1. September 2018. I couldn’t believe my ears when I heard about a hidden café in Beijing that’s a replica of Central Perk from the hit TV show Friends. It sounded so… un-Beijing-like. I can hardly call myself the world’s biggest Friends fan, but I liked the show well enough and felt I had to go and check it out. Not least because I heard it’s hard to find, which as a travel blogger is exactly the kind of challenge that pulls my chain. And boy they weren’t kidding about the location! I came from Tiananmen Square, so it took me well over an hour to reach Chaowai Soho Shopping Mall, where the café’s located. First I’d taken a bus, but the traffic that afternoon was appalling, so in the end I jumped off halfway down the route and ended up walking the rest of the way.
2. September 2018. But getting to the mall actually turned out to be the easy part! From there you’ve got to track down the poorly signposted Building A, then work your way up to the sixth floor of what is essentially a deserted office block. This can’t be it, I kept telling myself as I went down corridor after empty corridor, passing the occasional toilet and a depressing print shop. And then suddenly there it was (!), number 6, huddled in the corner like some kind of cruel mirage. “Hello!” smiled the girl behind the bar as I walked in, “Welcome to Friends Café!”
3. September 2018. Friends Café opened its doors in 2009, the brainchild of a local Beijing man who loved the program so much he decided to create a coffee shop in its name. Glancing through their menu, I was tickled to see all the drinks and dishes had been lovingly named after the show’s characters. So I went for a Rachel Red Velvet Latte and looked for a place to settle down.
4. September 2018. Be warned that it’s quite a small café with a limited amount of seats, so it often gets overcrowded. Luckily for me though I arrived at a lull and got the replica orange sofa all to myself as a Friends episode played out on the TV. Apparently the show is continuously playing during opening hours and the joint’s cosy, living room vibe makes it a wonderful spot to binge-watch whatever season is on, do some work or even just crash out altogether for a nap.
5. September 2018. At the back of the café there’s a cool replica of Joey and Chandler’s apartment, which is well worth a poke around for all those little details from the show. A big shout out to the good folk of Atlas Obscura for bringing Friends Café to my attention! https://www.atlasobscura.com. Opening times are from 11:00-21:30 daily and for the sake of clarity let me run you through those logistics one more time:
1: Go to Chaowai Soho Shopping Mall (Dongdaqiao Subway Station, Line 6, orange).
2: Find the first floor elevators and follow the sign into building A.
3: Head up the escalators to the sixth floor, ignore the increasing sense of apocalyptic dread and follow the low-key unit number system towards 6.
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