After visiting Beijing’s magnificent imperial buildings and gardens, you may like to know more about the places where old Beijing folks used to live and get a glimpse into the ordinary people’s lives in the ancient capital. Then, why not take a tour to the hutong and Siheyuan (courtyard with buildings on four sides) residences? Each of them conveys the profound culture and rich Beijing flavor.
If you want to look for an authentic flavor of old Beijing, come to Nanluoguxiang! Completed in 1267, Nanluoguxiang is 786 meters long and 8 meters wide, running south to north and stretching from East Gulou Avenue on the north to East Di’anmen Avenue on the south. It is one of the oldest blocks in Beijing and the only traditional checkerboard-type residential area that has been kept intact and has the largest scale and highest grade courtyards of Yuan style. Each courtyard has untold romances, from generals of the Ming Dynasty to the last empress of the Qing Dynasty, from literary masters to master artists.
In Nanluoguxiang, there are many shops with fancy names, such as “Elsewhere”, “Corner with Love”, “Heart Is a Lonely Hunter”, “Ghost Taste”, which can easily carry people away when they hear them. Nanluoguxiang is also the third most popular bar street in Beijing after Sanlitun Bar Street and Houhai Bar Street. Some bar names to remember are Pass By, Backward Bar, Here Café, and Salud, and so on. The original hutong, various kinds of interesting shops and cafes all make contributions to the unique charm of the alley. Travel enthusiasts once picked 25 must-go places in Asia, including 6 from China, and Nanluoguxiang is one of them.
Shichahai is a renowned historical and cultural scenic spot in Beijing, and it is a place that has best kept the style and features of old Beijing. Shichahai consists of three lakes (Qianhai, Houhai and Xihai), as well as historical sites, places of interest and folk residences. Stretching from the North 2nd Ring Road on the north to Ping’an Avenue on the south, it starts from Di’anmenwai Avenue on the east and ends at North Xinjiekou Avenue on the west, with a total area of 146.7 ha.
The Houhai Bar Street is one of the most popular nightspots in Beijing. It is compatible with the classical and the modern, the traditional and the avant-garde, natural and cultural landscapes. For leisure, you can ride a boat on the lake or stroll on the banks, enjoying the willows, or try delicacies, imperial cuisine or homemade dinners. You can even put up for the night in a hutong household and try original Beijing food.
Wudaoying was said to be barracks of the city guards of the Ming Dynasty. Today, Wudaoying is popular with expatriates living there. Some of them are carefree tourists; some are shop owners, running their characteristic restaurants, cafes or boutiques. Many shop owners are fans of Chinese culture from all around the world and fall deeply in love with Beijing’s hutong culture.
Prince Gong’s Mansion
Located near the Shichahai, to the northwest of the Forbidden City in Beijing, the Prince Gong’s Mansion is an example of imperial gardens in the Qing era, and it is the most well preserved mansion in Beijing. The mansion was first built in 1777, and it was bestowed upon Prince Gong (Yi Xin) by Emperor Xianfeng in 1851, hence the name. With a history of more than 200 years, the Prince Gong’s Mansion has experienced the heyday and decline of the Qing Dynasty, thus there is a saying that goes “The history of the Prince Gong’s Mansion equals half the history of the Qing Dynasty”.