Situated in Haidian District, Wudaokou is a vibrant neighbourhood famous for its close proximity to world-renowned universities. From centuries-old palaces to popular nightclubs, here’s our guide on the best things to do in Wudaokou, Beijing.
While most imperial attractions in central Beijing are jam-packed with hordes of tourists, this one on the north-west fringe of the city is far more tranquil. Yuanmingyuan Park — or ‘Gardens of Perfect Brightness’ — contains the summer home of the Qing Dynasty, dating back to the 18th and 19th centuries. British troops attacked the Old Summer Palace in the Second Opium War in 1860, but the residence was so large they didn’t manage to destroy it all. Fortunately, a fair chunk of the Old Summer Palace remains open for visitors to admire today.
All those universities also mean plenty of international students, many of whom are hungry for a taste of their home countries. 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.
Pakistani cuisine isn’t huge in Beijing, but this halal eatery dishes up authentic cuisine from the subcontinent. Khan Baba has an enormous menu of tandoor-cooked meats, crispy pakora and samosa, and a long list of curries. There’s a good-value buffet lunch on offer Monday to Friday, as well as Indian and Arabic options on the menu. If you’re still hungry for more subcontinental fare, pop into Ganges in the U-Center as well.
Wudaokou is one of the best spots in Beijing to find Western-style restaurants – the neighbourhood’s American-inspired eateries attract large crowds of locals and ‘laowais’ alike. Sitting just next door to Mojito, Pyro delivers the best pizza in the area. Formerly known as Sugar Shack, this pizzeria-bar plates up New York-style thin crust slices as well as other American classics like hot wings, sub sandwiches, nachos and imported beers. Come for dinner on a Thursday to compete in the weekly beer pong tournament.
Tsinghua and Beida – the two most prestigious universities in China – constantly squabble over who’s better, but this gorgeous garden might help Tsinghua take the bragging rights. This relic of the Qing Dynasty now belongs to Tsinghua University, adding traditional pavilions, ponds and immaculately curated gardens to the college grounds. The stone bridge across the lotus-covered Jinchun Lake represents one of the most breathtakingly beautiful picnic spots in Beijing.
Thanks to large numbers of Korean students who moved into the area to attend university in the 1990s, Wudaokou is regarded as Beijing’s ‘Koreatown’. Zhajiangmian Zhenbang serves the best Korean cuisine you can find in the Chinese capital. Found on the second floor of the Wudaokou International Food Hall, the restaurant’s jajangmyeon – a noodle dish topped with a thick sauce made of bean paste, soy sauce, pork and vegetables – is the stuff of legend.
All Kill serves Korean food to die for. Sitting in the basement of the Tsinghua Tongfang Technology Plaza, this casual diner is always crowded with students at lunchtime and stays busy after dark, when diners flock to knock back a few brews with some greasy Korean-style fried chicken.
Sing along to your favourite songs at Lion King KTV
Wudaokou’s large Korean population also explains the long list of karaoke joints dotted around the neighbourhood. This KTV, on the top floor of the Dongyuan Mansion, might be the pick of the bunch, offering multiple room sizes for a raucous night. ‘Hakuna Matata’ is the house specialty, hence the name.
This Japanese-themed cocktail joint is a much needed antidote to the pulsating 24-hour bars nearby. Situated inside an apartment block housing several secluded speakeasies, Barsips will change the way you think about sake; their cocktail selection puts Japanese liquor at the heart of all their menu. They also offer outrageously cheap free-flow nights, from 100-150RMB (£11-17), depending on the day of the week. You can still get just as intoxicated as the students down below, just on classier cocktails.
Jinchun Lake isn’t the only attractive thing to admire on the grounds of Tsinghua University. The campus also boasts a world-class art museum. The gallery exhibits works from both Tsinghua students and members of the public, housing 13,000 pieces of painting, calligraphy, embroidery, porcelain, furniture, and metalworks. Like the university itself, the museum emphasises cultural exchange between China and the rest of the world.
Just around the corner from Lush, Sensation is another student favourite that pumps out loud tunes long into the night. Much more affordable than the upscale nightspots in Sanlitun, Sensation is typical of Wudaokou’s less pretentious nightlife scene – expect a crowded dance floor, dirt-cheap cocktails, and a pulsing playlist heavy on K-pop and R&B.
For drinks that are a little more refined than the cheap liquor the students are swilling, grab a quiet pint at this craft beer bar. Located on the fifth floor of the unassuming Huaqingjiayuan building, Ai Beer Bar offers a range of domestic and imported microbrews in a relaxing space. If you’re not into beer, the coconut cocktail is particularly delightful.
Home to the Beijing Language and Culture University, Tsinghua and the Peking University (or ‘Beida’, as the locals call it), Wudaokou is crawling with students. And if there’s one thing that students love more than studying, it’s partying. Among this area’s many college haunts, Lush is by far the most popular. This smoke-free venue pours cheap drinks well into the wee hours and hosts pub quizzes and open mike nights regularly. It’s particularly well-known for its all-day breakfast of pancakes, waffles and scrambled eggs.