The Great Wall

Historically a strategic portal between the fertile lands of the capital and the more arid plains beyond, Badaling has been called the ‘Key to Northern China’, and is the site for what has become the defining section of the Great Wall. On this stretch of battlements, restored in the mid-1950s and again in 1987, Nixon, Thatcher, Reagan, Gorbachev and even Queen Elizabeth II have posed for the cameras. It's also the busiest and most commercial Great Wall destination by far.

Badaling ticks all the iffy Great Wall boxes in one flourish: souvenir stalls, fast-food chains, heavily restored brickwork, guardrails and mobs of sightseers. On the plus side, the scenery is raw and striking, and you get to see the Wall snaking off in classic fashion into the hills.

Ticket sales for Badaling are now online only, but until the official website ( can cater to foreigners, you can still purchase tickets on arrival. Be aware, though, of the daily visitor cap of 65,000 people. In high season, you might want to ask your hotel to help you pre-book (up to seven days in advance).

After 2020, high-speed trains will make the 20-minute hop from Beijing Railway Station to the new underground terminal at Badaling (dubbed the deepest high-speed train station in the world).

Lonely Planet's must-see attractions

Nearby The Great Wall attractions

1. China Great Wall Museum

0.25 MILES

This sizeable museum blusters through a history of the Wall, from its origins as an earthen embankment in the far-off Qin dynasty (221–207 BC) to the Ming…

2. Kāng Líng

10.61 MILES

The tomb of the Zhengde Emperor, who reigned from 1506–21. It's not open for visitors.

3. Tài Líng

11.2 MILES

The tomb of the Hongzhi Emperor (1470–1505). Not open for visitors.

4. Sī Líng

11.4 MILES

Si Ling is the tomb of the last of the Ming emperors, Chongzhen, who hanged himself at Coal Hill – today's Jingshan Park – as rebels stormed the gates of…

5. Zhāo Líng

11.56 MILES

The Longqing Emperor, 12th of the Ming Dynasty, only managed a six-year shift on the Dragon Throne before he was entombed here, along with three empresses…

6. Dìng Líng

11.73 MILES

Of all the Ming tombs, this is the only one to have been excavated, and visitors can descend into the enormous burial chambers of the Wanli Emperor (1563…

7. Mào Líng

11.86 MILES

The 15th-century tomb of the Chenghua Emperor. Not open for visitors.

8. Museum of the Ming Tombs

11.98 MILES

Housed in several buildings at Dìng Líng, some of which were closed for renovation at time of research, this museum displays a selection of items…