If you plan a trip to Beijing, make sure to allow time to visit the “798 Art Zone,” or Dashanzi Art District, where a mix of political, cultural, and economic combustion have created an edgy contemporary art scene. You could easily spend a day walking around this post-industrial-chic neighborhood of 50-year-old, decommissioned, communist-era factories and warehouses (now converted into artists’ spaces, galleries, boutiques, coffee shops, and restaurants), often compared to New York’s Greenwich Village or SoHo. The shopping, even for budget travelers, is excellent, and filled with finds from Mao kitsch items to cool clothing and interesting souvenirs. The UCCA Design Store has many art-themed coffee-table books and slickly designed stationary, clothing, homeware, and furniture. +86 Design Store is a knock-off version of the UCCA; expect cheaper versions of cool designs. Also check out FEI Space for vintage finds, and Spin for beautifully conceived ceramics.
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Something Different in Beijing
I'm gonna catch some flack for this however I didn't like Beijing. At all. Its sprawling, its dirty, it's polluted and the people are pushy. That said I also believe every city, however unloved by myself has a few charms and in the Chinese capital - this re-purposed factory district turned art hood is a reprieve from the madness and therefore a must visit.
Pedestrian friendly and filled with contemporary art galleries (inside the factory shells) and some of the best cafes in Beijing, 798 is a very worthwhile for an afternoon visit. It's been around for some time now (however with it's future always in doubt) and it's well documented on the tourist trail but this "zone" features some samples of Chinese graffiti scattered around (see my pic) the factory walls that are worth a look while strolling around in and out of the buildings.
The 798 Art District has amazing street art and boutiques that show off the Beijing art scene. The Art District is a repurposed military factory district that has been taken over by local artists and intellectuals.