Friends might be from the ’90s, but fervor for the show is still alive and well in China! It’s great for locals who want to be entertained and practice their English, so you can find fans everywhere. It got to the point that fans made a Central Perk-inspired Friends Cafe in Beijing!
I always knew of the show but never watched it in its entirety until last year (2017). Friends is so popular that Sohu (one of the Chinese equivalents to YouTube!) has it free for streaming! Sadly it’s only available for people with a Chinese IP address. If you’re in China, though, you can search it yourself.
One of my coworkers recommended the Friends Cafe to me! It, like all coffee shops in China, was pricey and hipster. It was like walking into a Hong Kong-like mix of Chinese and American culture, with a great mix of food and drink options!
Where is the Friends Cafe in Beijing?
To find the Friends Cafe isn’t that difficult. You can find it in any maps app, including Google Maps or Apple Maps. The exact address is Chaoyang District, Chaoyangmen Outer Street SOHO, Building A, 0616 (6th floor). In Chinese, it’s 朝阳门外大街乙6号朝外SOHO A座0616室.
Basically, you can get there by subway to Dadonqiao (大东桥) station on Line 6. It’s located just south of Sanlitun in the middle of the East side of Beijing. Exit D and walk directly forward to get to the SOHO shopping complex! You’ll see a giant sign for SOHO to know you’re going in the right direction.
Once you find the right floor – make sure you go to the right building section, A – before going to the elevator. You might have to look at the map on the walls to find the 0616 suite. This sign is a bit inconspicuous but you should be able to see it!
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Friends Homages at the Beijing Friends Cafe
The coffee shop itself is significantly smaller than it looks on the show, but you should notice several similarities immediately. First is the large recognizable logo for Central Perk on the side window! It feels like being in New York for sure.
As you walk into the cafe, you’ll see about a million things reminiscent of the TV show. The counter is just like the one in all the episodes, as is the couch. Near the door is a guitar that is just like Phoebe’s, and there’s a little raised platform at the side of shop that reminds me of the performance ledge that Phoebe performs on!
There’s a little replica of Hugsy, the penguin that Joey really likes to sleep with. I had completely forgotten about him until I saw the plush toy, which is adorable!
If you have some time, you should also stop in just to watch the episodes of Friends that are streaming on the TV. They have both English and Chinese subtitles, so you won’t have to worry about anyone missing out on what is happening. The episodes play one after another without ads – Hallelujah! Just be aware that if you haven’t watched the entire series, you don’t want to walk in when the series finale is playing!
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The Food and Drink at the Friends Cafe in Beijing, China
If you only speak English (at least, no Chinese at all) you’re in luck. Central Perk has both an English and Chinese menu, so ask to see the English one. There are the standard drinks and coffee cakes, and also some of the specials include specific items that are mentioned in the show – named with the episode that they appeared in!
I definitely like supersweet coffee and cakes, but I am sensitive to caffeine. I instead got a mint hot chocolate and red velvet cupcake. These were surprisingly fantastic! They tasted exactly like I would expect from an American coffee shop (Chinese desserts and drinks are much blander). I highly recommend them.
If you want to try some of their specialty drinks, the shop has them listed on the side:
The prices are generally between ¥20-¥40, and you can pay with WeChat or Alipay if you’d like.
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Have you ever visited? What did you order and how was it? Let me know in the comments below!
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