As befits its place at the centre of the Beijing expat universe, Sanlitun has many accessible, affordable gyms and the same goes for gyms in Chaowai, nearby.
The office-heavy area around Chaoyangmen subway, south of Gongti, is home to several well-equipped gyms.
China Life Tower, 16 Chaoyangmenwai Dajie See full address details
Petite but perfectly formed, Sportathlon is a particularly relaxed spot as far as gyms go. There’s a lounge with coffee, tea, sodas and water, plus towel service included in the membership. While the exercise area itself is crammed with a couple of dozen new machines, things are generally well designed and there's also a 25-metre pool, steam room and sauna. There’s a simple locker pass system (no padlock nonsense) and the place opens at 6.30am, around three hours earlier than everywhere else in the area.
Price guide About mid-range: 5,500RMB per year; 3,200RMB for six months; 2,100RMB for three months; 900RMB per month.
Ants is at the rough-and-ready end of the spectrum but more spacious than other options in town. There’s a large hall of machines and weight equipment plus several good-sized studios for classes, which are included in the membership. It has all the standard features expected out of a gym, but is a little on the tatty side with a small changing room and very limited showering facilities. But if you’re not after anything fancy and just want to exercise, it’s got everything you need at bargain prices.
Price guide Dirt cheap for this area: 2,600RMB per year; 1,800RMB for six months.
A smart set-up with plenty of equipment of all types, Will’s has decent changing rooms and plenty of new-fangled equipment from high-end brands Technogym, Nautilus, Life Fitness and Star Tac. There’s a boxing ring if you want to do a few rounds (though that costs extra).
To make things even easier, you can rent a locker for 200RMB a month to leave your stuff there, and membership lets you use both Beijing branches (the other one is in Chaowai Soho).
Price guide Another mid-range option: 5,000RMB per year; 3,000RMB for six months.
Since opening last year, B Active’s Sanlitun Soho location has taken the neighbourhood by storm. It’s not a huge space, but the 20-or-so Life Fitness machines (treadmills, bicycles and ellipticals) are all brand spanking new and the gym is kitted out with a handful of SciX air filters throughout. They’ve even installed a hanging green wall of live plants to keep things naturally fresher. Swipe cards allow members 24-hour access.
Classes are available at an extra cost, sold in packages and conducted largely in English. Muay Thai and boxing in particular are a big part of the B Active community, due to the quality trainers. We also like that when you sign up for six months and you can pause your membership for a month; two year members can pause for two months.
Unfortunately, facilities are minimal (co-ed shower and changing area) and despite a promise of limited membership, peak hours (6-8pm) can get massively overrun. These small caveats aside, this is a top choice for the area.
Price guide 180RMB weekly, 310RMB (off peak, 11pm-11am); 460RMB per month, 1,600RMB (off-peak); 2,200RMB for six months, 2,300RMB (off-peak); 3,300RMB per year. One-off club access 200RMB. One-day free trial available.
Pacific Century Club
At 2,000sqm, Pacific Century Club is unrivalled as Sanlitun’s premier workout destination. The centre of the roomy gym features a massive Total Resistence eXercise (TRX) training zone as well as other state-of-the-art equipment, including Life Fitness and Body Masters weight machines, plus top-of-the-line Precor bicycles, treadmills and elliptical machines. Six Blueair filters keep fresh air flowing, which is quite a relief after a hot yoga session. There’s a playroom to park your kids in while you’re sweating it out and a plush changing room for freshening up afterwards. There's also a sauna, steam room, 17-metre pool and tennis courts (extra cost).
Price guide 12,000RMB per year; 7,000RMB for six months; 4,300RMB for three months; 1,700 per month. One-time joining fee 1,500RMB. One-off club access 180RMB. *With a ‘promotion’, we were offered 9,600RMB per year, without a joining fee.
Find out more Pacific Century Club location and opening hours
Nirvana’s Sanlitun location is a towering affair spanning six massive floors. Several of the floors are crammed with well-used but perfectly functional equipment, meaning there’s never a wait for machines. This branch puts a heavy focus on yoga – standard and hot, for which there are two dedicated rooms and a specific membership fee – but also offers a selection of other courses like Les Mills, Zumba and folk dance. There's also an on-site spa (extra cost). No-frills changing rooms are spacious and clean enough. Nirvana won’t be bringing you to new planes of enlightenment, but it gets the job done.
Price guide 8,599RMB per year (yoga and gym); 5,580RMB per year (gym); 4,500RMB (yoga, 50 classes). *With a ‘promotion’, we were offered 7,137RMB per year (yoga and gym); 4,580RMB per year (gym only).