You either love or hate Beijing’s sweaty summer heat, but one aspect of summer that everyone enjoys is lounging in a rooftop bar in Beijing’s historic Gulou area while sipping on an ice cold beer or cocktail—just make sure to bring some mozzy spray!
The following rooftop bars are found amid Beijing’s most beautiful and historic hutongs, enabling visitors to enjoy some of the city’s last remaining ancient residential buildings while finding solace from the hustle and bustle of city life. This list varies greatly in terms of drink availability, the location’s atmosphere and style, and clientele, but each fits the bill when it comes to rooftop relaxing in the hutongs.
1) Café Alba View In Map
Find this place, right on Gulou, in the thick of it. In the summer, the Gulou crowds and sometimes the air are literally thick, but you can find a bit of respite inside cool Café Alba. With white walls and natural light pouring in from the skylights, during the day it’s quite bright and airy if somewhat unadorned. You can enjoy something from the menu, if you don’t expect anything spectacular past the usual café/bar fare. On a nice afternoon or evening, grab some wine or whisky and sit back to watch the rest of Gulou go crazy while you sip away on the roof.
Add: 70 Gulou Dongdajie (east of Nanluogu Xiang), Dongcheng District, Beijing
Opening hours: Daily, 08:00-02:00
Tel: 010 6407 3730
2) Aimo TownView In Map
Aimo Town, a Yunnanese restaurant found off of Fangjia Hutong (another trendy alley), features most of the typical wine and beer selections you’d expect from such an establishment in the area. The food is on the spicy and exotic side, and, while the drinks aren’t anything to rave about, their open-air upstairs dining area with views of a shared courtyard is quite nice. Have a drink and meal up above street level then move on to other watering holes conveniently located on the same hutong. Be aware that the servers do not have the best reputation, though they could probably be considered a fairly average level of grumpy when compared with other Beijing servers.
Add: Bldg G, 46 Fangjia Hutong (just south of Guozijian Jie), Dongcheng District, Beijing
地址：北京市东城区方家胡同46号艺术园区 (国子监南临) G座
Opening hours: Daily, 11:00-2:00
Tel: 010 6400 1725
3) Sand PebblesView In Map
Cinco de Mayo may have come and gone already, but it’s never a bad time for rooftop Tex-mex and margaritas, daiquiris or a Corona. Sand Pebbles has made a name for itself on another very well-known hutong with its great burritos and nachos. It may especially exceed vegetarian expectations. The roof might look a bit like a mini-golf course with its fake grass carpeting and aging umbrellas, but you’ll feel on top of things on this roof away from the heat of the streets.
Add: 74 Wudaoying Hutong, Dongcheng District, Beijing
Opening hours: Daily, 12:00-23:00
Tel: 010 8404 0767
4) Penghao TheaterView In Map
There’s a wine bar with a small but good food menu, a stage room for enjoying improv and other performances, as well as an open-air upstairs in this tucked away theater that will make you feel much cooler than you did before you found it.
Ad: 35 Dongmianhua Hutong (south gate of the Central Academy of Drama, between Nanluoguxiang and Jiaodaokou Nandajie), Dongcheng District, Beijing
Tel: 6400 6452/72
5) ZajiaView In Map
Zajia has a bit of a strange reputation because the owners are always hosting a different types of events and tout the place as an “art lab/bar/performing arts space”. Even stranger, in its previous life, the building attracted customers as a tofu house. And while now the owners might try to entice you with film screenings or experimental music, the enclosed rooftop/loft area and fun alcohol selection are more than enough to draw in customers. Offerings include: Yunnanese liquors, Mongolian vodka, whiskies, house wines and more. Though a loft is not exactly a rooftop, the space and views are a decent facsimile, and you can feel trendy, enjoy a nice drink, and stay protected from any sand/grime blowing about on a windy day.
Add: Hong En Daoist Temple (behind Bell Tower, next to Dia market and Contempio bar), Doufuchi Hutong, Xicheng District, Beijing
Opening hours: 13:00-late
Tel: 156 0112 2252 (English); 8404 9141
6) Drum and BellView In Map
If you make it up the extremely vertical steps to check out the city’s ancient warning drums and then up again to see the time-telling bell, you will definitely deserve a rooftop bar. Come to the Drum and Bell bar for cocktails and a view, as well as some old Beijing style. It’s a great perch from which to people-watch and spend a long afternoon whiling the time away.
Add: 41 Zhonglouwan Hutong, Dongcheng District, Beijing
Opening hours: Daily, 13:00-02:00
Tel: 010 8403 3600
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