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Last updated : Nov 2009
Beijing Nightlife
Beijing Nightlife - TravelPuppy.com
Beijing’s entertainment and nightlife scene is presently experiencing something of a revolution, as modern Beijingers, who have recently acquired some disposable income and living through fairly liberal times, search for new outlets for having fun. During the 1990s, many new nightclubs opened up to serve a chic and wealthy clientele and new ones continue to open all the time. The music at these Western-style clubs covers a wide spectrum, with techno and house being very popular with both locals and tourists. Many nightclubs are open nightly until the early morning and charge an entrance fee of RMB100-200.

The most popular bar area ( frequented lots of by foreigners) is Sanlitun, situated in the northeast of the city. All the bars here serve draught beer at Western prices, and are usually much livelier than any of the hotel bars. Other places are located on Xinjiang Kou, a street full of restaurants, which is a great place to go on hot summer nights. Most bars stay open until around midnight but are liveliest around 2200.

Specifics of events (including gigs) are published in the city’s guide Beijing This Month or on the Xianzai Beijing. China Now also lists clubs, bars, and live music venues and the Beijing entertainment guide, City Weekend, has information and is published every two weeks.


Located in Tuanjiehu Park is the ever-popular Old Poachers Inn, 7 Sanlitun Lu. Deservedly Beijing’s most popular bar, this ex-pat watering hole is more English than most pubs in England, but, it is accessible, casual and comfortable. It is quite popular on Thursdays, when a jazz band plays, and also on Friday and Saturday when the attached club holds a disco. Durty Nellie’s is a friendly Irish pub on Sanlitun Lu offering live music and excellent beer.

Sgt Pepper’s
, located at the west gate of Chaoyang Park, is a layed back place to relax on a rooftop beer garden and pool table. Very popular with ex-pats is the Goose and Duck Pub, also at the west gate of Chaoyang Park, with a beer garden out front. The Pig and Thistle, Holiday Inn Lido, Jichang Lu, is another English-style pub.


Casinos are illegal in China.


Among the newest nightclubs in Beijing is the Heaven Star, Jianguomennei, with a huge dance floor and a quieter bar. Beijing’s most chic club is JJ’s, Xinjiekou Bei Dajie, a cavernous club with lasers, a sci-fi theme and scantily dressed Russian dancing girls; imported British DJs play a mix of techno, house and reggae. Kiss Super Club, 35 Xue Yun Lu, is a huge club boasting two dance floors and a booming sound system pumping out techno and house.

Orange, 2-10 Xingfu Yicun, across from the Workers’ Stadium north gate, is a fairly new club popular for its retro interior. Resident and guest DJs play mostly techno and trance with some hip hop. Neo Lounge, 99 Xingfu Cun Zhong, Chaoyang District, is a slick, elegant club with minimalist decor playing house, trance and hip hop.

Live music

Live bands play nightly at the May Flower Bar, Chang’an Boulevard, playing mainly pop songs in Chinese, sometimes English. The CD Café, East Third Ring Road, was at one time dedicated to jazz but now offers more underground music. For a more authentic experience, the Sanwei Bookstore, 60 Fuxingmennei Dajie, offers light jazz and Chinese folk music and is popular with ex-pats and arty Chinese.


The Beijing Concert Hall, 1 Bei Xinhua Jie (tel: (10) 6605-5812), just off Xi Chang’an Jie, is devoted to classical music, staging regular concerts by Beijing’s resident orchestra, and also visiting orchestras from the rest of China and overseas.

Beijing Opera
is still quite popular and the best place to see it is Zhengyici Theatre, 220 Qian Men Xi He Yan Jie (tel: (10) 6303-3104), an easy walk from Heping Men subway station. Constructed in the 17th century, the theatre was originally a Ming Dynasty temple prior to being converted by the founding artists of the Beijing Opera company. Performances are also held nightly at 1930 at the Liyuan Theatre in the Jianguo Hotel, 175 Yongan Road.


Spoken drama was only launched into Chinese theatres this century. The People’s Art Theatre in Beijing became its most well-known home and, prior to the Cultural Revolution, presented European plays that had a clear social message. The last ten years has seen a total turn around, with the People’s Art Theatre, reassembled in 1979, making its reputation with a performance of Arthur Miller’s Death of a Salesman. They and additional companies perform at the Beijing People’s Art Theatre, (in the Capital Theatre), 22 Wangfujing Dajie (tel: (10) 6513-5801).

Theatre will receive a big lift in Beijing in 2003 when China’s first National Theatre is due to open at Xi Chang’an Jie, just west of the Great Hall of the People.


Traditional theatre, such as story-telling to musical accompaniment, acrobatics and magic shows, are staged daily at the Lao She Chaguan, 2nd Floor, Da Wancha Building, 3 Qian Men Xi Jie (tel: (10) 6303- 6830), and also at the Tianqiao Happy Teahouse, 113 Tianqiao Nandajie (tel: (10) 6303-9013).


Many cinemas in Beijing are devoted to satisfying a seemingly insatiable appetite for kung fu movies, although there is ample opportunity to see the serious and fairly controversial films emerging from a new wave of younger film-makers. Foreign films are usually dubbed and meticulously censored by the Government prior to being released. A well known, central cinema is the Capital Cinema, 46 Xi Chang’an Jie (tel: (10) 6605-5510). The Sun Dong An Cinema City, 138 Wangfujing Dajie (tel: (10) 6528-1988), screens major films from the USA.

Beijing’s appeal for film directors as a sweeping, cinematic panorama was most exquisitely presented by Bernardo Bertolucci in his renowned 1987 epic, The Last Emperor. Set in an old Beijing bathhouse, which is now under threat by developers who would like to turn it into a shopping complex, Zhang Yang’s 1999 film, Shower, depicts the tension between tradition and the dictates of commerce in modern Beijing. Farewell My Concubine (1993) is an amazing epic covering 50 years of modern Chinese history including the Cultural Revolution and is a story about the relationship between two friends coming of age in the world of Beijing Opera. It was an international success for the director Chen Kaige. A very funny movie set in modern-day Beijing is Sorry Baby (1999) directed by Feng Xiao Gang, about a feud between a rich businessman and his chauffeur.

Cultural events

The Chinese New Year, which is celebrated either in late January or early February, is the most important holiday of the year. The anticipation and build-up to the festival is as frantic as Christmas is in the West, with parties, the exchanging of presents,, and houses and streets decorated with lights. Most Chinese celebrate the beginning of the New Year with their families.

The Mid-Autumn Festival takes place in September or early October and is celebrated by displaying lanterns in various shapes, such as animals, and by eating the traditional moon cakes made of ground lotus, sesame and egg.
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