China Culture Center
Hutongs are the beating heart of old Beijing, although these historic quarters are disappearing fast. From tranquil courtyard houses to meandering laneways and tiny temples, they’re a real find – if you can bleedin’ well find ‘em!
Navigating Beijing’s maze of alluring back alleys on your own is nigh on impossible, but China Culture Center’s organised tours will get you up close and personal with hidden hutongs, impressive heritage homes, and the eerie underground city (Cold War tunnels). Offering scheduled and custom three-to-four-hour excursions, they’ll whisk you away by car, pedicab or on foot to explore the secret sides of town.
Popular tours include the Backstreet Beijing walk, taking in the Legation Quarter (where foreign embassies used to be based) and colonial buildings. You can also enjoy a Pedicab Hutong Tour and Family Visit, including a chat with a resident of a trad courtyard house and a walk through a hutong veg market.
Immersive experiences include a Chinese Tea Tour to Maliandao Market, a visit to a Chinese pharmacy and a royal canal boat foray to the Summer Palace. Out-of town trips let you experience the monk’s routine at Zen Buddhist Bailin Monastery, or to sleep on the Great Wall. You can also take cultural classes, from calligraphy to tai chi, Tui Na massage and meditation, learn how to paint Chinese landscapes, and cook hand-pulled noodles and dumplings. Make like a local, Martha!
The Victoria Gardens D4 / Chaoyang Park Xi Lu / Chaoyang / +86 10 6432 9341 / chinaculturecenter.orgPhotos © Rémon Van Oers, Lian Chang & Rob Deutscher