In our gay guide to Beijing, we've put together the best gay bars and clubs, gay-friendly hotels, travel highlights, and more.
“I LOVE BJ!”
Don't giggle, it's a legit T-shirt every good gay tourist heading to the Chinese capital needs to get. Preferably in size XXS for added larks…
Beijing is impressive. It's a huge HUGE cultural shock, few outside the touristic areas speak English, everything is in a different language (Mandarin), the Forbidden City will blow your mind, as will the food, the Hutongs are a maze of adventure… and that's all before we've mentioned the big draw of all: the famous Great Wall of China!
We absolutely loved BJ. As well as being a cultural escapade into China, we also made a heap of friends we met on the local gay scene. The Beijingers love meeting foreigners. It's something you'll instantly have to your advantage when traveling here because they love to show off their city and practice their English.
Get online in Beijing…
by using a VPN. In China, most prominent western sites are blocked, in particular, Google Maps, Instagram, Facebook, WhatsApp, and Dropbox to name a few. WeChat is the common alternative used by everyone, but we highly recommend all travelers heading to Beijing to organize a VPN so you continue to upload your Insta thirst traps!
Is Beijing safe for gay tourists?
Despite the fact that China doesn't have the greatest LGBTQ record, we say oh yes, simply because of the fact that as a foreigner you instantly stand out in Beijing and will always be treated differently – in a good way! The Chinese are so curious to meet and chat with foreigners. Remember that this is still quite a closed country (most Western websites/apps are blocked) and the bulk of tourists are locals from within China. So when a foreigner is spotted, locals will stare, but out of curiosity. Many times we were asked for our photo because of this!
But the main thing is that as a gay tourist you'll never encounter any problems in Beijing. When it comes to PDAs, we advise reserving these for gay-friendly areas – the Chinese are so conservative that even amongst straight couples you rarely see PDAs.
The LGBTQ rights in China leave a lot to be desired; being gay was legalized in 1997, but that's about it. There are no anti-discrimination laws and obviously no recognition of gay marriages…yet! As such, many gay guys remain in the closet, either leading a double life to please their families or will only be “out” to a select few people they trust. Read more in our gay China guide and also in our interview with Cass from Xi'an about what gay life in China is really like.
Arriving in Beijing soon?
Beijing is served by two international airports, both of which are located a fair way outside of the city center. While there are public transport links, they can be pretty confusing and a headache to navigate for first-timers. Therefore, we recommend pre-booking a private airport transfer which will guarantee you're met by an English-speaking driver as soon as you exit the Arrivals Hall.
The gay area of Beijing
Yes, it's a conservative city in a very conservative closed country, but with a population of over 20 million, you don't need us to tell you that statistically, BJ has a considerable LGBTQ community! This is evident in Beijing's bustling gay scene which is centered around the four-story building called “Destination” – located in the Sanlitun district near the Worker’s Stadium in northeast Beijing. Inside is a nightclub on the ground floor, a plush lounge on the first, above that is an art gallery with rotating exhibits, and the top floor is used for yoga, choir practice, and anonymous HIV testing.
There are several other “Comrade” places in Beijing to check out in the Sanlitun area – note that this has nothing to do with Marxism! The word for Comrade (“tongzhi” – 同志) in Mandarin is slang used by gay locals to refer to each other. Other gay bars and clubs in the area include the Heaven Beer Bar (rebranded from the former “Heaven Supermarket”), and Kai Club.
Gay hotels in Beijing
The first thing to mention is that there are no gay hotels in Beijing on par with the ones you'd find in places like Fort Lauderdale, Key West, or Palm Springs. There are a handful of very LGBTQ-friendly hotels in Beijing that are used to welcoming gay couples and won't bat an eyelid if two guys want to share a bed. These are the hotels we tried out during our trip to Beijing:
Beijing Hotel NUO
In a nutshell
- Located right by Tiananmen Square
- Two onsite restaurants
- Gorgeous 1920s style dance hall
- Spa services, gym and a swimming pool
If we thought we were queens before, our stay in Beijing Hotel truly confirmed our queendom status.
