The time has come for a trip to the Great Wall of China! At last, awaited, longed for, finally for us. The weather was forecast to be dreamlike, so we finally decided to leave Beijing.
As soon as we bought our plane tickets to Beijing we knew we had to go and see the most famous building in China, and maybe in the world? Recognizable by all, the symbol of China running up hills is the most popular attraction in China.
Well… and here the question arose – do we really want to go to one of the most overrated places in the world? The web is full of rankings and comparisons of how these besieged tourist attractions look on beautiful postcard views and how they look in reality. Maybe it’s their charm, or maybe it’s Photoshop? Or maybe the publicity photos are taken at a time when no one is there or they are just closed then? We don’t know that, but we realized how besieged the Great Wall is. We’ve seen pictures where it’s hard to push the needle between the crowd of people marching around these famous fortifications.
The famous Great Wall of China is called Wànli Chángchéng (Wall of 10 Thousand Li, meaning infinity) by the Chinese, but sources give different lengths, depending on how you count. According to our guide, it is approx. 21,200 km counting all the fragments that were ever built, although this is a debatable approach, because can the total length be counted if the Wall never constituted a single structure? If we consider the longest, section of the Wall, it was still an impressive about 8,850 kilometers long! By the way, we will dispel one myth that is still alive: No, the wall cannot be seen from space ;)
Table of contents
Where is the best place to climb the Great Wall?
In preparation for the trip, we watched programs and read about places to climb the Wall. Because it’s not just one place, there are really a lot of them. Leaving aside the ones further away from Beijing, which on the one hand are unbuilt and on the other are in no way protected both from destruction and for the safety of those entering, there are several places around the Chinese capital where one can admire the structure. Here we have a cross-section starting from the most famous Badaling, through the less besieged Mutianyu, to Jiankou – reserved for the hard-core, no small children ;)
We thought for a long time about where to go. On the one hand, we were discouraged by the crowds, because leaving aside the issues of queues or photos, how do you even stop here to admire the Wall in all its glory? We had the impression that, carried by the crowd, we would not be able to rest for a while, even less so with a child.
The issue of the stroller is another story altogether. We immediately let go of the wild sections of the wall (such as the aforementioned Jiankou), where we would be afraid to walk on our own, let alone with a baby on our backs. We strongly considered Mutianyu instead, which is less commercialized and the views seem beautiful.
What did we finally decide on? On Badaling. If you know us and are reading, you may be surprised by this choice, so in the interest of explanation, we will write why, however, we decided to go where everyone else did.
The most important consideration for us was getting there. There is no denying that the Badaling hill is the easiest to reach from Beijing. Just take the subway to the train, and with it you already go directly to the village, from which it is just a short walk and you stand and the foot of the wall. You can also get there seamlessly by bus. In addition, as if you don’t look, it is still the best preserved section of the Wall.
If we would like to go to Mutianyu, unfortunately, getting there is a bit more complicated, with transfers, and then we still have to wait for the mini-van to get there. True, there is a special bus from Beijing, but only twice a day and it takes 2.5 hours (it’s also more expensive, but that wasn’t the most important thing for us). We decided that we would go to Badaling first, and if we were disappointed and found time on another day, we would drive up to the second place.
How to get to the Great Wall in Badaling?
The Badaling we mentioned is actually a hill (or rather, a range of hills) along which the Wall winds. It is here that most tourists arrive, whether by train or coach.
It may seem that the Great Wall of China, is a stone’s throw from Beijing. It’s not far, but getting there by train alone is an hour’s drive, plus there’s still the drive to the station (Badaling is 70 kilometers from Beijing).
How to get to the Great Wall from Beijing? In our opinion, it is best to take the subway to the S2 line train. You need to head to Huoying subway station, which can be reached by yellow line number 13 or green line number 8. At the site, simply head for the S2 train (the road is very well marked).
The train itself is reasonably fast and very cheap. We rode it for exactly 1 hour and 10 minutes, and paid 6 (!) yuan one way.
Unfortunately, this line is crowded, and even though we were about 15 minutes before the train departed, there were no more seats for us (forget about any priority seats for children or the disabled on this train).
It didn’t start well: the vision of riding the train for an hour ahead of us, standing in the aisle, near the toilet, with a baby, and on top of that, the whole carriage is looking at us. And that was the most annoying thing…. Chinese people, without any qualms stared and took pictures, but no one stood up to give way, even when I had Olive in a carrier. Only when she started to get very impatient and cry did someone from the middle of the wagon call us to sit down.
Of course, we caused a stir in the other half of the carriage with this, because about it a white infant came closer and it is necessary to take a picture of him. What’s there to cry about, because it was very warm on the train, and on top of that, hungry. Fortunately, the ladies who were sitting next to me immediately took matters into their own hands – they began to shadow and help me.
After a few minutes of conversation, it turned out that the young girl who was sitting next to me speaks perfect English, is about to get married and flee to the United States! And for the time being, he is taking his mother on a day trip, but not to the Great Wall. For them, the bigger attraction is to go to the final station of the train, where there is a beautiful park with flowering trees. This also surprised us greatly.
