Haidian District is located in the northwest part of the city. In this district, you will find Chinese areas rich in culture and affordable in price as well as more foreigner-accessible hubs. There is a good reason why Haidian is known as the education district: the vast majority of the city’s universities are housed here including Peking and Tsinghua — the Chinese equivalents to Oxford and Cambridge. In addition to several of China’s famous tourist attractions, Haidian is also home to Zhongguancun, a subdistrict often dubbed “China’s Silicon Valley”. Further west of the city’s main thoroughfare Chang’an Avenue and just before the West Fourth Ring Road is Wukesong roadway interchange, an affluent scene full of family-friendly fare including many night markets and restaurants.
+ Rich in Chinese culture
+ Significantly more affordable than most parts of Chaoyang district
+ Offers a variety of international restaurants
+ Beijing United Family Hospital and Amcare both have Haidian branches
– Relatively far from many of the prominent International schools
– Not as tailored to affluent expat living
– Not as close to most of the International hospitals
Huaqingjiayuan is a sprawling apartment complex located in the heart of Wudaokou. Popular with foreigners, this complex has its own swimming pool, kindergartens, and modest import store. Hongshan International Apartments is another option as this complex is right next door to Holiday Inn and a stone’s throw away from Qinghuadongluxikou station of Beijing Subway Line 15. Up the road, Liudaokou offers a cheaper alternative to Wudaokou. Furunjiayuan, a sought-after compound, is located seconds away from Line 15’s Liudaokou station and is within walking distance of a number of grocery stores.
Both Muffy’s International Kindergarten and Eduwings Kindergarten have Haidian branches. For older children, Tsinghua International School offers education for students aged 6-18 (Grade 1-12). There is also the option of Beijing Kaiwen Academy, a private bilingual school for children in Grade 1-12. Over in Qinghe Saint Paul American School is situated close to a beautiful canal and provides schooling for children aged 13-18 (Grade 7-12). Meanwhile, Haidian Foreign Language Academy offers a comprehensive one-stop service for children aged 3-18.
No Haidian shopping guide would be complete without mentioning D-Mart. Best described as Haidian’s answer to Jenny Lou’s, this store is well-stocked with imported food, beverages, skincare items, and cleaning products. There is also a well established Carrefour in Zhongguancun. In terms of shopping for non-consumable items, the array of malls peppered across the district has that area well covered. Golden Resources Shopping Mall, often nicknamed “Great Mall of China”, is located near the Fourth Ring Road and was at one time the world’s largest mall. Although it no longer holds this title the sheer scale of the place with its 1,000+ shops means that one is almost certain to find whatever they may be looking for here. Dreamport Mall is another renowned establishment. Here you will find high street stores such as Gap and H&M side by side more upmarket brands such as Ugg. There is also a generous sized Walmart thrown in for good measure. For bulk buys one can make use of either Metro (an international Cash & Carry) or Sam’s Club. Cadillac Center, the venue formerly known as Huaxi Live (and before that, MasterCard Center and LeSports Center), hosts large-scale events, games, and concerts.
In recent years eateries that were formerly found only on the east side of town have made their way over to Haidian. These include Blue Frog (Zhongguancun) and Element Fresh (Bagou). Owing to the relatively high number of foreigners residing in this area, Wudaokou has a large concentration of restaurants serving international cuisine. Eateries such as Lush, Tous Les Jours, and Steps have long been a part of the Wudaokou scene. There is also Ganges, Tube Station Pizza, and Khan Baba, a Pakistani restaurant with a good value weekday lunch buffet.
Where to Play
Where to begin? Haidian is a great base from which to explore the great outdoors. The Purple Bamboo Park, the Beijing Botanical Gardens, Fragrant Hills, the Summer Palace and the Old Summer Palace, and Haidian Park are a few of the well-known places of tranquility that call this district home. In the summer months, Liu Lang outdoor swimming pool offers lake-like pools and a designated children’s swimming pool with engaging apparatus. Over in Huoqiying, there is Kukutu outdoor adventure playground. On polluted days or in the cold winter months, Haidian’s numerous malls provide a multitude of options for fun indoor children’s activities. Both the Golden Resources Mall and the Dreamport Mall have large ice skating rinks and entire floors dedicated to kids play. At the Cadillac Center complex, you’ll find Wukesong Cultural & Sports Square full of play areas for children of all ages. Yuyuantan Park, adjacent to the old CCTV Building, is good for nature tripping.
Photos: Pamela Djima