Art and embassies route: Sanlitun to Caochangdi

An absorbing amble through embassies and art districts

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Taking in both the sprawling artropolis of the 798 Art District and the quieter, less-trodden Caochangdi, this ride is one for all the culture vultures among you.

Around 10.5km
Bike Time One hour
Difficulty Easy
Highlights Odd embassy buildings plus the 798 and Caochangdi art districts


Start at the crossroads of Dongzhimenwai Dajie and Sanlitun Lu, and head north along the latter, although you may want to pick up a 1 posh picnic from Jenny Lou's, which has imported wine and food, just one street west on Sanlitun Beixiaojie.

Back towards the north of Sanlitun Lu, on the right you will see the 2 pastel-blue embassies of Argentina and Somalia, followed by the impressive arches of the Iranian embassy. At the end, turn right onto Liangmahe Nan Lu, riding east along the canal. Cross under the Third Ring Road and continue east along Maizidian Xi Jie, then turn left onto Maizidian Jie.

At the crossroads with Liangmaqiao Lu, continue north, up Tianze Lu. You’ll pass the modernist 3 French Embassy, the golfball-like 4 Israeli Embassy, the domed Indian Embassy and the bunker-like American Embassy. Follow the road round to the left, then, at the crossroads, turn right onto Xiaoyun Lu. Continue for 1km then cross under the Fourth Ring Road onto Fangyuan Xi Lu. Continue for 2km until you can go no further, then turn left onto Jiuxianqiao Lu.

On your right you will spot a 5 long graffiti wall and, further along, the entrance to 798 marked out in 6 big red numbers. Turn right into 798 Lu. Park your bike and take in a gallery or two, or continue straight, passing outdoor sculptures and installations and the UCCA’s entrance, until you get to a patch of grass on the right – a 7 great picnic spot.

Just before you get there, on the left, is 798 Dong Jie. To continue the ride, head up here. At the end is a T-junction with 797 Lu. On the south-west side of that is a 8 not-to-be missed installation: ‘Human’ by Zhang Zhaohui. He has placed what looks like a pair of human-sized cookie cutters on the wall. Jump in and take a pic (then send it to the email written next to it).

Turn back and continue heading east along 797 Lu, passing through the industrial landscape of D-Park. Take the last left before the car park at the end of the road. On your right you will pass the Grace Hotel, which serves a 9 brilliant five-course Sunday brunch between 11.30am and 3pm (298RMB per person, not including drinks).

Turn right onto Jiuxianqiao Bei Lu and ride 1km east. After crossing over the railway bridge and Fifth Ring Road, turn left onto an unnamed road. Take the next left and keep north, curving around, until you come to the green-and-red entrance post to 10 Caochangdi. Head left here until you cross under another railway bridge. On your right you’ll see the sea-green door to 11 Ai Weiwei’s gated studio, marked FAKE 258. Caochangdi’s galleries are divided into two areas: north (where the 12 Three Shadows photo gallery is a highlight; see Art listings) and south of Nangao Lu. Finish up with 13 wine on the lawn outside Wine Talk (6433 3033; open until 9.30pm). To get there, head west up the road with FAKE 258 on it until you see the blue-and-white Wine Talk sign.

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