Beijing: High-class drinking

31 Aug 2019 by Jackie Chen
Mandarin Oriental Wangfujing - MO Bar interior

The Chinese capital’s hotels offer a host of high-class drinking establishments

No one would question the fact that China’s capital has a thriving bar scene, but in recent years many independent outlets have taken a hit. Sanlitun’s infamous expat-friendly Dirty Bar Street has undergone significant gentrification since April 2017 – the street that was once home to a host of dive bars has now been widened and pedestrianised, with flowers and bushes lining the roadside, according to the South China Morning Post.

Fortunately, this dearth of dingier drinking dens has been partly made up for by some impressive innovations in the hotel bar space. Sarah Keenlyside, who runs Bespoke Travel Company in Beijing and was deputy editor of Time Out Beijing between 2005 and 2009,  says more people in Beijing seem to be drinking in hotel bars these days.

“It’s partly because a number of smaller, more independent bars in Beijing have been shut down; partly because some people can’t handle the chaos of Sanlitun; and partly because these hotels are now as creative and affordable as the independent bars,” she says. “They’ve really made the effort to do something different – and you get five-star hotel service thrown in, so it becomes a no-brainer.”

Here we’ve selected some unique hotel bars in Beijing for you to check out on your next business trip to the capital.

Mandarin Oriental Wangfujing - MO Bar terrace

Central Beijing

MO Bar
Mandarin Oriental Wangfujing

Beijing’s first Mandarin Oriental hotel opened in March this year in the city’s vibrant Wangfujing district, to the east of the Forbidden City. The hotel’s MO Bar has a spacious open-air terrace affording unobstructed views of the ancient imperial palace, which makes it a special spot to visit especially when the sun goes down. Inside the bar, there’s a large wooden counter with drawers and boxes, which looks like the traditional ones used by ancient alchemists to store various herbs, dried plants and spices. There are also two private rooms where opulent gold is the primary colour palate.

The bar has a special cocktail menu featuring a selection of Beijing-themed cocktails that reflect local art and landmarks in the Chinese capital, such as the Sunset Hunter inspired by the terrace views at dusk, and Mint Condition that praises the preservation of architecture built in the Qing dynasty. There are also international DJs giving live performances as well.

Opening hours: Monday to Thursday 5pm-1am; Friday and Saturday 5pm-2am; Sunday 4pm-midnight


The PuXuan - Rive Gauche

Rive Gauche
The Puxuan Hotel and Spa

Rive Gauche is a French restaurant and bistro at The Puxuan hotel situated in the Wangfujing district near the National Art Museum of China. The bistro has a variety of dining, lounge and bar spaces, including several private rooms and an outdoor terrace. If you fancy a view overlooking the Forbidden City and the imperial Jingshan Park to the immediate north of it, this is another place to go.

The bar area is furnished with intricate wine glasses, bone china tableware and copper kitchenware, all bought from local flea markets in Paris. In addition to a wide array of beverages including wine, champagne, cocktails, whiskies and spirits, Rive Gauche also serves French “bistronomy” cuisine for breakfast, lunch and dinner. The bar also has two special menus: one that draws inspiration from the Parisian comptoir or “counter” culture, and a special terrace menu that features a selection of wine and cocktails different from its main beverage menu, as well as light refreshments and large sharing plates.

Opening hours: 12-10pm daily


Yin on 12
New World Beijing Hotel

Yin on 12 is a rooftop bar in the New World Beijing Hotel. Its name comes from the traditional Chinese seal and its location on the 12th floor of the hotel. There’s a huge amber-like seal at the entrance with large brushes suspended beside it, symbolising the imperial signatures of ancient emperors. Located in the city centre, this rooftop bar allows guests to overlook famous landmarks such as Tiananmen Square and the Forbidden City, while enjoying a panoramic view of the capital city. There are also live music shows performed by in-house DJs and local soft rock bands.

