Up Your Instagram Game With These Beijing Modern Architecture Marvels

Article by Lost Plate Food Tours

Published on June 6, 2019

Beijing is home to some incredibly well-preserved and beautiful historical monuments. But one thing that we think the city doesn’t get enough credit for are these Beijing Modern Architecture marvels. From the “Bird’s Nest” of Olympic Park to the National Theater, Beijing is home to some architectural treasures that are often overlooked. Here’s our guide to the buildings that we think warrant a visit – and a photo or two!

SOHO Galaxy Mall

The SOHO buildings are all over China, with Beijing alone having nearly 20 of the office-building-meets-shopping-centers around the city. SOHO Galaxy buildings are fascinating to look at, with the ribbed white, lined glass, and metal rising and dipping along the skyline.  Explore human-filled beehives, right in the heart of the city. There are two SOHO malls of this style in Beijing, the SOHO Galaxy near Dongsishitiao and the SOHO Galaxy in Wangjing.

You can visit the SOHO galaxy mall on our Old & New Beijing Photo Walk, and find all of the best angles and photo ops from our local guide. Learn more here!

The Beijing InterCONTINENTAL Hotel

SOHO appears on our list again, attached to a gorgeous high-end hotel that lights up the night sky. Right across from the mega-popular TaiKoo Li mall in the popular expat district of Sanlitun, the hotel lights up in a brilliant honeycomb pattern. The lights change colors, turning into beautiful gradients, and lighting up with messages like “I Heart Beijing!” There are a few great rooftop patios nearby that provide a great view at night during the warmer months.

Chinese Name: 朝阳区三里屯南路1号
English/Pinyin Address: 1 Sanlitun Nanlu Chaoyang District
Google Map (requires VPN in China), Chinese Map

The CCTV Building


The famous – or should we say infamous? – Beijing building known more colloquially as “The Pants”. When the design was unveiled, it was extremely controversial, with many Chinese people hating the building. They felt that it was a joke, too ugly, too silly. But the CCTV building, located in the fashionable Guomao/CBD neighborhood, truly contributes to a more unique Beijing skyline. The building is a pretty cool architectural feat of glass, concrete and steel. There are many rooftop bars in the CBD area that will allow you to get a good look at this admittedly weird building – but we like it! (Well most of us do, anyway.)

Chinese Name: 东三环中路32号
English/Pinyin Address: 32 E 3rd Ring Rd Middle, GuoMao, Chaoyang Qu, China,
Google Maps (VPN required in China), Chinese Map

Beijing National Stadium, aka Bird’s Nest & Beijing National Aquatics Center

Beijing National Stadium:

Though it has perhaps been underused for its real purpose since the end of the 2008 summer Olympics, the Beijing National Stadium is a real architectural feat. Mesh and metal weave around the stadium to give it the appearance of a bird’s nest, and combined with the slick interior, it still manages to attract crowds year-round. The great news is that visitors can enter the venue for 50 RMB (under 10 USD)! And with Beijing hosting the Olympics again in 2022, the venue will have another chance to be the center of attention. We recommend exploring the entire Olympic Park during your trip, it’s huge and full of locals using the public space to outside!

Chinese Name: 国家体育场
English/Pinyin Address: 1 National Stadium S Rd, Chaoyang Qu, China, 100101
Show your taxi driver: 师傅您好,请带我去,北京市朝阳区国家体育场南路1号,谢谢!

Google Maps (VPN required in China), Chinese Map

Beijing National Aquatics Center:

Known more casually as the “water cube”, the Beijing National Aquatics Center was also originally built for the 2008 Olympics. It looks like a big blue square of soap bubbles, which is exactly the principle it was designed on, the water cube is a steel building covered in hundreds of bubble-like membranes. It looks amazing on a sunny day, and at night is all lit up. The inside is bright and attractive, as the membranes on the ceiling allow for sunlight to filter through and provide a lot of natural light.

Chinese Name: 北京国家游泳中心
English/Pinyin Address: 11 Tianchen E Rd, Chaoyang Qu, China
Show your taxi driver: 师傅您好,请带我去,北京市朝阳区天辰东路11号,谢谢!
Google Maps (VPN required in China), Chinese Map

National Library of China (NLC)

 The National Library of China has a south area, a north area, a children’s library, and an ancient books library, each of which is equally great to take in! The NLC is a mix of traditional and modern architecture. Bonus: The library is located near Beihai park which means there is no shortage of places nearby to stop and take some other photos.

We think the real showstopper is the inside of the north area – the outside reminds us of books stacked together on their sides, while the inside is open and airy, with a glass exterior providing excellent natural lighting. The three-tiered square on the inside ensures that you’ll never feel claustrophobic in this library. Other bonus: This is one of the largest library collections in the world (probably more of a bonus if you can read Chinese, but also great if you just enjoy the smell of old books.)

