Fodor's Beijing (Full-color Travel Guide) (2015)
Main Table of Contents
Nightlife and Performing Arts Planner
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Updated by Adrian Sandiford
Beijing has blossomed. China is now a global superpower and the capital has become a major center for nightlife, culture, and the arts. The traditional options still endure: Peking opera, acrobatics, classical music, martial arts, and more, but alongside them are more and more exciting contemporary events venues.
From avant-garde plays and modern music to world-class cocktail bars and international talent performing in the hottest clubs, Beijing has ascended to the world stage. You can take in the best of Old Beijing while sipping a world-class martini or Manhattan, or dance the night away at a happening dance club. There are bars for every taste, from beer gardens to classy lounges to vampire-themed venues and English-style pubs.
The performing arts, led by the programming at the National Centre for the Performing Arts (aka “The Egg”) are thriving, with talent from as far as the United States and as close as two blocks away taking over the stage nightly. With concerts by the likes of Elton John and Justin Bieber, the city has become a must-stop destination on many international tours. No matter what your interest, Beijing awaits.
Most bars and clubs are clumped together in districts, so you can amble from pub to wine bar to cocktail lounge on foot. Beijing’s public transportation system shuts down for the most part after 11 pm. Your best bet is to rely on taxis to get back to your hotel—make sure you pick up a business card from your hotel to show the driver.
After hours is where Beijing is still playing catch-up to the rest of the world. There are a handful of 24-hour joints, with the bleary-eyed drinkers who populate them but most partiers wind down around 3 or 4 am and decamp to 24-hour dim sum joints to recover.
Smoking inside bars and clubs remains common in Beijing. There are a handful of no-smoking bars, such as Mao Mao Chong, off Nanluoguxiang, and nearby Great Leap Brewing, which prohibits smoking inside while allowing smokers to light up in the courtyard, but in general, be prepared for a heavy dose of secondhand smoke at most venues.
The best way to find out what’s on or where to party is to pick up one of the free listing magazines found at many bars and restaurants. The best ones are the monthly The Beijinger and That’s Beijing, as well as the biweekly City Weekend: all have frequently updated websites and give bilingual addresses in their listings.
WHAT TO WEAR
A rapidly expanding middle class combined with runaway economic growth means that the local population has developed an insatiable appetite for international luxury brands such as Prada and Louis Vuitton, and it shows in many of the classiest venues in Beijing. That said, there’s no strictly enforced dress code and you’re just as likely to see the pajamas-and-sweat pants crowd out and about at the same places.
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Dongcheng | Xicheng District | Chaoyang District | Haidian District
With intimate bars, world-class cocktail lounges, happening dance halls, sports bars, and even English-style pubs, Beijing has just about every kind of experience you can imagine. Keep in mind, though, that establishments seemingly rise up overnight, and can disappear just as quickly in the breakneck pace of development that is endemic to Beijing.
Fodor’s Choice | Amilal (Àn yī lā’ěr).
If you have the patience to find this cozy courtyard bar in a tiny alley, you’ll be rewarded with one of the city’s hidden gems. Grab a seat at one of the rough wooden tables, listen to the low-key live music that’s often playing, and enjoy the laid-back hutong vibe that’s so unique to Beijing. For such a small bar, there’s an unexpectedly good selection of whiskies on offer, too. | 48 Shoubi Hutong, off the east end of Gulou Dongdajie, Dongcheng District | 010/8404-1416.
Cu Ju (Cùjū).
Proprietor Badr Benjelloun is a Moroccan expat who’s lived in the city for many years and has myriad interests. This fun bar is the culmination of all his many passions, including rum, Moroccan food, and sporting events. Like many of Beijing’s best hutong bars, it can be a bit tricky to find, but is well worth it once you’re there. | 28 Xiguan Hutong, off Dongsi Bei Dajie, Dongcheng District | 010/6407-9782 | www.cujubeijing.com.
