Beijing’s Nightlife (北京的夜生活)

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In 1999, if you wanted to party in Beijing, Sanlitun (三里屯) was to place to be. The Embassy district was home to a bunch of Nightclubs, Western-style restaurants and a lot of action.

But Sanlitun changed. We did find the “Bar Street” (三里屯酒吧街) but I found it quite dark and depressing, not to mention seedy. Seeing “Lady Bars”, girls and a few pimps — right besides the Embassy compound — confirmed me in my first impression. This wasn’t my Sanlitun. This wasn’t the place where I had so much going to disco at barely 16. This wasn’t where I danced all night long, went bowling, munched on Wester food because I was sick and tired of eating rice.

We accidentally discovered the new heart of Beijing’s nightlife a few days later, walking around the Old Beijing. Most of the trendy bars are now in Hou Hai (后海), by Beihai. Bars, discos, restaurants and night markets are set around the lakes. It’s busy yet friendly and the lakes, in which the lights reflect beautifully, bring a cool breeze. The place was a weird mix of old and new. We walked through a few Hutong (small traditional alleys) to get there, but we spotted a Starbucks and a lot of Budweiser signs. Calligraphy brushes were displayed for sale right by the usual Culture Revolution memorabilias… and next to (fake) brand new Iphones! Once again, these are the many sides of Beijing…


About Author

French woman in English Canada. World citizen, new mom, traveler, translator, writer and photographer. Looking for comrades to start a new revolution.


  1. Awesome! there’s a starbucks logo! Once again, awesome pictures, and once again you have made me want to get out of the cubicle world and visit China someday sooner than later.

  2. I love night markets!!! I was surprised that Starbucks was everywhere in Taiwan. Personally I prefer local coffee shops, I’m not found of globalization…anyway, do you like karaoke?

  3. Hey,

    Change shocks, eh? It is odd when you arrive in a place and suddenly you realise nothing is like how you left it!
    Yet, change is necessary…

    The fotos are amazing; you are gifted!

    So, you danced all night at 16? Wow…at that age I danced at home LOL…I only started going out at 17, yes…

    Thanks for sharing these delights with us, darling!


    Max Coutinhos last great read…Possessive Elements

  4. @sir jorge – Starbucks is quite big in China now 😉 Maybe a new work opportunity?

    @Bluefish – I only did Karaoke a couple of time and frankly, I’m… not a good singer! 😆

    @Seraphine – I’m a night person, so I was bound to 😉

    @the writer – I love the buzzing cities for sure.

    @khengsiong – Yeah, I was young when I was there, just a high school kid.

    @CM-Chap – I have been to Shanghai… that must have been in 2000. The city is quite different. More expensive, different crowd. I like Beijing best.

    @Annie – It’s definitely a place to visit!

    @nhuong – Isn’t it? It must be quite new though, cause Sanlitun was huge a few years ago.

    @Max Coutinho – What can you do, I was a rebel 😆 No, just dancing, I swear. Seriously. Now I look like I wild girl!

  5. Hou Hai…I love that name! 😉

    The photo of the brushes is my favorite, but honestly, how can I pick a favorite when you’ve captured so much beauty in every shot?

    The nightlife, the lanterns and lights of the city…everything is so beautiful! Thanks, once again, for sharing. It’s a beautiful way for me to start my Friday. 😉

    Have a fantastic weekend!!

  6. I am left speechless when I look at these photographs. I could stare at them for hours. So much going on, so much to see. I just wish there was sound and smell too! The colours are amazing and so vibrant. Lovely work!

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