What to Do at Night in Beijing
In comparison to Shanghai, Beijing's nightlife is not so high octane. Still, because of the city's huge population and the government's liberalisation (and realisation that there's money to be made from nightlife) many places rock till the early hours. The non-alcoholic beverage of choice is still tea but with no less than 45 branches of Starbucks in Beijing the café scene is one to be reckoned with. Oh yes, and the ubiquitous (at least in Asia) karaoke scene is alive and well.
The Sanlitun area is still a pretty busy nightlife centre, despite Beijing's determination to tear everything down and build anew. Small bars dot the neighbourhood – some so small that capacity is 10 punters. Opposite the Workers' Stadium is a gaggle of bars and clubs but the Sanlitun southern part has succumbed to the wrecking ball. Sanlitun Central seems to be dominated by shopping malls but if you look closer opposite the Great Dragon Hotel you'll find some of the most popular bars and discos in Beijing.Read More
There's something for everyone here, a popular brunch location and a rocking dance scene (sometimes all night) and good drinks. Don't be surprised at the prepaid drinks scheme and make your trips to the toilets as short as possible – they don't smell of roses.
- Location: 6 Xingfu Yicun, Gongti (Opposite Workers Stadium north gate)
Bed Tapas & Bar
In the Hutong area and indeed in a hutong, Bed is intimate and unusual but not the cleanest bar in Beijing. Nevertheless it is popular with expats who like the quieter atmosphere and the chance to sprawl out in public. The mojitos come highly recommended, semi separate rooms and a small dance area.
- Location: 17 Zhangwang Hutong, Jiu Gulou Dajie, Gulou
CD Jazz Café
The Treelounge has been torn down and has been amalgamated with CD Jazz Café. Live music: if it's a well-known act get there early. Live acts take no musical risks and play straight bebop most nights – if you're into this type of music CD Jazz Café is idyllic, straight out of a Bogart movie.
- Location: Dong San Huan, south of the Agricultural Exhibition Center
China Doll Club
China Doll is the unofficial home for international dance music in Beijing. More top quality, breaks, Drum n' Bass, House and trance DJ's have passed through this venue in the recent years than any other club in Beijing. Hot, sweaty and loud with great beats, outrageously extravagant décor and spread out over three floors, this is the place to see and be seen in Beijing.
- Location: 2/F Tongli Studio, Sanlitun Back Street, Sanlitun
Beijing's only openly gay bar that doesn't involve rent boys, Destination gets absolutely packed at weekends, is very busy Wednesdays and obviously has a winning formula. Bare concrete walls and dark, black-on-black spots abound. Destination attracts a mix of young Chinese, corporate mavericks and hip expats - it's mostly male, but plenty of women come here, too. The club consists of a handful of bars and seating areas. Music not too loud.
- Location: South of the West Gate of the Workers' Stadium, opposite Bellagio's
Definitely for the more upscale drinkers, Face Bar is beautifully fitted out with plush furnishings, antiques from all over Asia and a great drinks list that comes at a sharp price. Not for clubbers, more for those who appreciate their comfort in a quiet but chic spot.
- Location: 25 Dongcaoyuan, Gongti area
The exterior looks like it's falling apart and inside is hardly better but if you like hard, driving live music this is the place for you. With a band to the side and not much lighting along with ear-splitting riffs MAO Livehouse is perfect to party on in, Dudes.
- Location: 111 Guloudajie, Dongcheng District
If you like ear-throbbing music, beefy bouncers, a packed dance floor, lots of miniskirts interested in foreigners, predictable Hip Hop then go to Mix.
- Location: Gongti Bei Men Xi Ce (inside Workers' Stadium north gate, on the west side)
A student hangout with heavy rhythms and bass-thumping music. Cheap drinks and lots and lots of bodies, Propaganda simply is what it is: a packed out 'meeting place'. Best drink beer or soft drinks – the mixes are dodgy.
- Location: Huaqing Jiayuan Don Men Wang Bei north of the east gate of Huaqing Jiayuan
Even though the Eastern Inn Hotel that houses Q Bar looks drab, Q Bar shines. On the top floor of the hotel, the views out over the city from the open-air terrace are great and the cocktails are too. An in-house DJ spins until 02:00 and the lights are low.
- Location: Nan Sanlitun Lu (on top floor of Eastern Inn Hotel)
French-run and cosy, Salud is unpretentious. The bar is multilevel and features live music every Wednesday, mostly French. Jugs of homemade rum line the walls and the ambience couldn't be more relaxed.
- Location: Nan Luogu Xiang 66
Stone Boat Bar
A great and eclectic live music location, the Stone Boat Bar is in a faux Qing Dynasty boat and is a popular place for those who like to get away from the bustle of the city. Not expensive and as charming as it gets.
- Location: Southwest corner of Ritan Park (south end of the lake)
The Star Live
A live music venue that books the best foreign acts passing through (The Roots, Ziggy Marley). As the Star Live is intimately small with a maximum capacity of 1,200, this gives you the chance to watch great acts close up. Also features up-and-coming Chinese bands.
- Location: 79 Hepingli Xijie, Yonghegong above Tango, southern entrance to Ditan
Opposite Mix and punters often can't decide which of the two to go in. Vic's has pounding music, a young crowd and doesn't seem interested in straying very far from their ironclad formula. More popular with foreigners than Mix.
- Location: Gongti Bei Men Dong Ce (inside Worker's stadium north gate, on the east side)