Where Beijing residents come to play. Sanlitun is packed with bars, restaurants, and some of the city’s most popular shops. It’s trendy. It’s hip. It’s full of fun.
The Village is now the centerpiece of the area, and a destination for both young Chinese and foreigners. Some of the restaurants on the top floor are especially popular with expatriates. These include Blue Frog, Union Bar & Grille, Hatsune, and Element Fresh. There are also several Chinese restaurants here. If you plan to dine here, be aware that these place get extremely crowded after work; you might want to arrive early, or later in the evening. On mondays, Blue Frog has a two-for-one burger night that gets extremely packed: Expect to wait if you wish to join the fun.
This is the area I would recommend as the #1 go-to area for people looking for a place to eat, go shopping, or find a place to party. The restaurants at The Village and nearby will have English menus and you will have a wide-variety of cuisines to choose from.
I come to this area for Mexican food at The Saddle, burgers at Blue Frog, Vietnamese at Muse, pizza at the Tree, and great sandwiches at Bocata (a great place to sit outside on a nice day). And there’s Coldstone Creamery for dessert.
Hatsune, on the third floor of The Village, has great sushi and Japanese. Their steak is awesome.
For nightlife, there are all kinds of bars and nightclubs in this area. Your best bet is to just walk around and see what appeals to you. But I have to say that the bars in The Opposite House are very nice. The street that runs North-South next to The Village is known as the “Beijing Bar Street” — and it’s horrible, in my opinion. Cheesy and expensive, with female dancers. If you’re a guy and you walk along here, you can expect to be accosted by touts asking “girly bar?”
If you want to stay in a hotel in this area, you won’t find too many options, but you can certainly find some, including The Opposite House (which is very expensive). Your best bet is probably the Holiday Inn Express that is not too far away. There’s also a youth hostel right near the Tuanjiehu subway station. The Liangmaqiao area, which is just two stops North on the subway, has many more hotel options, as does Sanyuanqiao, another stop further North.
You can find lots of shops in The Village, including UniQlo, a Japanese discount chain. Kind of like H&M. The YaShow market is just West of The Village and is a good alternative to the horrible Silk Market (I hate the tacky, touristy markets, personally). You can find a DVD/CD shop on the ground floor, along the street that separates the market from The Village.