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Forums Other Destination advice Beijing: Great Wall day-trip and Wangfujing-ish hotels

  • Michael C 703 posts

    @JDB (et al.) re. China: JDB; you kindly mentioned quite recently that HuangHuaCheng
    was a nice option for a Great Wall visit. Any idea how it compares to Badaling?

    Also, my current hotel shortlist includes the
    Hilton Wangfujing, Renaissance Wangfujing and the Regent. All of them are fairly similar
    re. space and price for a club room (Hilton a bit cheaper), but does anyone have any opinions/preferences
    bearing in mind a wish-list of:

    -being able to walk to places nearby
    -nice spacious lobby
    -pool with decent times (for 10-yr. old) and preferably no caps!
    -the lounge offerings (including well-behaved kids entering)?

    Cheers!

    davefl 1,410 posts

    Can’t answer the question as I only went to Badaling, but my tip would be to go in shoes with non-slip sole. It’s very steep and incredibly slippery even when dry.

    JDB 4,641 posts

    Re the Great Wall, Badaling is incredibly crowded probably, because it’s the closest and oldest section. Mutianyu probably won’t be as busy and your 10 year old will enjoy the slide down from the wall at the end. These are the two sections nearest Beijing so easier to reach but quite slow because of crowds. Simatai is quite a bit further – maybe 140km from the city, but much less crowded and more impressive but again very structured and organised. The adjacent Gubei Water Town is an entirely new construct. We like the section at HuangHuaCheng because it isn’t organised except by the local villagers who charge a nominal sum at each end. It’s a slight scramble for the first few minutes but after that you can walk along the walk with spectacular views of the lake and countryside and hardly any tourists. Any of these are full day trips.

    The other slightly longer trip worth doing is the Summer Palace – about 40 mins drive from Wangfujing area. Try to arrive or leave on the boat across the lake from the Palace!

    Re hotels, Wangfujing for us is the best area to stay – close to Forbidden City, Tiananenmen Square, Temple of Heaven etc. Of the hotels you mention, the only one I know (and that was in 2019) is the Regent which was very good overall but needing a refurb. I’m not sure about the pool, but the other criteria are met. Big lobby, and a garden off that lobby. The lounge occupies the best space in the hotel on the top floor (it’s the glassed area you can probably see on photos) which covers most of that floor – one area set up as a restaurant and several sofa/chair areas. It serves a full breakfast (buffet + freshly cooked) and a very good selection in the evening which includes very good Italian cheeses and impressive home made cakes/ chocolates. It’s also right next to a metro stop. Lots of very good inexpensive restaurants nearby.

    Michael C 703 posts

    @JDB / @davefl Just the sort of practical information I needed, thanks so much.
    I have also noted to at least have rooftop drinks at your beloved Peninsula, even if
    we’re not staying there!

    The real Swiss Tony 700 posts

    We did Beijing in 2017 when my kids were 12, 10 & 7.

    Stayed at the Hyatt Wangfujing. We got a great price on a suite, kids welcomed into the exec lounge and they had a big pool (no caps required at least back then). Also there was a mall and a food court in the basement of the hotel which was great in terms of getting everyone fed something they wanted to eat!

    We did the great wall at Mutianyu, gondola up, sled back down and ticked that off before being dropped at the airport for our flight home.

    I also elected to book a guide and a driver for this trip which isn’t my normal style but we saved a LOT of time. It was very slick and not too expensive. Did the Summer Palace (also recommend), Forbidden City, went to the Theatre, etc etc. The guide knew where the shortest lines were, was able to pre-book tickets on her local ID card, communicated well with the driver to minimise walking (it was August, it was HOT).

    Back then the Hyatt also had a brilliant deal where we were met at the gate of the plane by airport staff, escorted through immigration (they got us the right desk for transit visas) then diverted into some VIP area for the hotel van to whisk us into town. It cost US$100 for the 5 of us. Last time I looked I couldn’t find it.

    Michael C 703 posts

    We did Beijing in 2017 when my kids were 12, 10 & 7.

    Stayed at the Hyatt Wangfujing. Club room was great, kids welcomed into the lounge and they had a big pool (no caps required at least back then). Also there was a mall and a food court in the basement of the hotel which was great in terms of getting everyone fed something they wanted to eat!

    We did the great wall at Mutianyu, gondola up, sled back down and ticked that off before being dropped at the airport for our flight home.

    I also elected to book a guide and a driver for this trip which isn’t my normal style but we saved a LOT of time. It was very slick and not too expensive. Did the Summer Palace (also recommend), Forbidden City, went to the Theatre, etc etc. The guide knew where the shortest lines were, was able to pre-book tickets on her local ID card, communicated well with the driver to minimise walking (it was August, it was HOT).

