Exploring Beijing’s Diverse Sanlitun Village

Exploring Beijing's Diverse Sanlitun Village

foreign-correspondent badge finalEast of Tiananmen Square and the Chaoyang District of Beijing is Sanlitun Village. The area is a popular spot for Westerners and locals who are searching for a bit of diversity after days of sorting out the emperors and dynasties of China’s long history.

Sanlitun is home to 79 embassies and other foreign offices. Since the beginning of the 20th century, it has gained a worldwide reputation for its bar street and shopping arcades. Just in the past decade my husband and I have seen a modernized revamp in the area where the majority of the small local Hutong village shops and restaurants have been transformed into glass and steel towers and concrete plazas.

I always travel to Beijing with my insulated freezer bags and stock up on my favorite cheeses and culinary luxuries such as tender cuts of meat, tahini and affordable French wine, which cannot be bought in Qingdao.

But still hidden and existing are a few of our favorite establishments that keep calling us back to visit Sanlitun for a bit of culture and diversity from our rural farming coastal community.

My husband and I live in Qingdao, about 580 miles south of Beijing. And when we are in desperate need of the modern world and a Western bookstore we go to Beijing’s Sanlitun District and visit The Bookworm. Although the bar street is the hub for backpackers and the younger generation, my husband and I like to visit the area across from the hub on Nan Sanlitun Lu. About 200 meters (passing the rickshaw on your left) you will see a green building.

sanlitun village in Beijing
Despite modernization, Sanlitun Village in Beijing still has some cultural gems.

You can’t miss this building because it is the only bright green building on the left after you cross over Gongti Bei Lu. There are detailed directions on their website; see here. The Bookworm is a great place to dine and lounge anytime of the day, all the while relaxing in and perusing through three large rooms filled with new and used Western books and magazines.

Over the past weekend, we were in The Bookworm and noticed from their roof deck that there was a “Hidden City” located in close proximity to their backyard. Quietly located and situated far enough away from the traffic noise is a small sculpture garden with fine dining establishments and chic boutiques. 1949 Hidden City was once the Beijing Machinery and Electric Institute’s factory and research facility. In 2008, the factories were retooled into a charming private walled city within a city.

sanlitun village Beijing
In Sanlitun Village in Beijing, The Bookworm is a great place to catch up on your reading.

It might be a bit stuffy for some but if you are a foodie like myself, you will cry tears of joy when you try a few of the restaurants located inside this Sanlitun neo-industrial chic venue. Duck de Chine (Peking Duck and Dim Sum) and Okra (Japanese, Best Chef and New Restaurant) are two places that I would recommend trying.

While in Sanlitun, we usually stay in the north village of Sanlitun at the Holiday Inn Express Beijing Dongzhimen. Everything in Sanlitun is either north or south of Workers Sports Stadium (Gongrentiyuchuang). The stadium itself is impressive and is surrounded by shops and restaurants. It also hosts concerts and soccer matches.

It might be a bit stuffy for some but if you are a foodie like myself, you will cry tears of joy when you try a few of the restaurants located inside this Sanlitun neo-industrial chic venue.

Across the street from the stadium are my favorite spa (Bodhi) and yoga studio (Yoga Yard). And situated behind the studio down a long small road past a Xinjiang restaurant is our favorite international grocery store, April’s Gourmet, and Boulangerie Michel, the French butchery.

sanlitun village in Beijing
Rita and her husband enjoy shopping excursions in Sanlitun Village in Beijing.

I always travel to Beijing with my insulated freezer bags and stock up on my favorite cheeses and culinary luxuries such as tender cuts of meat, tahini and affordable French wine, which cannot be bought in Qingdao. And this time was no different. The lack of dining options has left me no choice but to cook and entertain at home. In Qingdao, we are limited to maybe one good Western style restaurant; in the international grocery store, most meats are dated and frozen. The French cheese selection is virtually non-existent.

So when you are invited to my Qingdao home for dinner, you most likely will want to accept, especially after an inspiring visit and a grocery shopping trip to Sanlitun.

 

About Rita Nielsen

Rita NielsenRita Nielsen is a Maine native and mother of two and grandmother of one dragon baby and one very young colt (horse baby). Her blog is about what inspires her, where she has been, where she is and where she wants to go.

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