The performing arts in China took a long time to recover from the Cultural Revolution (1966–76), and political works are still generally banned or avoided. In recent years, names such as Kevin Spacey and the Royal Shakespeare Company have alighted on Beijing, reinforcing the capital’s reputation as an arts destination. For culture vultures, there are avant-garde plays, chamber music, traditional Peking opera, acrobatics shows, and lots more.

As most of the stage is inaccessible to non-Chinese speakers, visitors to Beijing are more likely to hunt out the big visual spectacles, such as Beijing opera or kung fu displays. These long-running shows are tailored for travelers: your hotel will be able to recommend performances and venues and will likely be able to help you book tickets.

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  • 1. Forbidden City Concert Hall

    Xicheng District | Music

    One of the nicest venues in Beijing, the 1,400-seat Forbidden City Concert Hall plays host to a variety of classical, chamber, and traditional music performances in plush surroundings and with world-class acoustics. Though the facilities are completely modern, concertgoers are treated to a moonlit walk through Zhongshan Park, a former imperial garden dotted with historical landmarks.

    In Zhongshan Park, Xichang'an Jie, Beijing, Beijing, 100031, China
  • 2. Liyuan Theater

    Xicheng District | Opera

    The unabashedly touristy shows here are still a great time. You can first watch performers put on makeup before the show (come early) and then graze on snacks and sip tea while watching English-subtitled shows. Glossy brochures complement the crooning.

    1/F, Qianmen Hotel, 175 Yong'an Lu, Beijing, Beijing, 100059, China
  • 3. National Centre for the Performing Arts

    Xicheng District | Opera

    Architecturally, the giant silver dome of this performing arts complex is stunning, and its interior holds a state-of-the-art opera house, a music hall, and a theater. "The Egg," as it's been called, offers a world-class stage for national and international performers. If you don't wish to see a show, you can tour the inside of the building by paying for an entrance ticket.

    2 Xi Chang'an Jie, Beijing, Beijing, 100031, China
  • 4. The Red Theatre

    Dongcheng District | Theater

    If it's Vegas-style stage antics you're after, the Legend of Kung Fu show is what you want. Extravagant martial arts—performed by dancers, not martial artists—are complemented by neon, fog, and heavy-handed sound effects. Shows are garish but also sometimes glorious.

    44 Xingfu Dajie, Beijing, Beijing, 100061, China
  • 5. Beijing Concert Hall

    Xicheng District | Music

    One of Beijing's main venues for Chinese and Western classical-music concerts also hosts folk dancing and singing, and many celebratory events throughout the year. The 1,000-seat venue is also the home of the China National Symphony Orchestra.

    1 Bei Xinhua Jie, Beijing, Beijing, 100031, China
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  • 6. Beijing Exhibition Theater

    Xicheng District | Theater

    Chinese plays, Western (and Chinese) operas, and ballet performances are staged in this Soviet-style building that's part of the exhibition center complex. Talk about a wide range of shows: the Michael Jackson musical Thriller was once staged here, swiftly followed by some traditional folk art performances.

    135 Xizhimenwai Dajie, Beijing, Beijing, 100044, China
  • 7. Capital Theater

    Dongcheng District | Theater

    This is a busy, modern theater near Wangfujing shopping street. It often has performances by the respected Beijing People's Art Theatre and various international acts, such as the British troupe TNT.

    22 Wangfujing Dajie, Beijing, Beijing, 100006, China
  • 8. Chambers Fine Art


    Named after the noted British architect Sir William Chambers, Chambers Fine Art Beijing opened in 2007 in the art village of Caochangdi. Situated in a red-brick gallery complex designed by the internationally famous Chinese artist Ai Weiwei, Chambers puts on exhibitions of young native Chinese artists worth paying attention to.

