I hop on the Metro to Beixinqiao station, north of the Forbidden City and right at the entrance to Nanluoguxiang, also known as South Lugou Lane, 800 years old and one of the oldest alleys in Beijing.
Entrance to Nanluoguxiang
Nanluoguxiang is about 800 meters (1/2 mile) long, with sixteen hutongs branching off it, eight on each side. Packed with cafes, bars, and boutiques, this is a vibrant and exciting place and I can feel the energy of people having a good time!
Map of Nanluoguxiang alleyway (South Lugou Lane) and hutongs branching off
I wander down the alley, taking it all in.
Nanluoguxiang shops, cafes, and bars
I explore several of the sixteen hutongs, but the true living areas are down passages to small courtyards and I only get a few brief glances from the hutongs.
Hutongs off Nanluoguxiang
After walking of the alley from south to north, I exit the hutong area and walk a few blocks over to the Bell and Drum Towers, at the top of the Nanluoguxiang neighborhood. Originally built in 1272, these towers provided the official time in Beijing through the Yung, Qing, and Ming dynasties (until 1924), with a morning bell provided by a the huge bronze bell in the Bell Tower and an evening drum from the 25 watchman's drums in the Drum Tower.
People playing in the courtyard between the towers