The best cafés for working in Beijing

Look cool, drink cool, work cool at these studious spots

Whether you're a student catching up on essays or a freelancer who can't yet afford a coworking space, there is a long and noble tradition of staking out a spot in a trendy café, ordering precisely one coffee, and lapping up the atmosphere and free Wi-Fi for hours on end.

Nearly all cafés in Beijing are vaguely laptop-friendly, but some are definitely more suitable than others. What we want is a fast internet connection, a spacious interior that's not too noisy, decent coffee, at least some kind of food option and, most of all, vibes. Here's our pick of the best places to start your start-up, finish your novel, or both (MacBooks non-obligatory).

Gulou

Café Zarah

A favourite of hutong hipsters for years now, Zarah has plenty of space, a decent internet connection and laissez-faire attitude towards bothering you after your first coffee. The snacks are worth a visit alone, and you'll likely bump into another busy bee to have sneaky work breaks with. Even better, happy hour starts at 6pm.

Pro tip The Wi-Fi is much better at the back.

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46 Gulou Dong Dajie (Dongcheng, Dongcheng)

Corner

Given that it's an addendum to the next-door garage full of people doing actual manual labour, Corner is surely a spot to inspire hard work if there ever was one. The aesthetic is appropriately industrial chic: think concrete, exposed metalwork and bright spotlights. It ain't cosy, but you weren't thinking of relaxing at work, were you?

Pro tip The entrance is actually through a side door, not the one that says 'entrance'.

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8 Hepingli Nan Jie Xi Kou (Miyun county)

Voyage Coffee

Tucked away in the alley of Beiluoguxiang away from the touristy bunch, Voyage Cafe is all exposed brick walls and a charming coffee shop with minimalist design. Though the menu is somewhat limited, it serves up coffees expertly crafted. It offers window-facing bar seats for those who like working while people-watching, as well as a back room full of wooden tables for the heads-down crowds.

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80 Beiluoguxiang (Chaoyang, --select--)

Sanlitun

Tribe (Sanlitun)

Tribe Sanlitun is away from the main buzz of Taikoo Li, so it's a calmer spot to do some work if you're in the area. We rate the internet connection and the soundtrack, although get there early if you want to grab one of the few tables. There's so much more than just coffee on sale here – nourish your brain with a superfood salad whose cost will certainly motivate you to earn harder.

Pro tip The nearest toilets are not that near, which is worth noting if you've got an expensive laptop with you.

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2 Gongti Dong Lu (Sanlitun, --select--)

Moleskine Café

There's something about writing in a Moleskine that makes all your ideas (seem) better, more creative and more important. So what better way to fuel those work juices than by basing yourself in a sea of leather-bound brilliance while you type soullessly into your electronic device of choice.

Pro tip Get your snacks at Gertz next door. 

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19 Sanlitun Lu (Chaoyang, --select--)

Liangmaqiao

Baker & Spice

The team behind Baker & Spice have got contemporary chic down to a T, and this spacious, albeit often crowded branch feels more relaxed than other urban warriors in the Jing. It's hard to find a good plug socket so come charged-up for a long stint, but the Wi-Fi is good, as are the food and drink offerings.

Pro tip One of the only places in town where you can get a cortado coffee, and a decent one at that.

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19 Dongfang Dong Lu (Liangmaqiao, --select--)

CBD

Re

Critics' pick

Plenty of cafés are sun-drenched but only one is sun-drenched like Re, flanked as it by not one but two floor-to-ceiling windows that convene into a corner view over the Third Ring Road. An impressive marble table with communal seating offers plenty of space to spread out your tools of choice, and an array of bicycle-chic paraphernalia will surely inspire something.

Pro tip The ham and cheese bread is better than it sounds. 

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Jingheng Jie

Basic Coffee

In the same dilapidated SOHO complex as Re, Basic is similarly lit and similarly excellent for working. It serves specialist coffee and has plenty of space for working, and the background hum of the CBD is sure to motivate some deals and emails.

Pro tip The well-lit window seats are the best in the house.

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Henghui Dong Lu

Wangjing

T Star Coffee 帝星咖啡

This warehouse-like coffee shop boasts a huge two-storey garage space with seemingly countless seating options. While the window seats upstairs are usually occupied, there’s plenty of other individual tables, communal tables and sofas quiet enough to get work done. Outlets are dotted all around the cafe so you won't have to worry about not finding a plug for your laptop wherever you decide to sit. There's a constant buzz of people on the weekends, but thankfully the cafe's huge space makes it easy to tune out the humans. It also serves a decent food and drink menu so you can sit in and power through work the entire day.

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3 Heming Zhonglu Shangyejie (Central Park, Chaoyang)

Wu Dao Kou

Maan Coffee (Wudaokou)

 

Whether you need a long wooden table to spread out and study or a two-seater to catch up with a friend, this two-storey cafe filled with natural light has what you’re looking for. Once you have settled into one of Maan’s leather chairs, sip on the in-house coffee blend for 19RMB or a speciality drink for about 30RMB. Not a coffee person? How does a strawberry mango smoothie (33RMB) or a caramel frappé (33RMB) sound? If you want a bite to eat, indulge in a BLT for 35RMB and satisfy your sweet tooth with a waffle generously-topped with whipped cream and strawberries for 52RMB. 

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15 Wangzhuang Lu (Wudaokou, Haidian)

Sloth Coffee (慢半拍咖啡)

A hidden gem in Wudaokou, Sloth Coffee is also a delightful coffee shop geared towards students. In addition to the standard array of coffees, they also serve breakfast, burgers and cakes. The space is expansive and airy, as you will almost always find a place to sit in the wide seating area.

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Wangzhuang Lu (Wudaokou, Haidian)

Xicheng

Soloist Coffee Co (Financial Street)

The Financial Street branch of Beijing's finest coffee roasters has a respectable food menu as well as the trademark excellent hot drinks. There's also an indoor toilet which is useful when you don't want to leave your laptop unattended for too long. The location is a bit rogue, but if you want to escape the Gulou and Sanlitun fray then this is a good bet.

Pro tip True connoisseurs will want to try the tasting flight of three pour-overs.

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3 Jingchengfang Jie (Fengtai)

Bear Brew

Totally out of the way and all the more charming for it, Bear Brew has a friendly atmosphere, fast WiFi, good coffee and no other distractions. There's not much to munch on, but for a quick work and coffee session, this petite spot is a good place to mix up your normal café itinerary.

Pro tip The rooftop has dreamy hutong views and is one of the most tranquil in Beijing.

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26 Baitasi Dong Jiedao (Xicheng, Xicheng)

Berry Beans

Right around the corner from the touristy fray of Dashilar and Tiananmen, Berry Beans is a former brothel which is now set up for work of a different kind. Excellent third-wave coffee and quaint hutong architecture are an amenable mix and it feels more 'Beijing' than many other generic joints.

Pro tip The café also serves home-brewed beers for when 5pm rolls around.

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Zhujia Hutong 7 (Xicheng, Xicheng)

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