Chinese: 八达岭
Pinyin: Bā dá lǐng
English: Eight direction ridge
Coordinates: 40°21'16"N 116°0'23"E

Badaling was the first Great Wall section ever to be rebuilt in modern times. The work was done in several phases, beginning with 8.7 kilometers (5.4 miles) starting in 1957.

View from north tower 8 towards Qinglongqiao to the south

Most people that casually visit the Great Wall go to Badaling, often without even considering going to other locations. It's very easy to get to Badaling. It's a very impressive span of the Great Wall but it has some drawbacks. The first drawback is the restoration. Badaling has been rebuilt on an ongoing basis since 1957. The builders attempted to return the area to its original, as-new look, often having to use guesswork and often with small but significant differences in material and design. The second problem at Badaling is the crowding. So many people come here that not only the Great Wall itself, but also the entire infrastructure, can become hopelessly overcrowded. The third problem is the commercialization. So much gimmickry has been added here that is out of place for the Great Wall. However, even with all of its drawbacks, Badaling is a very impressive part of the Great Wall. The scale and quality of the original construction is very impressive. As long as you can tolerate the atmosphere, Badaling is definitely worth seeing.

Access to Badaling is very easy. Just take the Badaling expressway from the north side of Beijing and you will find the Badaling exit in about one hour. The entrance to the Great Wall is just a couple of minutes from the expressway. Bus number 919 runs between Deshengmen station and Badaling.

Early morning at Badaling

The Great Wall at Badaling is undoubtedly the most famous and popular Great Wall location. Even in the late 1800s and early 1900s, it was the primary location where visitors both Chinese and foreign visited the Great Wall. Before restoration began in 1957, Badaling was in remarkably good condition due to its high standard of construction.

Badaling has changed dramatically since then. Due to being the number one tourist destination in China, Badaling is now heavily crowded, overrun with vendors, marred by packed parking lots, covered with graffiti, and obscured with extraneous additions from theaters and museums to camel rides and toboggan rides.

Badaling is part of a very large semicircle made by the Great Wall. This makes its layout confusing as it runs in two spans that are essentially parallel and are connected by a summit hairpin.

Badaling was restored in several phases beginning in 1957. As the most popular Great Wall location, the development of the surrounding area has been extensive.

View from north tower 8 towards the west

When you arrive at Badaling, you can choose to take a cable car or walk up. Walking up does not require much extra effort because the wall comes right down to the level of the surrounding ground at the main pass. From the main pass, you can choose to walk to the north or to the south. By far, the most people walk to the north. The lower cable car station is at the far end of the main (north) parking lot and will take you directly to north tower number 8. At tower 8, the wall turns sharply, but the original wall went straight. The old wall is still visible if you walk a little further and look to your left (to the north).

In order to get photos of Badaling without crowds of people on a good weather day, you must be there very early or very late in the day. Fortunately this also implies good sunlight. Unfortunately, it can also imply being there outside of normal operating hours. Probably the best place to take photos is from the north tower 8, the high point near the upper cable car station. However, many places at Badaling can yield wonderful photos.

The author alone at north tower 8

One morning, after sleeping in a nearby guest house, I arrived at the Badaling entrance long before opening time, which was 7:00 AM. As soon as some workers arrived, I began pleading with them to let me in, which they soon did. I walked all the way to the north tower number 8, the summit of the north side, taking many photos in the early morning light. From there I saw many people waiting to get into the entrance, but it was still closed. I took more photos and then walked back down towards the entrance, and nearly reached it before people started to come in. But since all of them walked towards the much more popular north side, from which I had just come, I was then able to walk up the south side and take photos (in a forward direction, anyway) with no people in them.

Badaling has one of the best Great Wall museums in all of China. (The others are located at Shanhaiguan in Hebei Province, at the Jiayuguan Fortress in Jiayuguan City, Gansu Province, and in Dunhuang in Gansu Province.) It is an excellent museum with a wide range of very well-executed exhibits and many interesting photos including hundreds of famous visitors.

