Beijing Nightlife | Cafes, bars & live performances

[ Last updated: December 2010 ]

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Bookworm Café
Building 4. Nansanlitun Lu
(behind Pacific Century shopping center, near The Loft)
Metro: Gongti Bei Lu
L. Planet:Deftly bridging the crevasse separating hungry expat minds from Beijing’s inept book trade, the BW has emerged as one of the city’s foremost cultural enclaves….a first-rate spot for a get-together, a solo coffee or a major reading binge.” Frommer’s: “Come here for a quiet read — better yet, there’s no need to bring your own book. This Sanlitun fixture has a library of 6,000 English-language titles…. floor-to-ceiling bookshelves housing the impressive library are found in each room. The backroom is where you’ll find the bookstore and a small kids’ corner.

Café Zarah
42 Gulou Dong Dajie, Beijing
Metro: Beixinqiao
10am to midnight
Frommers: “This is our favorite cafe in Beijing. It plays good music at the right volume, the exposed wooden beams and comfy chairs make for welcoming environs, the Wi-Fi is strong and reliable, and the iced lattes are the best in town. It’s a popular place for breakfast on the weekends.”


Bed Bar
17 Zhangwang Hutong
L. Planet: “Comforting bar has a lovely rear courtyard littered with wobbly tables and retro antique chairs…first-rate music….not well advertised outside—search for the solitary red lantern just past Hutong Inn.” Frommers: “The risqué decor of this courtyard bar is the work of a New York designer. All bare concrete, gauze, four-poster beds, and antique furnishings, Bed pushes the boundaries of what constitutes an acceptable leisure space for wholesome Socialist citizens. …The rear courtyard is sublime on a warm summer evening. Mixed drinks are well done and reasonably priced.” Fodors: “Although this courtyard bar has cute nooks and crannies and a relaxed feel, it’s a bit cold in both senses of the word….We’ll admit it’s worth a one-night stand if you’re new to the city.”

No Name Bar (Fodor’s Choice)
3 Qianhai East Bank, Xicheng District, Beijing
Fodors: “The first bar to open in Houhai is still around, even though its neighbors have already been torn down. It’s very relaxed: many expats still list No Name as their favorite bar in the city. The service is refreshingly low-key—a nice change from the sycophantic staff at neighboring venues—and it’s all tumbledown elegance with rattan and potted plants. Locals refer to it by the owner’s name: Bai Feng. Anyone from tourists to old China hands can be found here.”

Passby Bar
108 Nanluogu Xiang
L. Planet: “One of original bars on café-bar strip Nanluogu Xiang and still one of the best, with travel-oriented bar staff, winning courtyard ambiance.”

La Baie des Anges
Nanguanfang Hutong 5, Beijing
Frommers: “This intimate wine bar is one our favorite places in Hou Hai. The wine list is long and affordable options abound. The tiny space is a mix of regular tables, cozy booths, and a few tall tables with bar stools. It is an excellent place for a first date. DJs and live jazz music occasionally play on weekends, but it is always a relaxed and chill environment.”

Inside the Opposite House hotel, Sanlitun Bei Lu
Metro: Tuan Jie Hu
Frommer’s:This chic new lounge is the place to see and be seen in Beijing. A big bonus is location — inside the Opposite House hotel in the heart of Sanlitun Bar Street. Mesh is dimly lit, is sparsely decorated, and has large overstuffed, backless couches — the kind of seating that forces you to sit up and suck it in or lean forward to chat it up with one of the hottie patrons. Cocktails here are excellent, and Thursday nights 2-for-1 drinks are a bargain. Punk is the hotel’s other bar. The drinks and environs are similar to those of Mesh, with the addition of a small dance floor and live DJ.”

Q Bar (Fodor’s Choice)
Nan Sanlitun Lu, Chaoyang District (on top floor of Eastern Inn Hotel)
Metro: Nong Zhan Guan
Fodor’s: “George and Echo’s cocktails—strong, authentic, and not super expensive—are a small legend here in Beijing. This tucked-away lounge adds an unpretentious note to an evening out. Don’t be put off by the fact it’s in a bland motel stuck in the 1980s. The drinks are worth it (especially the whiskey sours).” Frommer’s: “Don’t be put off by the drab interior of the hotel that houses Q Bar. The bar, located on the top floor, is an oasis of style, with dim lighting, lounge music, and a long bar nestled against a window with panoramic views….the best martinis in town. Unfortunately, the love and devotion owners George and Echo pour into those drinks often translate into slow service. The expansive rooftop seating is fantastic and DJs spin lounge and house music on weekends.”

