In the past, the Forbidden City was surrounded by hundreds of narrow alleways and courtyards houses known as hutongs. Today, some of these ancient alleys still survive.
Every hutong is unique and steeped in generations of history and culture. Nanluoguxiang, one of the most ancient and well-preserved hutongs in Beijing, is a truly haven of peace away from the busy city.
The best way to enjoy a hutong is getting lost in its intricate maze-like lanes. Nanluoguxiang alley is also known as the “Centipede Street” as it looks like a centipede looked from above.
The real beauty of Nanluoguxiang Hutong area lies not just in its charming cafes, bars and shops, but in the close-knit communities of families and friends living there.
You can see residents especially the elderly, peacefully chatting with their neighbours, playing chess surrounded by spectators or just wandering around watching tourists walk by.
At night, when tourists are gone, Nanluoguxiang Hutong is even more magical.
It´s like travelling back in time to the days of Imperial China. Chinese laterns create such an incredibly romantic atmosphere that you will love to have a pleasant walk after dinner. There are many Hutong Night Tours if you prefer to explore this wonderful place with a private guide and driver.
Nanluoguxiang- The Bohemian Hutong
With a history of over 800 years, this hidden treasure in downtown Beijing is filled with boutiques, little stationery stores, cafes, bars and teashops. Nanluoguxiang street is the ideal place to buy silk shawls made by local artists, elegant qipaos, trendy T-shirts as well as unique and unusual souvenirs. Well-off families, celebrities, artists and officials once lived here. Today, this old-style city alley oozes with charm.
After a hectic day exploring Beijing, Nanluoguxiang became one of our favourite relaxing places. During the day, we would have a cold beer in the comfy sofas of the cafes as we watched locals walk by. At night, we lingered over a cocktail seduced by the soft lighting created by the laterns.
The most popular bars and cafes in Nanluoguxiang Alley
Passby Bar is a Tibetan-themed courtyard bar and restaurant very popular among tourists and locals.
Three trees coffee: The name comes from the three ancient locust tres obscuring the entrance. Don´t forget to try the Rose flavored milk tea as it is beautifully decorated with little rose buds.
12SQM is famous for being “Beijing’s smallest bar“.
Café Alba: It´s the perfect place to escape the summer heat. You willl love lounging in the rooftop terrace while having a cold drink.
Tibet Café: It has an open rooftop sitting area in the second floor where you can enjoy an authentic Tibetan tea.
16mm: This bar is great for an easy afternoon. Movies are projected everyday at 4.30 for those who want to watch a film with a cup of coffee on a cushy sofa.
Hutongs are definitely the best place to try Chinese snack food in Beijing. You will find everything from bingtanghulu (sugar-glazed fruit on a stick), Jiao Quan (a fried ring) and Ai Wo Wo (Sticky Rice Balls) to Tang Juan Guo (Sweet, Fried-pan Dessert).
If you want to experience something different, join a tour to learn about Chinese culture is through its food. You will be given the opportunity to visit a local family, have a chat with them and taste the authentic Chinese cuisine. They will kindly welcome you into their ancient hutong home and prepare delicious traditional dishes.