Duration: 2-3 hours
Price Guide: 0
This tour will help you get a feel for the real old Beijing city. It’s not about modern buildings, it’s not about high-tech transportation. It’s about Beijing’s ancient small lanes. You may ask, what I am looking for in the small lanes? Actually, there is nothing super valuable to look at. The purpose of this tour is to help you get a feel for Beijing’s history.
Qianmen Subway Station
Coming out from Qianmen station, cross the street and keep walking about 100 metres, you will see the first small lane, called Langfangtoutiao.
Langfangtoutiao is a very normal, but typical Beijing small lane. There are not very famous and valuable historical buildings. The majority of the buildings in this small lane are citizens’ houses. This small lane is very narrow and very quiet. If you want to feel the ancient atmosphere, you should try a small lane like this.
When you go into Langfangtoutiao, just pop in any of the courtyards of a citizen’s house. Don’t be afraid to be caught by “break into” someone’s courtyard, but obviously don’t go in to their house!
Most of the courtyards are still in Siheyuan style. Siheyuan is typical to old Beijing houses. It is quadrangle shaped, four-side-enclosed courtyard. Usually the house sitting at north is the household’s bedroom. Siheyuan has many ranks. The lowest ranked just have one courtyard. The higher the rank is, the more courtyards it has. Some high level of royal relatives’ Siheyuans have more than four courtyards.
Once you’re finished visiting the courtyards at Langfangtoutiao lane, go back to the main street. Keep walking in same direction for about 50 metres, you will find another small lane called Langfangertiao lane.
This small lane was a restaurant lane. There are still many restaurants here now. One of the famous hot pot restaurants, called Baodufeng, is here. If you like Beijing hot pot, please try this restaurant because it uses traditional hot pot, which has coals at the bottom of the pot. Baodufeng hot pot restaurant has more than 100 years’ history. Just remember, it does not offer pork because it’s a Muslim-run restaurant.
Coming out from Langfangertiao, keep walking until you see a very wide lane. It is called Dashilan lane.
Dashilan lane is an extremely famous lane. In ancient times, this was a very important business lane. This lane has probably 300 metres long but has more than 200 stores over the two sides of the lane. The most famous Chinese medicine store, Tongrentang, is one of the shops in this lane. Half of the stores more than 100 years’ trading history. Unfortunately, many of them had bankrupted or changed location over that time. Now, some famous brands are still here, like Ruifuxiang, Buyingzhai, Tongrentang, Laozhengxing, etc. If you plan to do this trip, please do not miss this lane because this is the most important and famous Beijing lane.
After visiting Dashilane lane, go across the street, you can visit any small lane in this area.
The name of small lane is not a big deal because not all of the them have translations. Don’t worry about getting lost. Just remember, if you go in from one direction, make sure you go back in the opposite direction. In those small lanes, you can visit any courtyard you like. If you could speak a bit of Chinese, you can say Hello to the local people. They might invite you to their house if you are lucky. Or simply just enjoy the quiet of small lane and imagine you are walking in a lane in the 17th century.