Drum & Bell Bar (Gŭzhōng kāfēiguăn).
Situated next to the Drum and Bell towers (hence the name), this busy bar has one of Beijing’s nicest views from its roof deck (when the surrounding area is not undergoing renovation, as tends to happen around here from time to time). An all-you-can-drink deal on Sunday only serves to sweeten the deal. | 41 Zhonglouwan Hutong, next to the Drum and Bell towers, Dongcheng District | 010/8403-3600.
El Nido (Fāngjiāxiăojiŭguănwŭshíjiŭhào).
Little more than a hole in the wall, this hutong gem is stuffed to the gills with imported beers, fine cheeses and charcuterie, and the owner’s homemade infused liquors. In the summer it’s a little roomier, since overflow crowds spill onto picnic tables set up in the front. El Nido is a great first stop of the night. If you aren’t feeling the crowds, grab some bottles to go and sip on the streets with the rest of the Beijng old-timers—and thank your lucky stars for the lack of open container laws. | 59 Fangjia Hutong, Andingmennei Dajie, Dongcheng District | 010/8402-9495 | Station:Andingmen.
Tucked inside a tiny hutong near the western end of Houhai, 4Corners has a working fireplace in the winter and a breezy patio in the summer. There’s inventive, pan-Asian cuisine from its Vietnamese-Canadian chef-owner, delicious cocktails, and refreshing beer such as Vedett White on tap. | 27 Dashibei Hutong, Gulou Xidajie, Dongcheng District | 010/6401-7797.
Great Leap Brewing (Dàyuèpíjiŭ).
At Beijing’s first proper microbrewery, the beers are made with ingredients such as tea and Sichuan peppercorns. The courtyard operation also hosts weekly movie screenings and the odd special event. Don’t miss the bar peanuts—spicy and salty, they’ll keep you going back to the bar for just one more brew. This place has been so successful, in fact, that the owners have since opened a much-larger flagship space in downtown Sanlitun (on Xinzhongjie). | 6 Doujiao Hutong, Dongcheng District | 010/5717-1399 | www.greatleapbrewing.com.
Mao Mao Chong (Máomáochóng).
This bar is known for top-quality infused cocktails, including a chili-infused vodka Bloody Mary and a Sichuan peppercorn Moscow Mule. Another standout is the owners’ own Bangkok Hilton: Thai tea-infused Scotch, crème de cassis, bitters, syrup made from pandanus (screw pine) leaves, and an orange twist. The pizzas and artwork are an added reason to stop in. | 12 Banchang Hutong, Jiaodaokounan, Dongcheng District | 010/6405-5718 | www.maomaochongbeijing.com | Closed Mon.
Slow Boat Brewery Taproom (Màn chuán píjiŭ chăng).
At this sleek yet cozy taproom inside the hutongs, there are at least a dozen beers on tap at any given moment, including all-weather tipples such as pale ales and IPAs, as well as seasonal specialities (warming stouts in the winter, refreshing citrusy brews come summertime). A luxurious bonus if you’re here during the frigid winter season are the heated floors. | 56 Dongsi Batiao, Dongsi Beidajie, Dongcheng District | 010/6538-5537 | www.slowboatbrewery.com | Closed Mon. | Station: Zhangzizhong Lu (Line 5).
Yin (Huángjiā Yìzhàn).
The Emperor Hotel’s rooftop terrace bar certainly has the “wow” factor when it comes to the view, thanks to a vista that overlooks the Forbidden City, plus there’s even a hot tub on hand if you need to relax. Unsurprisingly, drink prices are high, and, more often than not it tends to be too empty for real fun, but it can be a good place to show visitors. Befitting the design focus of the hotel, red lanterns and fashionably outfitted staff add to the classiness of the experience. If only it had a bit more buzz. | The Emperor Hotel,33 Qihelou Dajie, top floor, Dongcheng District | 010/6526-5566 | Station: Tiananmen East.
