Why it's Worth a Visit:
Beijing is famous for having maintained it's traditional feel. Unlike Shanghai, which is known as the financial and fashion capital of China, Beijing is known for it's history and culture. You'll find heaps of both in the hutongs. A hutong is a community of siheyuans (traditional courtyard home). Sometimes these communities stretch for whole city blocks, and are a maze of tiny grey brick homes with beautiful slate roofing and marble statues. Nanluoguxiang is the most famous hutong community in Beijing, and is known for it's authenticity. The alley itself is a north-south street, with dozens of side streets shooting off to the east and west. These side streets are where traditional locals live; some have been there for generations. The main street itself houses bars, restaurants, cafes and shops and is meant to be the core, or spine, of the community. Naturally, Nanluoguxiang has been restored from it's original form many times, but the taste of old Beijing remains.
Nanluoguxiang — Photo courtesy of chinatravel
What to See:
Don't miss the highlights on the street. From a few famous bars, like 12sqm Bar & Cafe and Salud, to famous restaurants, like Lougu and Bar Uno. You'll find dozens of other restaurant options as you stroll up the street, and all are vetted by the locals for quality and taste. For prime shopping, don't miss Plastered T- a famous T-shirt shop. The street excels at snacks. Marvel at the range of snacks from meat on a stick to worms, scorpion and more to ice cream, churos and lots of ice cream. As far as historical landmarks on the street go, there is a monument about half way down the street to some of the old relics unearthed during the renovation. These mostly consist of fragments of statues and a few marker stones.
When to Go:
Summer is the high season for Nanluoguxiang, and unlike many tourist sites that are ruined by overcrowding, Nanluoguxiang remains fun even with little room for manoeuvrings. The weeping willows are in full splendor in summer, and dangle over the street like ancient angels watching pedestrians below. If you can't make it in summer, spring or fall are also pleasant though the street dies down dramatically in winter.
Nanluoguxiang Alley — Photo courtesy of Chinatravel