Beijing, a city steeped in history and culture, boasts a unique network of narrow alleys known as hutongs that are relatively unknown to tourists but are an absolute must-visit if you really want to explore the culture!
These labyrinthine passages offer an authentic glimpse into traditional Chinese living, providing rich experiences for those travellers who seek a taste of old-world charm.
Here’s all you need to know about the hutongs that are totally unique to Beijing, including their locations, how to get there, photography opportunities, ideal times to visit, and nearby attractions!
What Are Hutongs In Beijing?
Hutongs are traditional residential alleyways that interconnect, and connect to courtyard residences, forming a neighbourhood. They date back to imperial China and really offer a glimpse into the traditional China of the past.
Hutongs are an integral part of Beijing’s identity, and these communal residential areas really foster a strong sense of community and culture.
Historically, the appearance and arrangement of hutongs indicated social status. Today however, many of Beijing’s hutongs are long gone as they got demolished so the modern cityscape could be built, but fortunately some are preserved to safeguard the history of the city.
Walking through the intricate web of hutongs you get to witness the time-honoured practices of daily life, the traditional architecture, and the warmth of a close-knit community.
Even if you are only in Beijing for a short layover, it’s definitely worth heading to the hutongs once you’ve visited other landmarks such as The Great Wall Of China and The Hall Of Prayer For Good Harvests in The Temple Of Heaven.
Where Can You Find The Hutongs In Beijing?
Hutongs are scattered throughout central Beijing, primarily in the historic districts within the 2nd Ring Road surrounding The Forbidden City and Houhai Lake, as well as near the Lama Temple and Qiongdao Island.
The ancient neighbourhoods in the city centre epitomise the real everyday and authentic life in Beijing.
Some well-known hutong areas include Nanluoguxiang, Yandai Xiejie, and Gulou Dong Dajie. All these hutongs are located very close to each other that you can walk between them.
Nanluoguxiang is my favourite hutong to visit, situated just north of The Forbidden City and Jingshan Park. This hutong is easily accessible by subway (Line 6, Nanluoguxiang Station) or you can walk there after visiting The Forbidden City.
It is very quiet here despite being so central, and you can visit the Drum Tower (Gulou) and Bell Tower (Zhonglou) as they are also in the Hutong.
Make sure to climb to the top for great panoramic views! The Houhai Lake is also beautiful to stroll around.
Catrina is a Travel Writer, SEO Specialist and ex-Flight Attendant based in Sydney, Australia. She has visited 85 countries and lived in several – including Italy, Australia, United Arab Emirates and England. Her work has been featured in a variety of popular travel publications including Fodors, Escape, Australian Traveller and Bear Grylls, as well as several international aviation and travel companies. The majority of her work however features on her own website – 24hourslayover.com where she has written over 500 travel articles!