Dada Bar (Dá dá).
A chilled-out, unpretentious place where you can dance, Dada is the sort of underground club a cool older cousin might have once sneaked you into. Talented resident and guest DJs from all over the world perform, and you can expect industrial-chic decor and cheap, strong drinks. It’s a great final destination on a night out, and beloved by both long-term expats and local scenesters. | Rm. 101, Bldg. B,206 Gulou Dongdajie, Dongcheng District | 183/1108-0818.
This warehouse-style space is way more interesting than the competition. Without the usual gaudy decor, Tango is roomy enough to take the crowds, and often plays some very loud, but good music. Beijing’s best midsize live-music venue is on the third floor and (unimaginatively) called Tango 3F. | 79 Hepingli Xijie, Dongcheng District | 010/6428-2288 | Station: Yonghegong.
East Shore Live Jazz Café (Dōng’àn kāfēi).
There’s no competition: This place has the most fabulous views of Houhai lake, hands-down, and authentic jazz on stage every night. | 2nd fl.,2 Qianhai Nanyanlu, west of the Post Office on Di’anmen Waidajie, Xicheng District | 010/8403-2131.
Apothecary (Yào jì yuán).
Like an old-fashioned pharmacist doling out carefully concocted medicinals, the bartenders at this low-key venue artfully turn all of your favorite ingredients into cocktails that will soothe the soul. Mixologist-in-chief Leon Lee is something of a local celebrity for good reason. The location (in the trendy Nali Patio complex) and the tasty bar food are bonuses. | 3/F, Nali Patio,81 Sanlitun Beilu,Chaoyang District | 010/5208-6040 | Station: Tuanjiehu.
China Bar (Běijīng liàng jiŭbā).
Perched atop the 65-story Park Hyatt, this upmarket cocktail bar offers bird’s-eye views of the city, smog and all. Dark and sultry, the modern Asian decor is minimalist and doesn’t distract from the views, or the drinks. Cocktails are expertly mixed; Scotch purists can choose from a 20-plus strong list of single malts. | Park Hyatt,2 Jianguomenwai Dajie, 65th fl., Chaoyang District | 010/8567-1838 | Station: Guomao.
This old-school joint’s main attractions are the sports showing on its wide-screen TVs and the fact that it never, ever shuts. It’s buzzing every night, especially during happy hour, when you can grab half-price drinks and pizza until 10 pm. This is also the social HQ for the city’s amateur rugby club, so you’ll often find its players in here, drinking rowdily. Yes, it’s somewhat of a dive bar, populated by a questionable cast of characters in the small hours, but it’s also an always-reliable watering hole, too. | 4 Gongti Donglu, next to the City Hotel, Chaoyang District | 010/6592-6290 | Station: Tuanjiehu.
Raising the bar for bars in Beijing, this New York-style lounge is swank, spacious, and has an innovative drink list. This is where many of the city’s cool kids like to hang, and the doormen occasionally restrict entry to the more dapperly dressed. It’s a bit tricky to find: if you are facing Q Mex, then walk down the lane that runs north-south, parallel to the side of that building. | Courtyard 4, Gongti Beilu, behind the Bookworm, Chaoyang District | 010/6593-7710.
Face (Fēi sè).
Stylish without being pretentious, Face has been around longer than most, and remains popular with a mature and usually well-heeled crowd. The complex holds a multitude of restaurants, but the real gem is the bar. Grab a lounge bed surrounded by silky drapes, take advantage of the happy-hour drink specials, and enjoy some premier people-watching. | 26 Dongcaoyuan, Gongti Nanlu,Chaoyang District | 010/6551-6788 | www.facebars.com | Station: Dongdaqiao.
First Floor (Yīlóu).
An unpretentious bar perfect for a night out with friends, First Floor is the sort of place where you stop in for one, and end up drinking through to the early hours. Expect a relaxed but busy crowd, with plenty of friendly folk happy to strike up a conversation while the beer keeps flowing. Happy hour runs from 5 to 9 pm. | Tongli Studio, Sanlitun Houjie, 1st Floor, Chaoyang District | 010/6413-0587.
