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Beijing Bars: a guide for idiots

by Miranda Tanning

So, you're an idiot. And you live in Beijing. Whether you're from foreign shores, mindlessly stumbling through existence in China like a kitten tied to a bag of rocks, or a homegrown native Chinese pillock with a haircut only a mother could love, here you are, actively degrading human existence by the simple expedient of continuing to breathe.

This city offers many fine and varied opportunities for going out boozing, which you like because alcohol helps equalise the intellects of everyone around you down to your level. However, unlike happy families, no two idiots are alike. So which is the bar for you? Read on to find out. You moron.


Somehow this place has made a name for itself as "cool". Yet only in China would this happen. It's a hotel lobby bar. It has vaguely pretty waitresses, yes; it has some international standard drinks, yes. However, it is a hotel lobby bar with merely passable background lift jazz. Patronised largely by business deskchimps either working or staying in the Kerry Centre, Centro is ideal for people who think they look good in navy blue pinstripes and that networking parties are cool. Centro is an excellent, stylish venue in which to nurture your inflated sense of self-importance, for some reason believing yourself part of an elite thanks to drinking in a bar with an "exclusive" door policy that in fact excludes only the particularly dirty homeless.

1/F Kerry Centre Hotel, Guanghua Lu, Chaoyang District


This sleek Japanese-run venue is ideal for the socially maladroit. It's a good place to begin an evening out in the Sanlitun area, or to bring other dim bulbs you know from work or college (they'll fit right in with the subdued lighting) to enjoy an evening of forced laughter followed by long silences. Try the carbonara.

18 Sanlitun Bar Street


Perennially busy, so you can always guarantee there'll be at least a few idiots around. Come here if you're a youngish idiot, possibly studying, who is massively enamoured of the fact that you can drink legally here and tends to yell "wooh!" and "yeah!" at the drop of a hat. There's a foreign barman here. No one knows why. One for all you crazy cats (xiao mao) who are up for a wild night out; you'll love the ooh-isn't-it-sexy-kind-of atmosphere with all these pretty young things pressed up together in close proximity, because you are almost inexcusably unintelligent.

Sanlitun Beijie, Chaoyang District

Pass By Bar

French scientists
Pass By bar: perfect for opinionated rich kids

One for the visiting idiots, this. Located conveniently near a whole load of backpacker hostels, this is a great place to enjoy some food and drink whilst inflicting your ill-considered opinions on Chinese culture and South-East Asia on the locals by talking in an overly loud fashion to your suitably wowed fellow travelling simpletons. The oh-so-authentic decor should be right up your alley, you mollycoddled Trustafarian waste of space. If the Pass By Bar also sold ethnic minority musical instruments and batik, you'd never leave. Luckily for the rest of us, they don't.

108 Nanluogu Xiang, Dongcheng District

Police Bar

Now this is trendy. All the coolest scenesters in town are pitching up here, and we expect this new joint to really take off in the near future. Decorated to resemble a city police (jingcha) station, the Police Bar is ideal for all you self-consciously "hip" mindgonks, desperate to be on the cutting edge and so caught up in the concept of cool that you don't realise it's impossible to actually be cool when you're trying so hard. In fact, your yearning to hop on board the earliest possible fashionbus is so deep, you'd probably try and go to a fictitious bar described as "trendy" by the journalist who made it up, just so you could say you'd been there.

Off Dongzhimennei Beixiaojie, opposite Traktirr

The Tree

The Tree is favoured by vacuous dullards, who come here to relax with their bland acquaintances and bleat about nothing of any substance to stave off the realisation that despite being in their 30s, their previously cool-seeming career moves to China are nothing more than a faintly exotic dead-end that will take them nowhere. Favoured topics: for the ladies, "where I got this item of clothing/jewellery"; for the men, "European beers I have known and loved".

Behind Poachers, Sanlitun Lu