Opening hours: 5pm-2am daily


The Peninsula Yun
The Peninsula Beijing

This open-air rooftop bar on Level 15 of The Peninsula Beijing affords views of the Wangfujing neighbourhood and Central Beijing. Given it’s an outdoor bar, it’s only open seasonally. The traditionally designed bar echoes the red walls and tile roofs of the hotel building, which was inspired by the imperial history of the city. There’s even a signature cocktail called “Beijing Emperor” made from strawberry-infused vodka, champagne and lime. Besides a selection of classic and modern cocktails, red and white wines, as well as champagnes, the bar also serves modern Mediterranean sharing plates.

Opening hours (April to October): 5:30pm till late daily


Guomao CBD

Rosewood Beijing

Mei is the in-house bar of Rosewood Beijing. There’s a private outdoor elevator that brings guests straight up to the bar on Level 5. When the elevator door opens, a vibrant cityscape comes into view with the iconic CCTV Tower in the background. The bar’s design draws inspiration from both the classic gentleman’s club and the modern Manhattan loft style, with furnishings such as red-brick walls, wooden floors, fireplaces and leather chairs enhancing the overall ambience.

In addition to an outdoor lounge, Mei is divided into three different zones: the main bar that features cocktails, a whisky bar and a small wine bar that serves both Old and New World wines. The wine list also includes Dom Pérignon P3 1971, offered exclusively here in Beijing, while guests can savour the single malt whisky Talisker 30 Year and Town Branch Bourbon. There are live performances hosted by international bands or DJs from 9pm till late except on Sundays.

Opening hours: Sunday to Wednesday 7pm-2am; Thursday to Saturday 7pm-3am


China World Summit Wing

Perched on the 80th floor of China World Trade Center Tower III, currently the city’s second highest building, Atmosphere Bar is the highest bar in Beijing, with floor-to-ceiling windows overlooking the Chinese capital. Its drinks menu features a collection of classic cocktails, single malt whisky, bourbon and rye whiskies, rum and brandy. Guests can also enjoy a live music show every day after 9pm.

Opening hours: Monday to Friday 2pm-2am; Saturday and Sunday 12pm-2am


Beersmith Gastropub
Hotel Jen Beijing

Situated on the ground floor of Hotel Jen Beijing, Beersmith Gastropub is a modern pub that features sleek industrial design with high ceilings, floor-to-ceiling windows and a small outdoor terrace. Located in the city’s central business district, it’s also the only bar in this area to have an on-site microbrewery. The pub serves more than ten speciality and seasonal beers, and also offers Western pub food for lunch and dinner. The big screens in the bar make it a popular spot to go for guests to watch their favourite sports games while enjoying craft beers.

Opening hours: Sunday to Thursday 11am-2am; Friday and Saturday 11am-3am


China Bar
Park Hyatt Beijing

Located high up on Level 65 of Park Hyatt Beijing, this bar has spectacular views of the city. Its interior features dark wooden floors and sofa chairs, Chinese wooden folding screens and a long bar table made of jade. In the evening, the lighted bar table stands out from the dark furnishings, echoing its Chinese name “Liang” that means “bright”. Guests can order from a selection of wine, champagne, whisky, brandy, martini, cocktails and snacks, while enjoying live jazz performances.

Opening hours: Sunday to Wednesday 5.30pm-1am; Thursday to Saturday and public holidays 5.30pm-2am


Chao Beijing - Club Bar

Northeastern embassy district

Club Bar
Chao Beijing

The Club Bar inside Chao hotel is one of the many bars and clubs in Sanlitun, the capital’s most vibrant nightlife hub. Situated just next to the Living Room, the hotel’s main restaurant, the Club Bar features a selection of craft beers and authentic cocktails, as well as Beijing’s longest whisky wall (measuring 15 metres). Guests can choose to sit either at the long bar counter or in the small booths that separate the bar from the neighbouring restaurant with gauze curtains.

The bar hosts tasting events, and a “Social Night” is held every two weeks on Thursday evening, when the hotel’s VIP members and in-house guests are invited for drinks and social gatherings. There’s also a wine cellar next door only open to VIP members and in-house guests. Here they can find a specially assembled collection of wine and hand-made cheeses. The wine cellar can also be booked for private parties or used for wine tasting events.

