Deshengmen Arrow Tower

Fortress in Beihai Park & Xicheng North

A monumental landmark along the 2nd Ring Rd is this surviving hulk of Beijing's dearly departed ramparts. A jiànlóu (arrow tower), it would have stood in front of the gate and walls itself, guarding the northern approach to the city. Today it's easy to forget that Beijing, situated on a flat, dusty plain, was once defined by its awe-inspiring, seemingly impregnable walls. Gazing up at mighty Deshengmen at least imparts a fleeting sense of that vanished majesty.

You can climb the battlements if you buy a ticket for the Beijing Ancient Coins Museum. The tower itself houses a smart little exhibition of weaponry and old photographs between the square firing embrasures. The buildings enclosed by the tower fortifications chart the history of money in China from Shang dynasty seashells through to Republic of China paper bills featuring Sun Yatsen.

Originally constructed during the Ming dynasty, the tower was enlarged in the Qing dynasty, then rebuilt in 1902 after it was destroyed by allied forces in the Battle of Beijing. The current edifice is a 1951 rebuild.

On the north side of Deshengmen, public buses depart for the Ming Tombs and the Badaling section of Great Wall.

From the subway exit you can walk along a canalside path all the way to the tower.