798 Art District is an art community located 30-minutes outside of the touristy downtown area in Beijing.
Due to its location away from the busy city center, not that many international visitors venture into this part of Beijing, but it’s well worth the trip – especially if you love art and exploring unique neighborhoods.
What once was a military zone full of abandoned old factories is now an up-and-coming art district known for having hip galleries, street art, boutique shops, restaurants, and cute cafes.
As one of the most creative areas of Beijing, in recent years 798 Art Zone has gained quite the growing popularity for its unique setting.
If you’re planning to visit the 798 Art District in Beijing, here is our guide covering all you need to know before you go:
- UCCA Center For Contemporary Art
- 798 Art Factory
- Ace Café
- M Woods Art Gallery
- Faurschou Foundation
- Yi House Restaurant
- Street Art
- Boutique Stores
- HeyTea Go
Overview Of Beijing’s 798 Art Zone
The origins of Beijing’s 798 Art Zone are quite fascinating. This area was originally built in the 1950s to house military factories in China that were later abandoned. These Bauhaus style military factories were constructed with an influence of German design known for having large open spaces and tall windows.
In recent years many of these old abandoned industrial buildings have been restored and turned into art galleries, stores, and trendy cafes.
The 798 Art District is located inside an enclosed neighborhood with regulated street traffic making it quite the relaxing and quaint get-away spot within the busy Beijing metropolitan area.
There is no entrance fee to visit the 798 Art District itself but many of the galleries within this community charge a small fee to see the different indoor art exhibits. Although the 798 Art District doesn’t have official opening hours, note that most galleries inside this district close at around 6 pm and are not open on Mondays.
If you are someone that enjoys art, I highly recommend setting aside at least a few hours to visit the 798 Art District, roam through a few of the galleries here and enjoy a relaxing cup of coffee or lunch at one of its cute cafes.
What To See & Do In 798 Art District
After spending a whole day roaming around Beijing’s 798 Art Zone, here are a few of my favorite galleries, museum, cafes and other spots that I visited in this picturesque district.
I have tried to include addresses and detailed Google Map locations of the places described in this article to help you find them within this district.
Note that when you’re in China, Google Maps doesn’t always work and locations are often incorrectly marked on the map. Apple Maps will be your better map choice for getting around once you’re in Beijing.
UCCA Center For Contemporary Art
UCCA Center For Contemporary Art is one of the most significant art galleries in the 798 Art District. When I asked locals what I should see in this area, everyone responded that visiting the UCCA is a must.
With more than a million visitors a year, the UCCA art gallery has gained quite the popularity within Beijing’s creative community because it often tackles controversial subjects.
During my visit, the UCCA Center For Contemporary Art was showcasing an exhibit about social changes that China underwent in the 1990s. UCCA was featuring the work of multiple artists whose efforts focused on capturing and displaying anxiety, confusion, hopes and anticipation of the future that Chinese people experienced during this time.
The UCCA art gallery opened with an exhibit of burned newspapers, followed by an exhibit of black and white photographs of the old Hutong neighborhoods, sensual women’s bodies and other contemporary art.
The UCCA museum itself is pretty small so it only takes about an hour to walk through this entire gallery and see the artwork displayed.
At the exit, you can also stop by the UCCA store selling clothing and accessories by Shanghai Tang, one of the leading luxury brands in China.
Hours: Tuesday to Sunday from 10 am to 7 pm
Cost: 60 Yuan ($8.50 USD)
798 Art Factory
Before heading to the 798 Art District I did quite a bit of research trying to figure out what are some of the best things to do in this area. Everything I read kept mentioning an industrial gallery inside an old warehouse with red political slogans written on the walls. But when I arrived at the marked location, nothing was there and every local I asked about it just shook their head in confusion. I was starting to doubt the existence of this gallery in the first place.
After walking around for an hour looking for this mysterious museum turns out it was located right where I started – just around the corner from the UCCA gallery. So, if the 798 Art Factory (or as some call it the 798 Space Gallery) is on your list, you can go here right after the UCCA.
At the time of my visit, the 798 Art Factory was displaying an exhibit showcasing traditional Japanese artwork called Ukiyo-e that was popular during the 18th century.
The 798 Art Factory was separated into three long hallways where two of the halls were dedicated to displaying Ukiyo-e style Japanese paintings and the third gallery showcased a modern exhibit with light installations and (oddly) giant sculptures of cats.
