A beginner's guide to Beijing nightlife

An essential introduction to the best bars, clubs and parties in Beijing

Migas
Whether you're new to Beijing or an old hand, it's easy to get lost in the maze that is the city's nightlife scene. Fear not though, our handy bar and club guide is here to help you find (and later in the night, stumble) your way through the city's best watering holes and dancing spots.

Hutong bars

Beijing is famed for its hutongs, the winding network of narrow streets and alleys that made up old Beijing. As well as a lot of local character, you'll also find plenty of tiny bars between the bungalows. They're not always that easy to spot from the outside, but they are some of the city's bets spots – and quintessentially Beijing. Here are two of our favourites.

The Tiki Bungalow


tiki

Why you’re here
Because in a city where hutong bars reign supreme, The Tiki Bungalow rules them all. As the city’s first and only fully fledged tiki bar – serving up complex cocktails that set the tiki trend in motion in southern California in the ’30s – you won’t find anything else like it in Beijing.

What’s the vibe
Bamboo fixtures, tiki masks and glass floats that cover every surface of the bar and hefty pours of rum set the tone here. It’s a small island paradise in the middle of the hutongs.

What you’re having
Blood of the Kapu Tiki (175RMB). Cuban rum, absinthe and Peychaud’s bitters are mixed with pomegranate nectar and lime, orange and grapefruit juices to make this fierce four-person sharer.

4corners

4corners

Why you’re here
Sandwiched between the Drum and Bell Towers and the Shichahai lakes, 4corners is an unassuming Dashibei Hutong haunt that conceals multiple personalities behind its heavy wooden doors.

What’s the vibe
As the evenings wear on, the charming courtyard bar transforms from a chilled drinking and dining spot into
a raucous bar with a fully packed weekly schedule of events – weeknights include an open mic night, a pub quiz and story-telling sessions. On weekends, live performances from soul house band Tavey Lean and The Solid Gold Dream Machine and regular DJ sets draw in the crowds.

Another not to miss Ron Mexico.

Microbreweries

As with everywhere else in the world, craft ale is big in Beijing. Local brews, niche blends and surprising flavour combinations are all over the beer menus in our favourite brew houses, and many have seasonal specials as well. Try these out for starters.

Great Leap Brewing #45 Brewpub

Great Leap 45

Why you’re here
Great Leap Brewing continued to dictate terms in Beijing’s maturing craft beer scene in 2016; the coming-of-age of its Liangmaqiao branch saw it pass the field by a greater leap still.

What’s the vibe
Known fondly as ‘pizza Great Leap’ for its world-class pies, #45 is a family-friendly daytime destination – packed with families and the diplomatic set – around which a good weekend naturally evolves. At night it loosens the tie and eases back into its rambunctious old self, welcoming a truly mixed crowd with its inventive ales and professional service. Be sure to check out the flagship location, Great Leap Brewing #12 Brewpub, which has some of the best burgers in town and is one of the heaving focal points of Sanlitun nightlife.

What you’re having
A pint of Chesty Puller IPA and a Precious Island pizza, thanks.

Jing A Brewing Taproom

Jing A Taproom-3.jp

Why you’re here
Jing A has knows a thing or two about lubricating punters with Beijing’s most innovative roster of cold ones. There’s something for everyone here, with shark-jumping brews like the The Imperial Pumpkin Monster Mash and Watermelon Xanadu.

What’s the vibe
Supplementing its beers with a busy schedule of collabs and takeovers, the brewpub strikes the enviable balance of being exciting and relevant while retaining a homely comfort.

What you’re having
The Flying Fist IPA – arguably the best in its category citywide.

Another not to miss Slow Boat Sanlitun Brewpub.

Specialist spirits

China is a country that pulls no punches when it comes to spirits, whether that's the alcoholic or the ancestral kind. Just when you think you can't drink any more baijiu – China's national spirit a visit to one of Beijing's specialist spirit bars will have you shouting 'ganbei' (cheers) before you know it.

Capital Spirits and The Distillery

6

Why you’re here
The team at dedicated baijiu bar Capital Spirits and The Distillery have made it their duty to educate the public on China’s most iconic yet contentious spirit. Stocking over 50 varieties and mixing up a selection of baijiu-based cocktails, even the most hesitant drinkers are bound to find something for them. If not, there's always their signature gin to get you going.

What you’re having
New to the spirit? Make yours an ‘Intro Flight’. For 40RMB you can try one from each of the four major styles.

Another not to miss Bubble.

Sports bars

Sometimes, you want a classy, refined tipple where you can learn about the history of your beverage as you sip. Sometimes, you just want to glug, and watch a game while your at it. Whether your favourite team is a local club or thousands of miles away, you're sure to be able to find a Beijing watering hole showing your sports match of choice.

Paddy O'Shea's

Paddy O'Sheas

Why you’re here
If there’s a game to be watched, there’s simply nowhere better in Beijing. Paddy O’Shea’s shows just about every sports event on the calendar at all hours of the day, with commentary, and for that we’re forever grateful.

What you’re watching
Fancy a little different? Get involved in the video game tournaments.

