Boozy Beijing is home to one of Asia’s most exciting bar scenes. Whether you plan to visit hotel bars, distilleries or dance clubs, Culture Trip has picked the top 10 spots to have a tipple in the Chinese capital.
Classy cocktail joints, non-stop nightclubs, friendly pubs, world-class live music venues, microbreweries, craft distilleries: whatever you’re craving, the Chinese capital has a bar to quench your thirst.
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The fashionable embassy district of Sanlitun in Beijing is sprinkled with stylish speakeasies, but Infusion Room stands out from the crowd. Behind a hidden door on the second floor of cocktail joint D Lounge, guests will find an industrial-chic venue where a friendly team whips up one of Beijing’s most inventive drinks lists – look forward to cocktails that incorporate ingredients such as oolong tea and kombu (edible kelp).
The quaint hutongs of the Gulou District represent the beating heart of Beijing’s live-music scene, and no venue is more famous than Dusk Dawn Club. Found inside a historic siheyuan structure but with an ultra-modern fit-out, DDC’s mission is to support local creatives – grab a drink and peruse the exhibition space, or sip on a cocktail on the veranda bar and appreciate the live music on the stage.
Beijing’s craft-brewing scene is going from strength to strength, and Great Leap has led the way since 2010. The microbrewery has now expanded to two Sanlitun locations, but the courtyard of the century-old Doujiao Hutong #6 is where it all began, providing a quintessentially Chinese backdrop while you’re sipping your way through the mammoth menu of 20 house-brewed beers. Don’t miss the signature Honey Ma Gold.
Beijing’s production line of luxury hotels has given rise to a raft of great new cocktail bars, including this chic whiskey joint. Situated just south of the trendy and tourist-friendly 798 Art District, Xian Bar prides itself on its fridges full of craft beer and regular live-music gigs, as well as its enormous collection of premium imported whiskeys, which are best enjoyed on the al fresco terrace overlooking a park below.
When asked what the most popular spirit in the world is, most people might answer whiskey or vodka, or perhaps even rum. But the correct answer is baijiu, a liquor distilled from grain that has an enormous fan base in China. The taste might not be for everyone, but the best place to try baijiu in the Chinese capital is Capital Spirits, a craft distillery that makes its baijiu on-site and serves it as part of a range of traditional and inventive cocktails in a cosy Dongcheng hutong bar.
If you’re looking for a sophisticated night out, you should give the bars in the Wudaokou neighbourhood a wide berth. But if you’re searching for cheap drinks, loud music and a pumping dance floor, look no further than Beijing’s student hub. Propaganda is one of Wudaokou’s most legendary 24-hour nightspots – the oven-like temperatures on the downstairs dance floor are particularly notorious among university students.
There are no surprises about the drinks offering at this Chaoyang bar: it’s beer, beer and more beer. Like a little corner of Brussels transplanted into Beijing, Beer Mania curates a collection of dozens of Belgian brews, such as tart cherry-flavoured Kriek beers, bottles by legendary brewer Delirium and monk-made Trappist beers. And the Belgian specialities don’t end there – you can sink your teeth into the waffles, fries and sausages on the food menu, too.
The Workers’ Stadium in northeast Beijing – known as Gongti to the locals – attracts two groups of people every weekend: football fans and party animals. While the sports nuts are there to see Beijing Guoan play against rival teams, the revellers pile into the dozens of glamorous nightclubs that surround the stadium, and Elements is at the top of the list. This Gongti favourite guarantees a crowded dance floor moving to the big-name line-up of DJs and EDM stars.
Staring at the glittering CCTV building from the five-star luxury of the Rosewood Hotel, punters soon realise that MEI is a hotel bar that’s anything but boring. The huge whiskey, wine and cocktail selection and the team of talented mixologists attract a young professional crowd to the intimate lounges and the spacious outdoor terrace, which gazes over Beijing’s loftiest skyscrapers.
This underground live-music venue lost some of its grungy charm when it moved from Gulou to Wukesong in Beijing’s west in 2017, but the star-studded line-ups haven’t changed. Mao Livehouse still attracts a quality roster of artists from China and abroad – gig tickets are cheap, the sound system is world-class and the venue itself oozes cool.
This is an updated version of a story created by Katherine Lee.
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