This is part two. For part one, click here.
Sanlitun, Xingfucun, and Dongzhimen 三里屯、幸福村和东直门
The area around Sanlitun is a major expat hub. With so many bars, clubs, and restaurants concentrated in one place, it’s a fast-changing – and some would say noisy – area. Just west of Sanlitun lies quieter Xingfucun with its own developing bar and restaurant scene and to the north is Dongzhimen, which contains one of the city’s embassy districts. Inner Dongzhimen is a gateway to historical neighborhoods like Gulou, Andingmen, and Yonghegong.
Pros: High concentration of international restaurants and bars, access to schools, close to western-style amenities, lots of other expat families
Cons: Living inside the bubble, inconvenient subway access (nearest are Lines 2, 10, and 13), frequent traffic, seedier areas like Sanlitun Bar Street
Schools: The area includes the British School of Beijing, Ivy Academy, the French International School of Beijing, Beijing No. 55 Middle School (a local school with an international section), and MOMA Kids International Kindergarten.
Shopping and dining: The main shopping and dining hub is Tai Koo Li, a sprawling village-style mall. Right next to Tai Koo Li, there’s Yashow Market, which specializes in fakes. As of print time, Yashow was still closed for renovation. Most of the western restaurants are concentrated in Tai Koo Li and adjacent Nali Patio, including Element Fresh, Moka Bros, Blue Frog, Union Bar and Grille, Wagas, and Crêpanini. Xingfucun is home to a growing number of bars and restaurants, including Great Leap Brewery, O’Steak, and the Big Smoke. Closer to the Liangma River, there’s Serve the People (Thai), In and Out (Yunnan), and Vineyard by the River, a popular brunch spot on weekends. Just east of Second Ring Road is Gui Jie (“Ghost Street”), a busy stretch of Chinese hotpot and chuanr joints.
Just for kids: Tuanjiehu Park has a water park, a roller skating rink (where Beijing’s only roller derby team practices on Saturdays), and boat rides. Though a bit rough around the edges, Fundazzle is a reliable and 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 French Cultural Center are also near the south gate; both have libraries with children’s books and film screenings with English and Chinese subtitles.
Popular residential compounds:
• Seasons Park: Popular with expat familes, Seasons Park is close to banks, restaurants, and western supermarkets. The compound has a kids’ playground.
• Lianbao Garden: Located just behind the April Gourmet in Xingfucun, this compound’s convenient location, spacious apartments, and reasonable rent prices make it popular with expat families. There’s a small playground inside.
• Tayuan DRC: Tayuan is one of five “diplomatic residence compounds” (DRC) originally built to serve Beijing’s diplomatic and foreign community. Located just north of the Canadian Embassy, the compound contains relatively spacious western-style apartments.
Wangjing and Lido 望京和丽都
Wangjing and Lido lie halfway between Shunyi and downtown Beijing. These areas are popular with families due to their relatively cheaper rent, access to international hospitals and schools, and proximity to foreign companies like Samsung, Ericsson, Nokia, and Microsoft. Both have a significant Korean community.
Pros: Short commute to international schools in Shunyi, proximity to headquarters of foreign companies, close to family-friendly destinations like Si’de Park, 798 Art District, and Indigo Mall
Cons: Connected to satellite subway lines (13, 14, and 15), not much to do in terms of shopping and entertainment, lacking history or culture
Schools: In Lido, there’s 3e International School, Young Starters Academy, Beijing International Bilingual Academy, Etonkids, and Beijing Collegiate Academy. Schools in Wangjing include Beijing World Youth Academy (Grades 1-12) and Muffy’s International Kindergarten.
Shopping and dining: One branch of Ikea is located in Lido. Indigo Mall near 798 Art District offers good shopping and dining, with a cinema, restaurants, BHG Marketplace, frequent children’s events, and a large outdoor playground. Next to Si’de Park, the Korean-owned CJ Foodworld houses a Tous les Jours bakery, Bibigo, and Twosome Coffee. There’s also Element Fresh, Gung-Ho Pizza, Annie’s, Taj Pavilion, and more. Wangjing has some great Korean restaurants and markets.