Business Traveller Asia-Pacific stayed at Chao earlier in February this year and reviewed the hotel.

Opening hours: Sunday to Thursday 11am-12am; Friday and Saturday 11am-1am


The Opposite House - Union

The Opposite House

This luxury hotel in Beijing’s Sanlitun area has recently unveiled its new bar Union. Situated on Level 1 of the property, the bar is furnished with copper architectural frames, DJ booths and metal mesh sheets used to showcase artworks, sculptures and other objects.

Its drinks are inspired by the ancient Silk Road. The drinks menu includes a wine list made up of 60 bins all available by the glass, a selection of cocktails and non-alcoholic drinks. The wine list, which changes monthly, not only features well-known wineries, but also some lesser-known producers, hard-to-find bottles and biodynamic wines. Highlights of its cocktail menu include the Genghis Khan Martini, made with French gin, Mongolian milk wine, dry vermouth, elderflower, coconut and sea salt.

Opening hours: 11am-1am daily


Bulgari Hotel Beijing - Il Bar

Il Bar
Bulgari Hotel Beijing

The luxury Bulgari Hotel Beijing (stylised as ‘Bvlgari’), which opened in September 2017 at the riverside of Beijing’s Liangma River, is one of only two Bulgari hotels in China. The Il Bar is situated on Level 1 of the property. Inside, the oval Bulgari Bar, whose rounded shape is made from stainless steel and bronze, draws inspiration from the Fontana della Barcaccia, a famous fountain near Bulgari’s flagship store in Rome. Its back wall features a mesh screen of Bulgari’s signature “Maglia Pantheon” pattern covered by a layer of silk fabric. There’s also an outdoor terrace overlooking the riverside.

The bar serves cocktails, wine, champagne and its signature aperitivo. From 5pm to 7pm on weekdays and 4pm to 7pm on weekends, known as “Aperitivo Hours”, all alcoholic drinks are served with a selection of snacks in aperitivo style. The bar is also open for breakfast and afternoon tea from 2pm to 5pm daily.

Opening hours: Monday to Friday 7am-12am; Saturday and Sunday 7am-1am


Kempinski Hotel Beijing Lufthansa Center - Paulaner Bräuhaus

Paulaner Brauhaus
Kempinski Hotel Beijing Lufthansa Center

Along the Liangma River you can find Paulaner Brauhaus serving home-brewed beer at Kempinski Hotel Beijing Lufthansa Center. The German bar, which opened in 1992, was the first German microbrewery in the Chinese capital as well as the Munich-based Paulaner Brewery’s first flagship store in China. It also serves as a German all-day dining restaurant that offers traditional Bavarian cuisine ranging from signature sausage specialities to lighter offerings such as salads and other vegetarian dishes. Guests can catch a live music show between 8pm and 12am from Tuesday to Sunday.

Paulaner Brauhaus hosts two annual beer festivals in May (only on May 1) and October. The much larger one in October, known as the “Oktoberfest”, is inspired by the world-famous beer and folk festival in Germany and lasts for around half a month. The Oktoberfest, which will be held from October 10 to 27 this year, features German cuisine, beer, a variety of music and dancing performances, the traditional first beer-tapping ceremony and weekend brunches held at the large tents built on the garden terrace, allowing guests to experience authentic Bavarian culture.

Opening hours: 11am-1am daily


NUO Hotel Beijing

What’s so special about the O’Bar, situated on Level 5 of NUO Hotel Beijing, is that it has an ultra-spacious outdoor terrace, comprising a 1,350 sqm deck and an 850 sqm garden, which is hard to find elsewhere in Beijing. The bar also has a private room that can accommodate around 20 people. The large open-air terrace and the private room can both be used for all kinds of events, press conferences, afternoon tea parties, wine tastings and weddings. Here guests can enjoy a variety of wine, champagne and cocktails, while enjoying live music shows performed by resident DJs and bands.

Opening hours: Monday to Friday 6pm to 1am; Saturday and Sunday 2pm to 2am


Co-author: Delia Yin; additional reporting by Michael Allen

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