Coffee-Study Culture in Dalian
For most students, spending hours studying in a library or a dormitory room is not an appealing prospect. Often they will seek out a nicer environment to do their homework or practice their conversational Chinese. The cafes of Dalian are popular with students on weekday afternoons because of their combination of good coffee, comfortable environment, snacks and wireless internet access.
Below we have gathered some of the best and most convenient for students at the various universities in Dalian
Amici – Dalian Software Park
Amici is now the largest chain of coffee shops in Dalian. With reasonably priced sandwiches, full meals and other snacks, Amicis are becoming a haven for foreign students to relax, study or surf the internet. Coffees range from 15 – 22 RMB per cup, however the cups are not large and there are no free refills. Doughnuts are recommended – 8 RMB each. Sockets are available for plugging in laptops and the wireless internet speed is adequate. In fact, there are a number of foreigners in Dalian that even use Amici as their “virtual office”. One secret of Dalian is the 18 RMB Amici breakfast set – a cooked breakfast with bacon or sausages, fried egg or omelette, toast and marmalade and a cup of coffee. If you don’t have an 8am morning class it provides the perfect combination of food, coffee and nice environment to prepare for your 10am lesson.
The Dalian Software Park Amici is based on the ground floor of the IBM building, just a few minutes walk from the north gate of Dalian University of Technology. It is not usually busy in the afternoons and even quieter on weekends. Because of its location in the cavernous lobby it can get cold in the winter. The environment is far more pleasant during the rest of the year.
Amici – Heishijiao
This Amici is located close to Dongbei University of Finance and Economics. Split onto two levels, it is almost always possible to find a table either on weekdays or weekends. From the university walk into the centre of Heishijiao, and you will find the Amici about 30 metres before you reach the Macdonalds. The building suffers the same problem as the Dalian Software Park branch – too cold in the winter. Make sure you wrap up if you intend to study for a few hours.
Amici – Roosevelt Centre
The Roosevelt Centre is one of the main shopping centres in Dalian, and is located opposite to a large Carrefour hypermarket. The Amici is on the ground floor of this building, facing out onto the road that the 202 tram passes along. It is split onto two levels, with the upstairs being considerably warmer than the downstairs. This is the most convenient location for students at Liaoning Normal University. Take the 101 bus from outside the university and get off outside the Carrefour. If you want to study don’t go here on the weekend – it is noisy and difficult to secure a table.
Tinas – Heping Square Shopping Centre
Tinas is located on the 4th floor of the Heping Square shopping centre. It is convenient to visit using the 23 bus, which runs from Dalian University of Technology past Dongbei University of Finance and Economics and terminates at Dalian University of Foreign Languages. Tinas is normally quiet and they have a more interesting food menu than Amici. Coffees are a similar price, although the cups are larger.
I-55 – Gaoerji Street
Probably the most well-known coffee shop aimed primarily at the foreign community in Dalian. I-55 has been operating for about six years, providing good coffee, a relatively large food menu and an in-store bakery. Recently the prices have been increased. A coffee and lunch will now cost over 60 RMB. I-55 also does a breakfast buffet on weekend mornings until 11am. For around 80 RMB you can have an all-you-can-eat American style breakfast and free coffee refills.
I-55 is not particularly close to any of the universities in Dalian. The first time you go there I suggest taking a taxi. Just tell the driver “Ai wu wu” and he will know where you want to go.
For those of you that like an afternoon beer, please note that I-55 does not serve alcohol.
Starbucks – Bainiancheng, Qingniwaqiao
Dalian is international enough to have a string of Starbucks coffee shops. They are as you would expect anywhere else in the world. While the food is limited and overpriced, the coffees are larger and generally better than you will find at most of the other coffee shops in town. The Starbucks in Bainiancheng is right in the middle of the main shopping center of Qingniwaqiao, a five minute bus ride from Dalian University of Foreign Languages (again, route 23). Weekday afternoons are not busy, but weekends are too crowded.
You will find there are a number of other cafe chains in Dalian. Shangdao Coffee is a Taiwanese coffee shop chain , and to be avoided wherever possible. ICD is another popular with Chinese businessmen, however they tend to be smoky places without wireless internet access.
I recommend you go to these coffee shops regularly to study, talk to the staff and read Chinese newspapers over the web. A change of environment can improve your capacity to learn.