China may not be in everyone’s list of countries to visit, but it should be – especially Beijing (where I currently reside). There are so many hidden gems in Beijing – back alleyways weave throughout the city (known as hutongs) and they are home to some of the best restaurants, nightlife and boutique shopping. Each one offers it’s own unique charm. Some are large, diverse streets intertwined with ancient architecture while others offer more of a modern, hipster feel. Check out as many of Beijing’s hutongs as you can!
Langfang Ertiao Hutong
Near Capital M (a hot spot for brunch, cocktails, and views) the Langfang hutong was THE PLACE to purchase raw green jade and antiques in the Qing Dynasty. You can now still see many of the old historic sites and traditional architecture. The Hutong has kept its roots in many of the shops containing antique books, calligraphy, artifacts and diverse, authentic Cantonese foods.
Neighboring Langfang, are the Toutiao Hutong, Santiao Hutong, and Dashilan Street. Dashilan opens up to a wide array of shopping, including brands like Zara and Starbucks.
Wudaoying Hutong District
Wudaoying Hutong is one of my favorites. It’s within walking distance from the Lama Temple and from cat cafes to coffee shops and quaint bars, this hutong has so much to offer!
With more of a Millennial vibe, this hutong has some of the best shopping in Beijing. From Artisinal crafters and jewelry to vintage clothing stores, you won’t want to stop wandering in and out of new doorways. After letting your curiosity roam for a couple hours, head in to one of the popular coffee shops lining the streets. There are so many you might not be able to choose! Rest assured though, many of the menus are in English so you should be in luck to order your latte or drink of choice just how you want it.
Ready for happy hour? The streets are full of bars where you’ll find westerners and locals alike sharing a pint. My favorite was, Ben Bar. Grab yourself a beer from the fridge and settle in. The coziness will soon wash over you and you’ll never want to leave!
For foreigners visiting or living in Beijing, Wudaoying provides restaurants with a wide variety of dishes for when you’re wanting to put the chopsticks down for a bit. Check out Mex Max if you’re craving a little taco Tuesday action…great margaritas and tacos. And for vegetarians, King’s Joy is the spot. Run by a monk-chef, the menu provides an inventive twist on your typical veggie dish from local sourced organic ingredients. Spend an entire day here picking up one of a kind pieces or drink the night away in bars aligning the streets, either way you won’t want to pass up on this genuine Beijing experience.
If you have to choose one hutong in your trip to Beijing, I recommend this one. A combination of street vendors, a tranquil water front on the Schichahai lake, and tons of bright, beautiful colors in every store front made for the perfect day of wandering. Houhai is located near the Xicheng District and literally means back sea. Not only can you walk around and test your palette at any of the open markets, but you can rent a boat and paddle out to the lone island in the center. In the winter time, this lake is home to one of the few ice skating rinks in Beijing. At night, you can find westerners and locals sharing a drink and listening to live music at the numerous bar options.
Tip: try everything… no matter how nasty or weird something might look, this is where yolo applies. Especially when it comes to scorpion, I promise it tastes like a french fry!
Just a quick walk over from the Houhai Hutong, you can find this mix of modern and traditional style buildings. Not uncommon from many of the other hutongs, there are plenty of places to stop for a drink or get some grub. What I love most about this specific one, is the homes and doorways.
It’s filled with hidden alleyways and maze-like entrances. Many home-owners here offer visits into their households (for some a small fee). You’ll most likely get lost so keep an eye out for where you’re going.
I love Beijing’s hutongs. And if you do a little planning ahead of time, you can truly find some hidden gems.
Have you been to Beijing? What’s your favorite hutong?