Whenever I visit a city, one of my absolute favorite things to do is wander and take photos. Even if I only have an hour, I’ll be out and about with my DSLR in one hand and Snapchat in the other, exploring interesting local gems.
For the last six months, I’ve been living in Beijing’s hutongs, otherwise known as “traditional alleyway streets”. I’m sure most of you know that I’m absolutely obsessed with my neighborhood. I live in a very local hutong, lined with cheap restaurants, and courtyard houses. But right at my fingertips are unique bars and cafes, tucked away in the random alleyway streets.
There’s so much to do and explore, I could spend hours wandering the hutongs of Gulou, Andingmen, and Lama Temple.
Most visitors in Beijing venture out to the hutongs, but unfortunately, they stick to the extremely touristy and crowded streets like Nanluoguxiang. While that street is a sight in itself, you’ll rarely see a Beijing local peering his head in one of the many overpriced shops.
My advice: Skip Nanluoguxiang and head straight for Wudaoying Hutong instead.
Famed for it’s “trendy” stores, bars and cafes, Wudaoying is a favorite among locals and “in the know” tourists.
Every time I have a friend in town, I always take them here for a little hutong tour. It’s great for people watching, and surrounded by incredible restaurants. You can wander up and down the entire street in just 10 minutes, but I would recommend spending your time looking in the shops, taking photos, and admiring the cafes and eateries.
Wudaoying is also a great starting point for further exploration in the area. It’s extremely close to both the Lama Temple and Ditan Park (Temple of Earth), as well as the stunning tree-lined Guozijian hutong. If you have a bit of extra time, I also recommend getting lost in the hutong catacombs surrounding Wudaoying. You’ll get an incredible glimpse into everyday life in Beijing’s alleyways.
While most people come to Beijing to see the Great Wall, Summer Palace, Tiananmen Square and the Forbidden City, I would highly suggest you spend a bit of time off the beaten path. See where the locals drink coffee and walk their cats on leashes (seriously).
Spot older Beijing hutong dwellers exercising in the park or fawn over the kittens in the pet shop. If you’re looking for some international cuisine, Wudaoying is also home to decent Mexican, Tapas, and Greek Restaurants, in addition to Chinese food.
Wudaoying and the surrounding area is one of my all-time favorite places in Beijing, and even if you just have an hour, you can easily stop by and have a look.
My 1-Hour Gem
Whenever I travel, I try to make use of my time and see as much as possible. However, I always end up with these weird gaps with nothing to do. What can you actually see if you only have an hour before you have to leave for the airport? What if you just have a quick break between meetings?
Thankfully, the Sheraton has devised a solution: the 1-Hour Gem.
1-Hour-Gems are incredible places recommended by travelers and expats that you can see in under an hour. This is absolutely perfect for me when I travel because it will encourage me to make use of my limited time, and explore a new area I might not have otherwise.
My Sheraton Staycation
A few weeks ago, the Sheraton invited me on a “staycation” to their Grand Beijing Dongcheng Hotel. This hotel is actually one of the nicest places I’ve ever stayed and let’s be honest, with 5 roommates, it was nice to escape for a weekend!
I thoroughly enjoyed taking a nightly bubble bath with a glass of wine, the HUGE bed with an actual mattress, and the incredible dim sum I had at their Yue restaurant. I was actually sad to leave for my mooncake baking class because I just wanted to stay in the hotel all day!
The best part? The Sheraton is a mere few blocks from my apartment in the coolest part of Beijing. So thankfully, I didn’t have to worry about forgetting to pack anything because if I did, I could just grab my bike and be back home in 10 minutes.
While I personally didn’t want to ever leave the hotel (seriously, I considered abandoning my cooking class), if you’re visiting Beijing you’ll probably want to be out and about exploring the city. Thankfully, the Sheraton is located in a really awesome neighborhood. I should know… I live there too.
The hotel rents out bicycles to all of the guests, so you can easily walk or cycle to Wudaoying Hutong, Ditan Park, the Lama Temple, and Gui Jie Food Street. If you only have any hour, any of these locations are perfect, and if you have a whole day, why not pick two or three!
Head to My Neighborhood!
Whether you’re a traveler or an expat, I 100% recommend you take a stroll around Wudaoying and the surrounding neighborhood. Literally, 10 minutes walking from my apartment, Wudaoying is my go-to place for photography and people watching.
Have a coffee, take it all in, try not to get hit by an e-bike, and enjoy Beijing the local way.
How to Get There:
Wudaoying is extremely easy to get to from both Andingmen (line 2) and Lama Temple (line 2 and 5) subway stations.
From Andingmen station, take Exit B and turn left, walk along the traffic circle, and the entrance to Wudaoying will be right there (next to the public restroom).
From Lama Temple, take line 5 Exit D and directly behind the subway exit you’ll find the other entrance to Wudaoying.
Thanks so much to the Sheraton for hosting me on my “staycation”. As always, my obsession with Beijing’s hutongs and fancy hotel bubble baths is unfiltered and completely my own!