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Top 10 Things To Do And See In Gulou, Beijing
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Top 10 Things To Do And See In Gulou, Beijing

Picture of Katherine Lee Yik Mei
Updated: 9 February 2017
The Gulou area is a nice spot for tourists to explore. There are the brilliant Gulou and Zhonglou (Drum and Bell Towers), which used to dominate the city’s skyline, as well as numerous characteristic hutongs (narrow alleys) and snack streets in which you can buy plentiful Chinese-style souvenirs and try a lot of local street food. Read our guide to the best things to do and see in the area.
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The Gulou

The Gulou (Drum Tower) is definitely one of the most significant scenic spots in the area, as it represents the long history of China and showcases the gorgeous architectural style of the ancient Chinese. The stunning building was constructed in 1272, during the Yuan Dynasty, and had to be reconstructed in 1420 and 1539 due to serious damage. Before the time of modern skyscrapers, the Gulou used to dominate the skyline of Beijing. Yet, throughout history, the Drum Tower have been well retained, and besides the palace-like exterior, the interior of the tower is equally splendid.

Opening hours: 9am-5pm daily

Gulou, Di’anmen Wai Main Street, Dongcheng District, Beijing, China

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Former Residence of Yang Changji

Located in Doufu (Tofu) Chi Hutong, this nostalgic house is the former residence of Yang Changji, a famous Chinese educator, philosopher and writer. He is actually well-known for being Mao Zedong and Cai Hesen’s teacher at Peking University. The traditional Chinese siheyuan (quadrangle) is truly memorable and valuable as it was Mao’s first residence in Beijing during his teen years, but the house itself is very elegant and sophisticated as well – the architectural style and interior design are both lovely and full of Chinese characteristics.

Former Residence of Yang Changji, 15 Doufu Chi Hutong, Dongcheng District, Beijing, China

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Zhonglou

Just a few meters from the Gulou, is the Zhonglou (Bell Tower), an ancient building as great as the Gulou. The Bell Tower was built in 1272 during the Yuan Dynasty, and again it have been reconstructed several times due to damage in wars. With a very big bronze bell hung, the tower was used to announce time in the ancient China, and the bell is indeed the biggest bell in China, at 7.02 meters high and weighing 63 tons.

Opening hours: 9am-5pm daily

Zhonglou, Di’anmen Wai Main Street, Dongcheng District, Beijing, China

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Capital’s Famous Doctors Clinic

Founded in 1993, Capital’s Famous Doctors Clinic is the only public medical institution approved by Beijing Municipal Administration of Traditional Chinese Medicine. The clinic is a traditional Chinese medicine consulting and experience center, where local residents and foreign tourists can taste the traditional medical treatments as well as learn about the Chinese regimen. Many famous Chinese doctors are on duty regularly in the clinic, so if you want to try the Chinese-style medical therapy Capital’s Famous Doctors Clinic is probably a good and safe choice.

Capital’s Famous Doctors, 13 Doufu Chi Hutong, Dongcheng District, Beijing, China, +86 10 6406 9506

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Yan Dai Xie Street

Located just a five minute walk from the Gulou, Yan Dai Xie Street (‘Smoke-bag Slanting Street’) is a very hip and cool shopping street which has been bestowed as one of the best historical and cultural streets in China, it is also one of the oldest slanting streets in Beijing. The street was named Yan Dai because many smoke-bag stores were saturated there in the past, while till today, tourists can still see some of these old stores on the street. It is truly interesting to wander around this 232-meter long street, as there are many unique stores in which you can find brilliant souvenirs.

Yan Dai Xie Street, Xicheng District, Beijing, China

Yan Dai Xie Street © Carol Lin/Flickr
Yan Dai Xie Street | © Carol Lin/Flickr
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Gulou Dong Da Jie

Gulou Dong Da Jie (East Drum Tower Street) is one of the main streets in the Gulou area. On the street, you will be able to find a lot of restaurants, café, bars, and stores which are trendy, stylish and extraordinary, as well as full of traditional Chinese characteristics, creating really interesting contrast to the gorgeous Gulou. Gulou Dong Da Jie is a bustling business street in which tourists can definitely find nice gourmet food and interesting souvenirs sold in hip boutiques.

Gulou Dong Da Jie, Dongcheng District, Beijing, China

Gulou Da Jie © kanegen/Flickr
Gulou Da Jie | © kanegen/Flickr

Travel by Tricycle

If you are too tired of walking, travelling the Gulou area by tricycle is also a good idea. Tricycles in Beijing are human-powered – there is a rickshaw riders sitting in the front, leading you to the numerous stunning scenic spots around the Gulou area. Although the tricycle riders usually cannot speak very fluent English, they are incredibly friendly, hospitable, and familiar with those intertwining hutongs. Travelling by tricycle, you can experience the old Beijing lifestyle which is surely laid-back and relaxing.

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Wander around the hutongs

Indeed it is not necessary to bring a map with you while travelling the Gulou area, because it is actually fun to get lost in the intertwining hutongs (narrow alleys). This is truly a good way to appreciate the beauty of old Beijing as well. Because of rapid urban developments in Beijing, many hutongs have been removed, and only a few remain around the Gulou area, therefore it is surely great to visit these unique narrow alleys in which you may find a lot of surprises, such as innovative boutiques, fine eateries, and some traditional houses.

Gulou and Zhonglou, Beiing, China

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Café Zarah

Café Zarah is a very cosy coffee shop offering diners with a range of breakfast, lunch and dinner sets, complemented by a lot of decent desserts, drinks, soups and salads. It is a nice spot to have a lovely brunch, as they offer breakfast sets from 9am to 6pm, while their sets sound truly refreshing, such as the ‘Good Morning Beijing’, the ‘China Dreams’, and the ‘Fitness Breakfast’. It is particularly brilliant to dine in their fabulous Chinese-style courtyard, or on the roof terrace, which are totally cosy and laid-back.

Opening hours: 9am-6pm daily

Café Zarah, 46 Gulou Dongdajie, Dongcheng District, Beijing, China, +86 10 8403 9807

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Yao Ji Chao Gan (Yau Ji Stewed Liver)

Yau Ji Chao Gan is surely one of the most famous eateries located in the Gulou area, especially since the US Vice President, Joseph Biden, has ever eaten there. Opened in 1989, Yau Ji Chao Gan has long provided people with traditional Beijing-style dishes, such as the Zhajiangmian (noodles with soy bean paste), the youtiao (fried bread twist), and the douzhi (mung bean milk), which are tasty and flavorsome. While you should never miss their chao gan (stewed liver), a signature dish made of pork livers and intestines.

Opening hours: 6am-10pm daily

Yao Ji Chao Gan, 310 Gulou Dongdajie, Dongcheng District, Beijing, China, +86 10 8401 0570

Yao Ji Chao Gan © Matthew Stinson/Flickr
Yao Ji Chao Gan | © Matthew Stinson/Flickr