By day, this route gives a gorgeous snapshot of Old Beijing. But don’t try it at night, when signs are hard to spot, alleys badly lit and Houhai is teeming with revelers.
Around 10.5km Bike time
Moderate – keep your eye out for hard-to-spot signs and the traffic around Houhai.Highlights
Old Beijing buildings and hutongs.
Begin at the east entrance of Dongsiwu Tiao, one of Beijing’s most charming alleys. Head west, noting the beam ends above the doorways of the 1 traditional siheyuan buildings
. In the past, the greater the number of beams, the more important the resident.
Follow it right, then left, and continue west until you hit the main road (Dongsi Bei Dajie). Go down Yuqun Hutong opposite, passing an out-of-place 2 Grecian-style building (actually the back of a Best Western Hotel) on your left. At the end of the road, turn right onto Dafosi Dong Jie. Where the road forks, you’ll find 3 cheap and cheerful Chinese restaurants. Take the left fork, then turn right onto Meishuguan Hou Jie. At the crossroads, turn left into Di’anmen Dong Dajie, cross to the north side and head west.
Turn right through the gateway that heralds Nanluoguxiang
(you’ll have to go around a subway stop construction site at the southern entrance) and head north. Next, take the fourth left into Maoer Hutong. Ride to the end, passing Tibetan prayer flags and cute cafés
, until you meet the main road (Di’anmenwai Dajie). Cross over to Qianhai Lake
. Head left (south) along the bank of the lake until you hit the entrance on Di’anmen Xi Dajie. Head right and turn right onto Qianhai Xijie. At the T-junction, turn left and, on your right, you’ll see the entrance to 4 Prince Gong’s Mansion
. Follow the road around to the right, where it becomes Liuyin Jie. You’ll see why it’s called Willow Shade Street in Chinese: giant willow trees provide a much-needed canopy. On your left, you should be able to spot the white bust memorialising 5 Yuan Mantun
, a soldier who died saving two people from drowning under the ice in Houhai in 1984.
At the end of the road, turn left onto Yangfang Hutong. You’ll reach the main road (Deshengmen Nei Dajie) 400m later. Turn right and cross over the canal that feeds 6 Houhai Lake
, then take the footpath on the right. Turn left at the end and follow the path for 1.5km clockwise around Houhai until you get to 7
Yinding Bridge. Turn left here, then take the first right into Yandaixie Hutong, a small street with knick-knack shops
. At the end, turn left and ride up Di’anmenwai Dajie to the 8 Drum and Bell Towers
Behind them, to the north, you’ll find a square where impromptu open-air barber sessions
often take place. At the end, turn right onto Doufuchi Hutong. Head east 1.5km until you hit Andingmennei Dajie. Cross over, head north and turn right into Guozijian Jie, the historic street that’s home to the 9 Imperial College, Confucius Temple
, fortune-telling shops
and the Confucian Teahouse (opposite the temple) where 10 tea ceremonies
are given in English and you can enjoy a well-earned cuppa. Don’t fancy getting lost in the hutongs
? Tour company Chihaner runs a longer, guided variation of this ride (with even more interesting back lanes) three times a week.