Chinese Name: 中国国家图书馆
English/Pinyin Address: 33 Zhongguancun S St, ZiZhu Qiao, Haidian Qu, China
Show your taxi driver: 师傅您好,请带我去,北京市海淀区紫竹桥中关村南大街33号,谢谢!
Google Maps (VPN required in China), Chinese Map

National Grand Theatre Beijing

Another building with an apt colloquial name is the National Grand Theater – known to locals as the Giant Egg. Located in central Beijing, the theater is near several other tourist sights like Tiananmen Square, Mao’s Mausoleum, and the Forbidden City, making it easy to get to by subway. A huge titanium and glass dome surrounded by a man-made water feature, makes it look like it’s floating on the water as you approach. It is just massive, at 212 meters by 144 meters and 41 meters tall! Entry into the theater requires you to go through a hallway that actually goes under the manmade lake on the north side.

Though this may not be the most famous building in Beijing, it is absolutely stunning and you can’t help but notice it as you make your way past it on the way to the Forbidden City or Tiananmen Square. And as much as we loved the outside, we liked seeing the inside even more. The grand theatre is an architectural marvel of clean lines and curves, and for a paltry 60 RMB entrance fee, you can wander around to your heart’s content, even on days where there are no shows playing, and enjoy the peace and quiet against a beautiful backdrop.

Chinese Name: 国家大剧院
English/Pinyin Address: 2 W Chang’an Ave, Xicheng Qu, China, 100031
Show your taxi driver: 师傅您好 ,请带我去,北京市西城区西长安街2号,谢谢!
Google Maps (VPN required in China), Chinese Map

Leeza Zoho Tower

The 45-story Leeza Soho skyscraper, designed by the late Zaha Hadid in the Fengtai District contains the world’s tallest atrium twisting through its center. It almost looks like a towering DNA helix of glass and steel, and seems almost dynamic from any perspective. Opened in 2019,  it’s the third sibling of three buildings designed by Zaha Hadid developed by SOHO China, along with Galaxy SOHO and Wangjing SOHO.  The Leeza Soho high-rise contains a mix of shops and offices surrounding the giant atrium of twisting metal. 

Chinese Name: 丽泽SOHO
English/Pinyin Address: Intersection of Lize Rd and Xiqu Xueyuan Rd, Fengtai District, China. 
Show your taxi driver: 师傅您好,请带我去,丰台区戏曲学院路与丽泽路交叉路口往西南约100米,谢谢!
Google Maps (VPN required in China), Chinese Ma

Phoenix Center

The Phoenix International Media Centre, also known as the Phoenix Centre, is located in the southwestern corner of Chaoyang Park in Beijing. The building is meant to represent the corporate spirit of Phoenix TV and China’s profound cultural tradition. 

According to Architect Shao Weiping, the design of the building resembles a DNA-like double helix that has been wrapped into a loop. He adds that the circular contours of the Phoenix complex echo the yin-yang symbol of ancient Chinese philosophy. All in all, it’s an office that’s pretty awesome to look at. 

Besides the media office, broadcasting studios, and the production offices, the building has abundant open spaces for the general public to experience and interact, which reflects the unique and open operating concept of Phoenix Media.

Chinese Name: 凤凰国际传媒中心
English/Pinyin Address: No.3 Chaoyang Park South Rd, Chaoyang District, China. 
Show your taxi driver: 师傅您好,请带我去朝阳区朝阳公园南路3号,谢谢!
Google Maps (VPN required in China), Chinese Map

CITIC Tower (China Zun)

CITIC Tower is the 9th tallest building in the world, located in the Central Business District of Beijing. (Fun fact: of the top 10 buildings in the world, half of them are in China.) It is popularly known as China Zun because the tower’s gently rising and curving form resembles an ancient Chinese ceremonial vessel, called the zun. The design concept is that of a transforming shell that gradually bends to create a dramatic form. This concept is also applied to other key elements of the tower, including the entrances, ground-floor lobby, and observation deck. 

China Zun Tower is a mixed-use building, featuring 60 floors of office space, 20 floors of luxury apartments, and 20 floors of the hotel with 300 rooms. If you haven’t decided where you’re staying for your next trip to Beijing yet, this place might be worth considering. 

At the base, the tower meets the ground with massive corner supports, while the exterior shell is gently lifted up and pulled outwards at its four corners. The design physically extends the lobby, forming dynamic drop-off spaces. At the top, the exterior envelope becomes more transparent at the observation deck and allows more visibility to the inner trumpet-shaped business center, which lights up at night, forming a beacon that is visible throughout the city.

Chinese Name: 中信大厦
English/Pinyin Address: No.10 Guanghua Rd, Chaoyang District China. 
Show your taxi driver: 师傅您好,请带我去朝阳区光华路10号,谢谢!
Google Maps (VPN required in China), Chinese Map

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