D-One Sports Bar

D One

Why you’re here
Because watching the game has never been more Gongti. This unlikely sports bar opened its chrome doors earlier this year, cowering in the shadows of Gongti Xi Lu’s crudest nightspots. The sport offering – everything from curling to Aussie Rules – is quite remarkable, as are the opening hours (weekdays 10am-3am; weekends 10am-7am). The loveable Lisa, who used to run the show at legendary bar The Den, keeps things just the right side of debauched.

What you’re watching
American Football League.

Another not to miss V Sports.

Live music

One of the highlights of living in Beijing is the thriving alternative music scene. There are hundreds of local bands, and plenty of bars showcasing them. Here are a couple of our favourite joints for live music.

School Live Bar

School live bar

Why you’re here
To soak in some of the best rock bands in the city while taking advantage of the well-maintained bar – perfect for getting efficiently sloshed at one of the characteristically sloppy punk gigs.

What’s on the bill
School has the most reliable booking schedule of both young up-and-coming bands and veterans. With great shows almost every night of the week, it’s one of the most musician-orientated venues in Beijing.

Fruityspace

Fruityspace

Why you’re here
You’re discovering the underbelly of Beijing’s experimental, alternative and indie music scenes. Many venues catering to experimental music have closed over the last few years, making Fruityspace the new home for this displaced set.

What’s on the bill
A wide variety of noise musicians, underground hip-hop artists and offbeat electronica producers.

Others not to miss Temple and Dusk Dawn Club.

Cocktail bars

You don't have to be a mixology expert to appreciate that Beijing has some pretty fine offerings when it comes to fancy cocktails. Excite your taste buds with Sichuan peppercorn-infused gins, black truffle martinis and a host of other creative combinations at these classy establishments.

Botany

_DSC4228

Why you’re here
No, you’re not headed to a house party. Botany may be situated in a converted one-bedroom apartment in Yoolee Plaza, but don’t be fooled – this tiny bar by Frankie Zou, formerly behind the bar at TRB, packs all the punch of a world-class cocktail bar.

What’s the vibe
The small-yet-plush surrounds add a whole new level of intimacy and exclusivity to your evening out. Expect innovative house-made and seasonal ingredients and unique flavour combinations, all explained and recommended by the knowledgeable bar staff.

What you’re having
Black Truffle Martini (95RMB). A spicy mix of dark rum, black truffle, homemade Roma bitters and tropical fruit, garnished with Moroccan spice.

Infusion Room

Infusion room

Why you’re here
Beijing’s bar scene has expanded in fits and starts over the years, but Infusion Room was more of a rocket-fuelled growth spurt. In the hands of suave head barmen Paul Hsu and Kevin Song, a disused storeroom space transformed into an indo-chic libation laboratory. Serious players in the Asian bartending circuit, there’s no flavour profile too obscure or too obtuse for their shakers.

What you’re having
I’m Not a Beer (100RMB). A potent tipple of gin, malt and dark beer reduction crowned with a head of oolong and hops infused foam.

Others not to miss The Black Moth, Press Release and Red Dog.

Hotel bars

Some of Beijing's most extensive and reliable bars can be found in the city's hotels. You don't have to be staying in a swanky room to enjoy a luxury cocktail or three, and soak up to the ballin' atmosphere of the five-star hotel life.

Mei Bar, Rosewood Beijing

Mei Bar

Why you’re here
Mei Bar’s exceptional cocktail, whisky and wine bars and chic surroundings draw in Beijing’s young, rich and glamorous elite. The staff at Mei find any excuse for a party, and things are kept fresh with a regularly updated drinks menu and a series of kicking live house bands. Mei Bar is the new place to be seen.

When you’re here
For a taste of the high life at half the price, come during the week for 50 percent off cocktails (6-9pm). If you’re a lady, Thursday is your night, with free cocktails and champagne from 9-11pm.

What you’re having
Tiki Baijiu (85RMB). Erguotou baijiu with lychee liqueur, lychee puree, pineapple puree and coconut syrup.

Xian, East Beijing

Xian

Why you’re here
Xian has a scene for everyone, serving as a cocktail bar, a whisky bar, a games bar, a live music venue and a pizza place all at once.

What’s the vibe
Xian is the place to let loose. Its nightly happy hour (5-8pm) offers half-price beer, cocktails and pizza. Throughout the weekend or at the regular events, revellers come for the chill and stay for the party that will inevitably ensue.

Others not to miss Atmosphere, O'Bar and Centro.

Jazz bars

Blue Note

blue note

Why you’re here
Since opening last year, Blue Note has hosted world-class musicians, including Grammy-winning Chick Corea and Kamasi Washington, a Kendrick Lamar collaborator.

What you’re dancing to
Sweet melodic blues as well as quirky beats from all over the world.

Another not to miss Good Bait.

Mainstream clubs

If you like your clubs big and your beats bigger, Beijing's Gongti (Workers' Stadium) area has got you covered. These are some of our favourite places to get involved.

Elements

Elements

Why you’re here
While the heyday of other Gongti clubs has come and gone, Elements has played a key role in bringing international DJs and acts to Beijing for years. Although dancefloors are notoriously small in such clubs, Elements’ is always jammed with pretty people dancing the night away.

