With its hutongs, Dashilar folk shopping areas and antique architecture, the Qianmen neighborhood is known as the representative of old Beijing folk culture. What you might not know is that Qianmen is also where the funkiest boutique stores and cafés dwell. While first-time visitors may find it difficult to navigate through the mazes of hutongs, this guide will make sure a visit to Qianmen is unforgettable.
Try the stewed liver at Tian Xing Ju
Stewed liver is a traditional Beijing snack made from pork intestines and garlic. Basically all the restaurants that specialize in Beijing cuisine offer stewed liver, but Tian Xing Ju in Qianmen is the place to go for this popular dish. In 1894, a restaurant named Hui Xian Ju became the first place to serve stewed liver. This restaurant later transitioned into Tian Xing Ju in the 1950s, which is why it is still considered the master and creator of stewed liver.
81-83 Xianyukou Street, Dongcheng District, Beijing, +8610 67116865
Spend an afternoon at Fusan Café
Pick a sunny afternoon and bring your laptop, book or nothing at all to Fusan Café. Sit by the window and watch locals passing by on the Tan’er Hutong. You will hardly find a better way to spend an afternoon in Beijing. Don’t forget to try the café’s signature apricot dessert along with a coffee, because the apricot-shaped dessert is going to make your day!
1 Tan’er Hutong, Xicheng District, Beijing, +86 15822571856
Walk through the Yangmeizhu Xiejie, slowly
According to UrbanXYZ, the Yangmeizhu Xiejie is a street in Beijing that’s only 496 meters (1,627 ft) long, but people spend more than 45 minutes walking it. That’s because of the creative projects and shops that have sprung up in the street since the initiation of the Dashilar Renovation Plan in 2011. The plan helped many residences convert into bookstores, coffee shops, design studios, and more without harming the buildings’ original architecture. The street is a perfect demonstration of balance between tradition and innovation.
Shop (or window shop) at Triple Major
While you are on the Yangmeizhu Xiejie, you should stop by Triple Major, a boutique store that sells its own fashion brand, represents local Chinese designers, and introduces international designers like Anntian and Henrik Vibskov. Triple Major is one of the most famous fashion boutiques in China, and it has two stores (Beijing and Chengdu). People especially love its Chinese medicine theme featured at the Beijing branch.
26 Yangmeizhu Xiejie, Xicheng District, Beijing, +8610 84020763
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Have a glass of beer on the rooftop of Soloist Coffee Co.
The first floor of the Soloist Coffee Co. on Yangmeizhu Xiejie is indeed fancy with its American industry-style interior décor, but you would regret it if you didn’t go up to the second floor, where there is a comprehensive collection of terrestrial globes, a sewing machine table, and a door that opens up to the rooftop. From the rooftop, you can look over the whole hutong neighborhood. One of the café’s neighbors even keeps rabbits on the roof.
39 Yangmeizhu Xiejie, Xicheng District, Beijing, +8610 57111717
Visit the Mofan Bookstore
You will be amazed by the Mofan Bookstore just by looking at it from the outside: the building has preserved its charm from the Republic of China era (1912-1949). Walking inside, you’ll feel as though you stepped back through time into a bookstore from last century. The owner, Jiang Xun, is an architect and designer. He designed many of the store’s bookshelves, tables and chairs, and even doors and windows himself. Nearly all the accessories and furniture are antiques from the Republic of China era, and even the wooden floors have been preserved to look as they did decades ago. The books? They are of course, antiques too, but you’ll find other art and design books that are rare outside of the store.
31 Yangmeizhu Xiejie, Xicheng District, Beijing, +8610 63046321
Take a photo at the Da Bei Photo Studio
Do you want to take an authentic Chinese style portrait? Look no further than Da Bei. Founded in 1921, the Da Bei Photo Studio is one of the most prestigious photo studios in Beijing. It has been the official group photo service provider for China’s political sessions and meetings between Chinese political leaders and their official guests since 1955. It was once the most popular photo studio in Beijing, when cameras were considered a luxury. At that time, it was common to wait for six to seven hours for a photo.
2 Qianmen Dajie, Dongcheng District, Beijing, +8610 67033691
Try traditional Chinese-style attire at Refosian
Refosian was established back in 1862 in Shandong Province. It opened its first Beijing store in Qianmen in 1893, and before long, Refosian became the biggest silk and cotton store in Beijing. The first national flag of People’s Republic of China, that was raised up on the Tian’anmen Square in 1949, was made of Refosian’s cloth. You can still purchase a traditional cheongsam or Tang suit at Refosian today.
5 Dashilar Street, Xicheng District, Beijing, +8610 6303 5313
Snap a shot at Meeting Someone
Meeting Someone’s porch doubles as a small teamLab showroom, featuring a dark space lit up by a bundle of string lights that remind people of the night sky. It is a perfect place for Instagram addicts.
99 Yangmeizhu Xiejie, Xicheng District, Beijing, +86 15001018518
Take a stroll around the Bada Hutong
Also known as Eight Great Hutongs, the Bada Hutong used to be the red light district in Beijing back in the middle to late Qing Dynasty, and the Republic of China era. The Bada Hutong features eight hutong alleys named Baishun, Yanzhi, Hanjia, Shaanxi, Shitou, Zongshu Xiejie, Zhujia and Xiaoli (from west to east). The area is of course not a red light district today, and the former brothels have long been converted into common residence buildings and shops, but you may still see a trace of its past at the Shanglin Youth Hostel on 22 Shaanxi Lane, which still keeps the original Shanglin Xianguan style. Shanglin Xianguan was a brothel where the legendary courtesan Sai Jinhua was said to have once lived.
Walk from Qianmen to Liulichang
Walk westward from Qianmen Street and when you see a street full of antique shops – congratulations! You’ve made it to Liulichang. This area is one of the go-to places for local antique lovers. You can buy Chinese paintings, calligraphy, handicrafts and antiques in the dozens of shops here, but remember to bring an expert with you to verify authenticity.
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