Looking for a reason to have a few drinks? Have 14 of them. Whether you're after a quiet cocktail with friends, gagging for a pint or hitting the dancefloor big time, Beijing has got you covered. Our third annual Bar and Club Awards
shows you exactly why you need to go out tonight.
1. There’s nothing else in the world like a hutong bar
The most picturesque and iconic alleyways of the northern capital have it all. Lazy afternoon drinking or wild nights, take your pick. Great Leap Brewing Original #6
sums up perfectly what it means to be a hutong bar – a cosy, laidback courtyard drinking hole stolen away in the winding alleyways of Gulou. Friend in town? Take them here for modern China in a nutshell. If wild nights are more your thing, 4corners
has you covered for an evening you won’t remember. Perched just on the northern edge of the Shichahai lakes, 4corners is a recipe for late-night debauchery… with hutong characteristics.
2. The glitz! The glam! Every night – even Sunday night – can be a party night
All those clubs around Gongti might look the same from the outside but we promise you, they’re not all shite. Jaw-droppingly super-sized with a lightshow not to be challenged, the party is always on at Sir Teen
. Even on Sunday, the crowd is heaving and the EDM is keyed up to 11. Another safe bet is Spark
. A staple among the city’s nightlife tastemakers, bringing in artists like will.i.am and Lil Jon in years past.
3. You can (finally) get a really off-the-hook cocktail
Beijing’s come a long way from not so long ago when ‘cocktail’ once meant a watery G&T, and probably with fake booze at that. Now we're straight-up skyrocketing into the future with cocktail bars like Infusion Room
. Think The Kombu Soup, a clever riff on a dirty martini with a salty water spray, virgin olive oil and Japanese kelp; or Papa’s Childhood, which is reminiscent of a Beijing breakfast with homemade soy milk, whisky, wild honey and sesame sauce. If all of that sounds too weird and you don’t want your palate challenged quite so much, ‘urban saloon’ Janes and Hooch
gives you arguably more standard drinks, but still keyed up a notch.
4. ‘Can’t stop, won’t stop’ say local craft breweries
There’s always something new happening in the microbrewery scene, and it’s always something interesting. There’s microbrewery taprooms (and brews, for that matter) to suit everyone’s tastes. Great Leap Brewing #45 Brewpub
has nailed the perfect combo of everything we want in a taproom – a relaxed, airy atmosphere, some killer greasy grub and a top-notch leafy rooftop patio for the warmer months. Jing A Brewing Taproom
is another solid choice. Besides offering what we all now expect (a solid roster of their own brews, a gorgeous space, enough bar bites to stave off that hangover), nearly every month sees another new event or collaboration at the taproom.
5. We still might not have the most diverse scene, but get ready for some banging LGBT nights
– the Mainland’s slickest LGBT venue – sets standards for entertainment, theme nights and music that are honestly hard to beat. By borrowing what works elsewhere (well-groomed pan-global gogo boys, cutting-edge beats and a three-tier interior comprising lounge, terrace and dance pit), and cutting loose what doesn’t (carpet, foam, or a combination of the two), Funky’s winning formula keeps packing the hotties to the rafters every weekend. This place would be a class act on the scene of any world city. In Beijing, it’s an effing miracle.
And then there’s Les Booze
. A self-sustaining social and dance night for girls who love girls that is so successful it’s on the eve of launching a second franchise. Gay, bi or straight, Beijing’s ladies have kept coming back for more.
6. These clubs will make you stay out until daybreak. Every. Single. Time.
Can you count how many times you’ve burst out of the black box of debauchery that is Dada
only to discover the glint of the first morning rays on your sweat-encrusted mug? Us neither. Entry charges are minimal and frequently free when local crews headline. It’s small, it’s grimy, it’s the only club in town where you can’t book a table, and we love it. And then there's Migas
. Year after year, this Spanish party house continues to fuel the summer with top-tier cocktails, an unparalleled rooftop, and some of the best clubbing in the city. Winter’s hardly different, just minus the open-air terrace from the equation.
7. The beats never stop
In a city where you can stay out until long after dawn almost daily – at least in the summer – the DJ scene’s got to be strong. And it is. From off-the-radar talent to the bigger names in the game, Beijing has a dedicated community behind the decks. DJ Watermelon
recently returned to Beijing in 2013 and has spent the last two years dropping the funkiest beats. You’ll find him at all hottest parties around. The main man behind underground club Lantern, DJ Weng Weng
has been a huge part of Beijing’s electronic scene for over a decade. Over the years, he’s kept Lantern firmly dedicated techno and underground house in a climate where EDM and generic pop is the stock standard.