What you’re dancing to
Elements consistently hosts DJ Mag top 100 DJs and the biggest EDM stars, while its residents come from across Asia and Europe.

Modo Ultra Club

Modo

Why you’re here
While Modo is fairly new, it has already made a name for itself as one of the brightest and most banging clubs in the city. With top DJs, entertaining dance acts and one of the best designed stages in town, Modo guarantees a great night out.

What you’re dancing to
International DJs bring the best of EDM to Modo, which also has live performances by singers and producers.

Another not to miss Sir Teen.

Alternative clubs

There are mega clubs, and then there are the places you go to sweat it out in more intimate environments to some off-piste beats. These awesome spots are the latter.

Dada

Dada

Why you’re here
Dada is the most dynamic and world-beating of all the clubs in the city. While most maintain the same style night after night, Dada showcases a variety of the biggest and newest emerging genres in underground electronic music, pushing the local scene forward while also attracting the hottest international names.

What you’re dancing to
Dada hosts genre founders, the most unique live acts of our time and the best local DJs from in and around Beijing.

Lantern

Lantern

Why you’re here
Aside from the consistently appealing underground techno and house, Lantern is the only place in Sanlitun to party until well after the sun comes up. Even when it’s not hosting an event, you can count on Lantern to keep you dancing the night away.

What you’re dancing to
Lantern’s residents may not switch up styles very much, but you’re guaranteed the very best of tech and progressive house no matter what time of the night you stop by.

Club nights

Whoever came up with the adage that New York is the city that never sleeps clearly hadn't made it to Beijing. Nightlife in Beijing comes at you pretty fast, and there's no end of creative types coming up with new clubbing concepts to keep you partying until the early hours. Try these two on for size, and check out our weekly round-up of the best parties to plan your weekend.

Do Hits

Do hits

Why them
They’re digging up some of China’s freshest and most promising young producers and DJs. In 2016 Do Hits morphed from being only a club night to also functioning as a label, and they’ve covered a lot of ground since then. They’ve put on multiple national tours including the Motherland event series that put New York-based rapper Bohan Phoenix and Beijing’s Howie Lee on stages across China.

What you’re dancing to
Do Hits break the Beijing club-night mould because they’re not just repeating other people’s music, but actually creating their own sound full of lush and beautifully rendered samples of traditional Chinese instruments brushing up against club-ready future bass beats.

NB Noise

NB noise

Why them
NB noise does more than just put together a great line-up of DJs, they also provide unique decorations, party toys and entertainment for their patrons. Not only do they host great club nights, they have also organised a number of festivals and epic day parties in and around the city.

What you’re dancing to
You’ll find their regular line-up of local favourites spinning a diverse mix of the most danceable electronic music of the day.

LGBT nights

The LGBT scene in Beijing is relatively young, but it's growing fast, and lucky for us there are some great bars and nights dedicated to providing celebratory spaces for dancing and loving. Here are two to get you started.

Friday and Saturday nights at Destination

Destination

Why you’re here
It’s Saturday night. It’s 3am. There’s only one party in town still worth going to, so you head to Destination. A place to love life, and find yourself dancing away to anything from dubstep to disco classics.

What you’re having
Who cares!? It’s fruity, it’s icy, and it was free with your ticket.

Who you’re looking at
They’re young, pretty and far too fashionable. Thankfully, the go go boys and drag queens are there to be seen.

Les Booze at Chill Bar

Les booze

Why you’re here
You’re a gal who loves gals, or gals and boys, or just a good time at Chill Bar.

What you’re drinking
A crisp mojito, or maybe a premium European beer. Shots if things get messy later on.

Where you’re sitting
Snuggled on a sofa in the main hangout space, or close to the stage.

What you’re dancing to
Anything. The beats are as eclectic as the clientele.

Another not to miss GLAM.

Bars

Where to begin? Beijing has something to suit all tastes (just see above!), but if we had to pick our absolute favourites right now, it would be these two.

Great Leap Brewing #12 Brewpub

Great Leap 12

Why you're here
There's a reason Great Leap #12 is so popular. The place is a true Beijing original, representing the best of the city in everything from its ingredients to its brand identity. Great Leap #12 sets the bar for professionalism, consistency and quality of service. If we had to nominate one Beijing nightlife ambassador to represent our city globally, this would be it. And we have no doubt they'd kill it.

What you're having
Honey Ma Gold (35RMB), a light ale made with Sichuan peppercorns and Beijing honey.

The Bar at Migas

Migas

Why you’re here
A bona fide nightlife institution, this Spanish party bar offers something for everyone. Beijing’s nightlife scene wouldn’t be the same without its unparalleled rooftop, innovative cocktail menu (with some of the heftiest pours in town) and strong music programming.

What’s the vibe
There’s always something happening, from salsa Mondays and Ping- Pong Wednesdays to a great line-up of local and international DJs through the weekends, courtesy of music director Nic Shepherd (aka DJ Boflex). It’s the sort of place you can come for a quiet drink or party till sunrise. Your call.

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