Beijing (Peking) Opera Beijing Opera is a form of “total theater” with singing, speech, mime, and acrobatics that combine graceful gymnastics and movements from the martial arts. Neophytes may find two hours of the staccato clanging and nasal singing of Beijing opera hard to take (and most young Chinese fed on a diet of western-style pop agree). But this dramatic, colorful experience might be one of the most memorable of your trip. Performances can be seen at venues across the city.
Beijing's Art Districts The 798 Art District aka Dashazi is the most important area, both as a centre for new art and for the cafe-bar culture that clusters around creative folk. The Chaoyang Liquor Factory, known as Jiuchang in Chinese, is a newly established commercial art district that lies just to the north of 798. Caochangdi, a village that lies a few minutes from 798 to the north-east, is far less commercial in presentation and home to such important players as the China Art and Archive Warehouse (whose artistic director is Ai Weiwei). The National Art Museum of China, though mainly a place to see older, mainstream work, has started to exhibit an ambitious programme of international contemporary and modern art.
Chinese Acrobatics (zaji) China has a worldwide reputation for its gymnasts, who perform breathtaking routines that showcase their unnerving flexibility. Displays of balance often involve props such as chairs, plates, and bicycles. Several Beijing theaters put on the shows, of which the most popular is that at the Chaoyang Theater.
Classical Music Take the chance to attend a Chinese orchestra if at all possible. China Philharmonic Orchestra is by far the best choice for tonal quality, program selection and a variety of guest conductors and soloists. The main classical music venues are the Forbidden City Concert Hall in Zhong Shan Park and the National Centre for the Performing Arts. The new National Centre for the Performing Arts (formerly known as National Grand Theatre) is a spectacular multi-purpose venue that puts on classical concerts, ballet, and opera, as well as providing space for art exhibitions. Its central location (one block west of Tiananmen Square) and impressive architecture (futuristic oval shape) alone certainly merit a visit.
Massage and Spas One of the nice things living in Beijing is that you can indulge in inexpensive spa treatments that cost a fortune in the West. Whether you fancy no-frills full body rub down at a blind massage parlor or an aromatically scented food rub fit for an emperor, Beijing's massage joints is the ideal way to relax and wind down.
Pubs, Bars and Clubs Beijing's expat bar scene has for years concentrated along Sanlitun Lu in Chaoyang district. Sanlitun Bei Lu, also known as "Bar Street" is lined with drinking dens, although the better bars are actually in the side streets, including long-standing favorite The Tree, which marries draught beer with wood-fired pizza. The fastest-growing spot for late-night drinking is the Back Lakes (Shicha Hai or Hou Hai). One of the first, still one of the best, the No Name Bar near Hou Hai is well worth a visit. Perhaps the most notable trend is the resurgence of hotel bars, which are the most appealing and stylish drinking options in Beijing, most notably Centro (Kerry Center), Red Moon (Grand Hyatt) and Aria (China World Hotel)
Rock, Jazz and Pop The rock and pop scene is vibrant and wholly targeted at a young audience. The Sanlitun's Worker's Stadium (Gongti Bei Lu, Chaoyang District, 010-6501-6655, www.gongti.com.cn), Beijing's equivalent to London's Wembley Stadium, is the major venue for large-scale rock and pop concert, filled by Taiwanese and Hong Kong stars, but also by a few mainland mega- stars. Among the many smaller venues for live music, all with rosters of rock, blues, jazz, punk, pop, and anything else that seems likely to bring in the masses.
Teahouses Tea is served with great ceremony involving a lot of filling and spilling, or tipping away- the aim is to provide a good number of exquisitely small cups of perfect tea from one pot of tea leaves. The city's numerous teahouses are also excellent venues for the enjoyment of a variety of performances such as traditional Chinese Music, storytelling, Chinese Opera, cross talking, magic, acrobatics, and martial arts (kung fu). (You might also want to check: All the tea in China, or Where to buy tea and tea sets in Beijing)