By far the most visited section of the Great Wall, Badaling dates back to 1504, when it was built to serve as protection for the newly established Ming dynasty capital, Beijing. After years of rough and tumble, it became the first length to be restored and opened to the public in 1957, though years of further ‘preservation’ since have seen it gain a bit of a bad reputation among the purists.
True, all that it now protects is a strip of KFCs, Starbucks and souvenir bonanzas stationed at its footings, but millions of yearly visitors can’t be entirely wrong: there are still many good reasons to take a trip out here.
Badaling’s proximity to the city centre and excellent transport links (including direct buses and even a train line) make it a great choice for those with limited time; if timed correctly, you can visit in half a day and still make it back in time for an afternoon’s exploring in the city.
It’s also extremely photogenic: they may say it’s Disneyfied, but once you’ve passed the tourist fanfare downstairs and topped the highest of the 19 watchtowers – 1,015 metres up on high – the sight of the Wall winding across the mountains is an undeniably impressive one. The crowds can only add to it.
Fun fact Badaling is the go-to Great Wall show pony for state visits, with world leaders as diverse as Nelson Mandela, George W Bush and Queen Elizabeth II all having previously visited.
Be warned During public holidays and temperate weekends, Badaling can become immensely crowded, with rush-hour traffic to and from the Wall equally congested; best advice is to consider a different section at such times, save a sardine-like experience.
Hikers say ‘For a good hike, drive out to Badaling... and then keep on driving. Badaling is a fully repaired section, and entry and exit from the wall is controlled rather strictly. But beyond the boundary of the park area the wall keeps going up into the mountains, and there are some great hikes to do out that way.’
Distance from city 70km
Getting there By bus: the direct 877 service leaves from Deshengmen bus station, just east of Jishuitan subway station (Line 2). Each trip is 13RMB and takes around 90 minutes to reach Badaling, traffic depending. Deshengmen-Badaling, 6am-12pm; Badaling-Deshengmen, 10.30am-7pm.
By train: The dedicated S2 train service sets off from Huangtudian station (east of Huoying subway, Line 8) taking just over an hour to reach Badaling, and for a mere 6RMB. There are seven trains daily, with first train leaveing Huangtudian at 6.30am; last train back from Badaling is at 9.18pm daily – see timetable here
Opening hours and tickets
Peak season (April 1-October 31): 6.30am-7pm. 40RMB; 20RMB (concessions); free for children under 1.2m.
Off-peak (November 1-March 31): 7am-6pm. 35RMB; 17.50RMB (concessions); free for children under 1.2m.