Ichikura (Yī cāng).
This tiny bar is the place to go if you’re a discerning whiskey drinker—there are hundreds of varieties on offer. The dimly lit interior, minimalist decor, and hushed conversation give it an air of exclusivity—it’s worthy of James Bond. Drinks are taken very seriously here, and it shows in both the quality of the alcohol and the professionalism with which it’s mixed by the Japanese-led bar staff. The entrance is via stairs at the south wall of the Chaoyang Theatre. | Chaoyang Theatre,36 Dongsanhuan Beilu, 2nd fl., Chaoyang District | 010/6507-1107 | Station: Hujialou.
Tucked behind an Italian-fusion restaurant on an unassuming strip mall of establishments near Chaoyang Park, Mokihi is a perfect oasis from the hustle and bustle of everyday Beijing. Have the Japanese-trained bartenders mix up one of their signature cocktails and nibble on delightful hors d’oeuvres while engaging in quiet conversation with your drinking companions. | C12, Haoyun Jie (Lucky Street), 3rd fl., Chaoyang District | 010/5867-0244.
Fodor’s Choice | Q Bar.
This tucked-away lounge south of the main Sanlitun drag is an unpretentious option for an evening out. The cocktails here—strong, authentic, and not ridiculously expensive—are a bit of a legend in Beijing, thanks to the involvement of Echo Sun, who has been a real pioneer on the local drinks scene. Don’t be put off by the fact that it’s on the top floor of a bland, 1980s-style hotel; in the summer the terrace more than makes up for that. | Top floor of Eastern Inn Hotel,6 Baijiazhuang Lu, corner of Sanlitun Nanlu and Gongti Nanlu, Chaoyang District | 010/6595-9239 | www.qbarbeijing.com | Station: Tuanjie Hu.
For years now, expats have crowded this bar for its Belgian beer, wood-fired pizza, and quiet murmurs of conversation. It does, however, get a bit smoky; if you’re sensitive you may want to give this venue a pass. For pasta instead of pizza, there’s always Nearby the Tree just 100 yards to the southeast. | 43 Sanlitun Beijie, Chaoyang District | 010/6415-1954 | www.treebeijing.com.cn | Station: Tuanjiehu.
Opened by some of the same people involved with Apothecary in Sanlitun, Twilight is an oasis of cool in the otherwise somewhat dry Central Business District (CBD). Have the bartender make you a perfect Old Fashioned, which you can pair with one of the bar’s tasty pizzas. | Bldg. 5, Jianwai SOHO,39 Dongsanhuan Zhonglu, 3rd fl., Chaoyang District | 010/5900-5376.
The World of Suzie Wong (Sūxīhuáng jùlèbù).
It’s no coincidence that this bar is named after a 1957 novel (and 1960 film) about a Hong Kong prostitute. Come here late at night and, as well as groups of friends on the dance floor, you’re also likely to find those on the prowl, and in search of a good time. The vibe is enhanced by the 1930s-opium-den design, with China-chic beds overrun with cushions. Over the years, Suzie Wong’s has built a reputation for decent cocktails and good, crowd-pleasing music. It has, however, begun to drop off the local party circuit in recent years. | 1A Nongzhanguan Lu, Chaoyang West Gate,Chaoyang District | 010/6500-3377.
Fierce promotions have attracted some top-name international DJs to this spot: in spite of the smallish dance floor, many expats consider Cargo the best mainstream club along Gongti Xilu. Perhaps it’s the 1980s kitsch. | 6 Gongti Xilu, Chaoyang District | 010/6551-6898.
Alfa (Alfa cānba).
Home to nostalgia-fueled theme nights, including 80s and disco, Alfa is a hopping little dance spot that’s particularly popular with local gay men. | 6 Xingfu Yicun, opposite the north gate of the Workers’ Stadium, Chaoyang District | 010/6413-0086.
