Beijing has much to offer in terms of activities and recreation. Whether you’ve just arrived here from overseas or you’ve been holed up in your Beijing apartment for months, these organizations will help you explore this colorful city and make new friends and connections. You’ll be surprised at the diversity of things to do here!
Get the Body Movin’
Beijing Hikers is a group that organizes weekend and mid-week hikes throughout the surrounding Beijing area, often on remote sections of the Great Wall or through neighboring villages. Hikes are ranked by difficulty on their website and price is approximately RMB 350 per person, but be sure to book in advance. The easier hikes such as those to Intelligence Valley or the countryside stroll to Longevity Village are great for the wee ones.
Dandelion Hiking describes itself as an organization “for the dreamers among us.” Focusing on small groups of no more than ten hikers at a time and less-traveled destinations in search of “real culture and nature,” this group will help you experience China like a local. In pursuit of adventure, you’ll eat, drink, sleep and travel on the cheap, without any fancy bells and whistles.
If you’re interested in team sports, Club Football offers soccer for the whole family. Classes are taught in both English and Chinese by a diversity of qualified coaches. They offer both men’s and women’s teams, as well as a junior league for kids. Practices and games are scheduled for evenings and weekends and run from late May to October. In addition to regular matches and club tournaments, they also cooperate with partner organizations to stage special events. Membership is required.
Dragon Fire International Swim Team is an international swim team with high-level training geared for competition. Swimmers range in age from 4 to 17. Adults wishing to improve their swimming skills can also enroll in their master classes. There’s also a Baby Swim class for 3- to 4-year-old swimmers. Another option is the Aqua Warrior Swimming Club. Kids are divided according to age and ability, with no more than 10 swimmers per coach. Cost per session is RMB 150.
Black Tiger Fight Club is an expat-owned organization with fitness and self-defense classes taught exclusively in English. These include Muay Thai, boxing, mixed martial arts, jiujitsu, wrestling, kickboxing, and more. All levels are welcome, and there are some classes geared for kids, such as karate and mixed martial arts.
In the warmer months, Ritan Park’s outdoor climbing wall is a
viable option for rock climbing. Otherwise, head to O’le Sports for O’le Climbing, which has a 12.5m high wall and a 150sqm horizontal bouldering wall. From the custom-made safety mattress to staff training, it is clear that safety is as important to them as it is to you. Discount and membership cards are available, or test it out with a one-time climb for RMB 60. Shoe rental costs RMB 15. If climbing isn’t your thing, the 1,300sqm center also has soccer programs (RMB 500 per month per child), badminton, basketball, skiing (offering weekend trips to local ski resorts), children’s play groups, and rollerblading (for ages 3 and up). Designed specifically for kids, O’le Fun Gym offers Mom and Toddler classes, English learning through activity classes, and much more.
Sports Beijing is perhaps the most comprehensive sports
organization in the city. Primarily geared towards kids and teens, they offer no less than 25 different sports, from baseball, soccer, ice hockey to netball, cricket, and rhythmic gymnastics. Sports Beijing also has women’s tennis, yoga, and Pilates classes so that parents can get in shape too. For all activities, seasonal membership is required.
The Hutong, The Schoolhouse, and China Culture Center also have activities geared towards health and wellness.
If you’re keen on learning the art of Chinese cooking, Black Sesame Kitchen provides English-language cooking classes as well as private dining opportunities. Located in a cozy courtyard in central Beijing, they offer classes throughout the week, as well as demonstration-only dining at their Friday “Wine and Dine” nights. All events cost RMB 300 per person.
If the idea of giving back appeals to you, Hias Gourmet offers culinary activities with a conscience. Founded in 2007, this social enterprise specializes in food and market tours, cooking classes, and corporate team building. Profits are used to fund educational, environmental, and health projects.
The Hutong and China Culture Center also offer cooking classes.
It goes without saying that those interested in the world of visual arts in China should make regular visits to 798 Art District. One of the largest and most popular galleries is the Ullens Center for Contemporary Art (UCCA). Every month, the center offers a variety of weekend events suitable for kids in both Chinese and English. The schedule is posted online every month on UCCA’s website (www.ucca.org.cn)
and beijingkids’ website (www.beijing-kids.com/events).
