1. Enter the Chocolate Circus
These days, everyone seems to be talking about Chocolate (see photo), the over-the-top Russian night spot that manages to be packed every night of the week. It may sport décor strikingly similar to LAN Club, but only Chocolate has sexy Russian dancers, poles for patrons to show off their own exotic dancing skills, flaming absinthe cocktails (¥35) and gold toilets. If Chocolate gets too hot to handle, you can also try out your Russian pick-up lines at nearby Absenta.
Absenta: B1 Huasheng Plaza, 12 Yabao Lu, 雅宝路12号华声大厦B1, Tel: 5120-6758. Chocolate: 19 Ritan Beilu, 日坛北路19号, Tel: 8561-3988.
2. Visit the Towering In-FUR-No
If you're in search of fur, Yabao Lu is the place to be, especially in the summer, when the wholesale retailers open for individual purchase and off-season discounts. Small stores selling fur coats and hats line both sides of the street, and the larger buildings contain hundreds of curtained rooms with similar wares. Yabao Place offers four whole floors of fur, not to mention three floors of just shoes. We found coats and hats made from rabbit, mink and fox with prices ranging from US$150 to several thousand dollars. Be prepared to bargain.
Yabao Place: Northwest corner Ritan Park, 日坛公园西北角, Tel: 8562-1818.
3. Kid's Day Out
Attention shoppers. Yabao Lu isn't just for fur fiends. There are fine fashions for the little ones too. The Guoxing Building has five floors of children's clothes, though the curtained-off stores provide little opportunity for window shopping. Alien Street, an open-plan indoor market, offers kids clothing on the second floor and a large selection of toys on the first—one stall exclusively sells stuffed animal tigers. When the fam gets famished, head to the newest branch of Annie's on Star Avenue, or to nearby Vietnamese-Cambodian eatery The Dan Bau, which has fun games on each table.
Alien Street: Northwest corner Ritan Park, 日坛公园西北角, Tel: 8561-4641. Annie's: 2-3-93 Ritan Shangjie, 日坛上街2-3-93, Tel: 8569-3031. The Dan Bau: 51 Building 2, Ritan Shangjie, 日坛上街2号楼51号, Tel: 8569-3837.
4. Get a Russian Makeover
Wear lots of black, stock up on eye makeup at Alien Street, get acrylic nails at Lin Nails Salon, and be sure not to smile. Guys skip the make-up, but don't forget the leather jacket and the mullet. Now, you're ready for a night out at Chocolate disguised as a Siberian trader.
Lin Nails Salon: 1 Ritan Beilu, 日坛北路1号, Tel: 8567-5643.
5. Raise Your Glasses
Want to drink vodka like a Russian? Then you'll need to balance it with some Russian nosh. At Moscow, you have a choice of six vodkas, including Chinese "Ant Vodka" at just ¥8. Russian vodka goes for ¥10 a shot. Order a plate of lemons (¥5) or cheese (¥25) as Russian-style chasers. The Elephant also offers a number of Russian vodkas, including Russian Standard for ¥25 a glass, best followed with a plate of pickles (¥15).
Moscow: Southwest corner Ritan Park,日坛公园西南角, Tel: 6586-3217. The Elephant: Ritan Shangjie, Courtyard 39 日坛上街39号院, Tel: 8561-4013.
6. Sexy Shopping
Need a garter belt? Thongs in every color of the rainbow? Sponge Bob Square Pants boxers? Look no further than Alien Street Market, where Russian tourists shop for underwear. We picked up three pairs of "Calvin Klein" underwear for ¥50. See if you can get a better deal.
7. Eat on Star Avenue
Star Avenue, Yabao Lu's first restaurant and bar street, has food from around the world. Eat pizza at Annie's, sheshliki (Russian BBQ) at Sim Sim, Hong Kong hotpot at Guoding, Turkish shish kebabs at Desert Rose, Indian curries at Mirch Masala and Hanoi Spring Rolls at The Dom Bau.