The city’s best and most popular gay club has a bouncy dance floor, energetic DJs, and a small lounge area. It gets extremely packed on weekends and attracts a varied crowd of almost all male expats and locals. Unlike most places in Beijing, there’s a cover here. | 7 Gongti Xilu, Chaoyang District | 010/6551-5138 | Station: Dongsi Shitiao.
The go-to hangout in the university district of Wudaokou, Lush is a home-away-from-home for many a homesick exchange student. With weekly pub quizzes, open-mike nights, and large, strong drinks, Lush is an excellent place to start the night for those in this part of town. | 2nd fl., Bldg. 1, Huaqing Jiayuan, Chengfu Lu, Haidian District | 010/8286-3566 | www.lushbeijing.com | Station: Wudaokou.
The Red House (Hóng jiā).
The simple, no-frills exterior here reflects the bar as a whole—bare walls warmed by a roaring fire, friendly bar staff, and a loyal crowd looking for a home away from home in which to booze in peace. The pizza oven never stops churning out tasty pies, a good accompaniment to the beers on tap. | Wudaokou, Wangzhuang Lu, Haidian District | 010/6291-3350 | Station: Wudaokou.
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Acrobatics and Kung Fu | Music | Chinese Opera | Theater
The performing arts in China took a long time to recover from the Cultural Revolution (1966-76), and political works are still generally banned or avoided. In recent years, names such as Kevin Spacey and the Royal Shakespeare Company have alighted on Beijing, reinforcing the capital’s reputation as an arts destination. For culture vultures, there are avant-garde plays, chamber music, traditional Peking opera, acrobatics shows, and lots more.
As most of the stage is inaccessible to non-Chinese speakers, visitors to Beijing are more likely to hunt out the big visual spectacles, such as Beijing opera or kung fu displays. These long-running shows are tailored for travelers: your hotel will be able to recommend performances and venues and will likely be able to help you book tickets.
ACROBATICS AND KUNG FU
Chaoyang Theater (Cháoyáng jùchăng).
This space is the queen bee of acrobatics venues, especially designed to unleash oohs and ahhs. Spectacular individual and team acrobatic displays involving bicycles, seesaws, catapults, swings, and barrels are performed here nightly. It’s touristy but fun. | 36 Dongsanhuan Beilu, Chaoyang District | 010/6507-2421 | www.chaoyangjuchang.com | Station: Hujialou.
Fodor’s Choice | The Red Theatre (Hóng jùchăng).
If it’s Vegas-style stage antics you’re after, the Legend of Kung Fu show is what you want. Extravagant martial arts—performed by dancers, not martial artists—are complemented by neon, fog, and heavy-handed sound effects. Shows are garish but also sometimes glorious. | 44 Xingfu Dajie, Dongcheng District | 010/5165-1914, 135/5252-7373 | www.redtheatre.cn | Station: Tiantan Dong Men.
Tianqiao Acrobatic Theater (Tiānqiáo cháyèguàn).
The Beijing Acrobatics Troupe of China is famous for weird, wonderful shows. Content includes a flashy show of offbeat contortions and tricks, with a lot of high-wire action. There are two shows per night, usually scheduled for 5:30 and 7:15 pm, but it’s best to phone ahead and check. | 5 Tianqiao Shichang Lu, east end of Beiwei Lu, Xicheng District | 010/6303-7449.
Beijing Concert Hall (Běijīng yīnyuètīng).
One of Beijing’s main venues for Chinese and Western classical-music concerts also hosts folk dancing and singing, and many celebratory events throughout the year. The 1,000-seat venue is also the home of the China National Symphony Orchestra. | 1 Bei Xinhua Jie, Xicheng District | 010/6605-7006 | Station: Tiananmen West.
