Tips for visiting Badaling Great Wall
A tour around China is not completed if you don’t visit the Great Wall. This majestic defensive structure winds up and down like a huge snake across mountains, deserts, grasslands, stretching for almost 21.000 km from east to west of the country. It is a symbol of China, one of the Eight Wonders of the World and was listed as a World Heritage by UNESCO in 1987. There are several Great Wall sections close to Beijing that you can visit, but Badaling and Mutianyu are the most popular.
We have visited the Great Wall twice, in 2009 at Juyongguan and in 2019 at Badaling, the best-preserved, most popular and complete section among the various. Compared with other sections, most stairs are not very steep, and they are equipped with handrails, so it’s easier to climb. In this section, you’ll also find a cable car and pulley to save energy, and it even has some facilities to make it easier for seniors and people with disability.
The 3700 meters and 19 watchtowers of this section have been restored and opened to visitors since 1957. With its strategic position, the Badaling Great Wall was completed in 1505 during the Ming Dynasty as a line of defence on the main pass between Beijing and the Mongol tribes of the north. The wall average is about 7.8 meters high and 6 meters wide, and its watchtowers were built to accommodate soldiers, observe the enemy, and store supplies. The sides are covered in stone, whereas the top in layers of brick, and a significant number of holes were drilled in the wall to shoot arrows and watch enemies. As Chairman Mao Zedong said, who has never been to the Great Wall is not a true man!
HOW TO VISIT BADALING GREAT WALL
The scenic site of Badaling is divided into north and south sections, and if you don’t want to hike and save energy, it’s also equipped with cable cars and a pulley. The entrance of the 2 sections is the huge Fortress that you’ll find next to the parking lot.
The 2 sections
North section: with its beautiful scenery and 12 watchtowers, this section winds up and down the mountains ridge, and it’s the most visited. If you can’t climb the Wall for any reason, don’t worry about that. A cableway runs from the parking lot to north tower nr 8 (the highest point of the north section), whereas a pulley runs next to the Bear Garden Area to the north tower number 4. After reaching tower nr 8, you can decide to descend until the Fortress or to reach tower nr 12 (with ups and downs not so challenging), where you’ll find the exit to Bear Garden Area. A special flat wheelchair accessible lane is built for wheelchair tourists to get to the third watchtower of the Wall.
South section: with its 7 watchtowers and a more leisurely hike, it’s the less crowded part of the two. After getting to Tower nr 7, you have to go back to tower nr 3 to find the exit. As in the north section, if you can’t climb the wall, a cableway runs from the parking lot (close to the Zhan Tianyou Memorial Hall) to tower nr 4. Once there, you can reach the tower nr 7 or descend to the exit.
Our visit: Even though we are good hikers, we decided to visit both sections taking the cableway and saving time. We started from the northern section reaching the tower nr 8 by cableway, and we left the wall through the tower nr 12. Got the Wall Entrance, we walked until the south cableway to reach the tower nr 4, we walked until the tower nr 5, and we went back to the exit. Anyway, the northern section is stunning, and we highly recommend hiking the wall on this side and taking your time.
In the area of the Fortress, you’ll find restaurants, takeaways and some shops.
Opening hours and Ticket price
From April to October, the Wall opens from 06:30 to 19:00, and the ticket costs 50 CNY; from November to March, the Wall opens from 7:00 to 18:00, and the ticket costs 40 CNY. The cable car is not included in the ticket. It costs 80 RMB one way and 100 CNY on the roundtrip.
HOW TO REACH BADALING GREAT WALL
If you don’t want to book a tour, you can quickly get there by local bus or train. Badaling is about 70 km by road northwest of central Beijing.
1. Bus 877: direct from Deshengmen bus station, it takes around 1.30hrs, and it costs 12 CNY (the first bus is at 6 am, the last at 12.30 – the last from Badaling at 5 pm). Deshengmen is 10 – 15 min walk from Jishuitan subway station (Exit A) of subway line 2. The bus (it’s green and white) stands in the middle part behind the Deshengmen Arrow Tower. Probably you’ll meet some sellers offering tickets for other buses on your way to the bus stop, skip them and go straight to the official one (same if they offer great wall tickets on the bus, skip it).
2. Beijing Public Tourist Bus Line 1: it departs from southwest of Qianmen Arrow Tower (south of Tiananmen Square). Take subway line 2 and get off at Exit C of Qianmen. It takes about 1 hour and a half, and it costs 20 CNY (the first bus is at 7.30, last at 11.30 – from Badaling, it runs from 11.30 to 16.30). The stop is at Badaling Guntiangou Parking Lot.
Anyway, remember to check the timetable and number of buses on-site because the schedules are always subject to change.
3. Train: the trains usually depart from Beijing North Railway Station. The code name of the trains to Badaling is S2. The S2 train runs from 6 am to 5.30 pm to Badaling and from 8 am to 9 pm from Badaling. Remember to check the train schedule on-site. The ticket can be bought at the ticketing office in the main building of Beijing North Railway Station. We suggest taking the train as soon as possible, especially during the peak season and public holiday, because if the train is full, you must wait for the next.
WHERE TO SLEEP
Badaling offers a good choice of affordable accommodations not far from the Railway Station. Click here to see look for your hotel with Trip.com.
If you stay in Beijing, the vast metropolis offers a wide range of accommodation, from hostels to luxury hotels. We slept at Nanjing Great Hotel, located downtown close to the pedestrian and crowded Wangfujing street. The best website for booking accommodation around China is Trip.com. Alternatively, you can have a look at booking.com or agoda.com.