A guide to Badaling with handicap/injury considerations!
If you go to China and do nothing else, you have to visit the Great Wall of China! Going to China for travel and not visiting the Great Wall is like walking into a restaurant and not eating. It makes no sense!
The problem is that the Great Wall is a bit confusing. Before I went, all I knew about it came from the images of it I saw on TV during the Summer Olympics in 2008. When I arrived in Beijing myself, I had no idea how to actually get there!
What Exactly is the Great Wall?
As you can see from this map at Badaling, the Great Wall is not one long, continuous thing. Each line here represents a different segment of the Great Wall, which was completed over a long period of time. Though many segments no longer exist, they were all built for a specific purpose. If the Chinese emperor/regime needed to defend something at China’s northern border, he would erect a segment of the Great Wall to prevent people from being able to climb over and threaten his power.
Because there were so many parts of the Great Wall built, there are also many options that you have for visiting. Near Beijing alone, there are several segments of the Great Wall. Which one you choose depends on your preferences for transportation, how easy you want the experience to be, and how many people you want to be around.
[Recommended Read: Complete Guide to Beijing’s UNESCO Summer Palace]
What Exactly is Badaling? + Why You Should Visit It
Badaling is a specific part of the Great Wall, and it’s by far the most widely visited. Not only is it closest to Beijing, it also has the most convenient transportation to/from the location and within the location itself. That said, it is one of the most crowded.
If you’re in China, you probably are sick of being around people. Why should you visit Badaling?
It’s the Easiest Segment to Get to
If you don’t have a car, Badaling is most easily accessible. You can take the bus or train and be there within an hour from Beijing.
There’s a Cable Car to Get Up to the Wall
If you want to save your legs for one reason or another, you can take the cable car! It was built in time for the Summer Olympics in 2008, so it’s still very new and takes you directly to the middle of the Great Wall.
The Other Side Has a Pulley
Depending on the transportation you take and how far you walk on Badaling, you can take the pulley!
You Can Time Your Visit to Avoid Crowds
Even though everybody goes to Badaling, you can actually see it without many other people around. See my tips below for doing this!
There are Restaurants and Hotels Nearby
Want to really get ahead of the crowds? Instead of taking public transportation at 5 or 6AM, stay in the area and eat a nice meal!
The Wall Itself Has Railings
This is actually a highly underrated feature of Badaling. Even if you have climbed Mount Everest, it’s always preferable to be safe. The Wall is about the same height from land, which means it reflects the ups and downs of the natural landscape. And sometimes, the stairs are incredibly steep and can put excess strain on your knees!
It’s the Best Preserved and Most Well-Known
Most people go here, and visitors and celebrities have been coming to Badaling since the 1970s. It was built during the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644). The entire 7.5 miles is preserved, but visitors can only walk 2.3 miles of it.
[Recommended Read: Complete Guide to Beijing’s UNESCO Temple of Heaven]
How to Avoid Crowds at Badaling: When and Where to Go
Chinese and foreign visitors can crowd Badaling, making your visit terrible if you don’t time your visit.
Avoid Summer, Winter, Weekends, and Holidays!
Ideally, don’t go in the middle of summer. It can get very hot, and many locals may take their children to visit. Chinese people are notorious for lack of personal space and body odor, which means no one will enjoy the Great Wall for the beauty that it is.
The middle of winter can be bitterly cold. You might avoid crowds and seeing the Great Wall snow-capped is probably stunning, but with the huge inclines of the steps it’s best not to visit then.
If you go during the weekends or holidays, you WILL be overwhelmed. Unless you are in Beijing or China for only a day or two, pick a weekday and get there early!
Go Early, On Weekdays, and Turn Left
If you avoid the peak times, the crowds are actually not bad. They are much more manageable than many places around the world (have you been to the London Eye?? Geez!).
As you take the cable car up, you will arrive the peak of the mountain as in the picture above! You can see that most people immediately turn to their right (which is where the crowd will lead you). This part of the Great Wall is most crowded, but it’s also most accessible if you have bad legs/are tired. The slopes aren’t as steep on this side.
However, if you don’t care, turn around and go left! You will have to climb up the stairs on that side, but it’s green pastures from there!
This picture above was taken from the top of a watchtower at Badaling. While this section of Badaling is not completely bare, it is a complete contrast from the crowds of the other side. If you go a little earlier and walk a little farther, you can take plenty pictures with no one in the background!
