Haidian, Wudaokou

These two areas are full of technology companies and some of Beijing’s — and China’s — most prominent Universities. It’s a nice area. Located northwest of the city center, these districts seem to have fresher air, more trees, fewer crowds, and are close to the city’s western foothills.

But for the casual tourist, I think this area is too far from the other sites and the other parts of the city that appeal to visitors. The restaurants and nightlife are oriented towards students, and it takes a long time to get anywhere else. If you want to take the subway, expect to take at least an hour to get anywhere. Taxis will get you around faster, but you could still be stuck in traffic for a long time. So I don’t recommend staying in this area if this is your first visit to Beijing, or you’re coming here to hang out and enjoy the city.

On the other hand, if you’re in the tech industry and are coming to Beijing on business, this area might be the best place for you. You’ll be near all the major software and technology companies — though you should be aware that these companies might have locations in different parts of the city. Microsoft’s engineers are on the west side, for example; administration is across town in the northeast.

For tourist’s, the main reason to come to this part of the city is to visit the Summer Palace, which is highly recommended. It’s a beautiful place, and great when the weather is nice.