The Hip Side of Beijing

Make no mistake, Beijing has an edgy, cool and contemporary vibe, hidden just under the surface of the government-run tour packages.  You just have to dig a little.  But per the divine Craig Barbour, a good friend who lived in Beijing while working on the Olympics, Beijing has a number of hip bars and restaurants, as well as a thriving art district that are worthy of exploring.

So…if you find yourself in Beijing, check out his recommendations:

The Green T. House

A unique venue in Beijing with inspiring design, art and performances alongside innovative “T” and “New China” cuisine by JinR – musician, tea connoisseur and trendsetter.


Since 1997, through its innovative design, distinctive atmosphere and unique cuisine, GREEN T. HOUSE in Beijing has provided inspiration and beauty to its clientele.  It epitomizes the blend of tradition and innovation, brashness and refinement, energy and tranquility that defines New China.

GREEN T. HOUSE is the vision of glamorous musician, tea connoisseur and trend-setter JinR. From its beginnings as an intimate and elegant teahouse, GREEN T. HOUSE has become one of the hottest destinations in Beijing, garnering international recognition for its unique ambience and “T” cuisine.

GREEN T. HOUSE “Living” takes the brand further with a unique and spacious lifestyle destination that includes fine dining, art and a cultural events space as well as The Bath House Residence, a new bath and residence component which takes the GREEN T. HOUSE brand for the first time beyond tea houses and restaurants into the wider arena of spa and hospitality. GREEN T. HOUSE Living, internationally acclaimed for the “coolest bathhouse in China”, was voted ‘Spa design of the Year’  ‘Day Spa of the Year’ in the 2009 AsiaSpa Awards and “Best Spa Design” in Wallpaper* 2010 Design Awards.

Dashanzi – The 798 Art District

Another amazing place is Dashanzi – 798 the art district – hundreds of private gallerys showing the most incredible chinese contemporary art in a complex that was once a munitions factory.

About The 798 Art District

798 stands for much more than a three digit number: in Beijing these numbers symbolize the country’s cutting edge art movement led by the Chinese vanguard, unchained artistic personalities with alternative life goals. Wild and unconquered attitudes waft inside 798’s free and rambling atmosphere. This area feels a kinship to what can be discovered and sensed along the Left Bank in Paris or around Greenwich Village in NYC.

The 798 Art District is located in the Dashanzi area, Chaoyang District, in northeastern Beijing, past the 4th Ring Road. The large area was once a booming compound for the State’s pre-reform electronic industries. After the economy toppled these dinosaurs the space became available and these former industrial units evolved into the now famous Factory 798.

The buildings were vital for China’s old industrialization projects and they’re just as key to the art scene at 798 as well. Constructed with help from the now former Soviet Union and designed by the former East German Republic, the architecture reveals and reminds visitors about the history of New China’s industrialization, merging a free, creative spirit with the old, turgid Communist style.

As Beijing’s economy developed after Deng Xiao Ping’s reforms the structure of industry changed; the initial mission of the 798 District withered up and died. This industrial area quickly became desolate: businesses moved out, leaving empty factory shells behind. Like a graveyard the place was eerily quiet and dead.

Around 2002 an amazing reincarnation process began when artists’ studios started cheerily popping up like daisies over graves. Today most of the properties are rented; new life and light has been created in these once hollow, unused buildings. Gradually the spaced has turned into a combination of swanky galleries, hip art centers & studios, pricey design companies & fashion stores, and cozy coffeehouses & bars.

The Ullens Center for Contemporary Arts

Dine here at one of hip cafes or bars or travel a small distance to “foodie heaven” to the multi-awarded Salt for absolutely fabulous international cuisine from some lovely ladies from South America.

Salt Restaurant

About the Ullens Center for Contemporary Arts

Located in the heart of Beijing’s 798 Art District, UCCA is housed in an original and inspiring 1950’s industrial Bauhaus factory complex. As an innovative and comprehensive art center, the Ullens Center for Contemporary Art (UCCA) consistently demonstrates a compelling and unique way of engaging with the public. UCCA offers a complete artistic experience that combines exhibitions, programs, events, fine dining and shopping. As a non-profit art center, UCCA channels all earned revenue into supporting our exhibitions, art events and education programs.

Ch’ien Men 23

Ch’ien Men 23 is an integrated lifestyle development project unlike any in China today, presenting numerous venues of leading restaurants & bars, a club, a repertory theatre, a contemporary art gallery as well as select luxury retail shops, all within the carefully restored landmark compound of the former American Legation during the Qing Dynasty.

From world-reknowned chef Daniel Boulud comes “Maison Boulud a la Peking”, housed in the stately former American Embassy building at the heart of the Ch’ien Men 23.  This fine dining restaurant blends the seductive and sophisticated atmosphere of the building’s historic past with flavor and refinement reflecting the French cuisine of  today.


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