Stroll around different hutongs to discover the Chinese history and culture in a day, end with a spectacular view of the Forbidden City and dinner in Xidan district.
- a narrow lane or alleyway in a traditional residential area of a Chinese city, especially Beijing.
It was awesome to see and experience so much in such a short time, Beijing is truly is special time capsule with the perfect amount of history and modern elements. Here’s what I did:
- Wudaoying Hutong (五道营胡同)
Wudaoying Hutong has become quite gentrified in recent years with cafes full of characteristics. On my way in, I saw so many cute shops and restaurants, it was a lovely stroll in the morning before it gets crowded. I saw a bucket hat I really liked in one of the boutiques but I was hesitant to get it, luckily I found the brand on Taobao later!
He Kitchen Co (No.48, Wudaoying Hutong) had my perfect Sunday brunch to start the day. The cafe is a two-storey cafe housed in a traditional hutong house, it is partly renovated inside to give a modern touch to it, parts of the annex was converted into a terrace and a conservatory overlooking other hutong houses. The place offers a variety of food from pastries, salad to hot rice bowls. I had a salmon teriyaki rice bowl, and my friend had a latte, they were both very well done. I would recommend this cafe to anyone who is looking for a non-Chinese brunch.
- Yong He Gong Lama Temple (雍和宫)
Next to Wudaoying Hutong was Yong He Gong. Yong He Gong was originally the residence of Kangxi Emporor’s son Yinzhen. The residence went through a number of transformations thereafter into a monastery and temple during Yongzheng and Qianlong’s dynasties afterwards. Each hall of the temple was placed with statues of different buddhas, from the four Heavenly Kings to the Buddhas of the Three Ages. I was in awe when I entered the Pavilion of Ten Thousand Happiness, the Maitreya Buddha in the middle of the Pavilion was peacefully standing in the middle and was probably the biggest indoor Buddha I have ever seen. This Buddha was a gift to QiangLong from Dalai Lama and it took three years to be transported by Tibet, and was included in the Guinness Book of Records in 1993.
Being in the temple was a meaningful experience for me even though I am not a Buddhist. I totally went to Yong He Gong expecting it to be a beautiful palace instead of a temple to begin with, but I ended up having such a spiritual time! I will highly recommend this to anyone who is interested to learn about Buddhism, or Chinese culture in general.
- Chengxian Street (成贤街), Confucius Temple and Imperial Academy (孔子庙，国子监)
Right opposite to Yong He Gong was Chengxian Street, a long avenue surrounded by other Hutongs which some of the houses were converted into shops- some traditional old Beijing eateries and modern boutiques. In the middle of Chengxian Street sat Confucius Temple and the Imperial Academy which were connected as one big museum. I was tempted not to visit the Confucius Temple after spending 1.5 hours in Yong He Gong Lama Temple, however, we saw that there were a few exhibitions happening inside so we decided to give it a go, it turned out to be another interesting stop!
Confucius Temple: we didn’t spend too much inside the actual temple this time, instead we appreciated the century-old trees in the courtyard, and watched a free 10-min musical composed with Confucius’ poems.
Imperial Academy: firstly, there was a beautiful courtyard in the middle of the academy. Secondly, the exhibitions at the academy were so eye-opening, they were about the history of the education and public examination system in China, how it started, the peak of the examination system, and why it was abolished in the end. I felt ashamed not knowing that the Chinese public examination was the first to be invented in the world…
- Nan Luo Gu Xiang (南锣鼓巷)
After two educational stops, I was dying for food and drinks so we walked straight to Lan Luo Gu Xiang, the famous Hutong alley with lots of shops and restaurants. We made a mistake and walked all the way south to the Nan Luo Gu Xiang official entrance, but actually you could walk west from Confucius Temple down to North Luogu Alley where the shops already are and walk down through to Nan Luo Gu Xiang. We had a good walk down the street, filled our tummies, got hydrated and did some shopping 🙂
- Jinshan Park (景山公园) Just before sunset, we decided to go to Jinshan Park just right below Nan Luo Gu Xiang. The small hill on the middle of the park offers a magnificent view over the Forbidden City during sunset hours. On your way up the hill, you will also bump into plenty of old Pekinese dancing and singing in groups, it is very interesting to see how the ageing community in China is so upbeat and lively! The hike wasn’t difficult at all, took us about 5 mins to get to the top and as soon as we saw the golden roofs of the Forbidden City, it felt like we no longer belonged to the moment now…
- Xidan (西单)
Dinner time! On the west of Forbidden City was the shopping district Xidan, my friend took me to this modern street food foodcourt on the top of a shopping mall in Xidan. The food was seriously cheap and delicious, and the foodcourt was cutely decorated and clean. Xidan on its own reminds me a bit of Omotesando in Tokyo, I would come back next time to shop for sure.
After dinner, I rode a taxi back to my hotel through the iconic Chang’an Avenue past the lit-up Forbidden City wall in red, and Tianmen Square… this was my perfect day in Beijing, I had such a great time!
Details of the street food foodcourt: 130 Xidan West Street, Hua Wei Building 7/F
Note: anyone with a weak respiratory system should consider carrying a mask around with you when touring around Beijing on foot, otherwise your throat might suffer!
Your tailored Google map:
I didn’t get paid to say this, but thanks to my friends who lived in Beijing, Timeout Beijing and the local Chinese Dianping app, I was able to plan out a day of sightseeing successfully during my short business trip!