Fodor’s Choice | Forbidden City Concert Hall (Zhōngshān gōngyuán yīnyuètáng).
One of the nicest venues in Beijing, the 1,400-seat Forbidden City Concert Hall plays host to a variety of classical, chamber, and traditional music performances in plush surroundings and with world-class acoustics. Though the facilities are completely modern, concertgoers are treated to a moonlit walk through Zhongshan Park, a former imperial garden dotted with historical landmarks. | In Zhongshan Park, Xichang’an Jie, Xicheng District | 010/6559-8285 | www.fcchbj.com | Station: Tiananmen West.
MAO Live House.
With some of the most committed gig fans in the city, and live music almost every night of the week, MAO Live House is the place to experience the vibrant local music scene. | 111 Gulou Dongdajie,Dongcheng District | 010/6402-5080 | www.mao-music.com | Station: Gulou Dajie.
Poly Theater (Băolì jùyuàn).
This is a modern shopping-center-like complex on top of Dongsishitiao subway station. One of Beijing’s better-known theaters, the Poly hosts Chinese and international concerts, ballets, and musicals. TIP If you’re seeking a performance in English, this is one of your best bets. | 1/F Poly Plaza,14 Dongzhimen Nandajie, Dongcheng District | 010/6500-1188 | www.polytheatre.com | Station: Dongsishitiao.
Yugong Yishan (Yúgōngyíshān).
Housed in a Republican-era courtyard, Yugong Yishan is the city’s other premier destination for live music by both local rock bands and touring foreign acts. If you’re in the mood to catch a good show, check the venue website to see who’s playing when you’re in town. | 3-2 Zhangzizhong Lu, Dongcheng District | 010/6404-2711 | www.yugongyishan.com | Station: Zhangzizhonglu.
For hundreds of years, Beijing opera troupes have delighted audiences with rich costumes, elaborate makeup, jaw-dropping acrobatics, and tales of betrayal and intrigue. Nowadays, operas staged in Beijing’s theaters are typically of the Jing Ju style, which emerged during the Qing Dynasty, although there are more than 350 other kinds of Chinese opera, each distinguished by different dialects, music, costumes, and stories.
What you’ll see and hear
A night at the opera gives a glimpse into China’s past—not to mention a fascinating mix of drama, color, movement, and sound. To master the art of Beijing opera’s leaping acrobatics, stylized movements, sword dances, and dramatic makeup techniques, actors begin their grueling training as young children.
Opera instrumentation consists of the percussive Wuchang---the gongs, drums, cymbals, and wooden clappers that accompany exaggerated body movements and acrobatics---and the melodic Wenchang, including the Chinese fiddle (erhu), the lutelike pipa, horns, and flutes. Neophytes may find two hours of the staccato clanging and nasal singing of Beijing opera hard to take (and most young Chinese fed on a diet of Western-style pop agree) but this dramatic, colorful experience can be one of the most memorable of your trip.
Before your trip
Watch Chen Kaige’s Farewell My Concubine, a 1993 film that follows the life, loves, and careers of two male opera performers against a background of political turmoil. It also depicts the brutality of opera schools, where children were forced to practice grueling routines (balancing water jugs, doing headstands).
Mei Lanfang: Gay Icon and Opera Hero(ine)
Born in Beijing into a family of stage performers, Mei Lanfang (1894-1961) perfected the art of female impersonation during his five decades on stage. He’s credited with popularizing Beijing opera overseas and was so popular in his day that there was even a brand of cigarettes named after him. His gender-bending abilities earned him a special place in the hearts of gay activists across China. The Worlds of Mei Lanfang (2000) is an American documentary about him, with footage of his performances.
Where to Watch
There is opera performance any night of the week in Beijing, but there are more options on weekends. Shorter shows put on at venues such as Liyuan Theater and Huguang Guild Hall are full of acrobatics and fantastic costumes. Shows usually start around 7 pm and cost between Y50 and Y200. The free-listing magazines have information, and staffers at your hotel can recommend performances and help you book tickets. TIP You can get a free taste of Chinese opera before you spring for tickets if you have access to a television; China Central Television broadcasts nonstop opera on its CCTV 11 channel.
