Top 10 Hutongs in Beijing

Written by Sally Guo Updated Jul. 2, 2021

Hutongs are ancient urban alleys unique to Beijing. Surrounding the Forbidden City, there are thousands of hutongs in the 3,000-year-old Beijing, most of which were formed during the Yuan (1271-1368), Ming (1368-1644), and Qing (1636-1912) dynasties. Over the course of hundreds of years, hutongs have become part of traditional Chinese culture.

You shouldn’t miss out on exploring the old hutongs in Beijing. Here we introduce the top 10 Beijing hutongs.

1. Nanluogu Xiang (南锣鼓巷, South Luogu Lane)

Nanluogu Xiang
  • Location: Nanluogu Xiang Hutong, Xicheng District, Beijing 10009
  • Highlights: bar street, Beijing old-style houses, residences of former celebrities
  • Transportation: bus nos. 13, 60, 118, 612, or 623 to Luoguxiang; metro line 6 or line 8 to Nanluoguxiang

Only one street from the Imperial City, South Luogu Lane has a long history. It is narrow and still preserves old streets and hutongs of the Yuan dynasty.

The lane was first constructed in the Yuan and expanded in the Ming and Qing dynasties. With a total length of some 800 meters, it has hutongs which are symmetric west and east. Because of this symmetric arrangement, it looks like a centipede. Hence it is also called “Centipede Street”.

Now South Luogu Lane is an important ancient street under protection in Beijing. There are dozens of shops, restaurants, bars, and siheyuan (courtyards) along the lane.

2. Yandai Xiejie (烟袋斜街, Skewed Tobacco Pouch Street)

Skewed Tobacco Pouch Street
  • Location: Di’anmenwai Main Street, Xicheng District, Beijing 100009
  • Highlights: yummy food stalls, mementos, bars, relaxing evenings, near Bell and Drum Towers
  • Transportation: bus nos. 5, 60, 107, 124, or 635 to Gulou stop; metro line 2 to Gulou Avenue (鼓楼大街)

Yandai Xiejie, Beijing’s oldest commercial street, is about 300 meters long, just one block away from Houhai Lake. It is lined with traditional-style stone buildings full of charming souvenirs and handicraft shops.

Meandering like a pipe with a tobacco pouch, Yandai Xiejie is amusingly nicknamed Tobacco Pouch Street. It is said that during the Qing dynasty (1636-1912), people in the north liked to smoke pipe tobacco and shisha tobacco.

There are ever more tobacco pouch shops along the street, to meet smokers’ demands. You can buy some smoke sets and handicrafts here.

3. Mao’er Hutong (帽儿胡同)

Mao’er Hutong
  • Location: Jiaodaokou Street, Dongcheng District, Beijing
  • Highlights: historical significance, real-life in Beijing
  • Transportation: bus nos. 118, 13, 42, 60, 612, 623, or 701 to Di’anmen East (地安门东) stop; metro line 8 to Shichahai or Nanluoguxiang

Maoer Hutong starts at South Luogu Lane in the east and extends to the Di’anmen Outer Street in the west.

During the Ming dynasty, it was known as Wenchang Palace (文昌宫) Hutong, but during the Qing, it changed its name to Maoer Hutong because it had basically become a workshop for making hats. (In Chinese, the hat is “mao 帽”.)

Maoer Hutong advertises itself by pointing out that some famous Chinese lived there. It has some well-preserved siheyuan (courtyards) such as Feng Guozhang Former Residence and Wanrong.

4. Guozijian Street (国子监街)

Guozijian Street
  • Location: Guozijian Street, Beijing
  • Highlights: Imperial College, Temple of Confucius, ancient Chinese imperial examination system
  • Transportation: bus nos. 13, 118, 117 or 684 to Yonghegong (雍和宫) stop; metro line 2 or line 5 to Yonghegong Lama Temple

Famous for the Imperial College (the highest educational administration in feudal China) and the Temple of Confucius, Guozijian Street was constructed at the beginning of the Yuan dynasty. Yonghegong Lama Temple is next to the east entrance of the street.

Now it is the only street in Beijing with pailous (traditional Chinese archways).

5. Liulichang (Glass Factory Cultural Street, 琉璃厂文化街)

  • Location: Hepingmenwai, Xicheng District, Beijing 100051
  • Highlights: antiques, artists’ tools, calligraphy, paintings
  • Transportation: bus nos. 7, 14, 15, 66, or 70 to Liulichang stop; metro line 2 to Hepingmen (和平门)

Liulichang near Tian’anmen Square is about 800 meters long from west to east. During the Yuan and Ming dynasties it used to be a place for making glazed products for the royal palace, but later became renowned for excellent antiques.

During the Qing dynasty, Liulichang had the largest book market in China. A lot of shops here have a long history.