Sim Sim: Shenlu Jie 39, 3-91, 神路街39号院3-91, Tel: 8569-3102. Guoding: Shenlu Jie 39, Building 1, 23, 神路街39号院1栋23号, Tel: 8563-8088. Desert Rose: Shenlu Jie 39, Building 1, 1-07, 神路街39号院1号楼1-07, Tel: 8569-3576. Mirch Masala: Ritan Shangjie 130, 日坛上街130号, Tel: 8563-6304.
8. Spend a Night in the Park
For a perfect summer night outside, enter Ritan Park by 9pm by the west gate and head towards the Stone Boat, a favorite bar among Beijing media types and the NGO set. This faux Qing dynasty boat gets busy when it hosts summertime concerts, but we recommend checking out this intimate venue on an off night—it's fun to be the last one in the park.
Stone Boat: Inside Ritan Park, south of west gate, 日坛公园里, 西门往南, Tel: 6501-9986.
9. Get Fit
Ritan Park is one of the best areas in Beijing to enjoy the outdoors and get in shape. Yogi Yoga, which offers a wide range of classes in both English and Chinese, has two studios in the park. One overlooks the mini-golf course and the other is housed in a stunning imperial bell tower. You can also tone up on Ritan Park's rock climbing wall, which costs ¥40 a day.
Yogi Yoga: Ritan Park,日坛公园内, Tel: 8561-5506/5507. Touchstone Rock Climbing: In Ritan Park, south of North Gate, 日坛公园北门往南, Tel: 138-0105-2361.
10. Dine in the Park
Surrounding Ritan are a number of elegant restaurants with al fresco dining and park views. Expat classic Xiao Wang Fu has a branch within the park. Eat Huaiyang cuisine at Xi He Ya Ju, on the west side of the park, where trees grow through the dining room. Sample upscale Sichuan and Cantonese food at La Galerie, where the doors of the courtyard dining area open straight into the park. If Chinese fine dining isn't your thing, check out the lasagna and penne arabbiata at Russian-owned Italian eatery Primavera. It's divine.
Xiao Wang Fu: Ritan Park, 日坛公园, Tel: 8561-7859. Xi He Ya Ju: Northeast corner of Ritan Park, 日坛公园东北角, Tel: 8561-7643. La Galerie: Ritan Park South Gate, 日坛公园南门, Tel: 8562-8698. Primavera: Ritan Donglu, 日坛东路, Tel: 8562-7115.
11. Soak at the Spa
While no Russian bath-houses, or banya, seem to have been established on Yabao Lu just yet, there are some reasonably priced quality spas in the area, and more are under construction on the basement level of Ritan International, the area's newest shopping behemoth. Already opened in the complex is Image, a gargantuan spa that offers aromatherapy, facials, massage and, if you're feeling daring, tattoos. On the southern end of Ritan Park, visit Oriental Taipan, where you can get an aromatherapy bath for ¥200 and full body massages from ¥168, as well as a range of facial treatments.
Image: Ritan International C507,日坛国际 C507, Tel: 136-6111-2021. Oriental Taipan Massage & Spa: Sunjoy Mansion, 6 Ritan Lu, 日坛路6号新族大厦, Tel: 6502-5722.
12. Pick Up a Hookah
Judging from all the hookah bars on Yabao Lu, Russians must love hookahs. On Star Avenue, Desert Rose offers Turkish calean pipes for ¥55, or ¥85 with milk, and Pyramid has grape- and banana-flavored hookahs for ¥60 and apple for ¥80. To smoke your pipe in a venue with a bit more classna, you can shell out ¥100 for an apple hookah at Chocolate. Real hookah enthusiasts, however, should head to Alien Street, where in the midst of a few stalls selling kitchen fixtures, we found a guy selling all sizes of hookahs for between ¥50 and ¥400.
Pyramid: 39 Shenlu Jie, 1-17, 日坛上街1-17, 神路街39号, Tel: 8569-3208.
13. Tee Off
Don't expect pirate ships or windmills at Ritan Park's mini-golf course—the 18 holes here are rather spartan. Still, it's a fun way to spend time outside on a nice day, and a good place to bring the whole family or a date. Just ¥30 per person, it's also a reasonable deal. Afterwards, head west to the Ritan altar, where you can relax with local lao beijingren and fly a kite.
Ritan Miniature Golf Course: Ritan Park, 日坛公园内, Tel: 8561-5506.