Route 1 (by subway & foot)
Bell and Drum Towers 钟鼓楼 — Lama Temple 雍和宫 — Confucius Temple 孔庙 — Imperial Academy 国子监
9am: Start your day at Drum Tower, just about 100m north from which is Bell Tower. Go up the towers for views over Beijing's ancient city (one hour should be enough).
Drum Towers in Beijing
Bell Tower in Beijing.
12pm: Enjoy some freshly cooked Cantonese dim sum for lunch at Jin Ding Xuan Restaurant north of Yonghegong Qiao (雍和宫桥). Cheap, filling and delicious.
1.30pm: Return to Lama Temple's main gate and head west and through a decorated archway at the entrance to the leafy hutong, you'll pop into the Confucius Temple. Spend an hour looking around China's second largest temple dedicated to the revered Sage.
2.45pm: A few meters to the west is Imperial Academy. Within China's traditional education system, this was the highest and most prestigious institute. Explore it for about 45 minutes.
3.30pm End of tour.
Pedal power is by far the best transport for hutong sightseeing. A bike gives you the flexibility of hopping on and off as you like. Helmets are optional in Beijing, but are strongly suggested! Bike rental is extremely cheap and there are countless rental places. Here are a few:
1. Qianhai Nanyan (前海南沿) at Shichahai, bicycles are RMB10/hour, tandem bicycles RMB 20/hour. A RMB500 refundable deposit is required.
2. Opposite the Lǚsongyuan Hotel (侣松园宾馆) along Banchang Hutong. Price is a mere RMB 5/hour or RMB 30/day. A RMB 200 refundable deposit is required.
Expenses: Drum and Bell Towers: 35 yuan Lama Temple: 25 yuan Lunch: 40 yuan Confucius Temple: 10 yuan Imperial Academy: 10 yuan Transport: 3 yuan
Route2 (by rickshaw)
Beihai Park North Gate 北海北门 — Drum Tower 鼓楼 — Yandai Xiejie 烟袋斜街 — Yinding Qiao 银锭桥 — Houhai Beiyan 后海北沿 — Song Ching Ling Residence 宋庆龄故居 — Houhai Xiyan 后海西沿 — Dongming Hutong 东明胡同 — Yangfang Hutong 羊房胡同 — Liuyin Jie 柳荫街 — Prince Gong's Mansion 恭王府 — Beihai Park North Gate 北海北门
If cycling just isn't your cup of Chinese tea, then hop on a rickshaw at the north gate of Beihai Park and let someone else do the hard work. Hold tight as you get whizzed down the winding, narrow alleys, quaintly stuck in a long-past age. See sihueyuan houses, check out the two ancient towers or simply absorb the culture of local people. You can wind up at Prince Gong's Mansion, the best preserved Qing Dynasty prince mansion. Be sure to have properly bargained for the entire price of your trip and make sure that you have clearly agreed to where you will go, how long you will take and whether the price is for the trip, or per person.
Rickshaws in Beijing.
Route3 (by bicycle)
Nanluoguxiang 南锣鼓巷 — Ju'er Hutong 菊儿胡同 — Houyuan'ensi Hutong 后圆恩寺胡同 — Heizhima Hutong 黑芝麻胡同 — Qinlao Hutong 秦老胡同 — Beibingmasi Hutong 北兵马司胡同 — Mao'er Hutong 帽儿胡同 — Yu'er Hutong 雨儿胡同 — Dongmianhua Hutong 东棉花胡同 — Banchang Hutong 板厂胡同 — Chaodou Hutong 炒豆胡同
Nanluoguxiang prides itself on being ancient Beijing's most wealthy area and modern Beijing's Best –preserved Hutong grid pattern. Eight parallel hutong strike off from this 800-m-long stretch of authentic architecture. This tour will take you, by pedal power, through these hutong and the siheyuan courtyards along the sides.
Keyuan Garden (可园), No.9, Mao'er Hutong.
This grand and impressive abode was home to Wen Yu (?-1884), a Qing Dynasty secretary to the Grand Secretariat. Today it has been designed a cultural relic under state protection. It's regarded as the Qing Dynasty's most artistic garden.
Wanrong's Residence (婉容故居), No.35, 37, Mao'er Hutong.
Wanrong's claim to fame is that she was empress of China's last ever emperor, Puyi.
Beijing Artists Association (北京市美术家协会), No.13, Yu'er Hutong.
The place used to be home of Qi Baishi (1864-1957), China's most famed traditional painter.
Suo's Mansion (索家宅院), No. 35, Qinlao Hutong.
This beautiful southern-style garden was once home of an elite Qing Dynasty official. Its garden style is unique in this part of the city.
Central Academy of Drama (中央戏剧学院) Dongmianhua Hutong
The academy has produced several internationally known stars: Gong Li (Farewell My Concubine and Memoirs of a Geisha) and Zhang Ziyi (Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon and Memoirs of a Geisha )
Prince Seng's Mansion (僧王府), No.77, Chaodou Hutong.
In its original state this vast mansion sprawled from Chaodou Hutong to Banchang Hutong. Since 1912, sections were sold off and smaller, individual complexes thus formed. To see the original sections of the mansion, Visit Nos. 71, 73, 75 and 77 along Chaodou Hutong and Nos.30, 32 and 34 along Banchang Hutong.
(By courtesy of Streetwise Guide Beijing)