Best for ironing out knots
Know this: the massage therapists at Tang Massage play a very straight bat with regard to your ailing posture – expect many a ‘bu hao’ murmured at your crooked back at this dim-but-professional Beixinqiao parlour. Stings like a bee, but by Mohammed you’ll leave floating like a butterfly. Our advice? Take a load off, let the somehow-appropriate Chinese techno bangers pulse through your silky PJs and luxuriate in the quirks that make this country so fun to be in.
Massages from 128RMB.
Go for Chinese massage (168RMB; 45 minutes). This will have you crossing over to the other place from the outset. The therapists’ ten-plus years in the biz means they destroy knots at a rate of… knots. This is the full-body experience: arms are jiggled, shoulders tweaked and legs pounded. But the surprise highlight you won’t pick up from any whimward four-week massage course: the rapturous ‘applause’ the therapist lays square on your forehead like it just won The Voice.
Where 8-2 Jiaodaokou Dong Dajie (8402 4408). Open 10am-2am daily.
As with most blind massage parlours Suhang doesn’t do soothing rub-downs. You go to Suhang for a thorough muscle battering at the hands of trained blind massage therapists. The modest and clinical set-up – eight beds spread across two rooms – may well leave you with little-to-no privacy, but you’re not here to gossip. You’re here to be fixed. The silence is only broken by the mutterings of massage therapists fretting over the state of your decrepit body or enquiring after your wellbeing, and gasps from fellow patients as the masters hit their mark.
Massages from 80RMB.
Go for Full Body Massage (80RMB; one hour). Not for the faint-hearted. The skilled therapist meticulously examines your body, targeting all your sore spots while finding a few new ones you didn’t even know you had. Don’t be surprised if you receive the odd elbow as part of the therapist’s toolkit.
Where 9 Gongti Dong Lu (5607 8788). Open 9am-11.30pm daily.
Song Lin Massage (松霖保健)
Tucked away on the third floor of a somewhat-questionable complex full of massage parlours, Song LinMassage no-frills spa offers decent and above-board tuina massages at a low price point based on our experience. Amenities are basic but comfortable, with a selection of private and group rooms available. The massage therapists are friendly and know how to work their way around pressure points.
Massages from 158RMB.
Go for Body and Foot Massage (158RMB; two hours). You’re in it for the long haul with this one, so just sit back and enjoy the ride. The smiling massage therapists might look gentle but they don’t mess around, carefully working their way down from head to toe, concentrating on your problem areas.
Where Third Floor, 15 Zaoying Beili, off Maizidian Jie (6585 1338). Open 10am-3am daily.
Best for reducing stress
Zigzag Massage and Nails
Perhaps better known for its mani-pedi services than its massages, Zigzag also specialises in hand and foot reflexology. With a steady stream of people passing through the snug salon, chatty staff and windows facing out to the street, it might not be the most private massage you’ll ever have, but the buzz is what makes this place tick. Snatch a seat by the window and watch the world pass by or grab a few friends for a group session.
Massages from 138RMB.
Go for Foot Reflexology Massage (138RMB; one hour). Using a combination of fingers, knuckles, and plenty of aloe vera, the massage therapist hits the key pressure points in your feet, making for a happy and healthier you, inside and out (or something like that). Book in advance for the reflexology ‘master’.
Where 52B Wudaoying Hutong (8404 0020). Open 11am-11pm daily.
Dong Fang Liang（东方亮足道）
Dong Fang Liang’s respectable (for the most part, so we’re told) 24-hour massage parlour above Hooters – an unlikely story maybe, but there you have it – boasts a team of massage therapists well trained in the art of Chinese and Western massage techniques. Beyond the comparatively grand entrance hall and up the marble staircase you’ll find a corridor full of basic, but passable, private rooms complete with even more basic and slightly less passable private bathrooms and a TV. The Titantic soundtrack lulls you into a deep state of relaxation, while the massage therapist gently kneads away the knots and showers you with free tea, fresh fruit and dumplings. Spend over 298RMB here (which, coincidentally, is the price of the aromatic oil massage) and you can even stay the night. Sanlitun’s cheapest hotel with a free massage thrown in? We’re sold.
Massages from 168RMB.
Go for Chinese body massage (328RMB; 90 minutes). This is the perfect postshopping, post-work, ‘just because’ treat. For the cash-strapped, the foot massage (168RMB) is a worthy alternative.
Where 303, Third Floor, Building 1, China View (above Hooters), Gongti Dong Lu (8587 1058). Open 24 hours daily.
Best for luxury on a budget
Bodhi Therapeutic Retreat
A cross between a deluxe version of your local massage place and an indulgent spa, at Bodhi it’s all about the downtime. With its Southeast Asia-inspired décor, it’s a little bit of luxury in the middle of Sanlitun. Essential oils, bathtubs, fluffy towels and plush sheets, along with a team of attentive Chinese and Thai massage therapists, make for an experience that’s all sorts of serene. Stave off the hunger with complimentary food and drink brought directly to your room – everything from fruit plates to beef curry.
Massages from 198RMB.
Go for Foot Reflexology Treatment (80mins; 198RMB). While you stuff your face with free snacks, massage therapists start with a relaxing back-and-head massage before tending to your weary feet.
Where 7 Gongti Bei Lu (6417 9595). Open 11am-12.30am daily.
Dragonfly Therapeutic Retreat
Once you cross the threshold into the sanctuary that is Dragonfly it’s difficult not to spend the entire day here. A far cry from your basic massage spot, this Beijing favourite and well-known chain is an oasis of calm, where silence is only broken by the occasional passer-by and classic spa sounds playing through the speakers. It’s all soft lighting, cushy beds and incense. Here you get what you pay for as professional staff set to work to ease all your physical (and mental) aches and pains.
Massages from 218RMB.
Go for Oriental Foot Massage (218RMB; one hour). This massage is the ultimate oily treat for your feet – and it’s slated to relieve headaches and enhance the immune system among a number of health benefits. Waiting for your feet to soak in a herbal bath, the massage therapist rubs your neck and shoulders before moving on to the main event. Sink into some of Beijing’s comfiest armchairs and let the magic happen.
Where 1F Grand Summit Plaza (100m north of Lufthansa Centre), 19 Dongfang Dong Lu (8532 3132). Open 10am-midnight daily.