It’s built just like a palace! From the marble staircase that ascends from the giant lobby to the high ceilings that support massive chandeliers – if this gay friendly hotel isn’t suited to royalty, we don’t know what is.
Our room was the perfect size, not that size matters…! It had a king-sized bed, tons of living space, and amazing views of the hotel grounds from the window. Furnishings are romantic and French-style, which made us feel like princesses.
Our favorite part of the hotel was the 1920s dance hall, which had us feeling our Great Gatsby fantasy. Which one of us would be Daisy, do you reckon? There are two restaurants if you want to dine in the hotel. East 33 Restaurant serves a yummy international buffet but we were particularly in love with the creative French dishes at Jaan Restaurant. Even Seby thought the food was up to French standards!
We were a bit dubious about how we might be received as a gay couple, considering China’s conservative attitudes. Yet the staff couldn’t have been more welcoming to us. It was clear they were used to meeting gay couples – we needn’t have worried at all.
Prices at Beijing Hotel NUO start from $178 per night:
STAY WITH A GAY LOCAL
Misterb&b is the Airbnb equivalent for the LGBTQ community. Unlike on Airbnb, you know your host is gay, voiding any nasty surprises when you check-in. It is also a great way to meet gay locals and discover the underground gay scene. Click below to get 10 € (or $10) off our first booking.
Opposite House Boutique Hotel
In a nutshell
- Cosy, minimalist designed bedrooms
- Four restaurants to choose from
- Yoga by the pool
- Excellent gym and in-room massages
The Opposite House is more of an experience than a hotel. Architect Kengo Kuma had a clear vision for what he wanted to create – a timeless hotel, with contemporary design and sleek artwork. The gay friendly hotel was built to allow for tons of natural light to pour in, making the place feel bright and heavenlike.
In the lobby hangs a mesh wall, which billows with the slightest of breaths. Very dramatic!
Our room had a minimalist vibe, with sharp-edged furniture, smooth furnishings, and a stripped-back design. It was a comforting space to come back to, especially considering how chaotic and noisy Beijing can seem.
There were four on-site restaurants – with our personal favorite being Superfly. We loved the funky street-style décor and its hipster twist on drinks and cuisine. Though when we were feeling sophisticated, we loved visiting the Union restaurant. This was a high-class boutique-style eatery, with cocktails and classic Chinese dishes.
For downtime, we did a yoga class by the pool, feeling our wellness fantasy. These were held on Sunday mornings, which was a brilliant wake-up call, considering how hard we partied the night before in the Destination club… You can also have a massage in the comfort of your room if you can't quite drag yourself down to the pool!
Prices at The Opposite House start from $360 per night:
SonGy Hotel Beijing
In a nutshell
- Close to tube station and tons of restaurants
- Spacious bedrooms
- Cosy lounge area/TV room
- Beautiful colors and decor throughout
This gorgeous gay friendly guesthouse is perfect for those looking to become immersed in Chinese culture and the Beijing lifestyle.
SonGy is close to a tube station that will take you to spots like Chairman Mao Memorial Hall, the National Museum of China, and downtown Beijing.
Rooms are super spacious, with the more deluxe suites having amenities like walk-in showers and flat-screen TVs. There's a shared kitchen if you want to self-cater but it’s also close to a bunch of fancy restaurants like Weng Xian Seafood Restaurant, and Angus Grill. We visited the local bakeries a few times as well, and their staff soon came to know us by name (which shows how much we bothered them with our Chinese sweet addiction).
For relaxation, the SonGy has a lounge and TV room. We didn’t spend too much time there, but when we did, it was never too busy. It’s a nice spot to kick back your feet and absorb some quiet time. Or at least, a space to plan out an itinerary with your group/partner. There's also a cozy teahouse and a rooftop sun lounge, so if you want to take it slow you definitely can.
