Travelogues

Beijing Nanluogu Alley 南锣鼓巷

Any weekend in Beijing, one would spend walking around the alleys, visiting the hutongs, enjoying the sights, sounds and smells. Nanluogu Alley is one of the oldest, best preserved alleys in Beijing for such a cultural visit.

Beijing is an ancient city. The Mongolians had shaped the city in the Yuan dynasty. The splendour of the city reached its behemoth in the Qing dynasty. But even then, the city layout remained almost the same.

Nanluogu Alley 南锣鼓巷

Nanluoguxiang (南锣鼓巷), which literally means “South of the drums” Alley after the Drum Tower at one end, is a narrow alley that has traditional architecture both new and old along narrow streets known as hutong.

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Map of the alley, showing all the siheyuan 四合院 along the hutongs 胡同

The alley itself is approximately 800m long, running from East Gulou Street in the north to Di’anmen East Street in the south.

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South Entrance of the Alley

Nanluoguxiang was built in the Yuan Dynasty and received its current name during the Qing Dynasty, around 1750. In recent years, the area’s hutongs have become a popular tourist destination with restaurants, bars, live music houses, coffee shops, fast food and souvenir shops, as well as some old siheyuan associated with famous historic and literary figures. Nanluoguxiang Station of Beijing Subway opened in 2012 and is located near the south entrance of the alley.

Walking around the alley

It’s not much of exercise of a walk, but there’s much to observe and try, and the crowd on a weekend can be overwhelming.

Most of these historical buildings are converted to cafes and restaurants. Some have become quite popular, like the Brain Factory hidden in a hutong.

Snacking in the alley

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Rose shaped gelato

Many interesting snacks and desserts can be found along the main alley. In a short span of 800m, you can find stinky tofu, ice creams, waffles, bubble tea, chips, and an assortment of tit-bits that you seldom see elsewhere.

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The best way to get there is by subway. It is also the best way to get out. But beware of the weekend crowd, especially near meal times and between 5-9pm. The whole experience becomes challenging with a big crowd like with any other Chinese attractions and landmarks. Remember, it is a nation of 1.6BN people.

Date Visited : Dec 2019

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