    Great stuff, TRST! We’re also ready to be Sweaty Betty as going mid-July, and will also def. use a driver.
    I had a fabulous night out in the Hyatt bar, but that was 10 years ago: all dark reds, with a group of women
    singing 1930s French songs! It was also on pre-shortlist, but rooms seem a lot smaller.

    Conflicted over G Wall visit: I’d go for most remote, but think I’ll be outvoted for a bells and whistles area!

    The real Swiss Tony 700 posts

    Conflicted over G Wall visit: I’d go for most remote, but think I’ll be outvoted for a bells and whistles area!

    I’d think this through carefully. Mutianyu was reasonably quiet but at least had services and also enough context to understand how the wall functioned historically as there had been some sensitive restoration. Also reasonable views once up there but pollution was a problem. I have seen some documentaries about remoter parts of the wall which are just earth bank type affairs, so whilst it might work for bragging rights, it’s probably not going to be the best illustration for a 10 yr old who thought they were going to walk on the great wall but ended up just looking at a heap of rubble. As I recall the restored part of the wall ran out pretty fast past where we were. Also it’s quite steep in places so again don’t underestimate the heat.

    It was Catherine Lu tours who we used.

    geordiemunro 19 posts

    Mutianyu has always been my go to part of the Great Wall to visit. I think it strikes the best balance of accessibility, photo opps and fun for the kids

    JDB 4,641 posts

    Conflicted over G Wall visit: I’d go for most remote, but think I’ll be outvoted for a bells and whistles area!

    I’d think this through carefully. Mutianyu was reasonably quiet but at least had services and also enough context to understand how the wall functioned historically as there had been some sensitive restoration. Also reasonable views once up there but pollution was a problem. I have seen some documentaries about remoter parts of the wall which are just earth bank type affairs, so whilst it might work for bragging rights, it’s probably not going to be the best illustration for a 10 yr old who thought they were going to walk on the great wall but ended up just looking at a heap of rubble. As I recall the restored part of the wall ran out pretty fast past where we were. Also it’s quite steep in places so again don’t underestimate the heat.

    It was Catherine Lu tours who we used.

    The Simatai and HuangHuaCheng sections are both very much fully constructed. The former has a full tourist infrastructure which the latter doesn’t.

    As you say, Mutianyu is a good compromise although a company we used for a different trip last year (Unique Beijing Tours, and they were very good) offers a combined trip to Mutianyu and HuangHuaCheng. The latter is a bit different as the only section that goes through a lake and no crowds or cost is a big plus.

    Jinshanling to Simatai is now fully restored as well, but we haven’t tried it yet – planned for October. It is quite a lot further from Beijing.

    SBIre 170 posts

    I’d also recommend Mutianyu and Catherine Lu tours

    zio 266 posts

    Jinshanling to Simatai is now fully restored as well, but we haven’t tried it yet – planned for October. It is quite a lot further from Beijing.

    I loved walking this section. Beautiful and evocative even if not historically fully original. Has the cable car been restored?! Haven’t been to Beijing since 2008 which seems a lifetime ago. The cable car was…well, I remember rather more adrenalin than I’d paid for.

    JDB 4,641 posts

    @Zio – we first went to Shanghai in 2010 for the Expo and then to Beijing the following year and have returned to both, and many other places in the country, in every year until Covid, then last autumn and now planning for this autumn. Looking forward to walking that c. 7km section of the wall. There has been huge change in Beijing and Shanghai and unlike many places around the world, it has been for the better in so many ways, so you should revisit if you can!

    zio 266 posts

    @JDB You’re right, I should revisit!

    I spent a month traveling from Beijing to Urumqi in 2008 (including a visit to Jiayuguan, the fort at the western end of the Great Wall) and a month doing Shanghai to Chengdu in 2009. Both fabulous holidays so it’s a bit of a mystery how I haven’t been back.

    Apart from the cable car, another particular memory of that day (3 days before the Olympic opening ceremony) was the extraordinary amount of “beautification” in terms of flowers planted along street verges in the city during the hours I spent at the wall.

    Cat 126 posts

    Anyone who likes a strenuous hike and has good mobility, I would highly, highly recommend the Jinshanling to Simatai hike. My OH and I walked it a few years back. It is a pain to get to, but well worth it. The views over the hills into the distance were breathtaking (as were the climbs), and the photos I have have the occasional tiny dot of a person 500m away, but it really felt like we had this magnificent slice of history to ourselves.

    We loved it – it’s a far cry from the bumper-to-bumper experience of Badaling!

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