The Saddle Cantina
81 Sanlitun Bei Lu, Chaoyang District
Metro: Nong Zhan Guan
Frommer’s:A huge outdoor balcony, a pool table, Top-40 hits, and giant servings of slushy margaritas — no wonder Beijing’s expatriates love this place. The Mexican-themed bar has a sunny interior, with sombreros on the walls and solid-wood furniture throughout.” Fodors: For a touch of Mexico, head to this terra-cotta-colored venue in downtown Beijing. It’s packed on summer evenings thanks to its large terrace, perfect for downing one of the brilliant margaritas. The service is friendly, and the house band will have you tapping your feet.”

Beer Mania
Nansanlitun Lu
L. Planet:Broom cupboard-sized bar with around 10 tables and a regular gaggle of Belgian brew connoisseurs.”

Sanlitun Lu
Open 24 hours (?)
L. Planet: “Good value beer, rough-and-ready upstairs vibe with…rock music, pool, sports TV and an enthusiastic fan base not far from Bookworm…the menu’s a hit.”

China Bar
Jianguomenwai Dajie 2, Beijing
On the 65th floor of the Park Hyatt
Metro: Guomao
Frommers: “This bar has fantastic panorama views of Beijing’s lively city sprawl….If you want to snag one of the booths and catch a gorgeous sunset over the mountains (provided you are visiting on one of Beijing’s rare blue-sky days), come early — outrageous minimum table charges start after 8pm. The menu has a solid selection of scotch, whisky, and other hard liquors, and the mixed drinks are worth the steep price tags (expect to pay ¥80 per cocktail). About 59 floors down is Xiu, the Park Hyatt’s other bar. Xiu has a sleek indoor space as well as a huge outdoor rooftop courtyard that is an excellent choice on warm summer days.”

Drum & Bell Bar
41 Zhonglouwan Hutong
L. Planet: “Clamber to the roof terrace of this bar that’s romantically slung between its namesake towers…idyllic panorama of low-rise rooftops….alternatively, you can just sink into one of the marshmellow-soft sofas downstairs to be lulled by soft music sounds.” Fodors: “This bar has a perfect location—right between the Drum and Bell towers. The terrace is a comfy perch for a summer afternoon drink, where you scan the surrounding hutong rooftops. Don’t get too plastered, though, because the staircase down is very steep. On the ground floor there are jumbles of sofas tossed with Cultural Revolution memorabilia.”

6561-8833, ext. 6388
1 Guanghua Lu, Kerry Center Hotel
24 hours
L. Planet: “Swish and stylish…seductive lounge bar with low mood lighting…discrete quiet corners…chill out music….live music (including jazz) at night and DJ spins sounds on weekends.”


Zhengyici Peking Opera Theatre
220 Qianmen Xiheyan Jie
Tickets Y360-680
Performances 7:30-9pm Thursday-Sat
L. Planet: “Formerly an ancient temple, this ornately decorated building is the coutnry’s oldest wooded theater and the best place in town for Beijing Opera.”

Huguang Guild Hall
3 Huguang Lu
Tickets Y150-180
Performances 7:30-8:45pm
L. Planet:Decorated in similar fashion to the Zhengyici Theatre…dates back to 1807…interior is magnificentm couloured in red, green and gold.”

Lao She Teahouse
6303-6803 / 6302-1717
3rd Floor, 3 Qianmen Xidajie
Tickets Y60-180
Performances 7:50pm
L. Planet:Popular teahouse has nightly shows and afternoon performances of folk music (M-F 2:30-5pm), theater (Wed & Friday 2-4:30pm) and matinee Beijing opera shows (Sunday 3-4:30pm). Evening performances of Beijing Opera, folk art, music, acrobatics, juggling, kung fu and magic are the most popular.”

Liyuan Theater
Qianmen Jianguo Hotel, 175 Yongan Lu
Tickets Y40-280
Performances 7:30pm
L. Planet: “Tourist-friendly theater at the rear of the lobby of the Qianmen Jianguo Hotel. It has regular performances and matinee kung fu shows.”


Wansheng Juchang (Frommer’s Beijing’s “Best Acrobatics Venue”)
6303 7449
95 Tianqiao Shichang St (north side of Bei Wei Lu just off Qian Men Dajie; west of Tiantan Park & Temple of Heaven)
Nightly shows at 5:30 and 7:15pm; ¥180).
Performances are by the famous Beijing Acrobatics Troupe

The Red Theatre (Fodor’s Choice)
44 Xingfu Da Jie, Chongwen District, Beijing
Metro: Tiantan Dong Men
Fodor’s:If it’s Vegas-style stage antics you’re after, the Legend of Kung Fu show is what you want. Extravagant martial arts are complemented by neon, fog, and heavy-handed sound effects. Shows are garish but also sometimes glorious.”

Chaoyang Culture Center
17 Jintaili
Tickets Y180-380
Performances 7:20-8:30pm
L. Planet:Shaolin Warriors perform their punishing stage show here.”

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