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Trend Magnets: Beijing’s Most Popular Hipster Hangouts

By Sarah Hansen , eChinacities.com Add your comment Newsletter

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In the past, the term ‘hipster’ might have conjured up more definite images of mustaches, flannel, skinny jeans, and indie music most would never have heard of, but these days hipsterdom describes a much larger empire. The one absolute when it comes to the broad concept of ‘hipster’ is that whatever is being described as such should be unique or special in some way and thought of positively (though the concept is slightly devalued these days as its specialness is threatened by growing popularity). So to make a list of ‘hipster hangouts’ in Beijing seems a bit contradictory as hipsters probably lose interest in a place the more of a hangout it becomes. Nevertheless, here is a group of old and new, food and beverage, far and near places that might just bring out your inner hipster for a day.


Photo: Little Ayun

1) DADA
Electronic music and an industrial style décor (think concrete and lots of it) put DADA in a wholly different category than Beijing’s other dance spots. It can be found past the north entrance to NLGX just below Temple Bar and near Mao Live House as well. So in the event that the techno gets a little too eighties for your taste, you’ve got options.

2) Great Leap Brewing (Little Leap location)
Great Leap Brewing’s original #6 hutong location draws all kinds of beer lovers but is particularly well-suited to those beer hipsters among us. The owners took an old hutong edifice and converted it to a simple stone floor courtyard where a plaid junkie can enjoy a few craft beers in the sunshine or haze as the case may be that day. It’s not a place for those rowdy rager nights but rather built more for a tipsy afternoon with good conversation or a book.

3) Mai Bar
You’ll pass quite a few other bars on your walk down Beiluoguxiang to get to Mai Bar, but if you want a truly excellent cocktail hold out until you reach this joint. Simple and small, drinks run from 45 RMB and up outside of happy hour and take a bit longer to create since all the ingredients are freshly prepared. It’s worth it if you want a quiet evening, quality drink, and relaxed atmosphere. You could also check out Malty Dog, the owner’s other bar down the same alleyway if you’re a hipster with a taste for beer instead of whisky.

4) Natooke
If you want to buy a fixed gear bike this is a well-known spot on Wudaoying that can help you out with your custom ride. Don’t be fooled, it will cost more than the regular basket and brakes bike that you’ve had until now but you’ll get quality and a pass to the fixie nation.

5) Beiluo Bread Bar
Freshly made pasta and coffee. This is a nice place to spend a lazy laptop kind of afternoon or grab a bite of decent, fresh food.

6) Café Alba
A hipster’s delight, Café Alba has food, coffee, and cocktails and a light airy interior.

7) El Nido
Situated on another popular hutong, El Nido offers up a really nice selection of bottled beer as well as absinthe. Seating is pretty much limited to the picnic tables outside so it’s nicest in the warmer months, but if you’re braving the cold season you can warm up with some chuan barbecue from next door.

8) The Drive-Thru
Bike parts, delicious imported beers, grinders, Indian fabrics and spices, and of course, cats. It may be located in Sanlitun Soho, but it could not be less of a Soho-ite if it tried.

9) Serk
This is a fun combination of bicycle and café/bar enthusiasm. Bikes hanging from the ceiling act as decoration and enticement available for purchase whilst you sip on a beverage.

10)  Sanyuanli Market
If you love to cook you’re going to want to visit the Magic Market. Vendors have fresh produce, meat, grains, and anything else you need to whip up your evening meal and overdue food blog post. This is also a renowned spot for picking up imported groceries like cereal, cheese, pasta and condiments for a lower price than import grocery stores.

11) Mas
Mas is an unusually bright spot down a dark alleyway behind the Beixinqiao subway stop. It may be small, but it’s bringing mighty Latin flavors and super cocktails.

12) Chuan Cheng Arts Center
Chuan Cheng Arts Center or CCA is associated with the nearby art school CAFA and strives to display progressive, new work from younger artists in its gallery as well as provide instruction on classic styles. Visit the website or the building for more information on this hyper cool gallery and get your creative hipster juices flowing.

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