One of the first things that newcomers and visitors tend to notice about Beijing is how big the city is. That makes choosing a neighborhood to live in challenging at best and infuriating at worst. However, the upside to living in such a large city is the sheer diversity of housing arrangements available. Whether it’s a courtyard home in Gulou, an apartment with a view in the CBD, or a spacious villa in Shunyi, there’s a place for you here. We survey the most popular expat neighborhoods in Beijing, with an overview of residential compounds, schools, public transportation, nearby dining options, and more.
CBD (Central Business District) 北京商务中心
The CBD is the financial center of Beijing. Located in Chaoyang District, the 4sqkm area is sandwiched between the Third and Fourth Ring Road on the east side of the city. The CBD is one of the fastest-changing and most affluent areas of Beijing, but some would say it’s too eager to embrace modernity; new skyscrapers spring up every year, displacing entire communities in the process.
Good for: Well-to-do families and white-collar employees who work in the CBD and want to avoid a long commute. The area becomes relatively quiet after office hours.
Public transportation: Dawanglu (大望路) and Guomao (国贸) on Line 1, Jintaixizhao (金台夕照) on Line 10, and Dongdaqiao (东大桥) on the new Line 6.
Schools: There are many schooling options for younger kids, including Ivy Academy’s shiny new location at Central Park. There’s also AnRic Little Montessori Room near The Place, Beanstalk International Bilingual School and New Bamboo Academy in Jianguomen, The Family Learning House in Guomao, Huijia Kindergarten in Chaoyangmen, and Etonkids’ various campuses. Kids who are school-age and older have limited options in the area; one of them is Fangcaodi International School, a local school with an international department.
Shopping: Not surprisingly, the CBD boasts a number of fancy shopping malls such as Shin Kong Place, China World Shopping Mall, Kerry Center, and the LEED-certified Parkview Green. The Place, which has a huge LED screen, has more mid-range stores like Zara and H&M.
Dining: Restaurants in the CBD tend to be concentrated in malls or residential compounds. For example, Central Park counts Obentos (Japanese), Thai Lime Cafe (Thai), and Pekotan (bakery and deli) among its many eateries while The Place has Ganges (Indian) and Herbal Cafe (Hong Kong).
Just for kids: Central Park has a large green space ringed with cafes and restaurants. Ritan Park, Tuanjiehu Park, and Chaoyang Park are all close. Most major shopping centers in the CBD also have play areas for children; nearby play centers include Gymboree, Kindyroo (both Jianwai SOHO), Yu Kids Island (The Place), and the Adventure Zone at the Kerry Center.
Popular residential compounds:
Central Park 新城国际
- Rent prices (per month): RMB 13,000-15,000 (88sqm, 1 bedroom), RMB 17,000-22,000 (120-135sqm, 2 bedrooms), RMB 28,000-35,000 (200sqm, 3 bedrooms)
- Facilities and amenities: Central location in a large compound filled with restaurants, shops, cafes, and beauty services. The Place is right across the street and the compound is about a ten-minute walk from Jintaixizhao subway station.
Gemdale International Garden 金地国际花园
- Rent prices (per month): RMB 11,000-15,000 (110-148sqm, 2 bedrooms), RMB 18,000-24,000 (188-198sqm, 3 bedrooms), RMB 30,000-35,000 (260sqm, 4 bedrooms)
- Facilities and amenities: The compound has a supermarket, restaurants, cafes, a post office, a gym, a swimming pool, and a playground. A small shopping center called Gemdale Plaza is located right across the compound.
Blue Castle International Apartment 蓝堡国际公寓
- Rent prices (per month): RMB 8,000-9,000 (54-73sqm, 1 bedroom), RMB 12,000-14,000 (128-138sqm, 2 bedrooms), RMB 15,000-20,000 (158-180sqm, 3 bedrooms)
- Facilities and amenities: Close to the post office, banks, Shin Kong Place, and hospitals. Limited choice of western restaurants in the area, though there’s an Annie’s around the corner.
Located just south of the CBD, Shuangjing was once a no-man’s land of factories and farmland. It’s bisected by East Third Ring Road, extending southward from China World Trade Center past Shuangjing Qiao to Jingsong Qiao. With one of the highest concentrations of residential compounds in Chaoyang District, Shuangjing has a diverse population of white-collar locals and expats who have settled in the area due to its proximity to downtown Beijing. The area has also become popular with families thanks to its growing selection of shopping and dining options.
Good for: Families and white-collar workers who want easy access to the CBD while keeping away from the hustle and bustle.
Public transportation: Shuangjing station on Line 10 has exits leading directly to Landgent International Center (乐城国际中心) and Viva Mall (富丽广场).
