Destination Bar in Beijing, China

Inside the Famous Gay Bar

••• Destination, Beijing's swankiest gay bar. photo by Andrew Collins

When China in general, and Beijing in particular, shifted into crazy-high gear in anticipation of the 2008 Summer Olympics and massive growth as both a business and a leisure destination, the capital city's once non-existent gay nightclub scene finally began to develop. Keep in mind that Shanghai has quite a lot more happening in terms of gay nightlife.

The go-to club on the gay Beijing scene is a cushy, black-on-black dance club and cocktail bar called Destination, which pulls in a mix of trendy young Chinese residents, corporate mavericks from points afar, and hip expats - it's a mostly male bunch, but plenty of women come here, too.

The club consists of a handful of bars and seating areas, generally with plush, low-slung seating and soft lighting. A DJ spins the usual Western pop and club ​hits, and strobe lights cast a colorful glow upon the compact but busy dance floor. Weekdays can be a little quiet here, but Destination kicks into high gear Wednesday (for its popular midweek celebration), Friday, and Saturday nights.

The bar is just across the street from a strip of glam hetero nightspots by the West Gate of Worker's Stadium, a generally bustling neighborhood of eastern Beijing's Chaoyang area, close to the expat-infested Sanlitun Bar Street. You'll find several ​slick, gay-friendly restaurants within a 15-minute walk, including romantic Mare (for stellar Spanish tapas) and cozy Alameda (a fashionable, cozy bistro serving fusion Asia-meets-Brazil fare).

Most of the friendly staffers speak a bit of English, enough to cheerfully fill drink orders.

And cocktails are quite reasonable. Destination appears to be a promising sign of what lies ahead for gay Beijing.