Sanlitun used to be an ordinary suburban village that got its name for being three miles away from downtown Beijing (“sanli” means “three miles” in Chinese). It became a famous bar district, known across the nation, thanks to the establishment of the embassy region in the 1960s. Its bars and pubs have prospered in the neighborhood since the opening of the first Sanlitun bar in 1989. But Sanlitun, as the embodiment of Beijing’s youth culture and fashion scene, has way more than just bars. Here are the 11 best things to see and do in the area.
Have a craft beer at the Jing-A Taproom
What do you think of when you envision Sanlitun’s bars? Perhaps you think of Sanlitun Road, where dozens of bars turn on dramatic neon lights and play extra-loud music to entice pedestrians to come in? Maybe you think of pole dancers along the Dirty Bar Street west of Taikoo Li trying to lure customers? Or perhaps your mind wanders to the jazz pubs hidden here and there, welcoming those who seek a getaway from the hustle and bustle? These are all accurate, but you’ll have to admit they are all kind of boring, especially since the drinks are more or less the same from venue to venue. Luckily, Jing-A Taproom offers unique flavors and a great selection, with its beers all coming from its own local brewery.
Try the CockTeals at Long Jing bar
A few steps from the Jing-A Taproom is the Long Jing cocktail bar, where you can try an innovative CockTeal – a new kind of cocktail that mixes spirits and tea. You can either have a glass of Long Jing, the bar’s signature CockTeal that mixes Long Jing green tea with a spirit, or the other CockTeals named after the 24 Solar Terms of China. Btw, if you visit Long Jing in the afternoon, it is a proper teahouse that serves afternoon tea.
Spend an afternoon at The Bookworm
English literature fans shouldn’t miss The Bookworm, a bookshop, library, café and bar that offers a collection of original English books that have been carefully selected by the staff. The Bookworm is also known for its literature lectures and English talk shows.
4 South Sanlitun Road, Chaoyang District, Beijing, +8610 65869507
Visit the DDR Vintage Store
Just a street away from Sanlitun’s American Apparel store, you’ll see the 3.3 Building. On its sixth floor hides a citywide famous vintage store, DDR Vintage Designer Select. You’ll find clothes from the catwalks that turned heads 10 to 20 years ago, as well as many unnamed treasures the shop’s owners discovered from all over the world. The owners are so in love with history that they named their vintage store after the German abbreviation for the German Democratic Republic.
Take a stroll along the former Dirty Bar Street
The Dirty Bar Street used to be a landmark of Sanlitun. It got its name during a time when it was full of dirty, but delicious food stalls. The stalls were replaced by in-house bars, restaurants and tattoo parlors during a clean-up campaign some ten years ago, and in a recent government-led operation, the replacements were removed, as well. What was once Never Never Land is now a peaceful street with pots of flowers dotting both sides. The party people departed with the bars, and quieter locals have moved into the buildings. You may find yourself walking alongside elderly citizens, who live in the neighboring nursing home, or kids heading to or from school.
Watch a football game at the Beijing Workers’ Stadium
Just a bit north from Sanlitun is the Beijing Workers’ Stadium, where major concerts and football games are held. It is the home stadium of the Beijing Guo’an Football Team, so whenever there’s a game between Beijing and other cities, you’ll be surrounded by a sea of green the shade of grass (the color of Guo’an jerseys) on the streets outside the stadium. While the game’s on, you’ll also get to experience the waves of cheers and swears from passionate Beijingers. Be careful who you talk to though, it is said that Beijing Guo’an is not well liked among people outside of Beijing.
Read at Page One
The bookstore Page One is known for its wide collection of original design books and art books. Its Sanlitun branch is one of the largest, with plenty of room for customers to have a seat and sample the books.
19 Sanlitun Road, Chaoyang District, Beijing, +8610 64176626
Check out the street photographers
Sanlitun has a scene that you will be hard-pressed to find in other places in town; hence the group of middle-aged men pointing their long lenses at the beautiful women in the Taikoo Li South District. It seems that most of them are not professional street style photographers, and they only take photos of the women for fun. Oddly enough, most women didn’t object. Some even pose for them.
Investigate the Yashow (Fake) Market
We feel that we should clarify that when we ask you check out the Yashow Market, we’re not recommending you to shop for fake goods that the Yashow Market is known for. Instead, satisfy your curiosity on what a market of fake products looks like. Besides, the Yashou Market doesn’t only have fake products, it also has silk vendors that will sew customized cheongsams or tailored Tang suits for you.
Spend an evening at the V Plus Lounge
The nightclub and bar V Plus Lounge is owned by Chinese pop diva Na Ying. No matter if you are seeking a noisy dance floor to release the pressures of the day, or a cozy rooftop bar with an intoxicating balmy evening breeze and jazz music, V Plus Lounge is your destination. It might be worth mentioning that the bar has good bistro food, which is difficult to find in other bars and nightclubs.
Learn about the best It-Brands at Juice
Juice is owned by Edison Chen, a Hong Kong actor, musician and fashion designer famous for his recklessness and good taste in fashion. Juice sells Chen’s own It-Brand CLOT, as well as the brands Chen himself chose from Japan, the U.S. and Europe. The Sanlitun store is Chen’s seventh store and his first store in Beijing.