Schools: There are several schools in the area, the largest being Beijing City International School (K-12). Kindergartens include The Family Learning House, American International Academy of Beijing, Little Village Montessori School, and New Garden International School.
Shopping: Carrefour, Langdent International Center Mall, and Viva Mall are within walking distance of the area’s many residential compounds. There’s an April Gourmet next to Lohao City on the south side of Langdent International Apartments.
Dining: There’s a stretch of western restaurants with Lily’s American Diner, Gung-Ho Pizza, Main Street, and more. There are plenty of Chinese restaurants and eateries adjacent to Fulicheng as well as in the VIVA! Mall and Landgent Center.
Just for kids: Because Shuangjing is almost purely residential, there are no major parks except for Qingfeng Park along the Tonghui River. The closest parks are probably Ritan and Chaoyang, 15-20 minutes away by taxi. The top floor of Viva Mall has a few play centers. Though pricey, the Adventure Zone at the Kerry Hotel in the CBD guarantees a good time.
Popular residential compounds:
- Rent prices (per month): RMB 5,900-7,000 (63-72sqm, 1 bedroom), RMB 7,300-7,500 (97sqm, 2 bedrooms), RMB 9,000-11,000 (131-144sqm, 3 bedrooms)
- Facilities and amenities: Large, well-designed garden with a good selection of convenience stores and shops in the compound.
- Rent prices (per month): RMB 7,000-7,500 (73sqm, 1 bedroom), RMB 7,500-11,000 (80-110sqm, 2 bedrooms), RMB 11,000-30,000 (130-232sqm, 3 bedrooms)
- Facilities and amenities: Gym and health club, children’s play areas, clubhouse, adjacent to Viva Mall.
Landgent International 乐成国际
- Rent prices (per month): RMB 7,500-8,500 (72sqm, 1 bedroom), RMB 9,000-11,000 (109sqm, 2 bedrooms), RMB 10,000-23,000 (139-191sqm, 3 bedrooms)
- Facilities and amenities: Relatively new apartments (built in 2007) with a man-made lake and central garden within the compound. Nearby Carrefour, cafes, florists, laundry services, post office, and banks.
Chaoyang Park 朝阳公园
Chaoyang Park is often referred to as the “lungs of Beijing,” and for good reason – the park is the largest of its kind in Asia, and its green spaces and children’s activities draws families from all over the city. Lined with shops, restaurants, and residential compounds, the areas around Chaoyang Park – particularly Chaoyang Gongyuan Lu (where the west gates are located) are particularly attractive for families. The popular Solana Mall lies on the northwest end of the park and Lucky Street, with its many restaurants, is across the street.
Good for: Families, runners, and young professionals, especially those working in the embassy areas in Liangmaqiao or Dongzhimen Wai.
Public transportation: One of this area’s only drawbacks is its distance from the subway. The closest station is Tuanjiehu (团结湖) on Line 10, which is about a 15-minute walk from the park’s west gate. As of this writing, Line 14 was still not completed. However, many buses run along Chaoyang Gongyuan Lu.
Schools: House of Knowledge International Kindergarten is located off Chaoyang Gongyuan Lu. Chaoyang Park is about a 15-minute drive away from Liangmaqiao, where there’s the Canadian International School and The Children’s House International Montessori Kindergarten. In the other direction, there’s the British School of Beijing’s Sanlitun campus and the French International School of Beijing.
Shopping: Solana Lifestyle Shopping Park (referred to simply as “Solana”) is an open-air mall just north of Chaoyang Park’s west gate. It’s one of the more complete shopping centers, housing Zara, Uniqlo, Muji, H&M, Mothercare, Mango, Bershka, and more under one roof.
Dining: There are many restaurants lining the west side of Chaoyang Park, including Muse (Vietnamese), Annie’s, and Alio Olio (Italian). Across from Solana, a strip called “Lucky Street” has several Japanese restaurants and South German Bakery, a popular brunch spot. Be sure to try Baoyuan Jiaozi Wu on Maizidian, a small restaurant that makes some of the best dumplings in Beijing.
Just for kids: Chaoyang Park is a must-do for families in Beijing. In addition to its expansive green spaces, there are a number of ponds to paddle boats on and a large children’s area with amusement rides and attractions. Kite flying is a great spring tradition for local families. Solana has an indoor skating rink, a cinema, and an entire wing of the mall dedicated to maternity gear and children’s clothing.
Popular residential compounds:
Palm Springs 榈泉国际公寓
- Rent prices (per month): RMB 15,000-31,000 (130-225sqm, 2 bedrooms), RMB 18,000-24,000 (160-190sqm, 3 bedrooms), RMB 44,000 (360sqm, 4 bedrooms)
- Facilities and amenities: The north-facing units have a great view of Chaoyang Park. The Roman-style garden and large clubhouse make this a popular choice for families.
