Simple in concept, excellent in execution, the Brickyard at Mutianyu is a destination in itself, situated about 90 minutes' drive from downtown Beijing in a traditional village. Recovered tile pieces form mosaics that pop out from otherwise sterile red brick walls—a nod to the building’s former life as an imperial tile factory. Brickyard has a modern feel, with rustic Chinese elements that allow this hotel to blend in with the surrounding village. The eco-conscious philosophy carries through to the working organic garden on the grounds. The rooms are open-concept, one side composed entirely of floor-to-ceiling windows, with views of the Great Wall extending atop the hills in the distance. Trails used by locals lead right up to the wall (a rather challenging hike), with no guards around to collect entrance fees. The Brickyard Homes, once abandoned peasant homes, have been whimsically restored by the Brickyard owner. They invite Frank Lloyd Wright–esque comparisons for their ability to integrate spare Asian design into a modern context.
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This is a working Chinese village. Locals don't speak English, and the only Western dining options are at the Schoolhouse. Check out the glass-blowing studio and the art exhibits inside the former classrooms at the Schoolhouse, before heading back to explore the less-visited sections of the Great Wall.
Need to Know
Rooms: 25 rooms, 9 homes. From $224, homes from $480. Check-in: 3 p.m.; check-out: noon. Dining options: While restaurants are quite limited in the village, the Brickyard runs the Schoolhouse Mutianyu, a 10-minute drive away. The Schoolhouse has a Chinese-Western menu composed of organic, local ingredients. Seasoning and presentation are simple but satisfying. Xiaoloumian, set in a stone farmhouse, serves up hearty Chinese food like dumplings and savory noodles. Spa and gym details: There is an on-site spa where Chinese-style massages can be booked. A small fitness center sits inside the spa. On the weekends, yoga classes are held in the pavilion next to the organic farm.
Who's it for: Eco-conscious travelers. Don't expect bottled water (you get a thermos from the front desk), and sheets are only changed once per week, unless otherwise requested. The Brickyard is great for families, with bike rentals, a game room, and plenty of hiking trails. Our favorite rooms: Big Rock House has a cozy hearth, heavy wooden beams, and the eponymous big rock in the living room, which has been incorporated into the interior design. Fun for groups: While it doesn't make economical sense for a couple or a small family to stay in a Brickyard Home, if you have a group of at least six adults, the price tag suddenly seems doable. During the high season, the Schoolhouse arranges a “School Bus” from downtown Beijing, which is an economical way to reach the Brickyard.