Photo shoot in 798 Art District.

Matt Munro

798 Art District

Top choice in Beijing

Contemporary art meets communist history at this thrilling enclave of international galleries installed within China's model factory complex of the 1950s. Most of Beijing's best galleries are here, staging shows from the likes of Ai Weiwei and David Hockney in gorgeous Bauhaus workshops that once produced munitions and electronics. Toss into the mix oodles of street art, stylish cafes and restaurants, art shops, and an elevated walkway offering views of astonishing industrial architecture, and you can easily spend a full day here.

The '718 Joint Factory', as 798 was originally known, was built with East German expertise in the 1950s, using materials imported from East Germany via the Trans-Siberian Railway all the way into the factory itself. Preservation orders have saved the old factory station, tracks and a steam loco, along with giant industrial chimneys, workers' dorms and, most importantly, the light-filled Bauhaus factories and workshops, now home to galleries like 798 Art Factory and BTAP, where scarlet slogans praising Chairman Mao are still visible on the lofty ceilings.

The most famous gallery is UCCA, which usually hosts two or three big-ticket international exhibitions at a time. Faurschou Foundation from Denmark and the Chinese-run M Woods Art Museum consistently stage thought-provoking exhibitions from the biggest names in art, both Chinese and international.

It's not all world class, of course; dozens of smaller galleries range from the edgy to the derivative, while on the streets, local portrait sketchers and cartoonists hawk their services to tourists.

Lonely Planet's must-see attractions

Nearby Beijing attractions

1. Zhu Bingren Art Museum

0.09 MILES

Admire the burnished sculptures of Zhu Bingren, a fourth-generation bronze and copper craftsman from Shandong province. The big-ticket installation on…

2. Long March Space

0.24 MILES

A champion of emerging artists and the Chinese art scene generally since 2002, Long March Space is one of 798's premier galleries for contemporary Chinese…


0.27 MILES

Remodelled in 2019, UCCA remains the finest contemporary-art gallery in 798, and a contender for the best in the country. Many global art superstars have…


0.29 MILES

Associated with the Tokyo Gallery in Japan, BTAP (Beijing Tokyo Art Projects) was the first international gallery to lease space in 798 back in 2002…

5. Galleria Continua


The cavernous space of this factory-floor-turned-gallery, an outpost of a privately owned foundation in Tuscany, allows for installations on an epic scale…

6. 798 Art Factory

0.31 MILES

This cathedral-like Bauhaus space, ceilings emblazoned with red Maoist slogans, makes for the quintessential 798 photograph whether or not an exhibition…

7. M Woods Art Museum

0.32 MILES

Founded by Chinese art collectors in 2014, M Woods stages meticulously curated themed art shows according to the gallery's founding principle of 'FAT' …

8. Faurschou Foundation

0.36 MILES

Although this privately owned Danish gallery is a relative newcomer, it has racked up an enviable showreel of exhibitions and retrospectives since 2011,…