Visual artists, musicians and writers from around China—and, increasingly, from around the world—are drawn to Beijing for the same reason European artists flocked to Paris or Americans to New York in the past. The arts scene is established, but it still has a way to go, as the government continues to loosen restrictions that previously made things like rock shows, experimental theater and poetry punishable offenses. Part of the joy of Beijing today is being in the midst of what may emerge as a cultural boom every bit as impressive as China's economic boom.
Clubs & Bars
Today's Beijing offers a wide range of nightlife activities, from dive bars and chic lounges to mega clubs and live music venues.
The city's most notorious bar street is Chaoyang district
: a main drag and several off-shooting alleys and lanes, lined with drinking establishments. Not far from Sanlitun, on Gongti Bei Lu
, mega clubs like Mix
dominate the dance scene; offering locals, expats and tourists a heavy dose of hip hop and R&B.
On the more posh circuit, clubs like Block 8 (8 Chaoyang Park West Road, Tel: 010-6508-8585) and LAN (B12 Jianguomen Waidaji, 4/F Twin Tower, Tel: 010-5109-6012) appeal to Beijing's new upper class, while a host of rock venues: D-22, MAO Livehouse, 2 Kolegas and Yugong Yishan cater to the city's burgeoning music scene.
Another option is to check out the city's "lakeside libations," where you can watch the slow waters pass by and have a cold beer all at the same time.
Museums & Galleries
Chinese art has recently experienced a boom, museums and galleries bringing in the goods to feed a hungry public. Contemporary art receives a lot of press, but Beijing is, of course, also home to priceless ancient artifacts. View ancient Yuan and Ming Dynasty
lacquer ware at the Capital Museum
and classic Chinese painting and calligraphy at the Beijing Art Museum
. For contemporary art, check out the 798 Art District
, the Wan Fung Art Gallery
, Creation Gallery
, or the Courtyard Gallery
. Additionally, consider Beijing's China Palaeozoological Hall
, home to many scientific and historical subjects, or the Ethnic Museum
, which features exhibits focusing on the 56 designated minorities in China.
Another interesting addition to the Beijing arts scene are the "Cinema Cafes" that have popped up around town.
Experience the world-famous Beijing Opera
at the old Huguang Guildhall Theater
, Chang'an Theater
, Lao She Teahouse
or any number of other venues. Theatrical offerings range from traditional folk dramas and music to contemporary Chinese theater. Kung Fu is also on display at the Red Theater
, while Chinese acrobats display their talents at the Chaoyang Theatre
. Western and classical Chinese music are both on the schedule at the Beijing Concert Hall
, while Century Theatre
focuses more on smaller chamber performances and the occasional ballet. The Forbidden City Concert Hall
is the perfect venue for traditional Chinese music, while the Poly Plaza International Theatre
features a mix of dance, opera and classical music performances.
Beijing is developing a reputation for big events, and its calendar seems to be growing as fast as the rest of the city. Traditional festivals fall on dates determined by the lunar calendar with Spring Festival
(aka Chinese New Year
) in the spring, the Dragon Boat Festival
in the summer, and the Moon Festival or Mid-Autumn Festival
in fall. More modern regular events include the Beijing International Art Festival
, the Beijing International Literary Festival
and a burgeoning music scene has witnessed the launch of a number of successful music festivals and concerts such as the Beijing Midi Festival