Unfortunately, none of the information within this gallery was in English so I was a bit lost about the meaning and history of the artwork displayed. Nerveless, I still enjoyed walking through the 798 Art Factory and seeing old Japanese paintings of people, waves, sumo wrestlers (and giant cats).
Cost: 98 yuan ($14 USD)
(Near the Yang Gallery inside a building on Taoci 3rd Street)
Built inside an old train station, Ace Café is one of the most popular eateries in the 798 Art District. After visiting a couple of galleries I needed a break so I stopped by Ace Café for a cup of delicious coffee and a Danish croissant.
Ace Café has quite an interesting vibe to it. Ace Café Beijing was opened in 2015 and is part of a larger café franchise that was started in London and caters to motorcycle riders.
Ace Café in the 798 Art District incorporates an old train station in its design with a modern interior. This cafe has quite the unique set up and ambiance but a cup of latte here costs 40 Yuan ($5.50) which isn’t exactly on the cheap side.
Hours: Opens at 10 am
Location: Qixing E St, Chaoyang, Beijing, China
(Next to the Locomotive Square)
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M Woods Art Gallery
W Moods is a gallery within the Beijing 798 Art District that was founded and built inside a former munitions factory. M Woods gallery is known for hosting unique exhibits, events, film screenings and other interactive activities related to the arts community in China.
During my visit, M Woods Art Gallery was showcasing an exhibit by artist Lucy Sparrow called “Felt Art Imaginarium”. This entire exhibit focused on showcasing life-size pieces made of colorful felt materials.
Lucy Sparrow’s artwork focuses on recreating art pieces from popular artists like Picasso, Warhol, Da Vinci, and others. The idea behind her work is to make historical art pieces be more accessible to the general public in a way that’s exciting and educational.
While some of the other galleries in the 798 Art Zone focus on art that revolves around social or historical issues, M Woods gallery is known for showcasing art that emphasizes working with different mediums and materials.
As a tribute to Lucy Sparrow’s work, the entire M Woods gallery was covered from top to bottom in felt including walls, staircases, and even the bathroom door.
Tuesday to Thursday from 11 am to 5 pm
Friday to Sunday from 11 am to 6 pm
Cost: 120 Yuan ($17 USD)
(Closest cross streets are 797 Road & 798 Middle 2nd Street)
Faurschou Foundation is a contemporary art gallery that is lesser-known in the 798 Art District but was one of my personal favorites.
Unlike other galleries in this area, Faurschou Gallery was completely free. During my visit, it showcased an exhibit by Doug Aitken, an American artist that uses sculpture, architecture, film, and sound to create unique art installations.
When I came to the Faurschou Foundation, this gallery opened with a video installation displaying a short but very intense film by Doug Aitken about the creation of the first cell phone.
The second room of the Faurschou Foundation showcased an exhibit with 3 human-like statues in a pitch dark room.
While strange music played in the background, these statues pulsated in various bright colors creating quite the trippy scenery. This exhibit left me pretty speechless of what I just witnessed – but I suppose that was kind of the whole point.
If you have an extra 30 minutes, it’s well worth it to pop into the Faurschou Foundation to experience their unique art displays for yourself.
Hours: Tuesday to Sunday from 10 am to 6 pm
Yi House Restaurant
After seeing so many different galleries, I was getting a bit hungry so I stopped by the Yi House restaurant for lunch.
Yi House restaurant is located inside the boutique Gracie Art Hotel on the northeast part of the 798 Art Zone.
It was a bit hard to find this restaurant once I arrived at the marked location because there were no signs on the building indicating where the restaurant entrance was located. When you arrive at the marked address and walk into the building courtyard, look for glass doors with white elephant statues which is the main entrance into the Gracie Art Hotel.
The interior of the Gracie Art hotel and Yi House restaurant is very modern yet luxurious.
For an art district, I was expecting to walk into a laid back brunch spot but the Yi House restaurant was very upscale with white table cloths and very attentive service. Although the Yi House restaurant had a super nice setup, their lunch menu prices were pretty reasonable.
After so much walking I quite enjoyed taking a break at the Yi House restaurant. Their lunch menu covers a variety of food options but some of my favorite items were the shrimp quinoa salad, pumpkin soup, and their super refreshing watermelon juice.
Cost: $20-$30 for lunch per person
One of my favorite things to do in the Beijing 798 Art District was just walking around. This entire community is kept in an enclosed gated area with monitored street traffic where very few cars are allowed to pass through. This lets visitors roam through the different streets and alleys while enjoying street art without having to worry about cars passing by.
