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Less-Touristy Great Wall
The Great Wall at Badaling is a top tourist destination. It is restored and does provide some good views. However, it is crowded, touristy, and completely renovated. For an even better experience, head north (via taxi or rented car) to Jin Shan Ling. It is about a 2.5-hr ride given the traffic in Beijing. Get out in Jin Shan Ling, get on the wall, take a left, and head toward Simatai. It is just over a 6-mile walk. It has amazing views and gives you a sense of just how great an endeavor building the Great Wall was. Have your car pick you up at Simatai and take you back. Alternatively, a number of hostels provide this trip by minibus at reasonable costs.
Simatai is nice, but even less touristed is Huanghuacheng, where the locals will try to tell you that it’s illegal for you to hike on the wall. But then they’ll eventually break down and offer to guide you for 50RMB. If you bring a good hiking guide, you don’t even need a local! Helps to speak some Mandarin though.
Across the square behind The Drum Tower, Dongcheng District,
The Bell Tower of Beijing is one of the lesser-known sites. The Tower was built in 1272 CE but was burnt down shortly thereafter, rebuilt in 1420... and just as promptly burnt down again. In 1745 it was rebuilt during the reign of the Emperor Qianlong, this time for keeps.
The Bell Tower was built so sturdily that the only damage it suffered from an earthquake in 1976 was the loss of a single stone animal head decorating the roof. The nightly peals of the bell can be heard from over 20 kilometers away.
As for the site itself, it gives an amazing view of Beijing, especially the ever-vanishing Hutongs, and the nearby Drum Tower is also a site to see. Definite recommend.