    Red No. 1-D, Beijing, Beijing, 100015, China
  • 9. Chang'an Grand Theater

    Dongcheng District | Opera

    In this theater specializing in Chinese opera, spectators can choose to sit either in the traditional seats or at cabaret-style tables. Besides Peking-style opera, the theater also puts on performances of other regional styles, such as yueju (from Guangdong) and chuanju (from Sichuan).

    7 Jianguomennei Dajie, Beijing, Beijing, 100005, China
  • 10. Chaoyang Theater

    Chaoyang | Dance

    This space is the queen bee of acrobatics venues, especially designed to unleash oohs and ahhs. Spectacular individual and team acrobatic displays involving bicycles, seesaws, catapults, swings, and barrels are performed here nightly. It's touristy but fun.

    36 Dongsanhuan Beilu, Beijing, Beijing, 100026, China
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  • 11. China National Puppet Theater

    Chaoyang | Theater

    The shadow and hand-puppet shows at this theater convey traditional stories—it's lively entertainment for children and adults alike. This venue also attracts foreign performers, including the Moscow Puppet Theater.

    1 Anhuaxili, Beijing, Beijing, 100011, China
  • 12. Huguang Guild Hall

    Xicheng District | Opera

    Built in 1807, the Huguang Guild Hall was at its height one of Beijing's "Four Great" theaters. In 1925, the Guild Hall hosted Dr. Sun Yat-sen at the founding of the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT). Today, the Guild Hall has been restored to its former glory and hosts regular opera performances. The venue also has a small museum of Peking opera artifacts.

    3 Hufang Lu, Beijing, Beijing, 100053, China
  • 13. Lao She Teahouse

    Xicheng District | Opera

    Named for famed Beijing author Lao She, this teahouse in the Qianmen area plays host to a variety of traditional performances, including acrobatics, opera, and vaudeville shows. Dinner is served on the premises; reservations are required one day in advance for the nightly shows.

    Bldg. 3, 3 Qianmenxi Dajie, Beijing, Beijing, 100051, China
  • 14. Pace Beijing


    This Beijing branch of the famed Pace Gallery operates with an independent program focusing on Chinese contemporary artists.

    No. 2 Jiuxianqiao Lu, Beijing, Beijing, 100015, China
  • 15. Pékin Fine Arts


    Founded by the expatriate Bostonian Meg Maggio, who has lived in Beijing for more than 20 years, Pékin Fine Arts focuses on contemporary artists from around Asia who have both international and domestic exhibition experience.

    No. 241 Caochangdi, Beijing, Beijing, 100015, China
  • 16. Poly Theater

    Dongcheng District | Music

    This is a modern shopping-center-like complex on top of Dongsishitiao subway station. One of Beijing's better-known theaters, the Poly hosts Chinese and international concerts, ballets, and musicals. If you're seeking a performance in English, this is one of your best bets.

    1/F Poly Plaza, 14 Dongzhimen Nandajie, Beijing, Beijing, 100027, China
  • 17. Tianqiao Acrobatic Theater

    Xicheng District | Dance

    The Beijing Acrobatics Troupe of China is famous for weird, wonderful shows. Content includes a flashy show of offbeat contortions and tricks, with a lot of high-wire action. There are two shows per night, usually scheduled for 5:30 and 7:15 pm, but it's best to phone ahead and check.

    5 Tianqiao Shichang Lu, east end of Beiwei Lu, Beijing, Beijing, 100050, China
  • 18. Tianqiao Theater

    Xicheng District | Opera

    A traditional theater that hosts everything from contemporary dance performances to ballet, folk music, and cross-talk revues.

    30 Beiwei Lu, Beijing, Beijing, 100050, China
  • 19. Yugong Yishan

    Dongcheng District | Music

    Housed in a Republican-era courtyard, Yugong Yishan is the city's other premier destination for live music by both local rock bands and touring foreign acts. If you're in the mood to catch a good show, check the venue website to see who's playing when you're in town.

    3–2 Zhangzizhong Lu, Beijing, Beijing, China

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