Prices at SonGy Hotel start from $113 per night:
In a nutshell
- Cute courtyard garden
- Comfy and affordable
- More local location
- Lovely library and rooftop terrace
The best part about the Beijing Templeside is its price, which makes it an ideal pick for gay backpackers. It's also perfect for solo gay travelers looking to make friends.
This guesthouse only features private rooms though, so no need to worry about random snorers keeping you up all night! Now I just need to figure out how to deal when Seby snores…
Even though it is very affordable, it still feels pretty luxurious and comfortable. Staff work hard to ensure all guests have a great experience. And if that means bringing Chinese food to your bedroom in the middle of the night, that’s just what they’ll do (we totally didn’t do this by the way). They also make breakfast, available upon request, perfect for helping you start your day each morning.
As for relaxing, we spent our days lounging about on the rooftop courtyard, planning our next adventure, and meeting fellow guests. There's a quiet library if you want to get lost in a book and we love that they can help you organize activities like making Chinese dumplings!
Prices at the Beijing Templeside start from $96 per night:
Gay bars in Beijing
The bulk of the Beijing gay bars are located in the Sanlitun area. The focal point where most head to is Destination, which has a gorgeous lounge bar on the first floor. For variation, we've summarized some of our other favorite gay bars in Beijing to check out as well:
Don’t be fooled by the long line of straight clubs and bars around the Chaoyang District. Inside Destination is a fabulous queer space that welcomes all. Part of the Destination Club, which is located on the higher-level floors, Destination Bar is a laid-back space for drinks and chats. We loved the choices of cocktails – with wait staff being able to recommend a few delicious drinks. One of us got a little bit too thirsty with the drinks and tried to join in on the exotic dancing routine towards the end of the evening. I won’t say who…*cough* Seby!
Open: Destination is open on weekdays from 8pm until 3am and on weekends from 8pm until 5am
Location: It's located at 7 Gongtixilu Road, Chaoyang District
It may be small, but Kai Club is not worth missing. We went there every evening to get our gay night started before heading out to Destination. The fact it’s located in a basement gives it a super private, secret meeting feel. Seb and I as super-spies?? We’d always get talking to fellow tourists, where we’d share embarrassing travel stories, and location recommendations. They play cheesy pop classics that we could get warmed up to before the rest of the evening. Make sure to bring cash with you as the gay bar doesn’t accept cards.
Open: Kai Club is open daily from 6pm until 1am
Location: You can find it at 3/F, Tongli Studio, Sanlitun Houjie
Heaven Beer Bar
What was once the famous “Heaven Supermarket” has now become “Heaven Beer Bar.” Our only gripe with this gay friendly bar was how hard it was to find! We almost gave up before spotting it between two giant nightclubs. As the name suggests, it is a great place to go for beer lovers. And while we are usually more partial to a cocktail, we do like the occasional beer (don’t be shocked, we can be vers). The massive glass wall behind the bar is where you’ll spot 16 giant fridges, stocked to the brim with varieties of beer. Plus, if you are feeling peckish, they have some food items and snacks.
Open: Heaven Beer Bar is open from 6pm to late every day
Location: It is located at 6 Gongti Xilu, Chaoyang District (Beneath Tango KTV)
While it no longer has a specific “gay night”, LGBTQ people and gay-friendly allies tend to frequent Mesh every evening. It seems the gays have claimed the space as their own… although it tends to be the younger crowd and working professionals. The bar has an extensive wine list, plenty of cocktails, and beer. When we went, it was on a summer evening, so the owners opened the terrace space. We got to enjoy our drinks in the cool evening breeze, before calling it a night and heading out to a bigger venue.
Open: Mesh is open daily until around 1am
Location: It is located at 1/F, The Opposite House, Bldg 1, Sanlitun Village, 11 Sanlitun Lu
Dada Bar is queer-friendly, with regular DJ sets, art and cultural events, and movie screenings. We were unsure of what we were going to find, but pleasantly surprised by the playlist of pop-heavy dance tunes. During the day, they have a café, which is a fabulous spot to sit in and grab a coffee. Running around Beijing can be exhausting at the best of times, so it’s great to have a space to chill where we knew it would be gay-friendly.
