The 798 District is a fantastic, unique area in the northeast of Beijing. It is an art district filled to the brim with culture, inspiration, galleries, small studios, independent shops, cafes, restaurants, murals, sculptures and artwork. It is a haven for creatives and those who love something different. This area in particular is special as it’s a hub for everyone artistic.
As a graphic designer, I love colour and modern art. When I go to another country, I like to see things that reflect that particular culture, or art that brings inspiration from elsewhere to create something new. The 798 District is quite large—you can easily spend a day strolling around all the weird and wonderful areas. My recommendations for those planning on seeing the 798 district are:
When I go to another country, I like to see art that reflects that particular culture; or that brings in inspiration from elsewhere to create something new.
• IMS of Modern Artland (IOMA)
Outside this particular art gallery is a large machine with strange but fantastical prizes inside. When I visited, the gallery itself was home to a bold and colourful optical illusion exhibition. Each room had an individual aspect to it, each based around the idea that what you see is not always there.
• 798 Art Factory
This is one of the highlights of the whole area. What used to be a communist factory is now home to a crazy collection of artwork and sculptures: from dancing spaceman to vintage cars. The building itself is an architectural masterpiece with curved domes filling the roof space (it also has a quirky bar inside!).
• UCCA (Ullens Centre for Contemporary Art)
This red building cannot be missed. Inspired by the Bauhaus movement, the minimalism and giant spaces are just beautiful. The tranquil atmosphere brings you to a different place, making you forget the crazy, crowded city outside.
What to expect
As someone who loves to visit art galleries, I am a creature of habit. However, the 798 district is very different to many artistic zones across the world. There are very little shops selling actual art products such as pens, sketchbooks, and notebooks. There are also very few books written in English, and every book shop I visited sold only novels. The ticket prices are cheap (like most of Beijing), with the average gallery being just under 100 RMB (less than $20). There are no queues and most of the places are open long hours. Even though the area can get quite busy I found it was never overcrowded, making the atmosphere even nicer.
My favourite part
The food! I know it’s strange for an area like this, but the 798 District is filled with restaurants serving food from all over the world—from New Zealand to Japan to Italy. Even the ice cream is delicious!
Why you should go
There may be some preconceptions about those who love art or enjoy spending the day strolling through galleries—but this area is definitely worth a visit. The edgy, industrial vibe and international culture make for such a cool atmosphere—and with its unique shops and crazy cafes, this district is an important part of culture in Beijing. It may be a little different, but that's what makes it special—embrace it!Add this article to your reading list