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Travel Report: Nanluoguxiang, Beijing.

Nanluoguxiang hutong Beijing

September 2018. “What the heck is a hutong?” a friend of mine asked when I told him about my plans to visit Nanluoguxiang in Beijing. It’s a question I’ve had a lot over the years, so I made sure to pencil in a hutong flavoured article for my Beijing page. The Chinese capital used to be crammed full of hutongs, which are basically mazes of narrow, crisscrossing lanes full of traditional buildings.

Nanluoguxiang hutong Beijing

Nanluoguxiang, Beijing.

Home to traditional, grey-tiled buildings and walled alleyways, visually the hutong has the look and feel of ancient Beijing.

Traditional hutong art Nanluoguxiang Beijing

Nanluoguxiang, Beijing.

Today, in Beijing’s endless quest for urbanisation, very few of the old hutongs remain.

Trendy boutique Nanluoguxiang Beijing

Nanluoguxiang, Beijing.

However, there is Nanluoguxiang, an 800-year-old street that, although completely redeveloped and highly gentrified, still succeeds in offering visitors an insight into Beijing’s old way of life.

Duck restaurant Nanluoguxiang Beijing

Duck restaurant, Nanluoguxiang.

Today the street is packed with bars, cafes, restaurants, shops, art galleries and even boasts a renowned pottery workshop and traditional theatre.

Modern Lady cosmetics store Nanluoguxiang Beijing.

Modern Lady Cosmetics, Nanluoguxiang.

Above all, it’s great to see that a lot of care has gone into honouring the original architectural style. Furthermore, there are statues, plaques and artwork all along the street focusing on the hutong’s traditional role in Chinese culture.

Nanluoguxiang hutong Beijing

Nanluoguxiang, Beijing.

The area is very well signposted and mapped out. Therefore, if you feel like Nanluoguxiang is a bit overwhelming, why not dip into one of the many side streets. In most cases things are much less hectic and make for better photo opportunities.

Snacking locals Nanluoguxiang Beijing.

Nanluoguxiang, Beijing.

The street is great for people watching and just about every element of society is in the mix. I saw students in cafes hunched over books and wealthy, brand-wearing shopaholics flashing their credit cards. Elsewhere there were working class locals, holidaying foreigners, desperate beggars and grubby street kids. It really is quite the melting pot.

Old man Nanluoguxiang hutong Beijing

Nanluoguxiang, Beijing.

Nanluogoxiang

This old dude sitting in his tuk tuk caught my eye. He was making virtually no effort to draw in customers and seemed to be watching the crowds buzz back and forth with a kind of detached bewilderment. I’m guessing he’s seen some huge changes here over the years and still doesn’t quite know what to make of it all.

Wiggly Jiggly's Cafe Nanluoguxiang Beijing.

Wiggly Jiggly’s Cafe, Nanluoguxiang.

Back in 2014-2015, when I lived in Beijing, I used to love coming to Nanluoguxiang with friends for a coffee. I can highly recommend Wiggly Jiggly’s. They do free refill on Americanos before 18:00.

Reef Bar Nanluoguxiang Beijing.

Reef Bar, Nanluoguxiang.

There are also plenty of bars and the scene is getting trendier as the years go by. Craft beer is becoming incredibly popular and you’ll certainly have to dig deep in your pockets for a proper night out. Reef Bar is one of many good options.

Ice cream Nanluoguxiang hutong Beijing.

Ice Story, Nanluoguxiang.

For a taste of Nanluoguxiang’s famous ice cream, check out Ice Story set at the end of a courtyard cul-de-sac. The store itself is a poky little place, but there are plastic tables and chairs peppered around the courtyard and some cool wall art.

Nanluoguxiang Beijing.

Nanluoguxiang, Beijing.

Nanluoguxiang is in Beijing’s Dongcheng District. You can get here on the subway, getting off at the station of the same name on lines 6 and 8. If you want to base yourself here, check out the well reviewed, budget-friendly Peking Youth Hostel at 113-2.

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Like this? Why not take a look at more travel reports from around Beijing.

Want to delve further afield? I’ve written stacks of travel reports from all over China.

Or maybe check out my short story series Challenged In China!

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