Beijing is a fast-paced city, with its Third Ring Road constantly packed and everlasting queues at its most popular touristic spots. But thanks to some lesser-known spots in well-located areas, you can still find the occasional quiet corner for a break from the hustle and bustle, or to enjoy a relaxed catch up with friends. Here are the 10 best cafes in Beijing that will beat Starbucks any day.
Fans of traditional Chinese culture should not miss Fantizi Café, because there is simply nowhere in Beijing like it. Here, you can study and practice traditional Chinese characters while enjoying a nice cup of coffee. The café’s Taiwanese owner is devoted to promoting the old language, which is still used frequently in Taiwan and Hong Kong, but not so much in mainland China. She even offers a 10% discount to anyone who completes a Chinese calligraphy paper.
Located in a hutong near the Yindian Bridge, the café is a cat kingdom hidden in Houhai, one of the busiest areas in Beijing. You are welcome to stroke and play with the cats and learn about their personalities from their profiles printed on boards on the wall. Remember to put their signature Cat Claw Cotton Candy into your coffee, which make cuter-than-cute cat claw patterns, bound to generate hundreds of likes on Instagram.
Coffee aside, the biggest reason to go to Lian Coffee is the breathtaking view. Through the windows, which are tastefully decorated with greenery, you might catch sight of the Miaoying Temple’s white pagoda, which is the landmark of the Beihai area. The cafe’s simplistic décor is blended with elements of traditional Chinese architecture, like golden tiles and garden window lettuce, making the spot a restful and enjoyable place to spend an afternoon.
When you arrive at the gate to Najian Café, you might mistake it for a farmhouse in the countryside. Rest assured, the naturalistic place is indeed a coffee house. It is said that the interior accessories have been accumulated by its owner, a keen traveler, from all over the globe. Reflective of this, the food menu reads like a world map of fusion cuisine. Don’t forget to order its speciality, a Najian Coffee.
Visitors are attracted to this café instantly, due to the bright yellow triangular pattern painted right above its door, like a beam of light. The owner makes aromatic, delicious smelling coffee and its matcha latte and peach oolong tea are also worth a try. In the mood for alcohol? You’ve probably never tried a hot beer before and Owlery Café is the place to satisfy your curiosity.
Enjoy a coffee in the café on the first floor of the Penghao Theater and feel free to immerse yourself in the theatrical atmosphere. As a famous theater that promotes independent plays in Beijing, Penghao is hidden in a hutong next to the Central Academy of Drama. It’s not easy to find the door, but the reward is worthwhile.
Thanks to Bear Brew, visitors can combine a cup of coffee with delicious dessert on a rooftop, so close to the Miaoying Temple’s white pagoda that it feels as if you can reach your hand out to touch it. Their cold drip coffee comes highly recommended. For those who are looking to tantalise their taste buds, the yuzu matcha latte is a must. When it comes to sweet treats, their caramel pudding and matcha tofu are simply outstanding.
This café has an industrial style interior, fitting in perfectly to its location in Dashilar, the creative center. You can either sit at the bar or take your drink upstairs, where there’s a room full of various terrestrial globes, a sewing machine table and an outdoor dining area, where you can overlook the entire hutong neighborhood. One of the neighbors even keeps rabbits on their rooftop!
One of the best-established cafés in the 798 Art Zone, At Café used to be the canteen of the 798 when it was still a factory compound. Specializing in Italian food, it’s one of the few restaurants in Beijing where you can enjoy authentic pizza. If you fancy something alcoholic, the Irish Coffee is your best bet. Located right next to the remaining head of the locomotive train, the iconic landmark of the 798 Art Zone, this is a good place to rest after a gallery tour.
The Garage Café is not like conventional cafés, which tend to offer a peaceful and cozy atmosphere, but it is still the most noteworthy café in Zhongguancun area. That is mainly because it has another, predominant function of being a space for start-up businesses to meet investors. You may overhear individuals bragging about their genius ideas and business plans – who knows if one of them will be the future Jack Ma.