If you’re after arty bars and cheap beers, then Wudaokou is undoubtedly the neighbourhood for you. Situated in the Haidian District of north western Beijing, Wudaokou (or “the Wu” as it’s affectionately known to its residents) is home to a plethora of universities, meaning that it’s a cultural mecca for students and young people from all over the world.
By day, the area teams with street buskers, café culture and second-hand book stores. By night, the eclectic mix of nationalities means that there’s a restaurant, bar or club to cater for every taste. Here are some of our favourites.
Lush – Voted as the best student hangout for five years running by The Beijinger magazine and Mixstik, Lush plays home to a whole host of cool events such as film nights, live music and open mic opportunities. The fact that it’s open 24 hours a day – as well as serving all day breakfast – makes it the default option for a great night out.
2/F, Bldg 1, Huaqing Jiayuan, Chengfu Lu
Helen’s café – Your typical backpacker-café style hangout, Helen’s café offers the mecca of every student: alcohol by the bucket. Perilously popular and often heaving with students, it tends to get pretty busy – especially at weekends – so get there early to secure yourself a table.
100m north of the east gate of Huaqing `Jiayuan
The Bridge café – This European inspired café is simply unmissable for whiling away an afternoon with a pastry or two. With three stories, a roof terrace and charming French music, there’s a plethora of couches to recline on and even a piano in the corner. It’s even open 24 hours for a caffeine hit at any time of the day – or night.
1, Bldg 12, Huaqingjiayuan, Chengfu Lu
The Bean Tree café – If it’s the cute and kitsch factor you’re after, then The Bean Tree café is the place to head. Renowned for its delicious waffles and its cheap pots of tea, this budget-friendly hangout with its banana toast and fruit smoothies is the perfect antidote for the morning after the night before.
2/F, Bldg 6, Wudaokou Huaqingjiayuan North Gate
Propaganda – A little bit rough around the edges, Propaganda is your classic party style club, always packed to the rafters with those out for a good night of carefree dancing. Fun? Yes! But classy it will never be.
100m north of the east gate of Huaqing jiayuan
Sensation – The only way to describe Sensation is LOUD! For crazy, college-esque parties, it’s the place to head for sure. Grab a booth in the ground-floor bar and send someone to the basement dancefloor to order the cocktails. Get ready to enjoy a wild time in an underground atmosphere to a heady soundtrack of R’n’b.
Huaqingjiayuan East Gate
La Bamba – Probably not the most authentic Mexican food you’ll ever eat but the huge portions and low prices help to make La Bamba an undisputed student favourite. The relaxed atmosphere and afterhours party vibes mean that this is a place you’ll come for lunch and end up staying all afternoon.
ChengFu Lu HuaQingJiaYuan DongMen Bei
Grandma’s Kitchen – A little bit of the West hidden in the midst of the East, Grandma’s kitchen is the ultimate in comfort food that’ll satisfy all your yearnings for a home cooked meal. Prepare yourself for some classic American fare – from sizzling burgers to crispy potato skins. Delicious!
Fifth floor, Wudaokou U-Center, No.28, Chengfu Road
So if we’ve tickled your taste buds for the delights of Beijing’s coolest neighbourhood, don’t hesitate a moment longer because this summer, there’s great deals to be had on flights to Beijing with Expedia. You could be living it up, backpacker style, sooner than you think.
Written by Josie Sampson, Fashion, travel and lifestyle writer based in London.