Ask around locals or friends for their recommendations and if you like a certain style of music/dancing then there is sure to be somewhere catering to your request. Never be afraid to add a club or venue on Wechat to ask questions, it’s a fast and efficient way of getting the information you need to know!
Wechat (微信 Wēixìn) is China’s main instant messaging app, which you can also use for audio and video calls, and uses internet data. If you’re going to be in China for any length of time it is worth downloading as people are very keen to ask for your details and you never know when that guanxi (关系Guānxì: Chinese word for social network/relationship) could come in handy. A favourite area for a guaranteed fun night is Sanlitun (三里屯 Sānlǐtún) where locals and foreigners flock every day of the week and drinks are cheap and music is blaring.
If you want to party like a local you need to gather up a bunch of friends and book yourself a room at your nearest KTV (karaoke television). This has to be one of my most favourite things about China. Imagine karaoke. I’ve lost most of you, I can tell. No, imagine a room covered in gold and mirrors and plush red velvet sofas, a massive flat screen TV and it’s just for you and your friends. Be rest assured it is private so no one can hear you. Now grab those two mics, and if you’re a diva, the retro golden mic on the mini mic stand and get choosing all your favourite songs. If you fancy: order a drink or two, or maybe a fancy fruit platter… Who knew? You now love karaoke!
If you want a night time alternative that is more chilled then there are plenty of other options. Many shops tend to stay open late. Streets are busy with food stalls and street vendors in areas such as Wangfujing (王府井Wángfǔjǐng) and Nanluoguxiang (南锣鼓巷nánluógǔxiàng) where, even if you’ve already eaten, it is fun to take a stroll and people watch. Wangfujing is the original Beijing snack street where you can find anything from deep fried scorpion, starfish or tarantula, candy crab apple sticks and everyone’s favourite: cow stomach. No really, all the Chinese tourists are walking around with bowls of stomach. It definitely has the shock factor and one of your friends is bound to brave one of the above. Wangfujing also caters more palatable dishes but let’s be honest, that’s not what you came to see. Which is more fun, videoing your friend eating a bowl of noodles or a bull testicle? There are also many touristy shops to stock up on all those souvenirs you were meaning to get a hold of.
Nanluoguxiang is also very busy with Chinese tourists but has a different vibe. Situated in the charming Hutongs, it is a hustle and bustle of many small snack shops serving popular street foods from all over Asia: Japanese takoyakji, Thai fried squid, Hong Kong fish balls etc. One of my favourites is a cream puff, a bit like a profiterole, but the cream is matcha (green tea) flavour. You may love it or hate it but you can’t know until you try! There are also many cute cafés with rooftop terraces perfect for a night time drink, or even a cat café which, let’s face it, you know you’ve always wanted to try.
If you fancy, pop by your nearest square and join in on the daily night time activities the locals put on. Dancing classes on the street from Waltz to Swing, karaoke on the street from someone’s make shift TV and microphone, join the traditional sing along where you’ll find out your neighbour is a hidden operatic superstar or kick around a jianzi (毽子jiànzi) which is like a hacky sack with feathers or the latest craze: whipping light up spinning tops. That last one is a little terrifying.
There are also many great theatre productions, acrobatics and operas to see. My friend and I thought we’d brave the high pitched tones of the Beijing Opera in one of the old traditional opera houses. If this is not your cup of Chinese tea then I would say it’s OK to give it a miss, however, if you really want to go, make sure you look up some reviews online to make sure you’ve chosen a good one.
One last alternative activity I’d like to mention is Beijing’s escape games. Escape games have become popular all over the world and once you’ve done one you become addicted. So when I learnt that there were escape games in Beijing I was also very excited. Those of you who are unaware of the concept: you’re locked in a room and you have one hour to get out. There are no more rules, anything goes.
Now I do not want to give anything away, but the Beijing version of escape games is like an escape game 2.0 where everything is even crazier but also intricate and unexpected! We were locked in two side-by-side prison cells with only a sink and toilet and told to get out… I realise I have not really said anything and to people who have never done an escape game before they may be a bit confused but leave it to say I highly recommend this to you an