Last week I took some time exploring the 798 Art District in Beijing on a sunny spring day. I used the subway to Jiangtai Station and took a bike to the 798 Art District. Alternatively, you can take the taxi and discover the zone by foot. The walk from both Wangjing Nan Station or Jiangtai Station is about 20min. The stations are on the line 14. Estimate another 1-2 hours walk within the district.
The 798 Art Zone is located in the northeast corner of Beijing. It is also called the Dashanzi Art District (DAD) as it sits in Dashanzi zone. It is on the boarder of the Chaoyang district.
I read in the official tourist site that "the district was once a booming compound for China's pre-reform electronic industries. The old factory buildings were vital for China's old industrialization projects. The buildings were constructed with the help of the former Soviet Union and designed by the former East German Republic". And indeed, it reminded me of old factory and mining buildings in the west of Germany which has been also transformed to an art compound.
The industrial building in 798 became obsolete as the industry changed during the times of Deng Xiao Ping. But with the artist, the area got a new purpose and gives a unique home to China's creative scene. It is great to see that those old factory buildings found a new purpose. They are now used by galleries, art centres & studios, design companies & fashion stores, international companies (like Audi China), advertising companies as well as cosy coffeehouses & bars. From spring, you will also find many street seller offering all kinds of souvenirs, useful and "interesting" products. Even if you don't fancy art and especial contemporary art, it is worth visiting.
Here is why (in no particular order):
-every interesting art exhibitions and galleries,
-the galleries are free to visit,
-very cosy coffees and bars,
-genuine nice and relaxed people, most of them speak English,
-numerous little shops in small streets,
-feeling of new and old, hutong and art, Chinese and Non-Chinese,
-terrific scenery for photo shootings,
-gives a break of the busy Beijing city life,
-limited amount of cars,
-great German Bauhaus style,
-witness the Chinese industrialisation and their architecture,
-or just to spend an interesting, relaxing and inspiring time in Chinas biggest art district.
I can highly recommend to visit the 798 district. See yourself. You should probably estimate around 1-2 hours and don't miss to have a lunch or dinner in one of the many restaurants.