As Beijing’s oldest and largest mosque, Niujie is understandably a big tourist draw. The exhibition hall opens at 8am, but if you want a visit blissfully free of laowai and other such infidels, it’s well worth dropping in before then. (Morning prayers start at 4am.)
Frequented by local Hui Muslims, the prayer hall is off-limits to nonbelievers, but you can still have a good look in through the windows. You’ll see how this building, which from the outside closely resembles a traditional Chinese temple, actually houses inside ceilings and beams covered with Arabic designs and rows of prayer mats facing towards Mecca.
In another of the courtyards, you’ll find the tombs of the son of the mosque’s founding imam and two sheikhs from central Asia who came to Beijing to preach in the 13th century.
Remember to dress appropriately: no shorts or short skirts, sleeveless or low-necked shirts, or T-shirts.