Housing guide

The lowdown on the city’s property market.
Housing guide
 
published on 9 Mar 2012


Housing map

Click for full size

All prices are rounded to the nearest 100RMB. Unless otherwise stated, all properties have two bedrooms.

1. Andingmen/Gulou

 
Average price
6,900RMB (cheapest: 4,000RMB, 55sqm, Beijing Relocation; dearest: 68,000RMB, 500sqm, Fangeasy).
 
The location
Andingmen and Gulou are popular locations for young expats and locals alike, as the areas around both Wudaoying and Baochao hutongs continue to flourish with bars, boutiques and restaurants. This modernisation is set against a backdrop of historic landmarks, such as the Drum and Bell Towers and the Lama Temple, as well as the hutongs themselves. It’s a clash of old and new that is uniquely Beijing in style.
 
Where to eat
There are so many options on Wudaoying Hutong alone! Hit The Veggie Table for bean burgers and vegan hummous, or head out west to Yun Er Small Town for great, authentic Yunnanese food.
 
Where to drink
 Forget NLGX; the latest must-visit bars are Modernista; Jam; and, for weird music and Belgian beers in a 600-year-old temple setting, be sure to check out Zajia.

The resident:
Wendy Fung lives in a 4,500RMB per month, two-bedroom apartment in Andingmen
‘I live near Wudaoying Hutong, which is a great area because it’s so central – it’s just inside the Second Ring Road – and is near to both the subway station and the Lama Temple. I’m never more than a five-minute walk from all the foreign luxuries that I could want – there’s a French bakery and a bunch of cafés and bars in the area, but there are also lots of locals around so you still get a sense that you’re in China.
 
‘However, the rent that we pay is really high for what we get – the building is old and unattractive, and a lot of the apartment blocks in the area don’t have elevators. It can also be inconvenient to get around – taxis don’t like to go into the hutongs, so to get one you have to walk all the way out to the road. I really like living here, but you won’t neccessarily be living in the lap of luxury.’


Wendy's flat, near Wudaoying Hutong
 

2. Chaoyangmen/Dongzhimen

 
Average price
7,000RMB (cheapest: 4,000RMB, 52sqm, Fangeasy; dearest: 12,000RMB, 133sqm, Beijing Relocation).
 
The location
With easy links to the Second Ring Road and short taxi rides to Gulou and Sanlitun, this area – covering three blocks running from the top of Dongzhimen Beixiaojie to the bottom of Chaoyangmen Beixiaojie, and bound by the Second Ring Road – may be the perfect spot for young professionals. The quality and pricing of properties here varies massively, but a mix of modern(ish) flats and hutongs appeals.
 
Where to eat
Dongzhimennei (aka ‘Ghost Street’) is a hit with visitors – less so locals. Instead, try Baihe Vegetarian Restaurant or local Xinjiang fave Crescent Moon for some great eats.
 
Where to drink
Palette Vino is a fine wine bar-cum-restaurant. But for something simpler, hit Russian bar White Nights for Beijing Beer on draught for just 5RMB - just remember to stay away from the food.
 
The resident:
Fernanda Fraiz lives in an 8,500RMB per month, four-bedroom apartment in Chaoyangmen
‘It’s kind of a weird selling point, but I think the best thing about living in this area is that it’s close to everywhere else – it’s easy to get to Sanlitun, Houhai and Wangfujing. We’re near to the Second Ring Road, and while it has office buildings and apartment complexes, there are also lots of hutongs. There are plenty of Chinese restaurants and it’s easy to find Western-style cafés too. I’ve even discovered some good vegetarian restaurants that serve incredibly realistic pretend meat.

‘The bad thing about living here is that you need to have a bicycle because the areas are so big. Dongzhimen is also too crowded with foreigners; I find that in Chaoyangmen I can mix with the locals more easily. You can also find plenty of cool apartments in Chaoyangmen – and for better value than some other inner-city areas.’
 

3. Ritan Park

 
Average price
7,700RMB (cheapest: 4,000RMB, 60sqm, Fangeasy; dearest: 11,500RMB, 125sqm, 5I5J).
 
