The pulsing heart of Beijing’s contemporary art scene is a former industrial complex east of the 4th ring road.
Numerous eclectic galleries located in revamped warehouses and factories host top-class art and photographic exhibitions by established and emerging Chinese and international artists.
Recommended art galleries to look out for as you wander include Ullens Centre for Contemporary Art, M Woods Art Museum, Galleria Continua, Faurschou Foundation and the iconic 798 Art Factory with its Mao slogans inscribed on the sloping Bauhaus ceilings.
This vast complex also features cafés, bars, art stores and outdoor installations.
While you’re there
In the rear of the complex, this raised walkway cuts through towering brick chimneys, rusted tanks and other vast and defunct detritus of what was once China’s model Communist factory complex – it’s all hugely photogenic.
The pick of the 798 restaurants is Fodder Factory, serving spicy Sichuan and Hunan food in a quirky restaurant done out like an antique shop, packed from floor to ceiling with rotary phones and old TV sets.
Getting there & doing it
The best way to arrive is by taxi, as metro and bus connections are complicated. Interactive street plans and maps of the district are posted on street corners throughout the complex.
The galleries are dispersed over a large area, so a fair degree of walking is required, but you’ll discover plenty of street art and installations between sites.
When to do it
It’s open all year round, seven days a week, but most galleries are closed on Mondays.
Weekdays are less crowded than weekends, but avoid Mondays when most galleries close. The best months for visiting are April-June, September and October.
The winter months from December to March are bitterly cold, with temperatures often well below zero – not conducive to wandering the streets.
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