Throughout the 798 neighborhood, you’ll see a variety of street art from wall murals with cartoon-like characters to sculptures, paintings, and graffiti.
While some of the galleries charge up to $20 for entrance, street art in this neighborhood is free to enjoy for everyone.
One of the cutest wall murals that I saw in the 798 Art Zone was of Angel Wings by the Hypervic Coffee shop. I realize that by now just about every city has its own mural of Angel Wings, but based on how many people I saw taking pictures by these wings, it’s safe to say that secretly we still love these cute little attractions.
Location: Throughout the entire neighborhood
Besides tons of amazing galleries and cute cafes, this area is also known for shopping. The entire 798 Art District is filled with boutique stores selling anything from purses and clothing to accessories and cute little trinkets.
One of the boutique stores that was recommended to me was Duanmu, a luxury brand producing high-quality purses and wallets decorated with traditional Chinese patterns and techniques.
Next to the Duanmu store, there is a whole block filled with unique shops and souvenir stores. Whether you’re looking to shop for something cute, funny or trendy, you’re sure to find it in this neighborhood.
The last item on our list is nothing artistic, you may even call it the “Starbucks” of Beijing. But if you’re traveling to Beijing and have the chance to try HeyTea Go, definitely don’t miss out on it!
HeyTea Go is a tea shop that serves yummy drinks made of fruit, tea, and jelly boba, all topped with a layer of cheese (yes, cheese!). Over the two week period that I spent in Beijing, I became pretty addicted to HeyTea Go and ordered their drinks whenever I got the chance. You can imagine my excitement level when I found a HeyTea Go store in the 798 Art District!
Unfortunately, most of the HeyTea Go locations only accept payments through WeChat app that tourists can’t use. But lucky for me, I was able to order a HeyTea Go drink at the 798 Art District location and actually pay for it in cash (after a little bit of bargaining and convincing).
The only downside of the HeyTea Go locations is that they are always super busy so most likely you’ll end up waiting around 30 minutes for their tea drink. But if you have the time and patience, definitely give it a go!
Cost: On average 30 Yuan for a drink ($4 USD)
(Near the Locomotive Square)
How To Get There
The 798 Art District is located northeast from Beijing’s downtown area. Besides grabbing a cab, another easy way of getting there is by taking the public bus.
When you arrive in Beijing I highly recommend getting a bus & metro pass because it will make getting around so much simpler. You can get this bus & metro pass at one of the teller desks inside the underground metro stations.
With the help of Apple Maps, taking public transportation is by far way the easiest, cheapest and often fastest way of getting around in Beijing. If you put your destination like “Beijing 798 Art Zone” in Apple Maps and click on the “Transit” transportation icon, Apple Maps will tell you exactly which bus or subway you can take to get there and where the bus or subway stations are located.
During my time in Beijing, I was staying in the business district and I was able to get to the 798 Art Zone by taking bus #403 directly there. The bus ride took about an hour and the bus dropped me off at the DaShan ZiLu KouDong bus stop right outside of this district’s entrance gates.
At first, I was wondering if I arrived at the right location because from the outside this neighborhood looked like any other residential area in Beijing. But once you walk through the neighborhood gates you’ll be transformed into a whole another world full of trendy cafes, art galleries and boutique shops all set up inside old factories and industrial buildings.
Looking for other exciting things to do around Beijing? Don’t forget to check out our other Beijing posts below:
- Guide To Visiting Summer Palace In Beijing
- Tips For Visiting Temple Of Heaven In Beijing
- Guide To Hiking & Camping On The Great Wall Of China
- The Ultimate Guide To Pingyao Ancient City In China
- The Complete Guide To Visiting Forbidden City In Beijing
Interested in how I capture photos on my trips? Here is my suggested camera gear that I use to create my images:
- Main camera: Sony a7II Camera With 28-70 mm Standard Lens
- Polarizer Filter for the standard lens (helps eliminate reflection and enhance color especially on super bright days): Amazon Basics 55 mm
- Wide Lens (great for building shots): Sony 16-35 mm F4
- Polarizer Filter for the wide lens: Amazon Basics 72 mm
- Small Tripod (to stabilize photos and eliminate blur): JOBY Gorrilapod
- Memory Cards: SanDisk 32 GB
- Batteries: Wasabi Power battery charger and extra battery pack
- Camera Bag: Lowepro weather-resistant bag
Planning your trip to China and looking for a place to stay in Beijing? Browse all the top Beijing hotel deals below!
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