Updated: Oct 14, 2020
Beijing is Big. Its sheer size and many neighborhoods can make it intimidating when deciding where in Beijing you want to live. I remember the first day I arrived in Beijing. I felt like I was just on the other side of the world. Things felt different. The city seemed huge as we drove from the airport to our hotel. I remember thinking I would never get used to this place. But having a basic understanding of where to live when deciding to make that final move to teach and live abroad can be useful. Flash forward one year, things are looking far more clear. Here are my Top Most Livable Neighborhoods to live in Beijing:
Dongcheng District Neighborhoods
Dongcheng District, which translates in Chinese as "east city district," covers the eastern half of the Old City in Beijing. Most of the district lies within the 2nd Ring Road. If you're looking for the real authentic, beautiful Beijing living, welcome to your new home in Dongcheng! You will find countless cultural sites like The Forbidden City, Drum and Belltower, Temple of Heaven, and traditional hutong galore. There are a few stand out neighborhoods to choose from within the Dongcheng District:
Oh, beautiful Gulou. If you're into the tree-lined streets, countless markets, authentic shops and restaurants, China circa 1279 aesthetic, Gulou is the right choice for you. Gulou feels like an enchanted land. It feels like a secret neighborhood you wish you kept a secret. It still feels like a secret because time seems to have stood still in Gulou, to a degree. There is a beautiful mix of the old world, along with a trendy and groovy vibe. Expats love living in Gulou, especially for the famous hutongs. Hutongs are a type of traditional homes in narrow streets or alleyways. There are many bars in Gulou, and the nightlife is alive and well.
Yonghegong is near to the Lama and Confucius Temples. You can find both traditional hutongs to live in along with more modern apartments. Yonghegong is one of the most pedestrian-friendly areas. There are many streets to walk down and gorgeous architecture to take in. If you'd like to be immersed in Chinese culture, Yonghegong is the neighborhood for you.
Dongzhimen is the more modern option in Dongcheng. There are numerous newly built apartments to choose from, and it's incredibly expat-friendly. Dongzhimen has multiple shopping complexes and a lot of night and day entertainment. There are also countless eateries for a quick bite or more luxurious culinary experiences. Costs for living in Dongzhimen are a bit higher than the other Dongcheng options. Still, you won't need to worry about sacrificing any western amenities!
This is the most expat-friendly and largest District in Beijing. You will find countless bars, lively nightlife, and luxurious living options. Living in Chaoyang will come at a higher price tag. The apartments are modern and equipped with all western conveniences. You will find gorgeous parks all around Chaoyang for some quiet time and a nice break away from the city:
798 Art District Neighborhood
798 is one of the funkiest and eclectic neighborhoods to live in Beijing. Many foreigners come to 798 to live out their dream Beijing artist life. 798 was formerly a cluster of military factories transformed into a hip, creative artist community. You can live the artist's life in one of the many apartments or go for the full artist aesthetic in one of the many lofts. There are many hip cafes and numerous art galleries to spend some quality time.
Sanlitun is THE ex-pat zone. It is known for the sprawling bar and club scene. There's also a lot of western restaurants and cafes to choose from. Sanlitun is exceptionally urban and international. It's one of the most fashionable and upscale areas to live in Beijing. The famous Taikoo Li shopping complex is located right here. You can choose to live in very modern apartments and skyscrapers, including the best views in Beijing. Living costs in Sanlitun will be higher, but you'll be living the life. You will find easy access to everything you need to live in Sanlitun. So, if you're okay paying higher rents and basking in the ultimate Beijing modern lifestyle, Sanlitun is waiting for you!
CBD, also known as The Beijing Central Business District, is the most deluxe option in the mix. It is home to many executives and those who are very well off. CBD offers both high cost and high-quality living. You can find beautifully serviced and high-end apartments in CBD. If you want to be right in the business world's core activities and your wallet is large enough, CBD is the right choice for you.
Haidian is an excellent choice for working professionals and students. Haidian is the second largest District in Beijing, after Chaoyang. It is known as Beijing's technology and education hub. Haidian is one of the most popular neighborhoods for students to live in because of the large number of universities in the area! You can find affordable high-rise apartments and a nice mix of modernity and authenticity living in Haidian.
Wudaokou consists of mostly university students studying in Beijing. You will find many affordable bars and great nightlife to enjoy. The apartments are less modern than other neighborhoods listed, but the living prices are a lot more affordable.
Located just outside the 6th ring in Beijing is the Shunyi District. If you're looking for the most expat-friendly "home away from home" vibe, Shunyi is for you. Shunyi is made up of suburban neighborhoods, very similar to the suburban western lifestyle. Homes in Shunyi include many large houses, villas, and gated communities. Most expatriate families choose to live in Shunyi because of its quiet and calm living environment. You will find many western friendly restaurants, coffee shops, and supermarkets. If you're looking for a less urban lifestyle, Shunyi is an option to consider!
Beijing is huge, and there are many neighborhoods not mentioned on this list. It's safe to say Beijing offers a wide selection of many different kinds of homes and lifestyles. From the most authentically Chinese, to the wildly lavish modern life, Beijing has got you covered.