Hutongs are the old traditional alleyways and courtyard homes which once covered all of Beijing. Many still survive today and offer a great place to get an intimate glimpse of local life, try some authentic local food, buy some souvenirs, or simply relax in a cafe after a day of sightseeing.
Encircled by 2nd Ring Road in Beijing are the city's large hutong areas, which are now preserved as traditional residential neighborhoods. There are several hutong areas that are popular among tourists and locals, including those near Houhai Lake, the Bell and Drum Towers, Nanluoguxiang, Lama Temple, and Qianmen.
The two most popular ways to explore the hutongs is on foot or by rickshaw. There are many rickshaws available for rent in the Houhai Lake area, which can take you on a tour around part of the lake and the nearby hutongs. Rickshaws were once a common mode of transport in Beijing, before cars and buses were widely used, especially in the old narrow streets. Now, the rickshaws are mostly commercially run as a tourist activity.
If you don't mind walking, then strolling through the hutongs is a great way to slow down and appreciate the hutongs at your own pace. If you are on one of our tours, your guide will walk with you along some of the most typical sections of the hutongs and explain the architecture and culture of their traditional courtyard homes.
While on your tour, we can take you to a well-preserved courtyard house in the hutongs to give you an inside view of these traditional homes and meet some of the people who live in them. We can also arrange a homemade lunch for you with one of the hutong families.
Some hutongs are full of shops, restaurants, bars, and cafes, like the famous Nanluoguxiang pedestrian street. If you don't like the crowds and the commercial atmosphere of these busy hutongs, you can veer off into the numerous less popular alleyways, where you might stumble upon some small, charming shops and restaurants - the hutongs are full of hidden gems!