Though a relatively new phenomena in Beijing, quality coffee houses are springing up around the city. Besides offering coffee and tea, cafés are ideal place of refuge during a day out on the loud, busy streets of Beijing. There seems to be a Starbucks on most shopping streets and in every mall, alongside branches of the British Costa and a few branches of the Taiwanese chain, Manabe. Many more independent coffee houses also serve sandwiches, wraps and smoothies. Most of the popular cafés provide free WiFi, and some host cultural and social events. Cafés also serve selection of light western meals and consider themselves family friendly. However, don’t expect a play area or baby-changing station.
A combination of café, restaurant, bar and library, the Bookworm is a Beijing expat institution. There are about 15,000 books to purchase or borrow while you sip coffee, tea, smoothies or wine. All of the healthy sandwiches and salads are named after famous authors, and Bookworm morphs into a casual restaurant in the evenings. It’s also one of the epicenters of Beijing cultural life, hosting lectures, poetry readings and literate festivals.
At Café was the first trendy café to open in the 798 Art District, and is still a favorite in the art scene. Like the surrounding galleries, the exposed brick and piping provide evidence that At Café was incarnated inside an old factory. The coffee and alcohol are reasonably priced, and the food menu consists of the common pizza and sandwich staples, but they are all done well.
4 Jiuxianqiao Lu
(010) 6438 7264
Moment Gastronomy Café
A great place for an afternoon chat over coffee or a solid lunch, Moment Gastronomy’s Serbian owner and chef Ivan Matic serves a range of Continental cuisine at his café, from sweet crepes to a solid salad selection. The vibe is relaxed and the prices are reasonable, making Moment an excellent place to while away some time downtown.
Mon-Fre 12-10pm, Sat-Sun 12-10pm
B1-525 Sanlitun SOHO, Gongti North Rd
(010) 8590 0724
The Bridge Café
Open 24 hours and very popular with the area’s foreign students around Wuakou, The Bridge offers an American menu with freshly-baked cakes, coffee and breakfast specials. The top floor terrace is a welcome retreat during the spring and summer.
Room 8, Bldg 12, Huaqing Jiayuan, Chengfu Lu
(010) 8286 7026
Space for Imagination
This café draws a foreign student crowd from Wuaokou, but its quieter than its neighbors, dimly lit but certainly not gloomy. The stereo plays world jazz and other relaxing music, and on some evenings there are screenings of international films. The coffee and tea menu extensive, and you can also order beer and cocktails.
5 Xiwangzhuang Xiaoqu, Shuangqing Lu
(010) 6279 1280
Comptoir de France Bakery
The chain of Comptoir de France sets the standard for French pastries in Beijing, and fortunately there are branches all over the city. Indulge in the cakes, homemade ice cream, and rich chocolate truffle. The French-style coffee and hot chocolate are the perfect compliments.
Room L 111-99 Yu Xiang Rd., Tianzhu Town
(010) 8046 6309
Located in a hutong just west of Yong He Gong, Vineyard Cafe is a hidden gem that’s well worth the effort. The warm lighting and exposed wooden beam greet patrons of this chic bistro. The menu serves up European comfort food as well as a great wine and coffee selection.