A friendly city brimming with history and culture, Beijing boasts a wealth of attractions and activities for people of all backgrounds. A well-known downside to the beautiful city and an unfortunate byproduct of being one of the world’s largest metropolitan centres is the level of pollution in Beijing, and, in many cases, expats have trouble adjusting to the smog and grime.
Those who overcome the challenges of pollution and overcrowding will find that Beijing offers great shopping opportunities at malls and markets, vibrant nightlife and highly anticipated annual events at a range of exciting entertainment venues. It also offers delicious local and international dining options, world-class sports facilities and stunning natural beauty.
Shopping in Beijing
There are endless options for shopping in Beijing, whether one is on the prowl for high-end products or cheap market items. Large malls and department stores are dotted around the city, while markets are ever-popular attractions throughout Beijing’s suburbs.
Wangfujing is arguably the most famous shopping street in Beijing, and expats are likely to find almost anything they’re looking for there, from international fashion brands to local Chinese trinkets and electronic goods. Other prominent shopping districts include Xidan Commercial Street and Taikoo Li Sanlitun.
Nightlife in Beijing
The nightlife scene in Beijing is vibrant and extensive, offering a wide selection of clubs, karaoke bars and cocktail lounges catering to a variety of tastes. There are endless things to see and do. Many expats in Beijing are drawn to the lakeside Houhai area as well as the foreigner-friendly establishments in Sanlitun. Gathering some friends and taking part in some good old Chinese karaoke always makes for an interesting and humorous night out, and is an obligatory initiation for many new arrivals.
Expats with cultured tastes can also enjoy traditional performances at places such as the Beijing Opera as well as venues like the Lao She Teahouse, which provides foreigners with an opportunity to enjoy traditional Chinese tea culture in a relaxed setting.
Outdoor activities in Beijing
Although the government occasionally issues warnings to limit the amount of time spent outside on days with high levels of air pollution, expats will have access to a variety of outdoor activities in Beijing. Hiking along the Great Wall is a popular pastime, with different sections offering distinct surroundings and a unique experience.
Beijing also enjoys a selection of traditional leisure activities, often centred on the city’s parks, such as kite flying, mahjong and tai chi. There are parks all over the city, with some of the most popular including the Beihai Park’s ornamental gardens and lake, the vast lawns and rollercoaster at Chaoyang Park, as well as the Ditan Park’s old-world charm.
Another popular attraction is the Beijing World Park. Built with the idea of allowing visitors to see the world without leaving Beijing, the park is situated in the city’s southwest and offers its 1.5 million annual visitors a chance to see replicas of the Statue of Liberty, the Giza Pyramids and the Venus de Milo amid a wealth of shopping, dining and entertainment options.
►For a list of annual events in the city, see What's On in Beijing
"Beijing is a vibrant international city that retains its Chinese roots while still offering plenty of the amenities that you would expect in a Western country. There’s always something new to explore here in the Chinese hutongs or elsewhere in the city! At the same time, there’s plenty of Western restaurants with almost any type of food you can imagine (with imported beer and wine!) that help when you’re missing home." Find out what else there is to enjoy in Beijing by reading our interview with Greg.
"It was easy to make friends in the housing compound where I am living and through the community of the school attended by my son. There are also international expats associations through where a newcomer can meet people." Read more in this expact interview with Alessandra Marin.
Are you an expat living in Beijing?
Expat Arrivals is looking for locals to contribute to this guide, and answer forum questions from others planning their move to Beijing. Please contact us if you'd like to contribute.
Expat Health Insurance
Cigna Global can tailor an international health insurance plan to perfectly fit the needs of you and your family. With 86 million customers in over 200 countries, Cigna Global has unrivalled experience in dealing with varied and unique medical situations and delivering high standards of service wherever you live in the world.
Sirelo has a network of more than 500 international removal companies that can move your furniture and possessions to your new home. By filling in a form, you’ll get up to 5 quotes from recommended movers. This service is free of charge and will help you select an international moving company that suits your needs and budget.