Beijing Hutongs are the best places to explore on foot. The rich Chinese history and culture are apparent in these alleyways. They are small communities (mostly residential) where everyone knows everyone and people hang out together. At night, They are one of the quietest neighborhoods in Beijing.
What are Hutongs?
Hutongs are the little alleyways that are surrounded by the old, traditional Chinese housing. They are located in different areas and several of them have became commercialized with shops and boutique stores.
What Hutongs are great to explore?
The red circles on the map show some popular Hutongs in relation to the Palace Museum (Forbidden City). The numbers are ranked by my perception of how busy and crowded the area is, 1 being the busiest.
Circle #1 - includes the popular Hutongs: Nanluoguoxiang and Yandai Xiejie. Both of these are commercialized, so if you are looking for some souvenirs, these two areas are great options. The Hutongs here are super lively.
Circle #2 - less touristy, you can witness Chinese people's daily routines.
Circle #3 - An amazing organization called The Hutong is located in this area. The Hutong offers cooking classes for English speaking visitors to Beijing. Their teachers are all very knowledgable with Chinese cuisine. I had the privileges to take the dumpling and hand-pulled noodles classes from Michelle. She is an amazing instructor! Sign up to take her class if you can. Each person costs 300 RMB (~$50), definitely not a bad price for a 2 1/2 hour-3 hour class.
A Xinjiang specialty restaurant - Crescent Moon Muslim Restaurant is also in this area. Xinjiang is a specialty Chinese cuisine, it is a must try while you are in Beijing. Order their homemade yogurt!
Play "I Spy" game while exploring Hutongs
Take a look at the 5 pictures below. Do you see any similarities as well as differences? They all have clues to let you know how wealthy the family once was.
Look above the door frame in each picture, some of them have 2 wooden posts sticking out, and some of them have 4. The wooden posts are in sets of 2, 4, or 12. Posts symbolized a family's wealth and ranking in the Chinese noble court. Only the imperial family who were related to the emperor is allowed to have 12 posts.
Now, look at the stones on each side of the door frames. The round ones that look like drums (1st, 3rd, and 5th pictures) were resided by a military family, and the rectangular ones that look like books (2nd and 4th pictures) were occupied by higher educated residents. Lastly, the steps also have its significance - more steps equals to higher status in the society.
Comment and share the unique things you observed in Hutongs!