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How to Get to Badaling + Other Logistics
What are the details you actually need to know?
You have several options to get to the area.
Driving yourself is very simple. There is a single highway that doesn’t have a lot of traffic unless it’s a holiday. There are plenty of parking spaces and parking lots wherever you want to go. The signage is clear, in English, and you can see parts of the Great Wall all along the highway there! Once you get outside the city, traffic should clear up.
Bus 877 is probably the most direct route to Badaling, as it has only two stops. It costs 12RMB one way and takes about 1 hour. You can pay with the Beijing
It leaves in front of the Beijing Ancient Coins Museum at the Deshengmen bus stop. Take the subway on Line 2 to JiShuiTan, 积水潭. The stop is towards the northeast, about 10 minutes walking. You can exit from exit A. You may run into a DeshengmenXI bus stop; THIS IS NOT THE ONE! You need to keep walking towards the Deshengmen Arrow Tower. The bus stop is north of it! Most of the time, there should be enough people for you to know whether you are in the right place. If you’re not sure, ASK!
The buses leave from JiShuiTan starting at 6 am regardless of the day. From April to October, the last buses leave at 12 pm. From November to March, the last buses leave at 12:30 pm. Make sure you don’t get on any fake buses. These will be identifiable because there will be people trying to get you to move there, and there will be no line. In China, it is always better to take the official thing.
The bus will probably be pretty lively, and there might be a guide introducing everything about the Great Wall. If you don’t understand any Chinese, just bring something else to do!
Everyone will get off at the same place. To go back to Beijing, go back to the same bus stop! It looks like this:
If you are more comfortable with train, there are several good options. You can leave from Huangtudian Railway Station, which is near the Huoying Station along subway line 8 and subway line 13. Ride to Badaling Station, from which you can walk about 15-20 minutes to get to the Badaling entrance! If you prefer not to walk, you can take the free shuttle bus to the cable cars.
You cannot buy tickets in advance, so it is best to get to the station early to buy a ticket! You will not get assigned seats, so board the train early to get a seat, especially during peak travel season.
The ride takes about 1.5 hours but costs only 6 yuan – a huge bargain!
Opening Hours + How Much it Costs
Like most attractions in China, the hours differ by season.
During peak season, April 1 to October 31, entrance opens at 6:30 am and costs 40 yuan. It closes at 7 pm. From November 1 to March 31, entrance opens are 7 am, closes at 6 pm, and costs 35 yuan.
When you get there, you can walk up to the Wall if you want. However, the cable car (takes you to the middle) and pulley (green, takes you to the left side of Badaling) are better. The cable car is located at the main parking lot, so it’s probably a good choice if you drive. If you take the 877 bus, you can get off near the Black Bear Park and take the pulley.
The cable car costs 100 yuan one way and 140 for the round trip. The pulley costs 80 one way and 100 for the other.
All prices and schedules are subject to change! However, compared to other UNESCO attractions (and ones that are Wonders of the World), the Great Wall is relatively cheap to visit.
How Much Walking There is at Badaling?
Honestly, there is only as much as you want. Badaling is very convenient, so you can go up one side of the Great Wall and down the other. Though the whole walkable length is 2.3 miles, you can choose to get off when you like.
[Recommended Read: My Experience with a Taiwanese Tour Group]
Things Not to Miss at Badaling
As mentioned above, I highly recommend turning left at the center watchtower, or just going up the pulley area (which is already at the left). You will see fewer people, and pass the Bear Park!
The Bear Park
Go through this park to see some black and brown bears! To be honest, the bears did not look like they were in top condition, and there were many of them in the same enclosure. I’m not an expert on bears, but their behavior looked a little sluggish. Still, you can buy plates of food to feed them.
The Watch Towers
There are plenty of them in the stretch where you can walk. It’s a great place to cool off in hot weather and sit down!
On the left side of Badaling, the towers are essentially empty if you go on a weekday.
The Badaling Museum
The museum is located near the entrance of Badaling, where the cable cars are. Admission is free, and everything inside it includes information about the Great Wall, when it and the other segments were built, and other Chinese history. It’s worth a short visit even if you aren’t a huge fan of learning history by reading.
Badaling is a wonderful place to visit! Don’t miss it if you spend any time in Beijing.
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Have you ever been to the Great Wall of China? If not, what other Wonders of the World have you been to?