You’ll find one of China’s oldest and largest bookshops on the street, which is otherwise packed with many shops selling antiques and curios. The bookshop sells vintage reprints of ancient texts as well as calligraphy supplies and paintings.

6. Jinyu Hutong (Goldfish Hutong, 金鱼胡同)

Goldfish Hutong
  • Location: Hehua Market, No. 51 Di’anmen West Main Street, Xicheng District, Beijing
  • Highlights: busy modern street, stunning night scene
  • Transportation: bus nos. 106, 108, 110, 111, 204, 614, 684, or 685 to Mishi Street (米市大街); metro line 5 to Dengshikou, exit C

Jinyu Hutong, 567 meters long, starts at Dongdan North Avenue and stretches to Wangfujing (王府井) Street in the west. Na Family’s Garden (那家花园) in the north, built during the Ming dynasty, was the biggest house in this area.

During the Qing dynasty, Natong was the secretary of the grand council. It seems he was from Empress Dowager Cixi’s family. The old narrow streets have gone, however, and the view of the hutong today is much different from then.

Natong’s house has become the Beijing Peace Hotel. The best highlights of Jinyu Hutong are to be seen at night.

Try our Half Day Pedicab Tour to make your hutong experience more special.

7. Dongjiaomin Xiang (East Jiaomin Lane, 东交民巷)

East Jiaomin Lane
  • Location: east of Tian’anmen Square, Beijing
  • Highlights: the longest hutong in Beijing, western-style embassy buildings
  • Transportation: bus nos. 2, 20, 22, 120, 126, 203, 210, special line 1 or special line 2 to Tian’anmen Square East; metro line 2 to Qianmen (前门)

Also known as Beijing Legation Quarter (使馆区), Dongjiaomin Xiang is nearly 3 kilometers long and is the longest hutong in Beijing. In ancient times, the hutong was a key place for transporting grain, so it used to be called “River and Rice Lane” (江米巷).

Dongjiaomin Xiang hosted Welcome Palace (迎宾馆) which during the Qing dynasty offered temporary accommodation for foreign officials. After the First Opium War (1840-42), a lot of western-style embassy buildings were built, some of which are now well-preserved and attract many overseas travelers.

8. Xijiaomin Xiang (West Jiaomin Lane, 西交民巷)

West Jiaomin Lane
  • Location: west of Tian’anmen Square, Beijing
  • Highlights: old banks with a long history
  • Transportation: bus nos. 2, 5, 20, 120, 126, 210, special line 1, or special line 2 to Tiananmen West; metro line 2 to Qianmen or Hepingmen (和平门)

Xijiaomin Xiang, along with Dongjiaomin Xiang, was built during the Yuan dynasty. It is a 1,080-meter-long hutong full of old banks, with a history of over a hundred years. The New Chinese Coins Museum is in this lane.

9. Ju’er Hutong (菊儿胡同)

Ju’er Hutong
  • Location: northwest of Dongcheng District, Beijing
  • Highlights: new siheyuan
  • Transportation: bus nos. 104, 108, 113, 612, or 758 to Jiaodaokou South (交道口南)

You’ll find Ju’er Hutong if you turn east from the middle of Nanluogu Xiang. Ju’er Hutong starts from Nanluogu Xiang in the east and extends to Jiaodaokou South Avenue (交道口南大街) in the west.

It is one of the best places for observing Beijing’s old city culture. Almost every building there has its own historical story to tell.

For instance, no. 3, 5, and 7 courtyards in Ju’er Hutong used to be the official residence of Ronglu, governor-general of the late Qing dynasty.

Composed of private gardens, plus a western-style house and courtyard, the entire residence accounted for half of the whole Ju’er Hutong. No. 7 later became the Afghan Embassy and no. 41 was rebuilt from a temple.

At the end of the 1980s, Ju’er Hutong was reconstructed via a government program, which improved the living environment of the residents while maintaining the original neighborhood style. In 1992, the design of this group of buildings won the “World Habit Award”.

10. Ba Da Hutong (The Eight Big Hutongs, 八大胡同)

The Eight Big Hutongs
  • Location: The area between West Zhushikou Street (珠市口西大街) and Tieshu Slanting Street (铁树斜街)
  • Highlights: red-light district of old times
  • Transportation: bus nos. 2, 5, 8, 17, 20, 22, 48, 59, 66, 69, 77, 120, 201, 203, 626, or 729 to Dashilan (大栅栏) stop

During the Qing dynasty and the Republic of China (1912-1949) period, the Eight Hutongs used to be the red-light district. In those old days, there were nearly 100 brothels in the area.

The legendary Lady Sai Jinhua (1872-1936, famous prostitute at the end of the Qing dynasty) once lived here. Owing to their history, the Eight Hutongs are being preserved, though all around there are many great changes in Beijing.

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Customers in Hutong

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