Overview of Badaling from Qinglongqiao Great Wall

Badaling is the only Great Wall location to offer wheelchair access for handicapped visitors. This includes the ability not only to reach the top surface of the wall, but also the chance to proceed through a couple of towers along a span that begins at the main entrance which has an elevator expressly provided for use by handicapped visitors. Hopefully more Great Wall locations will offer wheelchair facilities in the future.

Location summary: Badaling is about 60 kilometers (37 miles) northwest of downtown Beijing. It is about 9.1 kilometers (5.7 miles) northwest of Juyongguan, 2.9 kilometers (1.8 miles) northwest of Shuiguan, and about 6.3 kilometers (3.9 miles) northeast of Huajiayao. The path of the Great Wall from Badaling to Huajiayao is about 8.5 kilometers (5.3 miles). The path of the Great Wall from Badaling to the Badaling Ruined Great Wall is about 5.2 kilometers (3.2 miles).

Driving directions: From Deshengmen City Gate near the Jishuitan subway station on the north side of Beijing, drive north and northwest on the G110 Badaling Expressway for 60 kilometers (37 miles) to Badaling.

Map legend:
Red lines Great Wall
Blue lines Roads
Yellow lines Foot paths
Green line Cable car
A Lower cable car station
B Upper cable car station
C Main parking lot
D Bus parking lot
E Main entrance to Great Wall
F End of restored section on southwest side
G End of restored section on northeast side
H Hotel (currently closed)
I Circle vision theater
J Museum

Badaling Great Wall map

Badaling Great Wall map

Badaling is a very impressive place despite its drawbacks. The trick is to avoid crowds to get good photos. Probably the best place to take photos is from the north tower 8, the high point near the upper cable car station. The only way to do this on a good weather day is to be there very early or very late in the day. Fortunately this also implies good sunlight. Unfortunately, it can also imply being there outside of normal operating hours.

Can you imagine having the Badaling Great Wall entirely to yourself?

I had this privilege yesterday morning as I was able to enter about 20 minutes before the official opening time of 7:00. I climbed all the way to the north 8th tower before anyone else, including workers, got onto the Wall. As a result I got many photos of Badaling with no people at all. It was a beautiful, clear, cold day. The temperature was below freezing. By the time I got back down to the fortress there were many people on the wall but then I climbed up the south side and again I was completely alone. There on the south side I was able to accomplish the original goal of looking over what kind of additional repair work was being done there. Work was underway but the new area was not yet open. In many ways the new construction does not compare with what the Great Wall originally looked like. In my mind, there is no excuse for this kind of sloppy work on the Great Wall. If it must be repaired, at least it should be done in an authentic manner. :mad:

I had to be at Badaling very late in the day, on a week day, to get those photos and still I was lucky. Badaling is terribly crowded for sure, but it's still interesting and impressive. The views are hard to beat, especially on a clear day. Just don't go on a weekend or a holiday! Most people walk (or take cable cars) up the east side, so if you go west at the entrance, it's much better, too. Qinglongqiao, immediately to the east of Badaling, is even more impressive and has not been so extensively rebuilt.

Badaling Great Wall maps

Beijing Shi Ditu is similar in detail in comparison with your Beijing map. But the scale of the latitude and longitude markings on your map is much better.

Badaling photos

Here are some pictures I took of Badaling the day after a snow day on December 15, 2012.

Badaling viewed from the highest point (north 8th tower)
Qinglongqiao area at center of photo in the distance

An unrestored section at 40

Badaling Great Wall
A long climb to tower 8 on the north east side

Badaling viewed from the highest point (north 8th tower)
Qinglongqiao area at center of photo in the distance

Badaling Great Wall

Badaling after most of the crowds have gone home

This sums up my experience of Badaling pretty well.

Taken in March 1988

March 1988

March 1988

March 1988 the day 2c but with the wind it was -8

Cannons at Badaling


Badaling web links