Open: Dada Bar is every night from 9pm-late
Location: It is located at Unit 101, Bldg B, 206 Gulou Dongdajie (near Temple Bar), Dongcheng District
Gay clubs in Beijing
The gay clubbing scene of Beijing changes a lot, with many venues opening and closing all the time – places like Funky and Adam's which were massive before, now gone. The beating heart and soul of the Beijing gay clubbing scene is Destination. Be sure to check out the Friday night gay event at Alfa as well:
With its vibrant neon lighting, pulsing house music, and hidden alcoves for some *ahem* alone time, Destination Club on its dance music nights feels like a fever dream come to life. On weekends, it becomes packed with people. We didn’t mind this though, as the energy was electric, with tons of tourists and locals alike coming together in total liberation. It’s also more than just a gay club – as the venue offers free HIV testing, community support, and much more.
Open: Destination is open on weekdays from 8pm until 3am and on weekends from 8pm until 5am
Location: It's located at 7 Gongtixilu Road, Chaoyang District
We went to Alfa on a whim. And we were delighted by what we found. While it is a bit smaller than Destination, the energy is just as palpable. It’s fusion of feel-good pop and rock classics had us hooked – really, any place that plays 80s bangers has our hearts. Friday nights are when the LGBTQ crowd visit, with a good mix of all ages, sizes, and backgrounds. People released all their inhibitions on the dancefloor, just getting lost in the music. We spent a bit of time on the patio as well, sipping on cocktails and chatting with fellow tourists.
Open: Alfa is open daily from 6pm until 3am and has a mixed LGBTQ night on Fridays
Location: It is located at Xingfuyicun 6th Alley, Chaoyang
Cruising and gay saunas in Beijing
The outdoor cruising scene has been in serious decline with the rise of gay dating apps, and that's everywhere, not just in Beijing. Grindr is the main one but we also recommend using Blued, which is Chinese-owned and hugely popular in Beijing. There is still some gay cruising in Dongdan Park, but if you go, please take care and leave your valuables locked up in the hotel safe!
In terms of gay saunas in Beijing, few have survived the global pandemic. Fengfan Weiye Club still appears to be in operation but we'd recommend checking with gay locals for the latest info.
Where to eat in Beijing
Asking all couples: what is your most common reason for bickering? Ours is picking where to eat. And with Beijing being such a massive city with hundreds upon hundreds of choices, well, this was our toughest battle yet. We did manage to compromise most evenings though and came upon some incredible places to dine out. Here are the best places to eat in Beijing:
A meal fit for a King… or perhaps, two queens??? We stumbled upon this gem after touring the Yonghe Temple, both tired and famished. Walking inside we were bowled over by the sight of the glass roof ceiling, which made it feel as if were dining beneath the Heavens. Add in the exquisite, Taiwanese inspired menu, and we truly got a taste of paradise. There are plenty of veggie options too – the rice with assorted mushrooms and peach resin is particularly noteworthy.
We kept hearing from everyone we met to try out The View. The way they kept referring to it made it sound like some top-secret location, so we felt a bit intimidated. Yet, we went along and found it to be one of the most marvelous restaurants we’ve ever tried. It’s on the 39th floor of a skyscraper, meaning we got to enjoy panoramic views of the Beijing skyline at sunset – hence the name. The menu is a mix of European and Asian dishes, the best of both worlds. But what we were most excited by was the never-ending list of cocktails – could this place be any more perfect?
For a true taste of China, you can’t go wrong with Beijing DaDong Roast Duck. It’s most known for its “unconventional” methods of cooking. When we asked what this was, the waiter explained that their chefs use a spherical wood-fired oven as opposed to the square oven, which is more common. Whatever it is, it's working – as the Peking duck we had was worth quaking over. We can see why so many people laud this restaurant as one of the best in the city.
