Beijing is as busy and vibrant by night as it is by day. From traditional Beijing Opera to flashy discos, from hole-in-the-wall watering holes to elegant bars, from teahouses to punk rock clubs, whatever your tastes you're sure to find someplace appealing in Beijing.
The capital's drinking scene is a constant work in progress, but Sanlitun Bar Street is where it all started, and it still draws more Friday night expat funseekers than any other district in Beijing. From hardy perennials like The Tree to swanky rooftop bars like Migas, there's always something to keep you interested around SLT. By far one of the most popular spots to start your night out is Heaven Supermarket. This bottle store-cum-bar on Xindong Lu, just a five minute walk from Sanlitun, has a huge range of imported alcohol at very reasonable prices. If you go on a Friday or Saturday you better go early as it fills up really fast. Not far away is the Workers' Stadium area (''Gongti''), where Element, Lantern, Vics and Mix are some of the favorites. A more well-heeled crowd chooses CBD venues like Centro, Lan, Aria and Spark.
The hutong area around Gulou (the drum tower), deserted just a few years ago, now rivals Sanlitun for the number and variety of its watering-holes, and offers considerably more scenic appeal and Beijing authenticity. The lively Nanluoguxiang is where you’ll find the indie bar Salud among other smaller bars and cocktail stands. A short walk from there, at 208 Gulou Dongdajie, you’ll find live music at Temple Bar and great DJ sets at Dada. One must-see bar in the area is Modernista, in Baochao Hutong. The little Spanish tapas restaurant by day and bar by night plays great music and has a variety of delicious shots (The Tabasco Shot is a particular favourite).
Out in the northwest, the Wudaokou/Haidian area with its student ambience has less flash and dash, but offers some of the best entertainment around. Lush is fun day and night, Wu Club offers cheap drinks and weekly specials and Helens is a great place to drink for cheap and meet new people.
Meanwhile, Beijing’s live music scene is thriving with gigs and concerts held at various venues across the city on most nights of the week. Yugong Yishan is where you’re likely to catch a gig by well-known international or Chinese bands and DJs; 2 Kolegas is perhaps Beijing’s most alternative hangout with a no-frills interior and a massive outdoor lawn for themed parties and events on balmy summer nights hidden within in a drive-in movie theater; Mao Livehouse is the place to catch a domestic punk band in action and Temple is the newest contender with its free nightly gigs in the heart of Gulou. Mako Livehouse, a massive live music venue in Shuangjing, also throws themed parties and large-scale concerts, usually by well-known Chinese acts. Meanwhile, the hutongs are also buzzing with noise, with regular folk, rock and indie bands playing at places like Jianghu, Blue Stream Bar, Hot Cat Club, Modernista and Old What.
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