Beijing Hutong Facts
Beijing Hutong connecting the quadrangle dwellings is more than a tourist attraction, but also the pulse of this city. All the over 6,000 alleys of long, short, wide, narrow, straight and winding link the whole Beijing from the ancient time telling the various stories happened in each period and show the historic development and cultural change of Beijing city.
Type: Famous Historical and Cultural Streets, Ancient Buildings, Historic Walking Areas
Best Seasons: All year round
Opening Hours: 24 hours
Hutong is the local word for any of the imperial-era alleys where the traditional residential houses of old Beijing are located. At the back of the Forbidden City, there is a well-preserved old district where you can see hutongs and typical courtyard houses.
A hutong is a place where you can immerse yourself in memories of old Beijing. They are charming places where you can learn about the traditional lifestyle and the cultural heritage.
During this 1-day Beijing hutong tour, you will explore the historical and cultural sites of the hutongs, visit a family living in a courtyard house, and stroll along the oldest commercial alley in Beijing.
The names are another interesting feature of Beijing Hutong besides its culture and appearance. Since Beijing people feel at ease when most aspects are close to their life, all hutongs have their characteristic folksy names, from rivers, lakes, mountains, moons, surnames, temples, commodities, factories, flowers, fishes, clouds, stars, water, wells, harbors, wind, fire, trees, chickens, meat, etc. like Yuer Hutong (雨儿胡同, Rain Hutong), Haibin Hutong (海滨胡同, Harbor Hutong), Jinger Hutong (井儿胡同, Hutong of Well), and so on.
Moreover, different from other cities where people are inclined to name a place after a city name, like Nanjing Road, Guangzhou Road, place names in Beijing are more of living, like those hutongs name related to the rice, oil, salt, vinegar, etc. and those named about gold, silver, copper, iron and tin. All interesting hutong names show the purity and honesty of Beijing people.
Among all the thousands of hutongs in Beijing, some distinctive ones are worth having a general knowledge and even going to have a look, like the Shichahai Hutongs, Bell & Drum Towers Hutongs, South Gong & Drum Alley, Pipe Slanting Street, etc.
Shichahai (什刹海) best keeps the most old Beijing buildings, so you can visit about 15 hutongs with particular features, imperial mansions and former homes of renowned people in this area, like the Prince Gong’s Mansion (恭亲王府), which is the most-preserved palace of a prince of Qing dynasty in Beijing and a typical garden palace of a prince. What’s more, Shichahai is a famous tourism sightseeing area in Beijing. Fascinating natural scenery with lush plants and crystal clear lakes are placed here, which enables Shichahai to get the honor as the “Western Watery Place in China”.
The Bell Tower (钟楼) and the Drum Tower (鼓楼) are the must-visit places for people first visiting Beijing. Hutongs in this area extend in all directions with famous Beijing time-honored brands and antique culture surrounding. It is really like a magic experience to roam in these deep and quiet hutongs, admiring the old pines and overhanging eaves of the hundreds-year-old dwellings, and hearing the ear-pleasing chime and drumbeat at a fixed time.
Address: Zhonglouwan, Dongcheng District, Beijing.
Nanluoguxiang (南锣鼓巷), or called South Gong & Drum Alley, 8m wide and 787m long, is one of the oldest blocks in Beijing built more than 740 years ago. It is also the traditional residential area of checkerboard type with the most-preserved texture of hutong and courtyard in the Yuan dynasty (A.D. 1271 - 1368), largest scale, highest level and most resources in China and richest old Beijing flavor. Since it was a rich land hundreds of years ago, countless imperial mansions and grand courtyards are left along this alley.
You can choose many different ways to get close to these characteristic Beijing Hutongs to appreciate the special ancient buildings and to experience the local old life and rich Beijing culture, such as enjoying the special buildings on a rickshaw; learning to make dumplings in a local residence; biking through the deep hutongs, etc.
Almost all friends from other countries prefer to take a rickshaw to visit the old hutongs. They can both appreciate the ancient alleys with grey brick walls and particular northern Chinese quadrangle courtyards, and listen to the related history and stories along the way since some wheelers can speak some English. Moreover, you can see the remained palace of the prince to admire the excellence in the gardens and decorations and to experience the past life and prosperity of Chinese imperial household.
You can choose to take the chance of making dumplings in a local residence in a hutong, which is an uncommon opportunity to know every step of making these delicious northern China dumplings and understand more about the rich culture of family reunion and the sincere hope for bright future life in China. Also, you can feel it really interesting, warm and sweet to enjoy a meal with the hospitable Beijing people.
Renting a bike to roam along the hutongs is of full fun as well. You can enjoy the historical feature in the deep and serene hutongs, watch the local Beijing people’s daily life, and appreciate and charming sightseeing near these old buildings. You will understand why foreign people say that Beijing Hutongs are so beautiful and charming!
Besides those featured activities, you can also choose other interesting things to do to enjoy the real life and local culture of old Beijing, such as learning the Chinese paper cutting of various patterns, trying the calligraphy to know the ancient writing of Chinese, making Chinese Knots, Yangko dancing, etc.
Since the number of Beijing Hutongs is so large, we recommended you to visit some representative featured ones to experience its rich culture.
Visit the Bell & Drum Towers Hutongs to hear the chime and drumbeat and enjoy the old different hutongs along the way, and see the old former houses of celebrities, like the Prince Gong’s Mansion. Then wander along other interesting hutongs to Shichahai area and appreciate the beautiful landscape. (For about 2-4 hours)
Visit the South Gong & Drum Alley to capture images of the best-preserved residential area of checkerboard type. See the fascinating natural scenery in Shichahai and take pictures of the well preserved former houses of famous people. Then, go to the Pipe Slanting Street to enjoy the rich culture and artistic breath of simplicity. Next, go to feel the antique flavor of the old boutiques and hear the crispy sound of the ancient bell and drum in Bell & Drum Tower Hutongs. (For a half to one day)
1. There are some places for renting bicycles near Shichahai and other sites, and if you want to bike along the old Hutong, renting one there is very convenient and great to savor the culture and constructions in the old alleys.
2. Some narrow Beijing hutongs may not have lights at night, so it is not recommended to visit these dark hutongs during night.
To explore the best highlights of Beijing, including Tiananmen Square, Forbidden City, Great Wall, Temple of Heaven, Summer Palace, Hutongs, you only need 2 or 3 full days, which is available for to 72 Hours Visa-free for Transit in Beijing. If you have more days, you can go for an in-depth Great Wall hiking or photography, and explore more hidden attractions in the city.
As the most popular transportation hub in China, you can easily travel from Beijing to any other hot travel destinations in China by flight or train, such as Xi'an, Shanghai, Yangtze River, Guilin, Chengdu, Tibet and other popular destinations in China by flight or train. Travel Tour China has designed many great China tour packages from Beijing for you. Please make your choice from our collections or let us customize one for you.
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