In our rapidly changing world, Asia and in particular China have a reputation for fast change and upheaval. But it still surprised me how different 798 Art District felt compared to our last visit two years ago!
Not better or worse, just different. Very different.
To re-capture the low-key, laid-back village atmosphere we experienced two years ago we had to veer off to the back alleys and streets and away from the main thoroughfares which were very busy with people. No longer a hidden gem but the third most visited tourist place in Beijing. Since it’s beginning in 2001 when the first artists moved to the neighbourhood, 75 million people have visited 798 Art District. It is now very frequently compared to New York’s Soho.
Aside from the art galleries, artist’s studios, cool cafes, sophisticated boutiques and street art we noticed more and more design companies, international restaurants and bars. 798 district is developing a more international character. It is easy to spend an entire day walking around and get sucked into any one of a number of funky art bookshops or cool cafes with comfortable armchairs, good coffee and food.
Probably the best place to get an incredible dose of creativity and find lost motivation.
Just recently, I came across Bespoke Beijing a company which organises: The 798 & Artist studio Tour. It is a 4-hour private tour with art expert Sophie McKinnon around 798 Dashanzi district. Pricey at 3000RMB (groups of 8 people or less) but I think it would be great to be shown around by someone who knows the area, galleries and art.
798 is still the coolest place in Beijing. No doubt.