The Chinese capital’s meandering warren of hutongs (alleys) are a treasure trove of bars, boutiques and eateries. Here are incredible spots tucked within the ever-surprising network of narrow streets.
1. Zhengyici Theatre in Xiheyan Qianmen
This is known as one of the best Beijing Peking opera theatres. Built in 1688 during the reign of Qing Dynasty’s Kangxi Emperor, it is also one of the oldest theatres in China. Zhengyici (220 Xiheyan St, Xuanwu District) has a rich history of hosting performances by the grand master of Peking opera, Mei Lanfang. You can purchase tickets to view Mei Lanfang classics every Friday and Saturday.
2. Wenyu Nai Lao and Plastered 8 T-shirt in Nanluoguxiang
With a history dating back to over 740 years, Nanluoguxiang is one of the oldest hutongs in Beijing. It is filled with bars, cafés, restaurants and artsy souvenir shops. Nanluoguxiang is the only hutong in China with well-preserved features of ancient Beijing. Visitors may enter from the north entrance, Gulou Dongdajie, or from the southern end at Di’anmen Dongdajie. I like Plastered 8 T-shirt, a shop by British designer Dominic Johnson-Hill, who captures the essence of China in quirkily designed T-shirts. For delicious yoghurt in a variety of flavours, Wenyu Nai Lao (49 Nanluoguxiang) is a must-visit. The original yoghurt with red bean topping is on the must-try list.
3. Vineyard Cafe in Wudaoying
Nicknamed the Brooklyn of Beijing, Wudaoying attracts the quirky and the offbeat. Vineyard Cafe is one of the many eateries located in Wudaoying. If you enjoy lazing over brunches, it offers various types of eggs benedict, a classic English fry-up and plenty of other European-style fare. I also like that it is a family-friendly restaurant.
4. St. Michael Catholic Church in Dongjiao Minxiang
This was built in 1902 on the site of a church destroyed during the Boxer Rebellion. It is very serene and quiet, amid the hustle and bustle of the city. Dongjiao Minxiang is Beijing’s longest hutong. It was once home to a number of foreign legations, hence the European-style buildings here.
5. Chinese porcelain and handicrafts at Liulichang
Liulichang contains numerous shops selling antique porcelain as well as handicrafts. Recommended shops are Rongbaozhai for calligraphy and paintings, and Qingyuntang (20 Liulichang West St, Xicheng) for antiques. This is a great place to purchase gifts.
This article was originally published by Singapore Press Holdings.