The Great Wall at Badaling and the Juyongguan FortressLocated in the district of Yanqing, 75 kilometers northwest of the city, the Great Wall at Badaling was the first section to be restored (in 1957) and opened up to tourists. It's the most popular place to visit the wall, and of course also the most crowded.
Described as "the northern gate" of the capital city, the wall here was particularly solid. On average it's 6 metres wide and 8 metres high, originally built to allow five horsemen to ride abreast on the top. The formidable fortress guards the way to Juyong Pass. It's alleged the Badaling Fortress was invaded by the enemy only once in its history. From its highest point at about 800m, the view is magnificent. In the distance the pristine wall follows the hill ridge, streching as far as the eye can see.
Apart from the wall and fortress, the Great Wall Museum is well worth seeing. Plenty of aerial photos, models and construction tools are on display. At the Great Wall Circle Vision Theatre, a film about the Great Wall recreates its long history. In the vicinity, souvenir stalls sell a variety of T-shirts and little trinkets. The writing printed on T-shirts usually says "I Climbed the Great Wall", or "Bu Dao Changcheng Fei Haohan", a famous Chinese saying first said by Chairman Mao.
On the way to Badaling, one can make a quick visit to the Juyongguan Fortress if not in a hurry. The Juyongguan section of the wall is probably the closest to Beijing (65 km), though the wall here is mostly renovated. The Juyong Pass, secured by the Juyongguan Fortress, was described in a text that dates from the 2nd century BC as one of the country's nine great passes. Unfortunately, the original fortress was completely destroyed. The most interesting structure, one of the few genuinely old ones, is the Cloud Terrace (Yuntai), the base of a long-vanished Buddhist pagoda. It was built around 1340 and renovated in 1448, and it has changed very little since that time. The reliefs on the arches, mostly Buddhist, display depth, descriptive and expressive power. The inscriptions are shown in six languages (Sanskrit, Tibetan, Tangut, Uighur, Chinese and Mongol). The architectural mixture of Indian, Tibetan and Chinese stylistic features are of particular interest.