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...Read More

  • 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...Read More

  • 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...Read More

  • 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...Read More

  • 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...Read More

  • 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...Read More

  • 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...Read More

  • 8. Chambers Fine Art

    Chaoyang | Art Galleries–Arts

    Named after the noted British architect Sir William Chambers, Chambers Fine Art Beijing opened in 2007 in the art village of Caochangdi. Situated...Read More

  • 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...Read More

  • 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...Read More

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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...Read More

  • 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...Read More

  • 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...Read More

  • 14. Pace Beijing

    Chaoyang | Art Galleries–Arts

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

  • 15. Pékin Fine Arts

    Chaoyang | Art Galleries–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...Read More

  • 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...Read More

  • 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...Read More

  • 18. Tianqiao Theater

    Xicheng District | Opera

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

  • 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...Read More

  • 20. Red Gate Gallery

    Dongcheng District | Art Galleries–Arts

    This gallery, one of the first to open in Beijing, displays and sells contemporary Chinese art in the extraordinary location of the old Dongbianmen...Read More

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