Beijing entertains all nightlife interests, from dusk until dawn. You can wander through hutongs sipping a Tsingtao, discovering hidden bars on Beiluoguxiang late into the night. You could be a connoisseur of fine cocktails made with uniquely Chinese ingredients in Sanlitun, or slum it up with shooters and pizza at dive bars in Wudakou. Maybe you skip all of that and head straight to Gongti (Worker’s Stadium) to hit the mega clubs. International DJs and mixologists, Chinese businessmen, foreign tourists, local bands, beer-appreciating expats—these are just some of the cast of characters you’ll meet on a night out in this town.
Beijing has an insanely developed bar scene which surfaces throughout the city, from glitzy high-rise rooftops to university dive bars. You can peruse craft beers at microbreweries, or cheer for your favorite football team over a round of pints in any number of sports bars. Prefer cocktails to brews? You'll find plenty to sip on in Beijing's favorite hutong haunts. The city has bars for any budget and interest, so pick your poison.
- Microbreweries: Head to any of Great Leap Brewing’s locations to appreciate beer brewed with ingredients unique to China. Order the Honey Ma Gold for an ale made with Sichuan peppercorns. For one of the best food pairings in the city, try it with Precious Island Pizza.
- LGBTQ bars: Shake your booty to disco, pop, and more at Destination, the premier gay bar in Beijing. It's not just a club, either: They have a dance studio, HIV-testing center, café, and art gallery. Whatever your sexual orientation or passport, Destination is welcoming. Expect hip and friendly patrons. Parties go late.
- Hutong bars: Head to Nina, a bar tucked into one of Beijing’s famous alleyways. It's the perfect space for having an intimate conversation over Negronis, Spritzes, and small pizzas.
- Sports Bars: While there are plenty of sports bars in Beijing, Paddy O’Shea’s is the only one to be nominated as one of the Best Irish Pubs in the world. Plus it's affordable and has tons of flat screens.
- Cocktail Bars: Janes + Hooch has been formally recognized as one of Asia’s 50 best bars. Order the mojito, New Fashioned, or 50 Shades of Oolong if you want something distinctly more Chinese and cheeky.
- Unique Spots: Beijing boasts some bars that can’t be neatly grouped, such as the world’s first baijiu bar, Capital Spirits and Distillery. Here, you can order over 50 kinds of baijiu, either straight or in cocktails. Or, head to the Vending Machine. Knock out a few arcade games as you wait for one of their cocktails on draft.
Head to Sanlitun or the Worker's Stadium area if you want your pick of popular Beijing clubs. If you go to more Chinese-style clubs, you'll find that locals prefer to drink, smoke, and play dice games than actually dance—but that doesn't stop foreigners and the more unrestrained Beijingers from making valiant efforts. If you want to dance vigorously, don't feel like dropping money on bottle service, and enjoy hearing a wide variety of music, smaller alternative clubs will be the way to go.
- Mainstream: Vics is one of the go-to spots in town for dancing and has two big floors for hip hop, electronic, pop, soul, R&B, house, techno, and even reggae. Across the street you’ll find Mix Club, another solid bet for dancing to hip hop and drum n’ bass. You'll also find weekend parties, a lineup of foreign DJs, and the occasional celebrity siting here. If you want a very local Chinese mega club experience—complete with cage dancing, thousands of revelers, and bottle service—then Banana is where to go.
- Alternative: At Lantern, party till dawn while Chinese DJs spin underground techno and progressive house. The dance floor is large and the cocktails well-priced. Check out Dada for a sweaty, crowded time and a dance floor pulsating to eclectic beats, ranging from underground electronic to alternative music.
Live Music and Performances
Much of Beijing’s independent music can be experienced through shows at live houses, venues in China that showcase live music as well as other art forms. Head to Dusk Dawn Club to experience this type of music culture and a slew of acts each month, including rock, folk, jazz, and spoken word. For a strictly jazz bar, head to Blue Note to see world-famous jazz musicians as well as local acts in the refurbished U.S. embassy. If you want more of a bar setting with cheap drinks and a solid line-up, check out Gulou’s Temple Bar on weekends.
Tips for Going Out in Beijing
- The subway closes around 11 p.m., but buses run all night. Take note that Uber doesn’t work in Beijing. Instead, download the taxi-hailing apps Di Di Dache or Mychinataxi. In popular bar and club areas like Sanlitun or the Worker’s Stadium, taxis will already be lined up and waiting for you to leave the clubs on weekend nights.
- People party at all hours of the night and early morning in Beijing. Whether you like to go out early and be back by midnight or stay out until morning, Beijing can accommodate all types of partiers.
- Do not tip. Tipping is not expected, nor does it guarantee better service if you do. Some waiters might even be offended if you try to give them one.
- While there isn’t usually a cover, some of the more popular clubs in Sanlitun might charge a small fee, like 50 yuan. However, if you are foreign, you generally will not have to pay, as clubs see foreigners as good publicity. If there is any doubt about covers, waive the PR guys over, and they will usually get you in for free.
- Open containers are allowed on the streets and even in taxis.
- The Two Sessions meeting during the first two weeks of March causes many bars and clubs to temporarily close in different parts of the city. Closures are not consistent from year to year, so check the WeChat accounts of individual clubs and bars for any temporary closing announcements during this time.
- Beware fake alcohol. If drink specials are too good to be true, they probably aren’t real and will leave you with a nasty hangover in the morning.