Sanlitun and its surrounding areas are major expat hubs. With many bars, clubs, and restaurants concentrated in one place, it’s a fast-changing, very commercialized area. Just west of Sanlitun lies the quieter Xingfucun with its own developing bar and restaurant scene, while to the north is Dongzhimen, which contains one of the city’s major embassy districts. Inner Dongzhimen, on the other hand, is a gateway to historic neighborhoods, such as Gulou, Andingmen, and Yonghegong. However, many of these old Beijing neighborhoods are being demolished to initiate new developments, such as the extension of the Airport Express, as the city makes moves to modernize.
+ A high concentration of international bars and restaurants
+ Lots of events for couples and families
+ Access to schools
+ Western-style amenities
+ Many other expat families
+ Hutongs and cultural areas
+ Airport Express stop in Dongzhimen is very convenient
– Living inside the expat bubble
– Inconvenient subway access (nearest Lines are 2, 10, and 13), but this will change in the near future
– Frequent traffic
– Seedier areas at night such as Sanlitun
– Not as green as some of the other neighborhoods covered
Seasons Park, in particular, is popular with expat families as it is close to banks, restaurants, and western supermarkets and has a kids’ playground. Also popular with a large number of expats who have kids is Lianbao Garden. Located just behind the foreign grocery chain April Gourmet in Xingfucun, Lianbao has a convenient location, spacious apartments, and a children’s playground. Tayuan DRC has historically been a more upscale choice for well-compensated professionals or diplomats. It is one of the 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, a big stretch of grass within, and even has its own import market.
In Sanlitun, you can choose between a number of top-notch schools including Daystar Academy’s Sanlitun campus, The British School of Beijing (BSB), Sanlitun and their new early learning center, and Beijing No. 55 High School International Students Section which offers both middle and high school in Xingfucun.
Shopping abounds in Sanlitun, from foreign goods markets to mom and pop shops to vintage boutiques to huge malls. One major shopping and dining hub is Taikoo Li, a sprawling village-style mall with many name brand products. While many of these stores are on the pricey side, it is a great place for window shopping and getting a walk in. Just south of Taikoo Li is Sanlitun Soho. This is a great spot for finding an affordable tailor to make some of your bespoke fashion fantasies come to life!
Beijing’s dining scene is highly developed. Besides the many western-style restaurants in Taikoo Li and the adjacent Nali Patio, there’s plenty of options at Topwin Center, like Beyond Yakitori and Avocado Tree, or the neighboring Courtyard 4 where you’ll find Home Plate BBQ and Taco Bar. Head over to Dongzhimen’s Guijie, for acres of hot pot restaurants. Here, you’ll also find that the nearby hutongs have numerous local noodle shops and regional Chinese cuisine. Xingfucun is also home to a growing number of bars and restaurants, including O’Steak, 京-A Taproom, and Cannon’s Burgers.
Where to Play
Beijing is a huge city with a lot of places to go and things to do, yet many venues can be intolerably crowded during the weekend. During the hot days of summer, Tuanjiehu Park is home to the downtown’s best water park and also features roller-skating and rides. There are also several cinemas in Sanlitun that show a handful of Hollywood films. Just a short walk west from Taikoo Li you will spot Shimao Department Store, which is great for finding many kid-friendly activities including play learning venues, toy stores, and much more. For bibliophiles, The Bookworm is Beijing’s long-running bilingual bookstore and book lending library with regular story times, baby singing groups, and other family-friendly fun that can be a great escape from the hustle and bustle of this commercial neighborhood.
Photos: Kipp Whittaker
This article appeared on p18-29 of beijingkids July 2018 Home & Relocation Guide issue