Beijing consists of 16 districts containing over 21 million people. In this series, we will be focusing on seven neighborhoods in four separate districts, which have become the most popular among Beijing’s expat community. While these aren’t the only areas that are home to waiguoren, these are the most accessible and offer, in our opinion, the best Beijing experience depending on your tastes and preferences.
Beijing’s Central Business District (CBD) and Shuangjing are often labeled expat havens, and that’s not a bad thing. After all, the neighborhood’s proximity to quality schools, kid-friendly play areas, parks, and a variety of restaurants and shops makes for a comfortable home away from home. Framed by the Third and Fourth Ring Roads, the diverse Chaoyang District neighborhood encompasses famous architectural feats (CCTV’s Big Pants building), walkable greenspaces (Ritan Park), and top-notch shopping experiences (Parkview Green, China World Mall, SKP). Everything is within reach from the city’s financial hub, with convenient foot or subway access to all of the above. A short walk south from the CBD, Shuangjing’s Today Art Museum, and numerous malls offer just a slice of the many cultural options for family living and fun.
+ Home to one of Beijing’s biggest and diverse expat communities
+ Array of malls offers one-stop convenience and proximity
+ Public parks emphasize quality over quantity
+ Limitless shopping options within close distance
+ Variety of international food choices
– Corporate vibe
– Expensive rent, food, and shopping
– Far from historical landmarks and points of interest
– Heavy vehicle and foot traffic
– Limited greenspace options
Quality, affordable living can be found in pricey Shuangjing, with residential compounds like A Pie and Pingod just a short foot trek to neighborhood supermarkets April Gourmet and Carrefour. The more upscale and spacious Shiqiao Guomao World Trade apartments off the Third Ring Road offer lobby and laundry service, a fitness center, and an onsite playground.
Among the CBD’s luxury-style, high-rise compounds are Central Park, Gemdale International Garden, and Windsor Avenue. Many of these Guomao residences offer round-the-clock management, swimming pools, and onsite gardens and parking. Prepare to pay a lot to live here, though consider it an investment in convenience: it’s all right next to shopping meccas Kerry Centre, SOHO, The Place, and China World Trade Center, as well as the super-convenient getting to subway Lines 1 and 10.
Bilingual daycare centers and kindergartens abound. Enroll children as young as 3 at New Garden International in Fuli City, which offers full-day, bilingual kindergarten instruction. In nearby Guomao, options for early learners include Little Pony Daycare, Beanstalk International Kindergarten, and Etonkids, which all introduce toddlers to classroom structure and socializing.
Top international schools like Beijing City International School (BCIS) and Yew Chung International School of Beijing (YCIS) teach kindergarten through high school, and shape students to become competent in both English and Chinese.
Let’s take it alphabetically: China World Mall, Hopson One, Kerry Centre, Parkview Green, Space 3, The Place, Viva Mall…enough malls for you? Pick one and you’ll encounter even more choices, from excellent international food courts to rows of fashion retailers, drug stores, and electronics shops. Feel like hustling a deal? Visit the Silk Market in CBD, where you’ll find bargains on knockoff jewelry and apparel or Panjiayuan in Shuangjing for antiques — if bartering’s your thing.
You can’t go wrong exploring the food courts inside every CBD and Shuangjing mall. Craving Western-style comfort food? Hotties at Hopson One mall in Baiziwan is a great go-to for cheap burgers. Blue Frog and Moka Bros are the latest newcomers to Space 3, with local favorite Q Mex already into its second year at the mall.
Step outside for more options, including Burger Break and Grinders, which both offer affordable bar grub. Shuangjing staple Lily’s American Diner has a bit of everything, and does a consistently satisfying brunch. For Mexican, you can’t beat Moji Taco & Salad in Fuli for authenticity. For a round of slices, try La Pizza at The Place in the CBD for a proper sit-down dinner, or Gung Ho! in Fuli for a takeout pie.
Where to Play
On a clear Summer day, nothing beats getting outside for a stroll with your kids for some family playtime. Qingfeng Park, nestled just east of Third Ring Road, is bursting with bright flowers and refurbished amusement park-style rides; there’s even safe bungee-jumping for kids). For 200 RMB, load up a card and enjoy an afternoon aboard the roller-coaster and carousel, among other rides. Ritan Park is a perfect escape from the bustle, big enough to run with the kids yet peaceful enough to do absolutely nothing and just revel in its nature.
On those rough AQI days, play centers offer clean air and plenty of freedom for children to run and play together. Enjoy a coffee or a meal at Space 3 mall’s Kimo Kids Cafe, where parents can buy playtime in increments of two hours. There’s also Line Friends Cafe in Guomao’s Yintai building, and Little Oasis in He Sheng Hui mall, featuring an entire floor of playspace. New York City Kids Club at Viva Mall offers membership-based packages transferable at all Beijing locations.
This article appeared in the beijingkids June 2019 Home & Relocation Guide issue.
Photos: Kipp Whittaker