Langfang – ideal for a swift weekend trip from Beijing
Situated a mere 50 km from the centre of Beijing and roughly the same distance from Tianjin, Langfang (廊坊 Lángfáng) is a little-known spot overshadows by its two massive neighbours, despite having an urban population of around a million people it is a somewhat sleepy city, not particularly charming in terms of architecture or culture but ideally placed for a quick weekend trip from Beijing.
Both high speed and regular trains head here from Beijing. From Beijing South the high-speed train takes less than 20 mins to get to Langfang Station, and from Beijing Central Station the regular slow train takes an hour to get to Langfang North Station. These two Langfang stations are in fact both right next to each other and connected by a large pedestrian underpass that also takes you past an outdoor market with a fun antiques/curio section where the goods will be much cheaper than in either of the nearby metropolises.
The downside to a trip to Langfang? There isn’t much to do to be honest; Renmin Park is not bad and is reasonably scenic, with seniors meeting for kit flying and dancing in the evenings, there is the Langfang Museum which is free to enter (bring a passport as you do need to show ID) and has 6 display halls, 2 of which were closed when I visited, one had just some pictures of smiling kids, two had some interesting historical pottery and bombastic chinglish claims on the rare translated parts, and one area all about the Battle of Langfang in 1900, in which a diverse force of Boxers, Muslim Gansu Braves, and regular Qing army put to flight an expeditionary force from the invading 8 Allied Powers who were part of the Seymour Expedition, an attempt to relieve foreign legations in Beijing which were under siege by the Boxers.
As might be expected this part of the museum does take a side in this fight (despite it being not so simple at the time with the Qing army having recently been fighting the Boxers themselves) and there are more highlighted texts in this part of the museum than all the others. It is worth the price of admission for this part alone.
Opposite the museum and the park in which it is located (good for a wander, a weird Netherlands section sees a windmill sit among tulips and some Van Gogh-themed children’s play equipment) is the Langfang Stadium, home of the Chinese Super League (at the time of writing anyway, they are in relegation danger right now) team Hebei China Fortune FC. This stadium is a very good one actually, with around 30,000 seats laid out in a nice wavy format. It is easy to buy tickets for matches outside the ground, face-value of tickets starts at 80RMB usually (you can pay less if it is against a weak team), note that foreigners have to enter at the west gate (opposite the museum) and it is about 20 mins walk to the east side if you go to the wrong one!. Hebei are not a particularly good team (and this is being polite) but they have some rowdy support and have a star player in the Argentina legend Javier Mascherano.
In terms of evening activities, there are a large number of huge KITV places dotted around the city, lots of restaurants too – the food is not much different from Beijing but you can find some of Hebei province’s famous Donkey Burgers here too. There are a handful of bars with the best one being Lina’s Place (very good Negroni here, plus a decent range of beers - can't seem to find evidence of it online now, email us for directions!)
Langfang is full of hotels or all types, from dingy railway station-adjacent crumbling tenements to a couple of flashy 5 star places (the Wanda Realm is the best located) – prices in such a place will be cheaper than in the major cities, and with the price of train tickets from Beijing going from 13 to 30 RMB this does make for a very affordable weekend away.