Best things to do in Beijing
With only a handful of days to tackle the iconic city that is Beijing, we had our work cut out for us when it came to narrowing down our to-see list. From historical landmarks to natural wonders, we packed in a lot. And we hope our recommendations make it that much easier for you to nail down an itinerary. Here are the best things to do in Beijing for gay travelers:
This is the largest city square in the world – and arguably the most famous as well. Just by being there, you can feel the historical significance. Back in 1989, protests occurred there that ended with a military crackdown. It’s sadly become known as the June Fourth Massαcɾe. Today, it’s a well-known tourist hotspot. When we went, the place was thriving with locals and tourists alike. We even spotted a few kite fliers, taking advantage of the breezy day. If you're short on time then you can do a combined tour of Tiananmen Square as well as the Summer Palace, Forbidden City and Temple of Heaven!
The Great Wall of China
What stretches 6700 km, can be seen from Space, and took over 200 years to build? Nope, it wasn’t our dazzling egos! It was the world-famous Great Wall of China. Anyone coming to Beijing probably has this on their to-do list to begin with. Just note: it’s about 60km from the main city and opens from 7:30am. The best way to experience it is as a day trip from Beijing. You obviously won’t be able to cross the entire thing, but you will get to take photos, marvel at the sights, and forever brag to your friends that you walked across the Great Wall.
The Forbidden City
Calling something The Forbidden City has the same effect as putting ‘DON’T PUSH’ on a big red button. It makes you want to do it. Luckily, it’s not forbidden anymore. It used to be restricted to imperial families only back in the day, refusing entry to “common folk.” It’s worth a visit to see the largest imperial palace complex in the world. We spent a morning agape at the massive towers, decorative pavilions, and beautiful belvederes. To find out all about the Forbidden City's history, you can join this guided tour which includes time exploring the Hutongs (see below).
Get lost in the Hutongs
When we say get lost in the Hutongs, we literally mean, we got lost in the Hutongs. Or I did – and Seby had to come find me. Apart from that, we enjoyed devoting an entire afternoon to exploring the winding alleyways of Beijing. We popped in and out of shops, listened to locals chattering away with one another in their native tongue, and spotted ancient ruins. If you don't fancy getting lost, join a guided tour to see the best parts and learn stories of Old Beijing.
Temple of Heaven
The Temple of Heaven is a complex of religious buildings in south Beijing. There are three main parts to visit, the first being the Hall of Prayer for Good Harvests, a three-storey, circular building in the heart of the complex – completely made of wood. Secondly is the Imperial Vault of Heaven, a small building enclosed within a stone wall. Lastly, is the Circular Mound Altar, where the Emperor prays for good weather. You can also join a combined tour of the Temple of Heaven and the Summer Palace to see them both in one go.
Beijing's Summer Palace is full of lakes, gardens, and palace buildings – we recommend setting aside a good 2-3 hours to fully appreciate the stunning grounds. When we visited, we took part in an English-speaking tour to get a real sense of its history and cultural significance. If you do get time, try and get a ticket for the boat ride across Kunming Lake as well. It allows for plenty of fabulous photo ops.
Plan your trip
We've put together some handy hints and tips to help you plan your own trip to Beijing. Read on to find out everything the gay traveler should know before they go.
Travel insurance: Even in safe destinations like Beijing, travel plans can be disrupted by missed or canceled flights, lost luggage, illness or injury. We never travel without first getting a good travel insurance and recommend you do the same. We've been using Heymondo Travel Insurance for years and can wholeheartedly recommend their comprehensive, affordable cover. It's very easy to make a claim online if you do need to, and peace of mind while traveling is essential for us!
How to get there: Unless you're already in China, you will most likely be arriving in Beijing by flying into either the Beijing Capital International Airport or the Beijing Daxing International Airport. The Beijing Daxing International Airport is more often used for domestic flights but some international flights also arrive here. It's located about 60 kilometers (37 miles) from the center of Beijing. The Beijing Capital International Airport is the world's second-busiest airport, and located about 30 kilometers (18 miles) from the city, so it's definitely the better of the two if you can choose where you land.
