Only one hour by car from downtown Beijing and located not far from the Ming Tombs, the Great Wall at Badaling is where visiting dignitaries go for a quick photo op. Postcard views abound here, with large sections of the restored Ming Dynasty brick wall rising majestically to either side of the fort while, in the distance, portions of early-16th-century Great Wall disintegrate into more romantic but inaccessible ruins.
The downside is that Badaling suffers from its popularity, with tour groups flocking here en masse. This has led to its reputation as "one to be avoided" by those allergic to shoulder-bumping and being gouged by hawkers. Nevertheless, with popularity comes tourist-friendly facilities, and those with disabilities find access to the wall here to be far better than at other sections. Either take the cable car to the top or walk up the gently sloping steps, relying on handrails if necessary. On a clear day, you can see for miles across leafy, undulating terrain from
atop the battlements. The admission price also includes access to the China Great Wall Museum and the Great Wall Circle Vision Theater.
A car for four people from central Beijing to Badaling should run no more than Y600 for five hours, and you can sometimes make arrangements to include a stop at the Thirteen Ming Tombs. By public transportation, trains leave Beijing North Station for Badaling Station (Y6) almost every hour from 6:12 am and take 1 hour 20 minutes. From there, it’s just a 20-minute walk to the entrance to Badaling Great Wall. Or, take Line 2 on the subway to Jishuitan and walk to Deshengmen bus terminus. From there, take Bus 880 to Badaling (Y12). Be warned: private taxis hang around the station and drivers will try to convince you that it’s easier to go with them. It isn’t. Stick to your guns and get on that bus.
Most tours to Badaling will take you to the Thirteen Ming Tombs, as well. If you don't want a stop at the tombs—or at a tourist-trapping jade factory or herbal medicine center along the way—be sure to confirm the itinerary before booking.