There’s precious little of Beijng’s ancient history found in Chaoyang District, where much of the old has been razed to make way for the blingy new. Impeccably dressed Chinese women shop the afternoons away at gleaming new malls, young tycoons and princelings park their Ferraris on the sidewalks, and everyone who’s anyone congregates at the booming nightclubs filled with hip-hop music and VIP bottle service.
Sitting outside the Second Ring Road, which marks the boundary of the old walled imperial capital, Chaoyang represents a rapidly modernizing China at its peak. Here’s where you’ll find the Central Business District, with the city’s tallest towers and the architecturally impressive CCTV Building; Sanlitun, the longtime playground of expats, filled with swanky bars and restaurants that could just as well be in New York City or London; shopping centers filled with just about every major global brand, from Apple to Zegna; and almost all of Beijing’s embassies, lending the area a distinctly international vibe.
For dining and nightlife, you can’t beat Sanlitun, which was once a sleepy farming village. In the middle of it all is Sanlitun Lu, popularly known as Bar Street, and wreathed in twinkling lights year-round. On one side of this stretch is the luxurious open-air Taikoo Li shopping center (once known as the Village Sanlitun), a destination in and of itself. On the other side is a row of dive bars, which are best avoided. There’s also great shopping to be found around here.