Do you wish you had a better art supplies cupboard? If so, take your kids to MAC Time Community Art Center. Develop your family’s artistic skills through the center’s art classes for both children and adults. They also offer an extensive summer camp program for kids.
My Little Mozart is a music studio that integrates child development into music and movement classes. Toddler courses are designed for ages 6 months to 3 years, and encourage parental involvement. The studio also offers private or group lessons (ages 4 and up) in keyboard, violin and guitar as drop-off classes. Prices range from RMB 120 to 300.
Visual art and photography classes are also available at The Hutong, Culture Yard, and China Culture Center.
In the Spotlight
Beijing Playhouse invites all levels of actors and aspiring thespians to participate in one of their theater camps. Depending on the play, they cast children and adults in a variety of roles. Past shows include Cinderella, The Nutcracker, Guys and Dolls, You Can’t Take It With You, Oklahoma! and Romeo and Juliet.
On the second last Friday of every month, Beijing Improv hosts English and bilingual improvisational shows. Often sold-out, these hilarious performances feature a range of games and skits that require audience participation. You can also join one of the troupe’s weekly bilingual workshops, which are taught by Beijing Improv’s international cast of regular players. One hundred percent of the proceeds raised from events are donated to China-based NGOs.
One of the most diverse organizations in the city, The Hutong offers an array of activities, including TCM training, cooking classes, market tours, photography, life drawing, Heyrobics, yoga, Chinese herbology, and even a drink mixing session called Mixology. The center also hosts a literary series, movie screenings, and frequent guest speakers who lecture on a wide variety of topics. What’s more, their hutong space is beautifully restored and worth visiting for architectural interest alone.
For training and activities related to Chinese culture, head to China Culture Center (CCC). CCC courses include calligraphy, landscape painting, herbal medicine, Zen meditation and tai chi, among others. Dumpling and hand-pulled noodle-making classes might be suitable for young children, while paper cutting is suggested for older children and adults. This center also offers many half-day and full-day tours in and around Beijing, as well as overnight trips to the Great Wall.
Culture Yard is a language school and cultural center located in the center of Dongcheng District. They offer classes in English, Chinese, Russian, Portguese, French, Hebrew, Dutch and Spanish. Other events and courses include mahjong, Chinese tea and calligraphy – as well as photography, art history, and cinema arts. They also hold visual art exhibitions on the premise.
The Schoolhouse at Mutianyu is a sustainable tourist destination based near Mutianyu Great Wall and named according to the building in which it is housed, a former village school. They offer regular Saturday evening fine dining sourced from local farms – the ethos of the slow food movement. Other popular activities include Sunday morning yoga on the Great Wall as well as glass-blowing demonstrations at their workshop. Overnight lodging is available and they often host weekend packages for Western holidays, like Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s Eve.
INN, or the International Newcomers’ Network, meets every month to help newcomers meet friends and orient themselves in the city. They hold an INN Monthly Meeting (topics and speakers change each month), an INN Trekkie (exploring a secret gem of Beijing), an INN Night Out, and INN Neighborhood Coffee Mornings in different locations around town.
