50 things to do in Beijing: art & music

Beijing is bursting with music, art and culture – what are you waiting for?

Anyone who has been in Beijing for longer than five minutes will know that the city is about as vibrant as they come. From the multiple art zones to the majestic museums to the poppin' live music scene, there is no end of things to do to keep you cultured in this great city. Whether you're here for a day or a decade, make sure you check out some of these cultural things to do before you leave.
Get into the arts

Get into the arts

Beijing has China’s most vibrant arts scene. Sure, some of the work is derivative (isn’t that the case everywhere?) and the 798 Art District may be overly commercialised, but it’s still one of the strongest scenes in Asia. Whether you spend an afternoon at the UCCA, arguably China’s most internationally credible gallery, or exploring the smaller galleries in Caochangdi and Songzhuang, seeing what the city’s artists have to offer is a must-do.

Experience the vibrant music scene

Experience the vibrant music scene

From guitar folk to hip hop, with plenty of post-rock along the way, Beijing's music scene has plenty of different genres and bands to offer. Dig into Beijing’s music scene by finding local bands to fit your musical tastes.

Watch an Italian opera

Watch an Italian opera

Say what you want about some of the modern architecture in Beijing, but the National Centre for the Performing Arts is stunning. Surrounded by an artificial lake, this low-lying titanium-and-glass dome glimmers off the edge of Tiananmen Square. Nicknamed ‘The Egg’, it’s the capital’s premier venue for classical music acts and theatre productions. There’s any number of international performances that you could see here, but for a ‘China only’ experience, we recommend Italian opera sung by a Chinese cast. Talented as their voices are, it’s far rarer to catch them outside the country than in the capital itself.

Dance until dawn at Migas

Dance until dawn at Migas

Image credit: Migas

This Spanish-run club boasts the city’s hottest rooftop. On summer nights it’s a melting pot of white-collar professionals throwing back raspberry daiquiris, younger kids getting down to nu-disco and everything in between. With a solid dance floor and enough space to take a breather, plus top-tier drinks to keep things lubricated, it’s no struggle staying till the sun peeks over the horizon and day breaks over the Sanlitun skyline.

See a Guoan game

See a Guoan game

Game's on! If football is your thing, then this is definitely one not to miss. Okay, okay, it might not be the match of the year... But what the CSL (Chinese Super League, obvs) lacks in experience, it certainly makes up for in spirit (check out our interview with the Beijing Guoan superfans here). Go and get some fresh(ish) air and head over to the Worker's Stadium for some on-pitch action and die-hard fans.

Spend Chinese New Year here

Spend Chinese New Year here

If you flee to a South-east Asian island retreat for Chinese New Year every year, you’re missing out. It’s cold and grey, but it’s a Beijing you never see: empty and peaceful. Until the fireworks start. But this faux-warfare is reason enough on its own. Spring Festival may be all about family, but for transplants to the city it often means a great night out on Lunar NYE and a spectacular show of fireworks over the ice at Houhai.

See a movie at Beijing's Moma

See a movie at Beijing's Moma

The Beijing Moma has nothing to do with modern art: it's the best spot for seeing arthouse films in Beijing. Broadway Cinematheque Moma (BC Moma to friends), northwest of Dongzhimen, is a fantastic venue, graced with a striking exterior, a comfortable, spacious interior and a pretty great shop.

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