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Hidden Gems: Ancient Culture Streets in Beijing

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Beijing is famous for its wonderful ancient alleys (hutongs) and streets, many dating back to the Ming Dynasty and retaining their traditional architecture. However, over the years a number of historically rich hutongs have succumbed to the bulldozer – a painful sacrifice many streets and buildings have had to and continue to endure as part of Beijing's sprint toward “modernization”. On the other end of the spectrum, some streets have become the target of gentrification, and are now home to a bustling number of shops, cafes, restaurants and bars – a development that has created mixed feelings among Beijingers. These gentrified alleyways, from Nanluoguxiang and Wudaoying Hutong to Dashilan'r and Qianmen, have become a staple on every guidebook. But Beijing is also home to a number of ancient, culturally significant streets and alleys that have largely gone unnoticed by foreigners. Below we introduce four traditional and popular culture streets in Beijing of which you may not have heard.

Liulichang Culture Street. Photo:

1) Maliandao Tea StreetView In Map
This 1,500 meter long stretch of road is known as “the number one tea street in Beijing”, and for good reason. Lined with over 3000 tea stalls and ten large wholesale markets, this is the place to go for the most comprehensive selection of tea from across China. Maliandao is both a tourist attraction and a serious tea-trading center, with annual sales reaching 2.5 billion RMB and accounting for 10% of China's total annual tea sales. While quality and prices here can vary, overall Maliandao's teas are reasonably priced and many bargains can be had with a bit of know-how and tact. Besides famous Chinese teas like Longjing, Dahongpao and Tieguanyin, one can also purchase imported teas from India, Argentina and Korea. If the experience is too overwhelming, go to any shop and fuel up on free tea samples while practicing your Mandarin with the tea dealers.

Add: Maliandao Lu, south of Guanganmen Wai Dajie, West Second Ring Road, Xicheng District, Beijing
地址:北京市西城区西二环广安门外大街往南, 马连道茶叶街
Getting there: take bus no. 46, 89, 414 or专27 to Maliandao Hutong stop (马连道胡同)

2) Longfusi Culture StreetView In Map
This 600 meter stretch boasts 550 years of commercial history. Since the Ming Dynasty, Longfusi's temple fair has been one of the city's most famous and popular commercial events, attracting a diverse range of people from royal elites to foreign diplomats to peasants. However, the street's popularity dwindled over the years, and now Longfusi is best known for its selection of snacks and folk arts. Come here to savor traditional Beijing eats or to buy souvenirs.

Add: Dongsi Beidajie to National Museum of Art, Dongcheng District, Beijing
Getting there: take Line 5 to Dongsi station

3) Shilihe Tianjiao Culture CityView In Map
One of Beijing's oldest markets, Shilihe Tianjiao Culture City is also known as the “Shilihe Bird, Flower, Fish and Insect Market”. As the name suggests, this is a great place to pick up pets and creepy crawlies. It's also a good spot for buying calligraphy paintings and antiques. Easy to navigate, the market is divided into sections, which means all birds and insects are in one area, calligraphy in another etc. The most interesting time to visit is on a Saturday morning, when a lively market takes over the area with the front part of the market dedicated entirely to fish of all colors, shapes and sizes. Make sure to bargain hard however, as tourists frequently get ripped off here.  

Add: south of Shilihe Bridge, Dongnan Sanhuan, Chaoyang District, Beijing
地址:北京市朝阳区东南三环十里河桥南侧 (近云龙金阁饭店), 十里河天娇文化城
Getting there: take bus no. 25, 53, 573, 626, 680, 723, 750, 821, 988, 特8, 运通107 to Shilihe Qiaonan bus stop (十里河桥南)

4) Liulichang Culture StreetView In Map
Liulichang, which translates as “Color Glaze Factory”, dates back to Yuan and Ming Dynasty when a color glaze factory operated in the area. In 1982 the entire street got a make-over creating a 750 meter long street with a façade echoing its rich history. Close to a hundred shops line Liulichang Culture Street, selling everything from traditional artwork and ceramics to old books and replica antiques.

Add: Liulichang Dongxi Jie, Hepingmen Wai, Xuanwu District, Beijing
地址:北京宣武区和平门外琉璃厂东西街, 琉璃厂文化街
Getting there: take subway Line 2 to Hepingmen station

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Keywords: Beijing culture streets

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