Among Wudaokou’s many college haunts, Lush is the standout. This 24-hour restaurant-bar welcomes international students around the clock, particularly for the all-day breakfast of pancakes, waffles and scrambled eggs. This smoke-free venue pours drinks well into the early hours and hosts events like pub quizzes and open mic nights that keep the expat crowd coming.
Just around the corner from Lush, Sensation is another student favourite pumping out loud tunes long into the night. Much more affordable than the upscale nightspots in Sanlitun, Sensation is typical of Wudaokou’s less pretentious but no less lively bars and clubs – expect a crowded dance floor, dirt-cheap cocktails and a pulsing playlist heavy on K-pop and R&B.
Propaganda is another icon of Wudaokou’s non-stop college party scene, offering a two-floor playground for its visitors. The downstairs dance floor is well known for its oven-like temperatures as the night heats up, with the sweat pouring off the local people and ‘laowais’ alike, so be prepared!
Formerly known as La Bamba, Mojito is one of the few places you can go for a taste of Mexico in the Chinese capital. Perched above Propaganda in the thick of the Wudaokou action, Mojito dishes up tacos and nachos by day and great-value margaritas by night, as well as a range of bar games like pool, darts and foosball across its two storeys.
As well as students, Wudaokou is known for its large Korean population, which explains the long list of karaoke joints that blanket the neighbourhood. Lion King KTV, perched on the top floor of the Dongyuan Mansion, might be the pick of the bunch; it offers multiple room sizes for a raucous night of slaughtering your favourite songs under the influence of alcohol. ‘Hakuna Matata’ is the house speciality, hence the name.
Occupying the basement beneath the banks and boutiques of U-Center, WU Club is one of Wudaokou’s most atmospheric nightclubs. Dimly lit and packed to the rafters on weekends, the intimate bar area and a pumping dance floor make WU one of the Haidian District’s most fashionable nightspots.
If you’d like a beer that’s a little more upmarket than the stuff students are swilling in Wudaokou’s 24-hour nightclubs, grab a quiet pint at this craft beer haunt. Located in the unassuming Huaqingjiayuan Building not far from the student hangouts, Ai Beer Bar offers domestic and imported microbrews in a relaxing space.
13 Club is one of Beijing’s premier live music venues, welcoming independent musicians from China and abroad every weekend. Found down an alleyway off Chengfu Road, 13 Club is particularly popular with punk and metal artists. This friendly no-frills bar is worth a visit even when there’s no live act on the agenda.
Wudaokou’s boisterous nightclubs overshadow its burgeoning speakeasy scene, but this Japanese-themed cocktail joint proffers a relaxed alternative to the pulsing 24-hour bars nearby. Sitting within an apartment block that houses several secluded speakeasies, Barsips offers a well-curated cocktail list in a space that’s certainly more elegant than the unpretentious student bars below.
Sitting away from the liveliness that surrounds the Wudaokou subway station, this pub in the Ji Xin Building is another classy option in the area. Commune is an old-school pub; the two storeys show off simple wooden decor and a wall lined with fridges brimming with boutique beer. It’s just as good for a post-work pint as it is for a boogie on a Saturday night.