Trendy landmarks tucked away in Beijing's old alleys

Apart from the world-famous Forbidden City, Summer Palace and the Great Wall, there are also some hidden, trendy places to explore in the city.
Zhu Jing / SHINE

The designer of the Red Brick Art Museum has used an unique architecture language to construct a garden-style museum. 

BEIJING, the capital city of China, is a top destination for both domestic and overseas tourists. Apart from the world-famous Forbidden City, Summer Palace and the Great Wall, there are also some hidden, trendy places to explore in the city.

Wudaoying hutong and Yangmeizhu Xiejie

Every hutong has its own characteristic, and a stroll down a local hutong is a must-do in Beijing.

Wudaoying hutong is a great alternative to the tourist-packed Nanluoguxiang and features a quieter environment with lots of elegant boutiques.

Just a few steps away from the popular Lama Temple, Wudaoying hutong has become a new cultural landmark for its creative atmosphere and a combination of old-fashion and artsy hipster.

Colorful wall graffiti, well-presented shops on both sides, and fragrance from coffee shops light up the step-by-step exploration.

Artistic graffiti depict an unknown story, leading visitors to some hidden shops in the courtyard, be it a bakery studio or a bike-themed shop.

The discovery can be a bit surprising, like entering a stranger’s house but welcomed by them. Small potted succulents are aligned on the window platform. Some of them are actually cupcakes.

Each boutique here has its own unique décor, separating itself from its neighbors and competitors, but goes well with the surroundings. Even the same brands, for example, Metal Hands Coffee Shop, uses completely different themes for its two establishments in the neighborhood.

The Nordic-style shop features a refreshing décor while the distance between the barista and customer is an eye-catching metallic espresso machine. The other shop is more home-like, which has a warm woody yellow color theme. The other end of the room is a glass living room where you can bathe in the sun with a nice cup of coffee.

Vintage stores are scattered along the alley, perfect for hunting souvenirs. Most of the shops open around noon, but if you are an early bird, you can choose cafes like He Kitchen&Co, which opens at 9am, and start the morning with brunches, delicious handmade desserts, smoothies and signature yoghurt.

On the second floor, the frame-like window turns outdoor scenery into a live picture in the main dining area. On the right side, a lovely outdoor seating area looks comfy to chill on a cool autumn night with a pint of craft beer.

Yangmeizhu Xiejie in southwest of Qianmen Gate also boasts a cluster of trendy cafe. Xiejie means a reclining street in Chinese -— the street runs northeast to southwest.

The 496-meter-long street was first recorded in a local map as “Yangmei Xiejie” in 1750 as it was believed that a renowned matchmaker surnamed Yang used to live there during Qing Dynasty (1644-1911). Later, the street was renamed.

During the Republic of China, the short street boasted seven bookstores and publishing houses. Now it is a gathering point for foodies and coffee addicts.

Zhu Jing / SHINE

Model Bookstore is seen on Yangmeizhu Xiejie, which was once home to many bookstores and publishing houses. Model Bookstore sells books using the old block printing techniques.

Zhu Jing / SHINE

Wudaoying hutong features a quieter environment with elegant boutiques.

Private art museums

The city of Beijing is never short of museums and art galleries. And there are some private ones as well.

Located in the northeast part of Chaoyang District, the Red Brick Art Museum is the first to catch the eye. The designer of the building wanted to use an unique architecture language to construct a garden-style museum.

Designed by Professor Dong Yugan from Architecture Research Center of Peking University, the basic architectural element -— red brick — maintains its integrity. It covers an area totaling 20,000 square meters.

The theater-like hall at the entrance catches the eye as soon as you enter the museum. Natural light shines into the area through rooftop windows, which allows you to observe and feel the changes of weather.

Geometric shapes, such as circles, squares, and rectangles, are widely used, turning the building itself into a large artwork.

Thanks to the unique design, artworks are exhibited in a way that connects or communicates with the building and the space. They become a part of the museum, creating a brand new experience for every visitor.

Inside-out Art Museum is another place worth visiting. Its industrial-style design is a collaboration between the China Architecture Institute and Obra Architects from New York.

Similar to the museum’s name, its location is in the middle of the downtown and suburb in Haidian District. If you love reclining rooftops, visible steel girders, and big glass windows, the museum is the place for you.

The spacious interior features stairways, implying that it’s the way to get to the world of art. The museum is dedicated to promoting emerging artists and charity art programs.

Zhu Jing / SHINE

“Self-Criticism” at the Inside-out Art Museum.


He Kitchen&Co

Address: 48 Wudaoying hutong

Tel: 010-5245-1039

Metal Hands Coffee

Address: 61 Wudaoying hutong

Tel: 155-1053-3895

Red Brick Art Museum

Address: Shunbai Rd, Cuigezhuang County, Hegezhuang, Chaoyang District

Tel: 010-8457-6669

Opening hours: 10am-5:30pm (Tue-Sun)

Inside-out Art Museum

Address: 50 Xingshikou Rd

Tel: 010-6273-0230

Opening hours: 10am-6pm (Wed-Sun)

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