Disappearing Beijing Hutong Walking Tours

“The Beijing Hutong walk gave us the opportunity to sneak a peek into parts of Beijing that would have been out of reach without Tony and his team. The enthusiasm and knowledge made all the difference from any other city tour I've ever been on.”

“Tony and his guides have developed close relationships with the residents of these hutongs, which provides his lucky clients a once-in-the-lifetime opportunity to see these historic dwellings.”

Watch the video below to preview what exploring the hutongs with us on a private historical walking tour would be like:

Tony interviewed on CBS News Sunday Morning segment on Beijing's hutongs

Tony interviewed on CBS News Sunday Morning segment on Beijing's hutongs

Learn much more about Beijing’s Disappearing Hutongs

One of Beijing’s most memorable and quintessential experiences is wandering its hutongs, or alleyways. For over 500 years these streets formed the foundation of Beijing’s urban fabric, the core of its neighborhoods. Lined with courtyard compounds, known as siheyuan, the hutongs housed Beijingers according to their owners’ rank and status. Different hutongs became associated with different trades, people, and families. Today the hutongs’ names provide clues as to what or who was once located along their passageways.

Beijing hutongs reflect the dramatic changes in China. After the imperial court fell, the large aristocratic single-family siheyuan around the Imperial Palace were subdivided and the open courtyards filled with improvised structures. As Beijing rapidly develops and its population has grown six-fold within the last 50 years, the hutong neighborhoods have come under increasing threat.

Hutongs function like villages within the larger Beijing megalopolis. The narrow alleyways reduce the city’s vastness to a more human scale. Along them, people share in one another’s lives. For instance, many subdivided siheyuan do not contain bathrooms. Rather, it is a familiar Beijing hutong sight to see residents padding around in their pajamas on their way to the shared public toilet. Within these public, outdoor rooms men gather around xiangqi (“Chinese chess”) boards, neighborhood committee members with red arm bands gossip, and chuan’r (roasted meat) stalls set up tables. The Beijing hutongs are mazes of activities, filled with opportunities for spontaneous discovery—snacks, shops, locals. They provide insight into the every lives of Beijingers.

Beijing hutongs are rapidly disappearing, along with their distinctive communal life. Drawing from our local roots, Stretch-a-leg shares this unique, distinct part of Beijing with you. We provide insider access to hidden corners we’ve discovered through our friendships with residents and point out details of construction and daily life beyond guidebooks.

“…To be honest doing this on our own would have been a complete waste. Our guide spotted a local lady who was only too happy to welcome us into her small but immaculate home – a real privilege. We were also able to spend some poignant moments with another lady as she surveyed the rubble that was once her neighbours’ homes – hers is seemingly next for demolition. These are the moments that you cannot get with a normal tour.”

  • We specialize in historical walking tours in Beijing, exploring off-the-beaten path sights, and hiking at the wild Great Wall. Our private tours are completely tailored to each individual client.

    Founded by a native Beijinger, we are a Chinese-owned and operated team who will provide you with the uniquely authentic chance to experience China from the perspective of locals.
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