Most of the bars on Sanlitun North Bar Street offer nightly live "music" performances by cover bands, usually of scant talent and almost invariably Filipino in origin. But several small venues, most of them in Chaoyang, host an increasingly varied lineup of musical acts. Performers range from traditional folk instrumentalists to jazz ensembles and rock outfits, and are usually interesting, if not always good. Most venues are bars open nightly from around 5pm to 1 or 2am, although few offer live acts every night. There is usually a small cover charge of about ¥5 to ¥50 on performance nights, depending on the number of acts and their prestige. Time Out and The Beijinger maintain somewhat accurate listings of what is playing where and when.
Club & Discos
The average Chinese will lump all dancing establishments into a single category -- tiaowudian (dancing place), or, if they try it in English, "dee-si-ko." But while the distinction between a Beijing disco and a Beijing dance club is lost on most locals, it is readily apparent to any foreigner. Discos are typically old and cavernous, with exaggerated decor, horrible music, and a wholly Chinese clientele whose attempts to imitate Western modes of style and dance will send shivers down your spine. Clubs, by contrast, are newer, smaller, and more stylish, with a DJ-dominated atmosphere closer in feel to what you'd find in the United States or Europe. The club clientele is wealthier, more diverse (with both Chinese and foreigners), and not quite as clueless.
Both discos and dance clubs charge high covers, at anywhere from ¥50 to ¥150. Both tend to get crowded on weekends around 10pm and empty around 3am, although a few clubs will host special parties that last until dawn. There is some activity on Thursday nights, but the rest of the week is slow. Discos predate the days of the drinking district and hence are scattered randomly around the city. Clubs tend to be situated next to bars, in foreigner-heavy areas like Sanlitun and Chaoyang Park.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.