One night in Beijing: Coolest bars, clubs and live houses

When the sun goes down Beijing's historic horizon, the city switches from Rome to Las Vegas. Beijing's nightlife is colorful, glamorous, noisy and energetic. From flamboyant dance clubs to sophisticated hotel bars, from crowded live stages to charming craft beer breweries, the city has it all.

For those looking for a glass of top-notch wine and a view to match, check out Atmosphere Bar or Yin Bar. The former is the city's highest watering hole (at the moment) and offers an expansive view across downtown, and the latter is a hidden gem affording a breathtaking angle for gasping at The Forbidden City. Beer buffs will find their new favorite tipples at Great Leap Brewing and Slow Boat Brewing. Both of them are at the forefront of China's newly acquired craft beer culture and offers interesting brews infused with Chinese food ingredients such as Sichuan peppercorns.

Partygoers are spoiled for choices. The growing number of affluent Chinese and a large number of students make the city a perfect soil for clubs of all levels. Among all, the glamorous The World of Suzie Wong provides an eye-opening experience of how art and party would go hand in hand. Party fans might also find their new interest in the mine of karaoke parlors, which is an essential form of nightlife for the locals.

For a totally alternative Beijing, head down the rabbit holes of Yugong Yishan and Mao Livehouse, they will brush up anybody's concept of China seen from tourist posters.


Xi Cheng District

Karaoke is an indefensible form of nightlife for the new generations in China. From birthday to graduation to stag party, it's a way to celebrate virtually everything. Hire a studio, order a song, turn off the lights, you'll probably be amazed at how well you sing with the help of the professional sound system. Ordering of the music takes place on a self-service machine, which can take a while to get a hang of. The majority of the songs available are Chinese pop music but tunes from famous Western artistic, such as The Beatles and Mariah Carey are also hugely popular.

The World of Suzie Wong

One of the longest-running clubs in Beijing, The World of Suzie Wong is a flagship in Beijing's nightlife scene, founded in 2002. Named after the protagonist from British novelist Richard Mason's fiction, this flamboyant club is the place to hang out with the rich and pretty in the capital. The space is divided into five areas. The whimsical 1920-style Touch bar is the core of the club where DJs, performers and parties take action; the charming Suzie Wong lounge on the other hand mixes the modern and imperial Beijing styles in decor and is more intimate and classy. The spacious terrace can hold up to 200 people and is great to hang out at when the weather is nice.

Steps away from Beijing's Drum Tower, hundreds of sweaty students gather behind an industrial iron door and hold out the sign of horns a few nights a week. This is the side of Beijing you rarely see on tourist posters. It's young, energetic, edgy and totally wild. Mao Livehouse is the main hangout for Beijing's undergound music lovers. Chinese indie acts and international touring bands put up a variety of concerts here every week, including mental, punk, rock, folk and occasionally pop. Backed by Japanese record label Bad News Records, the space features state-of-art sound equipment and wallet-friendly drinks at the bar.

Yugong Yishan

Started out as a tiny live house on Sanlitun bar street in 2004, Yugong Yishan is a landmark in Beijing's alternative music scene. The live house escalated its coolness in 2007 by moving its space to former residence of Duan Qirui, a powerful Chinese warlord in the 1920s. The 850-square-meter live house hosts around 200 concerts a year of a variety of genres, from rock, techno to folk. Bands come from around the world and it tends to attract the best Chinese indie artists, for example Queen Sea Big and Second Hand Rose. Hit the mosh pit with some 300 crazy Chinese fans to scream for bands from around world.

Tucked away from the hustle and bustle of the Nanluoguxiang area, Mao Mao Chong is a favourite among Beijingers for a glass of high-quality cocktail and a slice of sizzling pizza. The bar offers around 50 different cocktails in a lively hutong atmosphere. Don't miss out Sichuan Highway, a tipple that blends the flavourful Sichuan peppercorns with Tequila, spicy mango syrup, lime juice and ginger beer, or the cleverly named "Mao"jito and Bloody Mao. Warm cocktails are the bar's specialty and are particularly popular during winter. Price for all alcoholic drinks is around USD7, but the bar has varied promotions through the week on Tuesday, Wednesday and Sunday.

Up to 20 types of craft beers are available in the taproom of Slow Boat, a microbrewery founded by American beer buffs Chandler Jurinka and Daniel Hebert in 2011. The company started out by supplying fresh beer to different restaurants and bars in Beijing, but this space acts as its retail headquarters. In an almost canteen-style layout, you can find the company's 15 fresh and unpasteurized ales and stouts, as well as two bottled brews. The Captain's Pale Ale is Slow Boat's first brew. It's named after the captain of the battleship USS Hamilton and uses four varieties of hops from the Pacific Northwest region in U.S. If you're looking for more Chinese influence, try The Helmsman's Honey Ale which infuses pomegranate honey from Shangri-la in Yunnan Province.

A key player in Beijing's new craft beer culture, Great Leap Brewing produces about 300 kegs of alcohol every month to satisfy beer-thirst expats as well as curious and more and more westernized Chinese drinkers. The brand was established in 2010 and brews 12 beers now. A few of them draw inspiration from Chinese gastronomic cultural, for example, the brewery infuses two typical Chinese ingredients, Sichuan peppercorns and Shandong dates, in its gold ale Honey Ma to create an interesting version of Chinese craft beer. The blonde ale Iron Buddha carries a stint of the renowned Chinese oolong tea Tieguanyin (the Chinese name of Iron Buddha). The company's first brew is Pale Ale No. 6, whose name is a nod to the door number of its bar. The brewery has two taprooms. The original branch is near the buzzing Nanluoguxiang hutong and the second branch is near the Workers' Stadium.

The spacious bar on the sixth floor of Park Hyatt Beijing is where to party with the pretty, rich and famous in the capital. The 340-seat wood-structured space has both indoor and outdoor seating and its architectural style resembles poetic pavilions from Song Dynasty. There is something for everyone here as the bar comprises a lounge with live music and a dance floor, a wine bar, a Martini and Vodka area and a cigar parlour. All of them are set in five traditional Chinese-style buildings. Should you wish a nibble, it even contains a wood-fire oven to roast Peking Ducks.

Perched atop a four-story boutique hotel, The Emperor, and located immediately east to the Forbidden City, the rooftop terrace offers an incredible view over the sprawling imperial residence of China's last 24 emperors. This is possibly the best angle to view the expansive palace in the capital. The signature cocktail, Emporors' Dream (USD14), is infused with the strong Chinese rice-based liquor baijiu or huangjiu. A small open-air jacuzzi is available for a dip at about USD17 per hour. Order a Chocolate Martini, slide into the jacuzzi, and while away a night in Beijing in the most romantic way. Terrace opens from April to October every year.

An exciting and ear-popping lift ride brings you to the highest bar in Beijing, located on the 80th floor of China World Trade Center. Go when the weather is nice and the sky is clear, you'll have a bird's-eye view over the glitzy central Beijing, stretching from the office building of China's Central TV station that's nicknamed "Giant Pants" to the grand imperial palace Forbidden City. The bar is a part of the five-star China World Summit Wing hotel, so service and drinks are top-notch. Drink menu includes some 300 cocktails, 90 whiskies and 560 wines, along with beers and soft drinks. Price start from around USD15 per glass. The 330-meter-tall bar also serves afternoon tea.


Meet Tracy You Xiaoying

Tracy You Xiaoying is a bilingual journalist based in the United Kingdom. She writes culture, travel and lifestyle articles about China and Britain in English and Chinese.

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