. The rooms are warm (bearing in mind it was -15 degrees outside when we visited), and the decor is actually kind of cozy, although if you look a little closer you’ll notice some cracks in the facade. Room rates include breakfast, which is basic Chinese hotel fare (think jiaozi and fried rice) and probably only worth it if you’re hungry.
A couple of caveats. Firstly, the food here is not good. We (perhaps foolishly) ate in the western restaurant and several of us had flashbacks to meals in third-tier Chinese cities – think pasta with gloopy sauce or pizza topped with shrimps. The chips, on the other hand, were very good. Whether or not you like Changyu’s wines is up to you, there’s no accounting for taste.
Secondly, once the chateau closes and the sun goes down there isn’t really much to do. For example, there are a couple of KTV rooms but there were trying to charge our party of 10 RMB 888 per hour for the pleasure of using one. We suggest stocking up on snacks and drinks (Changyu wine or otherwise …) before you leave downtown Beijing and having yourself a good old fashioned hotel room party.
Nevertheless, for one of those "only in China moments" (and some bizarre Instagrams) Chateau Changyu is probably worth a one-off visit.
This post first appeared on thebeijinger.com on February 2, 2015.