The location
An easy area to overlook, but one worth looking over, the largely Russian-populated neighbourhoods around Ritan Park are snugly tucked away to the west of CBD and a little way south of the Workers’ Stadium. With a number of Western stores to be found in and around the nearby U-Town mall, plus several nightlife options, includingbars, clubs and KTV joints, it’s not surprisingthat the area has attracted plenty of interest from young foreign professionals.
 
Where to eat
If the burgers at the Blue Frog in U-Town mall don’t suffice, make nearby Yunnanese restaurant Moss your new default eatery for some true south-of-the-clouds magic.
 
Where to drink
We love Czech Pub, which serves up bargain pints of Staropramen from 25RMB. Plus, there’s always the mighty Chocolate.
 
The former resident:
Tilde Lewin lived in a 5,500RMB per month, two-bedroom apartment next to Ritan Park
‘I found Ritan Park to be quiet, comfortable and a good place to live. The people living there are largely Russian, Korean and Chinese. To the west is Yabaolu, a Russian enclave surrounded by regular Chinese neighbourhoods with huge food streets and markets. To the east are fancy new apartment blocks like Shijiecheng and the area around The Place – it’s a younger, richer crowd there.

‘This area has everything: fancy shopping in Shijiecheng, bargains in Yabaolu, a big Chinese supermarket and a Jenny Lou’s – there’s even mad Russian nightclub Chocolate. It is close to the CBD and Sanlitun areas, and while I wouldn’t want to live in either, it’s good to have them within reach. The transport is also good; the only disadvantages are the same as in most areas: it can be dirty and disorganised, but there is always the park for an escape.’
 

4. Sanlitun/Workers’s Stadium

Average price
9,600RMB (cheapest: 3,500RMB, 60sqm, Homelink; dearest: 17,000RMB, 151sqm, Fangeasy).
 
The location
Think ‘Sanlitun’ and you probably think of bars, restaurants and drunken laowai stalking taxis like so many pissed-up lions on the veldt. But there’s also a wide variety of residential property to explore, as well as international schools, The Bookworm, the Blue Zoo and cultural centres such as Instituto Cervantes.
 
Where to eat
Too many choices! Lunch on mini open sandwiches at Royal Smushi House, then hit Transit for upmarket Sichuanese food at a price.
 
Where to drink
Where not to drink? Sanlitun and the Workers’ Stadium area are awash with good bars. Cruise Sanlitun Houjie for any number of classic drinking dens before dancing the night away in the recently reopened Lantern.
 
The resident:
Janice Stewart lives in an 8,500RMB per month, one-bedroom apartment in Sanlitun
‘Sanlitun isn’t all about partying; it depends on which part you live in. Before, I lived in Gongti, which was pretty boozy and party-focused, but now I live in an area that’s very nice and appropriate for families. There are a lot of amenities too, but personally I prefer to go to Chinese markets over Jenny Lou’s or April Gourmet, and there are quite a few in this area if you cycle around and find them. Plus, it’s easy to get from here to other parts of the city.

‘Sanlitun is one of those semi-hip quarters you get in any city where everyone’s always out and about, and you see the same faces whether you want to or not – I guess that’s the only major con. One of the reasons for living abroad is to be in a different culture and see different things, but in Sanlitun I find it hard to go out without seeing someone I know, whether it’s a student of mine or a drunk foreigner.’


Sanlitun SOHO, 17,000RMB from Fangeasy

5. Xizhimen

 
Average price
5,400RMB (cheapest: 3,500RMB, 60sqm, Fangeasy; dearest: 13,000RMB, 137sqm, Fangeasy).
 
The location
Sick of the endless city grind of the east? Go way out west to Xizhimen, which is a sleepy antidote to the likes of Sanlitun’s bar streets – and Line 2 will always take you back to Yonghegong, should you still crave a beer with friends.
 
Where to eat
Hit Michelin-starred chef Yannick Alléno’s STAY restaurant for a pricey treat.
 