Riding the train, we passed parts of the Wall, but most people reacted with more admiration to the white and pink buds on the trees than the famous Wall. I also learned that if we dream of a seat on the way back, we should hunt for one as early as an hour before the train departs!
We’ll be writing more about train travel, but I simply have to mention that even on such a short trip, travelers were provided with meals, Chinese soups, green teas and circulated constantly for public boiling water. Itinerant commerce is also thriving – during the ride, train attendants are busy promoting and selling various “souvenirs” like puzzles and placemats, while carefully demonstrating and expressively narrating everything (even knowledge of Chinese was not needed to know what was going on).
Tour of the Great Wall
Once we arrived at the site, a wild crowd rushed to the buses. From the train station you can drive for free to almost the Wall itself by the coaches available here, or…. walk… 10-15 minutes! We had no doubt that we needed to finally rest and get some air, especially since the weather was getting nicer. Calmly everyone can manage to pass this section, we do not know where so many buses come from and why there are so many people in them ;)
What surprised us along the way was that the town was just getting ready for the tourist season. We expected that we would barely be able to walk among the vendors and pullers, and here there were only a few stores and restaurants open at a glance.
We took our first steps to the tourist information to ask if we could manage with a stroller, how much the queue costs, where to go, but unfortunately, once again we had a big problem to get along. We were prepared to walk in with a złstroller on our shoulder. In the end, we left it on the side, just behind the entrance gates to the wall.
For a long time we wondered whether to climb the Wall on foot or take the cable car, but we decided to try our hand and walk at least a piece of the Wall, but with what satisfaction :)
Entrance to the wall costs 40 Yuan, which we think is a very low price for such an attraction. After passing the gates, you decide for yourself whether to go to the right, towards the highest watchtowers and ultimately to the train station, or, however, to the left, where far fewer visitors go. We went here and here ;)
However, if you decide to take the cable car up to the top, the cost of such an event is already 80 Yuan one way or 100 Yuan for two (plus the entrance to the wall itself – such information was given to us at the bottom, we do not know if this fee is actually paid).
First we moved to the right, looking from the entrance (northeast direction). Good landmarks are the watchtowers, which, by the way, can be seen from a distance, especially the one No. 8, which is located above the others, and this is where the train arrives.
The wall road itself is unfortunately (granted) tiring :) Some sections are easy to get through, and on some you have to climb up hard. Where there are higher stairs, there are queues, it’s more crowded, because unfortunately many people have trouble climbing high stairs.
In places, too, the seemingly flat road consists of gouged stones, which is also not an ideal road for light walking ;) In many places there are railings, which helps a lot, and probably thanks to them in general some are able to walk further. The farther away the fewer people, but from a certain point on it gets more crowded again, as there are people coming out of the guardhouse with a queue.
The weather was excellent, it got warm, there was very good visibility, so we could see further sections of the wall, and on the slopes we saw flowering trees. The views are definitely worth the climb, even with a small child.
Well, exactly how to climb the Wall with such a small child? :) We used the LennyLamb carrier, which we highly recommend not only for such hikes. Olive was quiet in it, and even fell asleep (not to say that she slept a very large part of the wall). However, be very careful underfoot, as it can be steep and slippery at times.
When we returned to the entrance we still had strength, Olive was sleeping, so we decided to go the other way and it was just a hit! Few people, a little steep, and a beautiful view of the rest of the wall, where we had just crowded with hundreds of other visitors. So if you’re already in Badaling and wondering which way to go, it’s definitely to the left. Anyway, see for yourself :)
Is it worth visiting Badaling?
Was it worth coming here? Definitely yes!
We were afraid of the crowds, but in fact we thought it would be worse (we were even setting ourselves up for not being able to go to the second guardhouse). It is the kind of place where it will always be more or less crowded (after all, it is one of the seven new wonders of the world), but there are passages where you can rest peacefully, stop and no one will rush you.
The wall itself is wide in this section, so standing on the side no one is disturbed – its width is up to 6 meters, so enough to fit 5 horses or 10 soldiers. There are even rest areas and viewpoints along the way ;) However, if you are still afraid of crowds, we recommend going the other way – emptier, and the views are just as beautiful.
And the Wall itself? Does it make an electrifying impression? In this day and age and access to information, anyone can see on photos, videos or maps what a wall looks like, but seeing it in person is something else. Although the part we saw is largely rebuilt, you can see the enormity of the structure, and we kept wondering how they managed to build it! We know how much work it must have cost, and worse, how many human lives….
Return to Beijing
After all that climbing we were decently tired, and Olive for that was rested :) We returned to the town at the Wall, used the changing table (it was the only place during the entire trip to China where a changing table was available in a public place) and went to eat something quick.
We also took something to go, because we had more than an hour to wait for the train and another hour to go…. this time we made it! We were among the first in line for the train, so we had seats ;)
Finally, we invite you to see a gallery of all our Great Wall photos: