The Best Neighbourhood in Beijing

The Best Neighbourhood in Beijing

About a year ago, in our second year of living the Beijing life, we got kicked out of our fancy downtown Sanlitun apartment. It was a rough time and we were not happy about it. But, in some ways, it was a blessing in disguise! It meant we got to move into our cute little hutong place in one of the most interesting neighbourhoods in Beijing! Some might say: the best neighbourhood in Beijing.

Since I started this blog I have often been asked where to stay in Beijing, or where to live in Beijing- I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend this neighbourhood to anyone! It’s got everything you could want: history, culture, food, local life, Chinese hipsters and expat hangouts.

Laundry and Flowers in Beijing Hutong
Fruit and vegetables, hutong, Beijing

Guozijian hutong

So where is this wondrous neighbourhood, you might ask? Well, technically this is more than one area, but I am talking about the Yonghegong (Lama Temple) and Gulou (Drum and Bell Tower) ‘hoods.  This is the place to be if you want to optimize your sight seeing, see the tradional side of Beijing whilst also getting your cafe fix!

Now that we have left  Beijing I can be very specific in where we used to live. We lived on Liulisi Hutong: a small street that ran in between Beiluoguxiang and Baochao hutong. (Check out the New York Times 36 hours in Beijing-2015 version- to see Baochao featured. We lived there first!). It’s very close to the drum and bell towers. It was amazing to live so close to such historic places and I’d often take a quick walk around them after work.

Beiluo and Baochao are two very interesting streets full of a real mix of old, random shops, cool cafes, dumpling restaurants, old people playing cards and little spots for drinking great beer. You’ll find Chinese and expat hipsters, families who’ve lived here for generations, Chinese and expat locals and tourists all mixed together. We loved spending a summer evening eating dumplings, then getting a beer and people watching at a hutong street side bar.

Rickshaw tour, Beijing hutong

The Best Beijing Neighbourhood

Liulisi Hutong Beijing
Turn left for Liulisi Hutong!

At the end of these two parallel streets you’ll find Gulou Dong Dajie: a fun street that’s worth a stroll, full of music shops and yes, more cafes! Though take note- this street was undergoing some kind of “refurbishment” when we left. That seemed to mean all the shops being given identical facades.

You can head right to the Drum and Bell Towers (history- check!) and follow the road, or cut through the hutong, to Houhai (one of the lakes). Alternatively you can cross over from Beiluoguxiang and head down Nanluoguxiang. This is one of the famous hutong where Chinese and overseas tourists come to shop for souvenirs. I personally didn’t make a habit of heading down there as it was always so crowded, but it has a fun atmosphere. Great Leap Brewery’s courtyard location is nearby too- so don’t forget to stop there to try some delicious local craft beer in an old courtyard.

Baochao Hutong, Beijing


Bike in Baochao Hutong

Reversing back into Beiluo, you can meander through the old hutong, catching a glimpse of everyday life. My favourite thing to do in the hutong area was just to wander off down the side streets- this is where you will catch the real glimpses of everyday hutong life, away from the trendy stores! If you head down Guozijiang, a pretty hutong street, you’ll see where the rich buy their Japanese furniture and visit Confucius Temple– one of my favourite little spots in Beijing. It’s often very quiet and has a magical light in the late afternoon.

guozijian hutong

Beiluo Bread Bar, Beiluoguxiang

boat in houhai lake, Beijing
What do ya mean you don’t want to ride around houhai in a yellow duck?

Wudaoying is another stylish and fun hutong in this area. I love it because it was the first place Justin and I ever went in Beijing! We had searched for vegetarian restaurants and ended up here.  Over the road you can visit beautiful Lama Temple. I went to Lama Temple many times and and never got sick of it. You’ll love the statue at the end..just look up…!

Baochao Hutong
Barista Coffee on Wudaoying

Vegetable market Beijing Hutong

Another reason I love this area is that some of the other famous sites, like Jingshan Park and the Forbidden City/Tiananmen square, can be reached easily from Gulou. It was only 10-15 minutes to cycle there from from our house on Liulisi Hutong. We did that bike ride multiple times during our final weeks in Beijing.

Forbidden City from Jinshang Park, Beijing

Beautiful Beijing

So there you go- my former neighborhood is the best neighborhood in Beijing because there is such an amazing mix of young and old, trendy and historical, Chinese and international. And cafes galore! If you are visiting or moving to Beijing, you should without a doubt look into moving or staying in the Gulou or Yonghegong areas. Please send me some photos if you do!

Thank you for not entering hutong

I hope you enjoyed learning about my old Beijing neighbourhood! Feel free to share with anyone you think might want to visit Beijing or sign up for updates in the box below!

The Best Beijing Neighbourhood- Where to live or stay in Beijing.

Would you like to live/visit in this part of Beijing? Or would you prefer the more modern part?

26 thoughts on “The Best Neighbourhood in Beijing

  1. That’s awesome! It’s great to get the most out of living in China and a nice hutong area sounds perfect. Being cloistered in a garden is more spoiling, less “real”. Keep living it up! 🙂

  2. Hi Joella,

    I just discovered your blog and am already a fan! This neighborhood looks so bright and lively, and with all the cafes and history, I can see why you love it! 🙂

  3. That’s awesome you got to live in such a cool place while in Beijing. I always recommend the hutongs and wudaoying! That hutong was one of the first I went to and I loved their coffee shops. Especially Barista and Daily Routine.

  4. I love these really detailed posts about Beijing. It’s a possible option for me to live through work in the next year or so, so the more details the better! Of course, I also find the whole thing a little terrifying still, but as to be expected. Cheers!

  5. This neighborhood is perfect! I love the mix of culture, and of course the food. 🙂 Please tell me you rode on the yellow duck boat?! haha. I love that last photo too 😉 Hope you’re adjusting to life in Cali now. I’m hoping to visit California next spring (San Fran, though, sadly pretty far from you).

  6. This neighbourhood sounds fantastic. I’m already thinking ‘Ooh, this will be a good area to stay in when I visit Beijing’. I can’t imagine what it must be like to live there. I think I’d be in constant awe every day and never run out of things to photograph.

  7. Thank you for sharing! My family (hubby, 17 year old daughter and 10 year old son) are moving to Beijing to teach for two years. We are leaving at the end of this July. We’ll be teaching at Tsinghua International School which is on the campus of Tsinghua University. Do you know if there are great places to live like you described close by? Your suggestions are greatly appreciated 🙂

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