Where to drink
Not much choice, we’re afraid. Either head to Dao Club, formerly Babyface West and still a Gongti reject or hit Party World (168 Xizhimenwai Dajie; 8857 6566) for some sweet KTV action.
 
The resident:
Wang Bo lives in a 2,000RMB per month, two-bedroom apartment in Xizhimen
‘I love it. The area around Xizhimen subway station is very chaotic, but other parts are more like quiet communities. I work for Volkswagen in Sanlitun, and that area has too much happening; there are too many people – it’s good for shopping or parties, but Xizhimen is a nicer place to live.
 
‘Unfortunately there are not many opportunities for shopping or entertainment here. There are small supermarkets and traditional Chinese vegetable markets, which are convenient, but for clothing, the cinema or banking, my wife and I go to Xidan. My wife is a Beijinger and she says that the people in Xizhimen are more traditional, unlike the modern, younger kids in the east – they don’t have any ambitions to leave this area and just want to get on with things. They prefer a quieter life, and I do too.’
 

6. Shuangjing

 
Average price
6,800RMB (cheapest: 3,700RMB, 75sqm, Fangeasy; dearest: 10,500RMB, 108sqm, Beijing Relocation).
 
The location
Why would anyone want to live south of the Central Business District? Well, with lower rental prices than many of its northern neighbours, and an increasing number of bars and restaurants, Shuangjing is a far tastier prospect than you might expect. You might want to jump in now before it becomes the next big thing.
 
Where to eat
The food at Bang! Bang! Pizza will satisfy most cravings.
 
Where to drink
Grinders is your number one stop for great beers and giant sandwiches. Alternatively, try wine bar Dao Le if you’d rather head out to somewhere a little bit more refined.
 
The resident:
Clement Magar lives in a 7,500RMB per month, three-bedroom apartment in Shuangjing
‘Shuangjing is not in the heart of Beijing and isn’t really a “destination area”, but it is developing – new bars and cafés have been opening here constantly for the past three years – and there’s 22 International Art Street, which contains many art galleries. The population here is very mixed, and it’s a very cool area in its own way, with quite a few Western bars and American restaurants. However, most people still go to Sanlitun on a weekend.
 
‘Before I moved to Shuangjing I thought it was going to be like the suburbs, and, yes, you lose the Beijing atmosphere you get elsewhere, but it’s not a real problem. There is a nice sense of community here, and thanks to the subway it’s easy to commute in and out of the rest of Beijing. There is also a mall and a few shops that import foreign products, so the foreigners here don’t have to travel too far if they want something from home. Plus the apartments are modern and rented at reasonable prices, which is hard to find elsewhere.’
Landgent Chateau (Shuangjing), around 10,500RMB from Beijing Relocation

7. Chaoyang Park

 
Average price
7,500RMB (cheapest: 3,500RMB, 60sqm, Homelink; dearest: 15,000RMB, 165sqm, Beijing Relocation).
 
The location
East of Sanlitun and just inside the Fourth Ring Road, the rolling (and rolling, and rolling) lawns of the gargantuan Chaoyang Park attract thousands every week. The area surrounding it is also proving to be something of a hot-spot, particularly around the south gate, away from Solana Mall. It’s a little out of the way, perhaps, but for those who love the great outdoors, having a huge park on their doorstep is a big plus.
 
Where to eat
Want a light lunch? Roll by new bagel shop The Rug, which serves up tasty – but not cheap – organic eats.
 
Where to drink
Those near the south gate tend to head to Sanlitun for nights out, but decent bars can be found in Solana Mall, to the north of the park; we like Spanish wine bar/restaurant Cabare.
 