8. Nothing can kill Beijing’s rock scene
It’s tough for the Beijing rock scene: venues close, touring acts get nixed, and festivals are scrapped on the reg. But in the midst of the chaos, Beijing’s independent clubs have soldiered on, offering up ambitious programming and rowdy crowds. Dusk Dawn Club (DDC)
wows Beijing rock regulars with its exquisite courtyard interior, wide selection of whiskies and craft beers, and varied roster of shows. Repping a more down ‘n’ dirty approach to rock, School Live Bar
offers near-bulletproof programming, hosting week after week of no-holds-barred punk and rock shows featuring some of the best talent Beijing – and occasionally, other cities – has to offer.
9. There are parties in town that just won’t die (thankfully)
In their eleventh year of parties, the bass-loving Syndicate crew have done everything. Syndicate’s near-monthly club night Syndicate Sessions
never fails to impress wherever it’s popping off around town. Neon Zoo
also always packs the house at underground alternative club Lantern. This Day-Glo mad bunch of party animals, led by the NB Noise gang, features a ‘strictly EDM free’ music policy.
10. You want a game of footy on the telly and a pint? We got that and more
Brits might bemoan the utter lack of proper football culture here, but at least there’s Paddy O’Shea’s
. Covered in every kind of imaginable sports paraphernalia and with what must be the city’s highest screento- sqm ratio, this Irish bar shows every major game on – and all at the same time.
Don’t want to be beaten over the head by Sport with a capital S? There’s The Local
, then. Sport isn’t the sole MO of this homey bar, but with plenty TVs, a huge projection screen and all the major games on, it’s one of the best. Catch the Aussie Rules here and you’ll feel like you’re Down Under.
11. Ain’t no party like a hotel party
The world over, hotel bars are some of cities’ best gems. Beijing’s no different, with a stellar array of plush hotels with the resources to make their bars sparkle. Plus, the bathrooms are never half-bad either. Open 24 hours a day, Centro
is a legend in nightlife circles. The cocktail program is solid and expansive and they throw parties that never end. Plus, and it’s a big plus, the happy hour is maybe the best in the city. And then there's Xian
. Xian reinvented the wheel for hotel bars by offering everything under one roof over at East Beijing. There’s vibes for everyone, from frat boys chugging beers and playing foosball to eurotrash poseurs wearing sunglasses and trying not to bop to the band. It’s a place to let your hair down, and people do.
12. Tasting flights aren’t just for whisky and wine anymore
Whether showcasing the range of local brews or a sampling of a distillery’s hooch, we’ve always loved the educational aspect to the ‘flight’ concept. And let’s be honest, five glasses of drink is always better than one. Capital Spirits
takes this concept to the next level with China’s most iconic spirit, baijiu
– boasting over 50 varieties from all over the country. It's a unique, only-in-Beijing experience. The Distillery
is another bright spot for speciality spirits. Championing gin as its spirit of choice, the drinks nerds behind the bar are also experimenting with distilling their own alcohol.
13. There’s always something new popping off
In Beijing, change is an ever-constant and there’s always a new player on the scene. But for a truly confident start that heralds even better things to come? Nowhere but Infusion Room
would be a better example of this. This cocktail bar is a plan A for anyone who’s about the drinks. The menu’s imaginative and unlike anything else in town, while the intimate surrounds have echoes of its former factory life and hit just the right blend of classy yet casual. In the club scene, small but mighty Hush
boasts Beijing’s first ‘hip-hop champagne room’ – all words we like. Hush spins the classics and R&B, and it’s all about the vibes and VIPs – with major celebs, like Matt Damon in the summer, rolling through on the regular.
14. We’ve got world-class watering holes, truly
There’s always someone pushing the scene forward in a noticeable way every year, and in 2015 it was Infusion Room
. The team has put together an impressive cocktail programme that gives any bar around the world a run for its money. Experimentation is the name of the game, and a gobstopppingly successful game at that. And Great Leap Brewing #12 Brewpub
pulls no punches. Looking for a lively drinking atmosphere? Weekends or weeknights, this is your stop. The sleek interior and rough finish makes even the messiest night feel more reputable.