The term “hutong” describes the narrow alleyways or streets that are prevalent in the old city areas of Beijing which today are still home to a very unique way of life that still prevails.
From first glance, hutong areas in Beijing may seem just like old, dusty streets flanked on both sides by dilapidate brick houses. A closer look, however, reveals thriving neighbourhoods with local traditions, stories, and lifestyles that date back hundreds of years – hutongs, are in essence, the heart and soul of Beijing.
Hutongs are best discovered by foot or by bicycle, which compliments the slower pace of life these neighbourhoods provide from the hustle and bustle of large city life. Allow yourself time to “get lost” in these neighbourhoods and you will be rewarded with the sights, smells, and tastes of something new.
Previously, all of Beijing outside of the old city walls were hutong neighbourhoods, but now an estimated less than 10% remain – the rest have been destroyed and its land re-developed into modern skyscrapers, residential areas, and shopping malls. Many of the remaining hutong areas are located in Dongcheng District and Xicheng District, which are home to the hip, café-laden area of Nanluoguxiang and the lakeside bar area of Houhai and Shichahai.
Hutong hotels and hostels are available as well, which are perfect venues for out-of-town guests looking for an authentic Beijing experience. See the following link for more information on hotels in Beijing.