Park Avenue 公园大道
- Rent prices (per month): RMB 11,000-12,000 (95-100sqm, 1 bedroom), RMB 18,000-22,000 (150-190sqm, 2 bedrooms), RMB 32,000-57,000 (215-320sqm, 3 bedrooms)
- Facilities and amenities: Park Avenue has a shopping complex with imported groceries, cafes and sporting good stores.
Greenlake Place 观湖国际公寓
- Rent prices (per month): RMB 10,000-12,000 (85-123sqm, 1 bedroom), RMB 12,000-14,000 (120-145sqm, 2 bedrooms), RMB 15,000-26,000 (160-250sqm, 3 bedrooms)
- Facilities and amenities: Located east of Chaoyang Park, Greenlake is a sizeable complex with stores, restaurants, and shops – including a Jenny Lou’s.
Sanlitun and Xingfucun 三里屯和幸福村
Sanlitun is a major shopping and nightlife hub, especially for foreigners. With many international brands, restaurants, and bars concentrated in such a small area, it’s a bustling, fast-evolving, and some would say overly noisy area. To the west, near Second Ring Road lies the quieter Xingfucun area with many francophone families (owing to its proximity to the French Culture Center and French School) and a burgeoning dining and drinking scene.
Good for: Families and professionals who want to be in the middle of it all.
Public transportation: Dongsishitiao (东四十条) on Line 2 is closer to Xingfucun and Tuanjiehu (团结湖) on Line 10 is closer to Sanlitun Village and Sanlitun SOHO.
Schools: Located in Xingfucun, Beijing No. 55 Middle School is a well-known local school with an international section (K-12) that is increasingly attracting students from the expat community. Next to Tai Koo Li, there’s the French International School of Beijing for francophone families, with more schooling options located just north in Dongzhimen (see opposite).
Shopping: The main shopping destination is Tai Koo Li, a sprawling village-style mall split into north and south zones. The latter houses more fast fashion and sports brands (including the largest Adidas store in Asia), while the former sells luxury labels. Right next to Tai Koo Li, there’s the popular but crowded Yashow Market, which specializes in fakes. Expect to bargain hard and get repeatedly accosted by salespeople yelling “Hello, lady! Louis Vuitton wallet?”
Dining: You’ll never want for choice in Sanlitun. Most of the area’s western restaurants are concentrated in Tai Koo Li and the adjacent Nali Patio, including Element Fresh, Blue Frog, Union Bar and Grille, Wagas, Crêpanini, and Colibri Cafe. At Shimao Department Store, you’ll find an excellent Chinese restaurant called Green Tea that always has a line. Across the street, there’s Gung-Ho Pizza, Annie’s, and Iki Barbecue (you’ll recognize the building by the prominent Hooters logo). Xingfucun is home to a growing selection of bars and restaurants such as The Big Smoke, Great Leap Brewery, O’Steak, Sweet Tooth Cafe, Kato-Ya, and Jingzun Roast Duck Restaurant.
Just for kids: Tuanjiehu Park has a water park, a roller skating rink, and boat rides. Though a bit rough around the edges, Fundazzle is a long-standing play center located near Worker’s Stadium. At the south gate, there’s Blue Zoo Beijing, an aquarium with rays, sharks, dolphins, and even mermaids. The Cervantes Institute and newly-renovated French Cultural Center are also near the south gate; both have libraries with children’s books and regular film screenings with English and Chinese subtitles.
Popular residential compounds:
Seasons Park 海晟国际公寓
- Rent prices (per month): RMB 9,000-12,000 (70-98sqm, 1 bedroom), RMB 11,000-16,000 (95-140sqm, 2 bedrooms), RMB 16,000-32,000 (140-210sqm, 3 bedrooms)
- Facilities and amenities: Popular with expat familes, Seasons Park is close to banks, restaurants, and western supermarkets. The compound has a kids’ playground.
Sun City 阳光都市
- Rent prices (per month): RMB 7,000-9,000 (64-84sqm, 1 bedroom), RMB 8,000-16,000 (97-160sqm, 2 bedrooms), RMB 15,000-21,000 (177-192sqm, 3 bedrooms)
- Facilities and amenities: This community is home to many couples and young professionals. Great Leap Brewery, Beijing No. 55 Middle School, Sweet Tooth Cafe, and Kato-Ya are right around the corner.
Sanlitun SOHO 三里屯 SOHO
- Rent prices (per month): RMB 11,000-17,000 (95-150sqm, 1 bedroom), RMB 18,000-21,000 (130-150sqm, 2 bedrooms), RMB 33,000-36,000 (237-270sqm, 3 bedrooms)
- Facilities and amenities: This block contains mixed commercial and residential spaces. The attached shopping mall has large outdoor spaces for skating, strolling, wining, and dining.