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Sanlitun Bar Street, Beijing, China
a nightlife hotspot in Beijing
The Sanlitun Bar Street in Beijing has undergone a remarkable makeover during the past few years as the old Sanlitun market on the west side of the street was torn down several years ago and new high-rise buildings have taken the place of many of the bars. There is still plenty of fun to be found in Sanlitun, however, as new places are constantly cropping up to cater to the international crowd that flocks there, particularly on the weekends.The Sanlitun bar area is basically divided into two sections, the North Bar Street and the South Bar Street, by the major street Gongti Road that runs east and west from Dongsishitiao to the 3rd ring road.
Unfortunately the old Sanlitun South Bar Street was completely demolished during the end of 2004 and early 2005, with only two or three bars still standing at the very far south end of the area (the small Black Sun bar there is well worth visiting for its intimate atmosphere and pool and foosball tables, unlike the sleazy bar of the same name at the west gate of Chaoyang Park). Some of the bars that were located on the old South Bar Street have moved to new locations, such as Nashville, which moved to "Lucky Street" in northeast Beijing near the west gate of Chaoyang Park, and one of the best beer/pizza places in town, formerly known as "The Hidden Tree", has moved to behind the North Bar Street and is now known as "The Tree", and the Irish pub Durty Nellies, which has moved to near the Liangmaqiao Flower Market near Chaoyang Park.
The Sanlitun North Bar Street itself is nice, particularly in the summer, due to its tree-lined street and countless bars with tables for sitting outside and enjoying a cold drink while watching all of the people go by. Prices are a bit expensive by Beijing standards, around 25 Chinese Yuan (US$3.50) for a draft beer, but its a nice area for a couple of drinks in the afternoon. At night, many of the bars feature live bands, but forget about these places if you are looking to have an actual conversation with someone because the bars with the bands are really very loud.
There is a small sidestreet just to the west of the main Sanlitun North Bar street that has somewhat replaced the old south bar street, with many bars (including the venerable Poachers that has been around for years) and lots of people milling around in the streets on weekends. During the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing, this small sidestreet area saw a party every night, and numerous celebrities even made appearances at some of these "backstreet" bars (swimming star Michael Phelps, soccer star Renaldhino, movie star Vince Vaughn, to name a few). Prices are generally cheaper on this backstreet, and there are several stands set up selling big bottles of Tsingtao and Yanjing beer for 3 Chinese Yuan (US$0.45) with places to sit around outside and watch all of the action.
This is one of the oldest bar streets in Beijing, and although it has changed drastically over the past few years, it continues to draw the crowds. It is worth a visit if you have some spare time during your Beijing tour, just don't have so much fun that you miss your Great Wall tour the next morning!