Chang’an Grand Theater (Cháng’ān dàxìyuàn).
In this theater specializing in Chinese opera, spectators can choose to sit either in the traditional seats or at cabaret-style tables. Besides Peking-style opera, the theater also puts on performances of other regional styles, such as yueju (from Guangdong) and chuanju (from Sichuan). | 7 Jianguomennei Dajie, Dongcheng District | 010/6510-1309 | www.changantheater.com | Station:Jianguomen.
Huguang Guild Hall (Húguăng huìguăn).
Built in 1807, the Huguang Guild Hall was at its height one of Beijing’s “Four Great” theaters. In 1925 the Guild Hall hosted Dr. Sun Yat-sen at the founding of the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT). Today, the Guild Hall has been restored to its former splendor and hosts regular opera performances. The venue also has a small museum of Peking opera artifacts. | 3 Hufang Lu, Xicheng District | 010/6351-8284 | Station: Caishikou.
Lao She Teahouse (Lăoshě cháguăn).
Named for famed Beijing author Lao She, this teahouse in the Qianmen area plays host to a variety of traditional performances, including acrobatics, opera, and vaudeville shows. Dinner is served on the premises; reservations are required one day in advance for the nightly shows. | Building 3,3 Qianmenxi Dajie, Xicheng District | 010/6303-6830.
Fodor’s Choice | Liyuan Theater (Líyuán jùcháng).
The unabashedly touristy shows here are still a great time. You can first watch performers put on makeup before the show (come early) and then graze on snacks and sip tea while watching English-subtitled shows. Glossy brochures complement the crooning. | 1/F, Qianmen Hotel,175 Yong’an Lu, Xicheng District | 010/6301-6688 | www.qianmenhotel.com/en/liyuan.html.
Beijing Exhibition Theater (Běijīng zhănlănguăn jùchăng).
Chinese plays, Western (and Chinese) operas, and ballet performances are staged in this Soviet-style building that’s part of the exhibition center complex. Talk about a wide range of shows: the Michael Jackson musical Thriller was once staged here, swiftly followed by some traditional folk art performances. | 135 Xizhimenwai Dajie, Xicheng District | 010/6835-4455 | Station: Xizhimen.
Capital Theater (Shŏudū jùchăng).
This is a busy, modern theater near Wangfujing shopping street. It often has performances by the respected Beijing People’s Art Theatre and various international acts, such as the British troupe TNT. | 22 Wangfujing Dajie, Dongcheng District | 010/6525-0996 | www.bjry.com | Station: Wangfujing.
FAMILY | China National Puppet Theater (Zhōngguó guójiā mùŏujùyuà).
The shadow and hand-puppet shows at this theater convey traditional stories—it’s lively entertainment for children and adults alike. This venue also attracts foreign performers, including the Moscow Puppet Theater. | 1 Anhuaxili, Chaoyang District | 010/6425-4847 | www.puppetchina.com | Station: Anhuaqiao.
Fodor’s Choice | National Centre for the Performing Arts (Guójiā dàjùyuàn).
Architecturally, the giant silver dome of this performing arts complex is stunning, and its interior holds a state-of-the-art opera house, a music hall, and a theater. “The Egg,” as it’s been called, offers a world-class stage for national and international performers. If you don’t wish to see a show, you can tour the inside of the building by paying for an entrance ticket. | 2 Xi Chang’an Jie,Xicheng District | 010/6655-0000 | www.chncpa.org | Station: Tiananmen West.
Tianqiao Theater (Tiānqiáolè cháguăn).
A traditional theater that hosts everything from contemporary dance performances to ballet, folk music, and cross-talk revues. | 30 Beiwei Lu, Xicheng District | 010/8315-6300.
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