By Sean Kwon, NorCap Staff Intern
My favorite hangout spot in Beijing is most definitely Sanlitun. Despite having grown up in this city, every time I visit this neighborhood I am still in awe of the transformation that has taken place over the past ten years. Located in Chaoyang District of Beijing, Sanlitun is a unique area with a diverse range of international stores, restaurants, and bars, all of which are very popular among locals and expats alike.
Upon arrival, it’s hard to miss the ultra-modern architecture of “The Village,” one of Sanlitun’s main open-air shopping plazas. The Village is home to the largest Adidas store in the world and Japan’s famous apparel brand, UNIQLO. These two stores stand-out as the most unique towers and prominently frame the main entrance to The Village. Inside, a plethora of options await, from Steve Madden, Puma, The North Face, and Mango, to Coldstone Creamery, Starbucks, and the most trendy Beijing restaurants. Then, of course, there’s the Flagship Apple Store, which is in such high-demand that it was closed briefly a few weeks ago after a crowd pelted eggs at the glass tower over an unexpected delayed launch of the iPhone 4s.
The plaza is an open area in the middle, where in the summer months, I like to sit down, relax, chat with my friends, and enjoy the many shows and movies playing on the giant LED screen hanging above for all to see. Adorable Chinese children are usually chasing each other around the square, instantly drawn to the water fountains in the middle. The basement level of the Village also houses a variety of stores and other options, most notably one of the largest movie cinemas in China called Megabox, which premiers a mixture of both local and international films.
Located just west of The Village is Ya Show Market, a popular site for tourists wishing to buy knock-off clothes, bags, and other accessories. Need a suit tailored? I recommend the third-floor store, where you can get any suit tailored for a very affordable price. My tailor provided me with a magazine full of luxury brands from which to choose, and I also know friends who brought their own designs and magazine cut-outs. After settling on two very fine Italian brands, I was pleased to receive a custom-made suit just one-week later for under USD $200. Ya Show is a solid option for most, but if seeking a truly high-quality experience, I would suggest a few other luxury tailors located not far from this area.
Rich in both local and international cuisines, Sanlitun is a go-to for any dining experience. Take your pick from inventive California-style sushi, classic American burgers, some of the city’s best Indian, and a range of contemporary fusion restaurants sure to interest any culinary elite. Nali Patio also houses some of the best Spanish and Mediterranean food in Beijing. Chinese being my favorite cuisine, I personally recommend the spicy Hunan-style restaurant, Karaiya Spice, located on the third floor of The Village. All of Karaiya’s dishes arrive full of Chinese spices and bursting with flavor, and the restaurant’s Chinese décor nicely compliments its western-facade. But be careful, as Karaiya really knows how to use its spice!
Sanlitun is also a popular drinking destination, but that’s for another blog post… Needless to say, if you’re planning a trip to Beijing, be sure to visit Sanlitun and I guarantee you won’t be disappointed!