From the Beijing Capital International Airport you can reach the city via a shuttle bus, the airport express train or taxis. There are some taxi scams, so be careful to only use an official taxi or, better yet, pre-book a private airport transfer. You can only pay cash for the train and organizing a private transfer means you won't need to worry about figuring out public transport, avoiding scams or juggling your luggage in a new country where you might not know the language.
Visa requirements: Travelers from some countries (such as the United Kingdom and all European Union citizens) can enter China visa-free for visits of up to 30 days. But if you are heading to Beijing from the United States, Canada or Australia then you will need to apply for a visa online well before your trip.
Getting around: The best way to get around Beijing is by using the subway system. Everything is clearly marked in English as well as Chinese, and it's much cheaper than using taxis. Check out this guide for more details on getting around Beijing.
Power Plugs: China uses power plug types A, C and I of which some are also found in other countries, but you'll never really know which one you will find in each place. We recommend bringing a universal power adapter with you to Beijing, so you'll be able to charge any electronic equipment you have.
Vaccinations: All travelers to China should ensure they are up to date with routine vaccinations such as measles, mumps, rubella, Covid-19, etc. Most travelers should also be vaccinated against typhoid and hepatitis A. Depending on where else in the country you will be visiting (if you're going further afield than Beijing) and what you might be doing you may need further vaccinations. Make sure you check the CDC website and speak with your doctor well before making any travel arrangements.
Currency: The currency used in Beijing (and the rest of China) is the Renminbi which uses the codes RMB or CNY. While the official name is Renminbi it's usually also called the Chinese Yuan, although technically a yuan is a basic unit of Renminbi, with RMB banknotes starting at one Yuan and going up to 100 Yuan. The symbol for the yuan in Chinese is 元. Currently, US$1 converts to about 7.10 yuan, €1 is worth about 7.76 yuan and £1 converts to around 8.84 yuan.
Tipping culture: Tipping in China is not the norm at all, and you may cause confusion or even offense if you try to leave workers a tip. In some of the more popular tourist destinations, like Beijing, Chinese workers at high-end hotels may be more accustomed to receiving tips, but you really don't need to. Check out this guide for more information on why you shouldn't tip in China.
Internet access: Many cafes, restaurants, hotels and hostels in Beijing provide free WiFi, although it might not always be the best. If you want to ensure you have fast and reliable Internet, we recommend bringing a portable WiFi device with you, or getting a local SIM card to be delivered to your hotel for when you arrive.
Online privacy: Many western sites like Instagram, Facebook and even Google are blocked in China, so if you're looking to connect with friends or family back home while traveling to Beijing then you will need to get a VPN. A VPN is perfect for traveling as it provides a reliable and affordable way to browse the Internet with complete anonymity.
Accommodation: For more places to stay in Beijing you can't go past the listings available on Booking.com. They have the widest selection of accommodation at the lowest prices, and many include free cancellation if needed. We love to be spontaneous when traveling, so it's great to be able to cancel easily if you decide to extend a stay somewhere or change your plans. Booking.com also have excellent online customer service that's available 24/7.
Sightseeing and adventure: When it comes to finding fun tours and activities to do in Beijing we always use GetYourGuide. They have so many cool options for all different travel styles and interests. It's also really easy to book online and their customer service is available 24/7 and very helpful.
When to visit: Beijing experiences a monsoonal climate, which means summer is hot, humid and smoggy while winter is cold and dry, with even worse smog. Even spring can experience dust storms, but is otherwise pleasant in terms of weather. The “Golden Autumn” of September and October is possibly the best time to visit Beijing, if you can time it that well!
Gay map of Beijing
We've put together this map of (nearly) all the places we mentionned in our gay guide, to help you plan your own trip to Beijing. We hope it helps you have a fabulous time!
For more inspiration:
- If you also want to see the famous Chinese Terracotta Army, check out our gay guide to Xi'an
- Find out which are the most gay friendly countries in Asia
- Maybe you'd like to explore Asia on a gay cruise?
- Definitely read our tips for gay couples traveling together – to avoid any arguments!
- Have a look at our gay Japan travel itinerary for first-time visitors
- And our gay country guide to Thailand