The resident:
James Cheah lives in a 5,750RMB per month, two-bedroom apartment near the park
‘I moved out here because of the park, and I now live just opposite the south gate. It’s not very close to the tube station, which can be a bit of a bugger, but I’m pretty satisfied living here – the park is lovely and there are all the usual cheap eateries, high-quality Xinjiang food, supermarkets and what have you. There aren’t many bars, but you can bike it to Sanlitun when the weather’s nice. I suppose if you had to commute particularly far it would be a bit rubbish.‘
 
The apartment that I live in is fairly middle of the road but it’s sandwiched in-between Palm Springs and Park Avenue, which are both uber-swanky. Because of those places there’s an April Gourmet and a Jamaica Blue Café, and a little area of expat activity, but most blocks around here are largely Chinese, and there’s a really nice community feel. The only thing that annoys me is that, because of the big developments, it takes a five-minute bike ride to get to the smaller local restaurants. It’s not particularly onerous, but given my innate laziness, it is a pain sometimes, especially when it’s cold outside, like now.’


Chaoyang Park has many properties overlooking its playing fields

8. Wudaokou

 
Average price
7,200RMB (cheapest: 4,500RMB, 60sqm, Homelink; dearest: 11,500RMB, 147sqm, 5I5J).
 
The location
 With its astoundingly cheap and plentiful bars and restaurants, and a number of educational establishments, Wudaokou is student central. Its placement away from the rest of the city means that it’s pretty much self-sufficient, but it’s not all parties a-go-go – there are quieter areas. Not that you’d guess from the subway on a Saturday night.
 
Where to eat
So many options! The Bridge is a 24-hour café that is student HQ – try the all-day breakfast. And of the many fine Korean restaurants, for which the area is known, be sure to check out Kao Rou Le for great food, a posh interior and good service. 
 
Where to drink
Lush is a typical balls-to-the-wall student boozer that is usually packed out at weekends. The same goes for the newly renovated Five Spot, although we prefer the chilled-out backpacker vibe of Helen’s Cafe.
 
The resident:
Sam Duncan lives in a 4,500RMB per month studio apartment in Wudaokou
‘I guess there is a bit of a party atmosphere around Wudaokou subway station, but once you get away from there, you’ll find quieter areas too. It’s poorer than places like Sanlitun, but the people here are nice and talkative, and there’s a good mix of foreign and Chinese students, as well as residents.
 
‘It’s hard to access the rest of Beijing, though – the subway station is okay, but taxis can be a pain, and when people stay here it’s a bit of a trek to see any sights. But as far as conveniences go, it’s fine and there are plenty of good restaurants. I used to live in Korea and some of the Korean places here make really authentic food; there are also plenty of good student joints for cheap breakfasts. Meeting foreigners and speaking English is easy, and blending in with the locals is pretty simple too.’
 

9. Wangjing

 
Average price
5,800RMB (cheapest: 4,500RMB, 99sqm, Homelink; dearest: 14,000RMB, 148sqm, Fangeasy).
 
The location
Located just off the inner edge of the Fifth Ring Road, getting to and from Wangjing can be a trek – but if you want quality, low-cost housing and like the idea of being a short hop away from the city’s art districts, including 798 and Caochangdi, then it’s a sacrifice you’ll have to make.
 
Where to eat
Wangjing is second only to Wudaokou for Korean restaurants. Check out Huo Lu Huo for some great beef and Jahamun Korean Restaurant for good Korean barbecue and bulgogi set meals.
 
Where to drink
 Be sure to make laid-back, recently opened Japanese whisky bar Sunday your brand-new go-to drinking den.
 
The resident:
Philippe Dickinson lives in a 3,800RMB per month, one-bedroom apartment in Wangjing
‘I came to Wangjing because it’s convenient for my work, but also because I could get a clean, one-bedroom flat for less here, especially compared to my old, cockroach-infested, six-floor walk-up in Dongzhimen.
 
‘Obviously art is the big, defining thing about this part of Beijing. Wangjing is near 798 Art District and Caochangdi, but it also has the Central Academy of Fine Arts. There are also plenty of good Korean restaurants and interesting bars. I’m not much of a shopper, so not having as many big shops as Sanlitun doesn’t bother me. There’s a nice cross-section of life here: arty hipsters, Korean people and young professionals. ‘The one slightly bad thing is that Wangjing subway station is in the middle of nowhere, and on the incredibly sparse Line 13. But the bus network is pretty good if you avoid Jiuxianqiao Nan Lu. It’s worth putting up with, I think.’
 
