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Beijing Nightlife

Night life was unknown to many people in Beijing 20 years ago, and the word wasn't even used. But nowadays it is very common, especially for young people, to go out in the evenings and spend their time at cinemas, theatres, nightclubs, song and dance halls, Karaoke clubs, restaurants or bars. Compared to people in south China, Beijing people are more conservative. Most of them, married people in particular, like to stay at home watching TV or chatting with friends, which is why the streets are quite deserted after nine o'clock at night, when most of the shops are closed.

Don't despair, you can find places to spend your evenings if you are not tired after the day's sightseeing. Almost every four- or five-star hotel has facilities for entertainment. Apart from hotels, night life venues are mostly in the city centre. You can see the Peking Opera, acrobatics, dramas, local ballad singing, song and dance performances, or attend a music concert, or drop in at a roadside disco. It's best to stick to places which have been recommended by other tourists or Chinese friends, and beware if prices of drinks are not displayed.

Traditional performances such as the Beijing Opera, acrobatic shows and dramatic performances in the teahouses are popular with the more mature visitors to the city, while the younger generation seems to favor the snack markets, pubs, clubs and cafes. For the stranger who wishes to become acquainted with the city, a stroll along Chang'an Street to Tian'anmen Square is highly recommended.

One place that cannot be omitted when considering the nightlife options for the old Beijinger is the Tianqiao (Overbridge) Area. In actual fact it is not a bridge but a location popular for gathering to eat, drink and to enjoy the entertainments and amusements on offer there. Tianqiao has been a favorite venue for ordinary folk since the Yuan Dynasty (1271-1368). This area was also the cradle of Chinese folk culture and art where many original folk performances such as acrobatics and music were devised. The area has changed somewhat over the centuries but the quality of the entertainment here continues to be of a high standard. Two of the most famous venues are the Tianqiao Theater and Tianqiaole Tea House (the name means Happy Overbridge) and it can be found at No.113 in Beiwei Lu, Xuanwu District). The theatre specializes in modern song and dance performances while by contrast the teahouse offers the more traditional arts of Beijing Opera, Acrobatics, Martial Arts as well as folk songs. Visitors to China may be a little apprehensive about going to the opera but it is an experience not to be missed as the performances are really quite spectacular, including as they do music, dance, acrobatics and spectacular costumes.

Other places to explore Chinese folk culture include the Laoshe Tea House (3F, building 3, Xi Da Jie, Qianmen, Beijing), where you can experience the famous Chinese tea culture and find a quiet place to relax and maybe do some reading. There is also the Liyuan Theater (inside Jianguo Hotel, Qianmen, at No. 175 in Yongan Lu) here there are nightly performances at 19:30 pm of genuine Beijing Opera and other folk performances. One need not be concerned about language difficulties with Chinese opera and drama as both make considerable use of mime. The opera often has subtitle boards displaying a translation. As a result they are quite easy to understand.

Chinese acrobatics have a long history and is one of the most popular art forms among Chinese people. Performers have achieved worldwide fame for their wonderful skills and marvelous acts. Acrobatic Shows can be seen at the Wansheng Theatre, 95, Tianqiao Market, Xuanwu District beginning at 19:15pm every evening.

Other traditional Chinese performances such as puppet shows, exotic ballet, opera, concert and modern drama are put on every day in Beijing. Full details are published in the daily newspapers and information is usually available at your hotel's reception desk. We recommended some popular places for such

performances here:
Huguang Huiguan Ancient Opera Building
Address: 3, Hufang Lu, Xuanwu District

Beijing Concert Hall
Address: 1, Xinhua Bei Jie, Xicheng District

Beijing People's Art Theater
Address: 22, Wangfujing Da Jie

Now the city has witnessed a mushrooming of foreign theme pubs, new exotic bars and locally-run techno-clubs. Foreign pubs, bars, cafes and disco clubs attract foreign residents and tourists as well as young Chinese. The admission fee is usually about 50-80 yuan and beer is 15-20 yuan.

Beijing's nightlife and entertainment scene is undergoing something of a revolution, as modern Beijingers seek to offload disposable income their parents never even dreamt of. Throughout the 1990s, numerous new nightclubs were set up to cater for a chic and affluent clientele and new ones continue to open all the time. The music at these Western-style clubs covers a wide range, with techno and house being hugely popular and international ¡®superstar DJs' performing with increasing regularity. Many nightclubs are open nightly until the small hours of the morning and charge entrance fees of between RMB100 and 200.

The most popular bar area (heavily frequented by foreigners) is Sanlitun, in the northeast of the city. The bars here all offer draught beer at Western prices, and are generally much livelier than any of the hotel bars. New bar districts are opening up all the time, particularly in Chaoynag District near Workers' Stadium, the lakeside area of Houhai, and along Lotus Lane on the northern bank of the Ba River. Most bars open until about midnight but are liveliest around 2200.

Bars: Situated in the older part of  Chaoyang's Sanlitun bar district are the ever-popular Poachers Inn, 43 Bei Sanlitun Lu, and the equally welcoming pub, The Tree, 43 Bei Sanlitun Nan, - the latter serving over 40 Belgian beers and excellent pizza. Beijing's weekend bar du jour is Browns, Nansanlitun Lu (above The Loft), which offers a long wooden bar for late-night table-top dancing, 366 different shooters and an atmosphere of convivial excess. Passby Bar, 108 Naluogu Xiang, Dongcheng District, is a hip, relaxed and ambient bar located in an old hutong. Bed, 17 Zhangwang Hutong, Xicheng District) is a minimalist lounge bar in a renovated hutong house with an uber-cool minimalist d¨¦cor, with undressed cement floorings and walls, and beds for its 'beautiful people' clientele to sit on. World of Suzie Wong, 1A Nongzhanguan Lu by the west gate of Chaoyang Park, is an elegant and stylish faux-1930s throwback that serves killer daiquiris.