Aqua Warriors Swimming Club
Paralympic Swimming Pool, 321 Tianbei Lu, Houshayu, Shunyi
District (136 8352 7243 Arthur, 136 0110 2151 Sandy, 134 8877 8089 Amanda) www.aquawarriorsbj.com 顺义区后沙峪镇天北路
(6432 2786, firstname.lastname@example.org) www.beijinghikers.com
Black Sesame Kitchen
3 Black Sesame Hutong, Dongcheng District (136 9147 4408, email@example.com) www.blacksesamekitchen.com 东城区黑芝麻胡同3号
Black Tiger Fight Club
1) 1/F, Park Apartments, 17 Chaoyang Gongyuan Xilu, Chaoyang District (131 2121 9317, firstname.lastname@example.org) www.blacktigerclub.com 朝阳公园西路17号; 2) 2/F, 5 Laiguangying Donglu (near WAB, west of Lane Bridge Villa), Shunyi District (131 2121 9317, email@example.com) www.blacktigerclub.com 顺义区莱广营东路5号（离京西学校对面很近，长岛澜桥西侧）
China Culture Center (CCC)
Rm 101, Kent Center, 29 Anjialou Lu, Liangma Qiao Lu, Chaoyang District (6432 9341 Mon-Fri, 6432 1041 Sat-Sun, firstname.lastname@example.org) www.chinaculturecenter.org 朝阳区亮马桥路29号安家楼肯特中心中国文化中心
Unit A212, Door 3, Zone A1, Zhaowei Huadeng Plaza, Zhaowei Building 51, 14 Jiuxianqiao Road, Chaoyang District (5130 6893/4/5/6) www.clubfootball.com.cn 朝阳区酒仙桥路14号兆维51号楼兆维华灯大厦A1区3门A212房间
(156 5220 0950, email@example.com) www.chinahiking.cn
Dragon Fire International Swim Team
(136 0106 4534, firstname.lastname@example.org)
Fun Gym (at O’le Sports)
Mon-Sat 10am-10pm, Sun 10am-8pm. 5 Dongshimencun Lu, Baiziwan
Qiao, Dongsihuan Zhonglu, Chaoyang District (8482 5891, 134 3978 8555, 152 1003 3896, email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org)
By appointment only. 7 Xinsi Hutong, Dongcheng District (email@example.com) www.hiasgourmet.com 东城区辛寺胡同7号
International Newcomers Network (INN)
MAC Time Community Art Center
Tue-Sun 10am-6.30pm. L5-507A, Euro Plaza, 99 Yuxiang Lu, Tianzhu Town, Shunyi District (8046 1820) www.mactimeart.com.cn
My Little Mozart
Apartment 108, 5 Lishui Jiayuan, Chaoyang District (135 2256 3767, firstname.lastname@example.org) www.mylittlemozart.com 朝阳区六里屯丽水嘉园5号楼108室
Mon-Sat 10am-10pm, Sun 10am-8pm. 5 Dongshimencun Lu, Baiziwan Qiao, Dongsihuan Zhonglu, Chaoyang District (6776 4705, email@example.com) www.ole-sports.com 朝阳区东四环中路百子湾桥东石门村路5号
O’le Italian Football School
Mon-Sat 10am-10pm, Sun 10am-8pm. 5 Dongshimencun Lu, Baiziwan Qiao, Dongsihuan Zhonglu, Chaoyang District (5128 2825, firstname.lastname@example.org) www.ole-sports.com 朝阳区东四环中路百子湾桥东石门村路5号
Mon-Sat 10am-10pm, Sun 10am-8pm. 5 Dongshimencun Lu, Baiziwan Qiao, Dongsihuan Zhonglu, Chaoyang District (6776 4705, email@example.com) www.ole-sports.com 朝阳区东四环中路百子湾桥东石门村路5号
Mon-Sat 10am-10pm, Sun 10am-8pm. 5 Dongshimencun Lu,
Baiziwan Qiao, Dongsihuan Zhonglu, Chaoyang District (Martina Merlet at 135 0109 1833, firstname.lastname@example.org) www.ole-sports.com
2/F, Lido Country Club, 6 Jiangtai Lu, Chaoyang District (6430 1370/1176, email@example.com) www.sportsbj.org 朝阳区将台路6号丽都乡村俱乐部3层
The Culture Yard
10 Shique Hutong, Dongcheng District (8404 4166, firstname.lastname@example.org) www.cultureyard.net 东城区北新桥石雀胡同10号
1 Jiudao Wanzhongxiang Hutong, Dongcheng District (159 0104 6127, email@example.com) www.thehutong.com 东城区九道湾中巷1号
The Schoolhouse at Mutianyu
Mon-Fri 9am-6pm, Sat-Sun 9am-8pm. 12 Mutianyu Village, Huairou District (6162 6506/6287, firstname.lastname@example.org) www.theschoolhouseatmutianyu.com 怀柔区慕田峪村12号
Ullens Center for Contemporary Art (UCCA)
798 Art District, 4 Jiuxianqiao Lu, Chaoyang District (5780 0200, email@example.com) www.ucca.org.cn 朝阳区酒仙桥路4号798艺术区