Traditional Beijing alleys, or hutongs, were the home of local Chinese from imperial times. The hutongs wind through local residences, exposing years of tradition and history. To many people, these narrow alleys with courtyard homes and local shops have been not only the residences, but also the social center of life for the millions. In recent years, a rising number of hutong “trendy” stores, bars and cafés are bringing creative high quality experiences to the city’s traditional neighborhoods. You are highly recommended to go off the beaten path and venture into one of the atmospheric hutongs, where there is so much to see and explore the local and yet modern side of Beijing.
One must-see hutong is Nanluoguxiang in the Gulou, or Drum and Bell Tower district. The main street is filled with restaurants, cafés, snack bars, and other quaint small shops that sell unique goods. While some would consider it too touristy nowadays, one is still easily attracted to the old-style courtyards if you really want to experience the real daily life in old Beijing.
Salud is a fun wooden interior bar nestled at the heart of Nanluoguxiang, which serves a selection of rum and tapas. The low ceiling upstairs is a great place to hang out and you will often see groups of people playing dice, board games, and more. Live music is usually arranged for the weekend so it is often crowded both inside and around the venue by that time.
Located across from the Lama Temple, this renovated hutong is less touristy than Nanluoguxiang. It’s a mix of old fashioned hutong and chic modern stores. Here you will see centuries old hutongs converted into boutique shops, bars and cafés. Apart from veggie, Mexican, Greek restaurants, there are also workshops where you can try some traditional crafts like calligraphy, pottery and more.
Located along the nice and cozy Wudaoying Hutong, the Mediterranean-styled bar-café is one of the various cat cafés in Beijing called Sirena, where you may enjoy the company of about ten cats roaming around in the place. There's a handful of snacks available, as well as quite cheap beers. If you are a cat lover, this is the bar for you.
Shichahai is a famous historic scenic area consisting of three lakes near the center of Beijing: Qianhai, Xihai and Houhai. Here has the oldest part of Beijing with bars and restaurants that are scattered around the lake. It’s a picturesque place to spend a day walking, boating or taking the rickshaw ride through the old hutong.
Houhai is the largest of the three lakes located in Xicheng district. Since the early 2000s, the hutong neighborhood around Houhai has become known for its nightlife as many residences along the lake shore have been converted into restaurants, bars, and cafés. The Houhai Bar Street is absolutely special with the lake as a backdrop and the sunset view is gorgeous! Having a nice blend of locals and tourists, the bar street has been one of the most bustling places of Beijing at night.