The Wudaokou area is the paradise of university students. Most universities are located there; hence most overseas students are too. "Propaganda" is a popular underground disco almost right next to the Wŭd¨¤okŏu  light rail station (line 13). Walk south on the road that goes along the rail line, and you' ll see it on the right side. "Lush"  is on the same road even closer to the station, right on the corner, often has live music and is a more suitable option for those who feel too old for discos. For cheap drinks and a friendly atmosphere, try the "Bla Bla Bar" (known as "Bra Bra Bar" among some funny BLCU students) on the campus of Beijing Language and Culture University, or BLCU 

The Houhai  area also offers some more upmarket places, like the Buddha Bar, Buddha Bar 2, Buddha Bar 3 and so on (The Hutong School is not affiliated with the owner of the Buddha Bars in any way, but he seems to be a nice person). The area has a nice feel at night with the red lanterns and floating candles on the lake.

At the west side of Chaoyang Park  is a newer bar area with western restaurants and bars, also priced in a western manner. A modest meal goes for around 50 RMB, while if you really want to stuff yourself, prepare to pay over 100 RMB.

Near Hutong School Club Obiwan, a two-store building at the shore of Xihai Lake, offers a good combination of affordable drinks, great food and a nice atmosphere. They organise many events and it could be a perfect spot to hang out after a hard day. They are located a few hundred metres south of Jishuitan subway station.

Nanluoguxiang is near the Central Academy of Drama in one of Bejing's classical hutong areas. Due to its historical and traditional surroundings, the area retains a special cultural charm which distinguishes it from Beijing's other bar streets.

Currently, Nanluoguxiang is smaller than its sister bar districts, with about thirty bars, as well as restaurants and boutique shops.Despite its location in the downtown area, Nanluoguxiang is a quieter district where visitors can take in an easy-going atmosphere while mixing with locals on the street. In cafes and lounges, customers range from foreign tourists and expats to local theater students. Many read books, surf the web, hold relaxed business conversations, or enjoy quiet company with small groups of friends.Several of Nanluoguxiang's bars offer free wireless internet and a variety of inexpensive snacks, such as popcorn or peanuts. Friendly service and a casual atmosphere give customers the feeling of home away from home.

Although Nanluoguxiang Bar Steet is likely to follow in the footsteps of Sanlitun and Houhai, for now it remains a more traditional Pekinese place to rest one's feet.

Clubs: Undoubted king of clubs is the cavernous Vics, inside Workers Stadium north gate, which mixes up a nightly thrash of soul, R&B, pop and reggae and is popular with visiting celebrities and music stars. JJ's, 74-76 Xinjiekou Bei Dajie, packs 'em in at weekends and features lasers, a sci-fi theme and scantily-clad Russian dancing girls; imported British DJs play a mixture of techno, reggae and house. Tango, South Gate of Ditan Park, Dongcheng District, is another superclub with a giant dance floor, smaller lounge bar and live music. Opened in 2006, Club Fusion, A8 Gongti Bei Lu, Chaoyang District, is a haven of house and electronica and a promised line-up of guest spots from touring international DJs.

Live Music: Local rock bands perform regularly at What Bar, which has two locations, West Yuandadu Bar Street, Chaoyang District (tel: (10) 8461 4683), and 72 Beicheng Jie, Xicheng District (tel: (10) 133 4112 2757). Tucked away in the car park beyond the north gate of Workers' Stadium is Yugong Yishan, 1 Gongti Bei Lu, Chaoyang District (tel: (10) 6415 0687), a throbbing live music venue which hosts everything from rock to jazz and improv to DJ sets. Live jazz sets top the bill from Thursday to Sunday at the East Shore Live Jazz Caf¨¦, 2/F, 2 Qianhai Nanyan Lu, Xicheng District (tel: (10) 8403 2131), owned by legendary jazzman Liu Yuan.

Karaoke: If you want to have fun in the local way, karaoke , also often called KTV, is the perfect choice. It's not about singing well, it's about singing. There is a big KTV bar on the west side of the Workers' Stadium called K¨¡ix¨©n Y¨¬băi . They have various sizes of private rooms available depending on the number of people who want to show their singing skills to each other, the smallest ones suitable for 1-3 persons up to the biggest one that can accommodate above 10 people. You might have to wait until a room empties up.

Billiards: If you are into pool or snooker, there is a big underground billiards hall at the north gate of the Workers' Stadium. You have to go in the gate of the stadium, and the place is on the right side, next to "Mix" bar. They are reasonably priced and have plenty of pool tables, though only a couple of snooker tables.

Bowling: There are several places where you can play bowling in Beijing, since bowling is very popular in China and in Asia in general. The biggest place is called 'Gongti 100' at 8 Gongti Xilu, which has no less than 100 lanes, as the name suggests !

Every city has its night market and Beijing is no exception. When the curtain of darkness falls, the snack handcarts come alive. Dongdan Street, Xidan Street, Donghuamen Gate and Longfusi Temple area are the main four night market areas. Snacks include Beijing specialities as well as many that are traditional in other parts of the country, some of which are from minority districts.

It is hard to give details of all the nightly activities to be found in Beijing. However, for foreign visitors in particular, we would highly recommend a leisurely stroll along the Chang'an Street to observe the scene as one of your nightlife choices. Maybe you would like to do this in style by hiring a rickshaw, what could be more in keeping with the ambiance than that? The street extends all the way to the Forbidden City and Tian'anmen Square. The palace complex in shadow has an ethereal beauty that is all its own and that is certain to evoke sentiments of the past glory, mystery and intrigue that was once Imperial China.

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