 

10. Lido

 
Average price
7,800RMB (cheapest: 3,000RMB, 65sqm, Fangeasy; dearest: 14,000RMB, 135sqm, Beijing Relocation).
 
The location
Located past the Fourth Ring Road, the Lido area is out of the way, but if you have a car or can afford taxis, getting into the city shouldn’t be too hard. Its proximity to both the 798 Art District and the artistic spaces of Caochangdi make it a haven for creative types and those who hate the hustle and bustle of the centre.
 
Where to eat
Gung-Ho! Pizza has recently opened a new branch servicing hungry Lidoites. Alternatively, SALT offers a more upmarket evening out, with its trademark South American flavours.
 
Where to drink
Open 24 hours a day, Frank’s Place is a friendly sports bar worth making your new local.
 
The resident:
Val Bates lives in an 11,000RMB per month, three-bedroom apartment in the Lido area
‘There’s always lots going on here; there are many restaurants and shops, and plenty of taxis. I think one criticism, from a female point of view, is that to shop for clothes you have to leave the area. However, it’s easy to get to Wangjing’s department stores.

‘We’re also very close to 798 – you can almost walk there, although personally I don’t go very often. My granddaughters, who also live in the area, do though. They like Lido, too – Emma can get to Harrow International School easily and Sasha has no problem getting taxis to her office in the CBD area. I myself can almost always get a cab early in the morning, although by “early” I mean 7am; later on, it can get tricky. Both Emma and Sasha get into the city just fine on weekends. I can’t think of anything I dislike – which is why I’ve lived here for six years.’


Chateau Regency (Lido), 14,000RMB from Beijing Relocation
 

11. Shunyi

 
Average price
2,200RMB (cheapest: 1,300RMB, 90sqm, 5I5J; dearest: 60,000RMB, 320sqm, Fangeasy).
 
The location
Regarded as almost another world by some, Shunyi is best known for its expat-friendly, super-expensive suburban villa communities. Recently, a swathe of ultra-cheap properties has pushed the Average price way down. They’re cheap for a reason, though – Shunyi is way out of the city and, unless you’ve got a plush, cosy four-bedroom, it’s hard to think of reasons why you’d want to be out there.
 
Where to eat
The Orchard isn’t the easiest of places to get to, but it does an amazing Sunday brunch with all the trimmings. Also, check out Mrs Shanen’s Bagels and Café, a Western-style cafe with an organic slant.
 
Where to drink
For a long time there wasn’t much, but relatively new to the scene is Green Cap Bar, which has finally brought old-fashioned pub life to Shunyi.
 
The former resident:
Cathy McGregor lived in a 22,000RMB per month, four-bedroom townhouse in Shunyi
‘We left Shunyi after our son graduated from school a few months ago, and now we live closer to the centre of the city. Most people live in Shunyi because their kids go to school out there, and school can become such a big part of your life. Another plus is that your kids are surrounded by their friends so they can live independently and go to each others’ houses – I was really happy about that.

On the other hand, I became really lazy there. I didn’t go into the city to do nighttime things, especially in winter because it was so far away, and I always used my car rather than my bike. Now I live closer to the centre of the city, I go out a lot more, and do classes at The Hutong – things like that. It sometimes feels like you’re being taken advantage of by shops in Shunyi because they are usually so much more expensive. But I had friends who would go downtown each day – I guess I was too lazy. But Shunyi is great if you have a family.’

Yosemite complex (Shunyi), 60,000RMB from Fangeasy

The agencies

 
The figures and accommodation included in this feature came from the following real-estate agencies:
 
Call 5980 8888 (Chinese only) or 9510 5890 (nationwide hotline, Chinese only).
 
Email info@beijingrelocation.com or call 8596 8873.
 
Email 13911317896@126.com or call 6598 3300 or 400 066 8586 (hotline).
 
Email chenjun@homelink.com.cn or call 5879 7888 or 400 700 1001 (hotline).

Related:

Top tips for keeping rents low
Apartment horror stories
James Wilkinson

Comment

Subscribe to Time Out Beijing newsletter