Beijing has staked a strong claim in recent years as China’s premier modern arts destination. Though the capital is home to numerous (and massive) museums showcasing some of the largest permanent collections in the world, many of the best arts spaces can be found in two fun, funky areas just outside the city centre.
Put these four artsy attractions at the top of your to-do list.
798 Art District: 798 has become somewhat more commercialized in recent years, but nevertheless remains one of the most unique contemporary art destinations in Beijing. Located in a sizable area filled with previously abandoned factories, 798 is packed with galleries, cafés, artist studios, bohemian shops, and more. Be sure to visit the Ullens Contemporary Art Center, arguably the district’s top attraction.
Like at Caochangdi, below, 798 has plenty to keep arts-loving travellers occupied all day long.
Caochangdi: Similar in scope to 798, the Caochangdi arts district has emerged in recent years as another home to contemporary artists—including the internationally acclaimed Ai Weiwei—galleries, film houses, and other arts-related endeavours. Pékin Fine Arts, Three Shadows Photography Art Centre, and Beijing Art Now Gallery are among the area’s most notable tenants.
National Art Museum of China: Chinese folk art, paintings, and sculptures dominate the collection of more than 100,000 artworks at this arts institution located in the Dongcheng district.
National Museum of China: The largest museum in the world houses an intimidating collection of more than 1 million works of Chinese art that includes paintings, scrolls, ceramics, and other artefacts. Admission is free (with a valid passport), and given the museum’s size it’s a good idea to rent an English-language audio guide for RMB30 (US$4.50).