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Beijing Walking Tours

Home > Beijing > Travel | Unusual Things to do | Walks
by Karen Ross (subscribe)
I love walking, and I love eating good food. The more I eat, the more I need to walk, so I plan to walk all around the world, eating good food, at nice places. It's a worthwhile quest and I'd love you to follow at www.walkeatshare.wordpress.com
Published July 25th 2016
A Free Walking Tour in Beijing
I had heard there are three must-do things in Beijing; eat Peking Duck, walk on the wall and visit a hutong. I'd eaten and I'd walked so it was time to contemplate visiting a hutong.

A hutong is a series of alleys linking traditional courtyard residences. Many neighbourhoods were formed by joining one alley to another to form a hutong, and then joining one hutong to the next.

Sadly, the number of Beijing hutongs has dropped dramatically in recent years as they have been demolished to make way for new roads and buildings. I was keen to see this treasured part of Chinese cultural history and I'd heard that Beijing Walking offered a three-hour walk for free.

I contacted Beijing Walking by email and received an almost immediate reply from Leo who explained that the free tour happens on Mondays and Fridays, starting at the Nanluoguxiang Subway Station (exit E).

Meet at Nanluoguxiang station
Meet at Nanluoguxiang station


Beijing's Metro system is very easy to follow and I found myself in a group of about 10 other walkers in no time at all.

Our tour guide was Joe, a delightful storyteller with a wicked sense of humour. He encouraged brief introductions then led us around the corner to a surprisingly tranquil oasis.

Oasis in busy Beijing
Oasis in busy Beijing


You see Beijing has a population of around twenty-one million people and I felt as though I had seen twenty million of them during the three weeks I spent in Beijing. It's a busy, crowded city.

This small hutong, so very close to the hustle and bustle, was calm and serene. The narrow alleyways ran perpendicular to a river, fringed by weeping willows and transversed by quaint bridges.

The locals were quietly going about the business of shopping for groceries and trimming their dogs' fur.

Fur cut time
Fur cut time


Some were partaking in a leisurely wander...

An evening wander
An evening wander


... while others chose traditional transport methods to get to their destination.

Traditional transport
Traditional transport


Joe had a wealth of information to share and patiently answered all tricky questions from our group.

The wonderfully informative Joe
The wonderfully informative Joe


He began by describing traditional society relationships and status within the hutongs, including the indicators of owner status outside each home. My understanding was that a complex series of beams, drums, pillars and other small structures indicated a person's rank, role and relationship potential in more traditional times.

Drums for generals, pillars for scholars
Drums for generals, pillars for scholars


The highlight for me, and, I suspect, most other walkers, was a visit to the home of local character, Mr Liu.

Mr Liu's courtyard
Mr Liu's courtyard


Mr Liu it seems, is a lover of animals and cares for hundreds in his home and garden. He entertained our group with stories of singing grasshoppers and fighting crickets and performed a fascinating 'show and tell' of paraphernalia including a cricket-sized fighting arena and a cricket coffin.

Mr Liu and his cricket coffin
Mr Liu and his cricket coffin


Joe translated the stories between fits of giggling. The fact that Mr Liu is something of a comedian was evident despite the language barrier.

Comedy courtesy of Mr Liu
Comedy courtesy of Mr Liu


Our walk continued as did Joe's stories and explanations, providing a wonderful insight into traditional Beijing culture. I loved it and can't recommend this activity highly enough.

Beijing Walking offer various private and small group tours, including several to the Great Wall, at reasonable prices. They will custom design a tour for you and also offer a transfer service.
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Why? You'll get a special peak into the old Beijing
When: Monday and Friday 5:00 pm (April to September) 4:00 pm (October to March)
Phone: 86 13581665548
Where: Nanluguxiang Subway Station
Cost: Free ( small donation to guide welcome)
Your Comment
Sounds like fun, Karen! Love your pictures too.
by Elaine (score: 3|3423) 273 days ago
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