The hutongs of Beijing are a very nice area to walk around in experiencing the more traditional housing from an age before the invasion of the skyscrapers. I especially like the area near the drum tower on Gulou Dongdajie and Nanluoguxiang. Nanluoguxiang is a walking street filled with various small shops, bars and restaurants, and is usually a fairly crowded area. There is a metro station for line 8 in the south end of Nanluoguxiang, line 2 north of Beiluoguxiang at Andingmen station, and finally line 2 and 8 goes to Yonghegong Lama Temple. Both Lama Temple and particularly Confucius Temple a bit to the south of Yonghegong station are worth a visit.
Beilou Ace Bar
I discovered this small roadside bar earlier this year and not only do they make very nice cocktails, but both the staff and the owner is very nice and hospitable, making this an ideal refuge from the otherwise buzzling Nanluoguxiang. Beilou Ace Bar is a combination of cocktails and coffee bar and as such is open during the afternoon. The local charm and atmosphere of the place combined with good craftsmanship behind the bar makes this one of my favorite places to hang out in the inner city. Here children are playing in the street while people and life passes by in a simple pace, as you sip on a daiquiri – or just a good cup of coffee.
Mai bar is located a bit further north of Beilou bar, also on the right hand side, and this more traditional cocktail bar typically opens around dinnertime. It is a fairly popular venue focusing on both making good cocktails and developing own variations on more traditional recipes, making it a nice place to spend a few hours with friends after dinner.
Amilal Whiskey Bar
The final bar in this post is the Amilal Bar near Goulou Dongdajie. This bar is tucked away a few meters down an alley from the main street where you can sneak through a small door into an even smaller courtyard and into a very charming small whiskey bar. So if you are a fan of whiskey this is definitely a must on your visit into the inner city of Beijing. The bar has a very nice selection of different brands, and the traditional interior and wooden structure nicely complements a glass of whiskey.
Mr. Shi’s Dumplings
If you are in the mood for traditional Beijing dumplings I think Mr. Shi’s is the place to go. There are two venues just parallel to Beiluoguxiang; the main shop and kitchen on the east side of the street and an additional place to dine a bit more to the south on the west side. Here you can order most traditional chinese dishes which are very good, but the main star is really the traditional northern dumpling that looks a bit like a meat-filled pancake. The number of different dumplings you can order is overwhelming including different meats and vegetables. You cannot find my favorite Shanghai dumplings at Mr. Shi’s, but somehow you easily forget these when served with the equally delicious fried dumplings from Mr. Shi.
Hidden away in one of the small alleys of Goulou street is a gem of a Yunnan restaurant. It can be somewhat challenging to locate as it only have a small slightly anonymously sign hanging in the alley. However, once inside you will find yourself in an immensely charming courtyard restaurant. This is probably my second favorite Yunnan restaurant – and no spoilers for a later post on my favorite. The restaurant has a set menu and the only decision the customer has to take is on drinks and when they ask for allergies, so that the kitchen can avoid these dishes. This is particularly a nice place if you are a smaller group, as the number of different dishes seem dependent on the size of the group. The food served is much more vegetable based than I usually prefer, but the seasoning and also a variety of meat dishes actually works surprisingly well. The food have a very rustic and authentic feel to it, and eating under a clear evening sky in the center of Beijing is amazing.
Named after the daughter of German friends to the owner, this café has recently undergone a thorough renovation, and is as charming as the story behind the name. The menu looks very similar most western cafés and is a very nice place to go for lunch as well as for working on your laptop. After the renovation of the café they also made an expansion into the courtyard, as well as a small rooftop area which is usually open in the evenings around the weekend. You can find more information about the café here on their homepage.
Another nice café with a more western menu is the Vineyard Café close to Lama Temple. Here you can order burgers, pizza, as well as eggs Benedict for those weekend mornings where this is needed to kickstart the day.