The number 798 was the reference code for a factory, but now this ex-industrial site is the most contracted contemporary art zone in Asia and perfect for gallery-hopping. In recent years, shops and restaurants have flourished here, so many visitors just come for a good time. As a result, some of the more serious galleries close their doors or put out a sign to charge entrance fees, but you can knock and say you want to visit. Few will actually charge you. If you explore here, note that commercial galleries are closed Mondays.
Meet your local
Yifan moved from London to Beijing in 2011 and hosts a weekly cultural review podcast, Culture Potato, with his friends.
Where I live: The west side of Chaoyang Park. It has the perfect mix of nature and city, Chinese and international lifestyles, trendy wine bars and the everyday market. My rent has been more or less stable for the last six years, which is unheard of in Beijing!
Best way to get around the city: A time-sensitive and carefully worked-out plan combining taxi, the metro and bike-sharing. All the recommendations in this guide are reachable by metro, though.
Don’t leave without having: Taken the No. 1 bus route across Chang’an Avenue.
But the local favorite is really: An after-dinner pedicure and foot massage while replying to an entire day’s backlog of group messages.
If I moved, I’d most miss: Catching a glimpse of an ancient tower or city gate from inside a taxi, comforted by the thought that this fast-changing society is ultimately anchored in history.
The 798 district
This is the most established contemporary art museum in China, recently rescued by a private consortium that also bought the Shanghai Tang lifestyle brand (hence the adjoining store). There are often two to three exhibitions running, so the entrance fee is well worth paying.
UCCA, 4 Jiuxianqiao Road, Chaoyang District, Beijing, China
One of the more exciting new galleries coming out of 798 in recent years, this is an ideal place to find out what emerging artists are up to in China. It’s in a quieter part of 798, but, thanks to the giant rock outside, easy to spot.
706 North 3rd Street, 798 Art Zone, Chaoyang District, Beijing, China
Hey Tea is the Louis Vuitton of bubble-tea mania, and sometimes there’s a secondary market for waiting tickets that the store uses to call your order. Their 798 store is on the ground floor of Xiaoke Theatre.
Xiaoke Juchang, 751 Design Park, 798 Art Zone, Chaoyang District, Beijing, China