Just for kids: Si’de Park has a children’s amusement park, tennis courts, ponds with resident black swans, well-landscaped lawns and gardens, and running paths. Lido Place has a bowling alley called SMJ Bowling. In nearby Sanyuanqiao, families with older kids can also play laser tag or try go-karting. The New City Center in Wangjing is an expat-owned cafe, community center, and events venue. There’s an indoor playground as well as classes like Mommy and Me and Hooked on Phonics. Budding artists will like Beijing International Art Material Center Arts, which sells materials by Faber Castel, Marie, Winsor and Newton, Sakura, and more.
Popular residential compounds:
• Wangjing Huayuan: Close to local kindergartens, Wal-Mart, Jingkelong, banks, hospitals, post office, beauty salons, and more.
• Upper East Side: Gym, sauna, and swimming pool within the compound, with proximity to supermarkets, banks, cafes, restaurants, bakeries, and more.
• Chateau Regency: Clubhouse with a swimming pool, a fitness center, a convenience store, and a playground. Mookey Swim, a parent-owned center offering baby swimming classes, is located on the ground floor.
Shunyi is the expat neighborhood par excellence. There are villa compounds resembling American suburbs, complete with quaint street names and two-car garages. Beijing’s oldest international schools are here, including the International School of Beijing (ISB), the British School of Beijing (BSB), Dulwich College Beijing (DCB), Harrow International School Beijing (HISB), and the Western Academy of Beijing (WAB).
Pros: Lots of schools and villa compounds, safe, very close to the airport, many expat families, good base for day trips
Cons: Expat bubble, inconvenient for public transit and taxis, not much to do in terms of shopping and entertainment, larger distances, isolated from the city
Schools: Shunyi has the largest number of international schools. Apart from the ones mentioned above, there are also newcomers like Keystone Academy, an American-style boarding school with a bilingual and bi-cultural focus. The International Montessori School of Beijing, Daystar Academy, Etonkids, House of Knowledge, Beijing International Bilingual Academy, and Eduwings Kindergarten are also in Shunyi.
Shopping and dining: There isn’t as much shopping and dining in Shunyi, but families will be able to find what they need. Malls include Europlaza, Cathay View, the recently-opened Shine City, Sci-Tech Outlet, and Pinnacle Plaza. Beidong Flower Market has household decorations, some furniture, plants, and gardening supplies. Western restaurants tend to be scattered through different malls. Hegezhuang Village has The Orchard and Green T. House Living. Mrs. Shanen’s sells homemade bagels and dishes made with organic produce from the restaurant’s farm, Green Cow.
Just for kids: Atelier, an expat-founded art school, just opened a branch in Shunyi. Schools like DCB offer sports and recreation programs for the wider community. Quanfa Garden has a new indoor ice rink with hockey programs for kids. Nearby Miyun County is ideal for weekend excursions and is home to Nanshan Ski Resort.
Popular residential compounds:
• Capital Paradise: Outdoor and indoor swimming pools, gym, squash, bowling, mini-golf, tennis courts, sauna, outdoor and indoor children’s playgrounds, bars, cafes, and restaurants.
• Yosemite: Clubhouse, indoor and outdoor swimming pools, hot springs, sauna, gym, restaurant, cafe, children’s activity center.
• Beijing Riviera: Bicycle track, large green spaces, artificial lake, clubhouse, cafe , swimming pool, gym, tennis and squash courts, massage room, bar, and supermarket. On-site kindergarten. Near WAB, MSB, and Pinnacle Plaza.
This article originally appeared in the 2015 beijingkids Home and Relocation Guide. Click here to read the issue for free on Issuu.com. To find out how you can get your own copy, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Photos: Ken and Nimo Wanjau