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An Alternative Tour Of Beijing’s Best-Kept Secrets

An Alternative Tour Of Beijing’s Best-Kept Secrets

Picture of Katherine Lee
Updated: 9 February 2017
To many people, the capital of China is an old and conservative city, with a lot of ancient buildings. Yet, Beijing is more than that; the city has more than a few alternative attractions and hidden gems, including the exciting and steep Simatai Great Wall and the artistic Remin University Graffiti Wall. If you want to experience a different side of Beijing, take a look of our list of the city’s best-kept secrets.

Simatai Great Wall

Situated in the north-east of Miyun County, Simatai is a section of the Great Wall of China, which  is considered the steepest and most dangerous part of the Great Wall. The total length of this section is 5.4 kilometers, and it has 35 beacon towers – 16 in the eastern part and 19 in the western part. Currently, tourists can only visit 12 of the eastern beacon towers, as the others are located on a cliff that is too dangerous to be climbed. This is an excellent hidden gem for those interested in Chinese history, or those who want to be fascinated by one of the architectural wonders of the world.

Opening hours: 8am-5pm

Simatai Great Wall, Gubeikou Town, Miyun County, Beijing, China, +86 10 8402 3595

Renmin University Graffiti Wall

The graffiti wall on Renmin University’s South Road is 730 meters long and around 2.5 meters high, and is currently the longest graffiti wall in Beijing. Opened to the public in 2005, three years before the Olympics were held in the city, the wall is saturated with Olympic themed graffiti, such as Chinese athletes and Fula, the mascots of Beijing Olympics. There are also numerous contemporary elements painted on the wall, like faces of foreign pop stars and international luxury brands. The graffiti wall was created by Beijing students, exchange students, and artists in 798 Art District, embodying the fusion of Eastern and Western cultures.

Renmin University Graffiti Wall, Renmin University South Road, Haidian District, Beijing, China.

Quan Ju De

Established in 1864, during the Qing Dynasty, Quan Ju De is a renowned restaurant that serves genuine Peking roast duck, cooked using traditional techniques. Quan Ju De uses heavy young ducks that weigh more than five kilograms and are less than 100 days old. The ducks are hung in a big doorless oven and cooked by burning the wood of fruit trees, thus adding some fruity flavor to the meat.

Price: fine-dining

Opening hours: 11am-8pm daily

Watch out for: the traditionally reared and prepared Peking roast duck

Jing Xin Lian, 30 Qianmen Dajie, Dongcheng District, Beijing, China, +86 10 6511 2418

O2 Sun Bookstore

O2 Sun Bookstore differs from other traditional bookstore chains as it promotes the idea of ‘happy reading’, letting you stay for a whole day. Besides new books, it also sells old books, magazines, CDs, stationery, as well as drinks and snacks, so you can spend your time relaxing there. It is a home-like bookstore; you can freely enjoy any book in the store, or share your reflections with peers in the reading club.

Opening hours: 10am-10pm

O2 Sun Bookstore, 4/F, Thy Gate City Mall, 19 Zhongguancun Dajie, Haidian District, Beijing, China,+86 10 8248 8266

Commune by the Great Wall

Built by 12 young Asian architects, Commune by the Great Wall is a fantastic example contemporary architecture embodying Chinese architectural innovation, creativity and development. It is an award-winning construction, that won a special prize at the 2002 La Biennale di Venezia, and hailed by Business Week as a “new architectural wonder of China”. It now serves as a hotel, offering 175 suites and 11 presidential suites, plus tourists can access the Great Wall by a private path in the hotel.

Commune by the Great Wall, The Great Wall Exit 43 at Shuiguan G6 Jingzang Highway, Beijing, China, +86 10 8118 1888

Red Gate Gallery

Founded in 1991 by Brian Wallace, Red Gate Gallery always strives to promote contemporary Chinese art, regularly holding exhibitions displaying paintings, graphics, photography, sculpture, and works-on-paper by both mature and emerging artists. Aiming to introduce contemporary Chinese art to more people, the gallery conducts talks for different organizations and holds charity functions.

Opening hours: 9am-5pm daily

Red Gate Gallery, 1 & 4/F, Dongbianmen Watchtower, Dongcheng District, Beijing, China, +86 10 6525 1005

Tong Li Studios

Tong Li Studios is a four-story building, saturated with numerous characteristic shops, restaurants and bars, which was founded by local people, foreigners, and some ethnic minorities. The exterior of the studio looks like a trendy bar, but inside it is like a hutong (a traditional Beijing alleyway), and you can find many tiny yet lovely stores selling interesting gadgets, providing friendly services, or serving delicious dishes. Tong Li Studios is a center encouraging the integration of Eastern, Western and ethnic cultures, and tourists will feel the passion and creativity of vendors there.

Tong Li Studios, Sanlitun, Chaoyang District, Beijing, China