There may be many reasons to avoid walking in Beijing: the pollution, the traffic, the convenience of taking a cab (although less and less so). But there are perhaps just as many reasons to take a walk, if not more. After all, it’s city planning, man.
The old town
Beijing, particularly within the 2nd ring road, is an ancient city, perhaps the Asian equivalent to Rome. Therefore, if you want to get lost in history make your way to the border of the 2nd ring and start from there. My favorite route is the one starting at 积水潭 subway station. Walk along 前海 lake towards 后海. Don’t forget to walk of the beaten path and have a look at the magnificent hutongs. If you approach the Houhai bar are from the northern route make sure to check out 九门小吃, a snack court with everything from fried soft shell crab to lamb kebabs. Walk on towards Gulou and Houhai, then turn south towards 景山. If you take your walk during the morning or in the early afternoon, make sure to check out 景山公园, my personal favorite place. From there you turn towards 王府井 where another snack street awaits. The Legation Quarter should be next on your list of destinations, depending a little bit on how tired you feel. Walk down 东交民巷 towards Beijing main station and relive the beginning of the 20th century. You should check out the small mom and pop eateries on 船板胡同. Lastly arrive at Beijing main railway station, where you are now allowed to take a cab home.
The old town route in red, the new town route in green
The new town
While new developments have been going up all around the city in record time, when talking about Beijing’s new town you are mainly talking about the CBD and 三里屯 areas. Boring. I would rather suggest a walk through Beijing’s 金融街 close to 阜成门. The street itself is actually generically modern but its charm lies in its surroundings. Again, you will find hutong style buildings just north of it while the street itself bears resemblance to lower Manhattan. I suggest you starting out in 西单 walking north, then making a turn west. Keep walking until you cross 金融街. Turn north again here, walk past several dozen insurance and banking companies until you reach the north end. From there dive into the hutongs and take a moment to appreciate the contrast between what you have just seen.
Useful Chinese words (h2)
- 积水潭 Jishuitan, subway station on the north west corner of line 2
- 前海 Qianhai lake, bordering on Houhai
- 后海 Houhai lake
- 九门小吃 Jiumen snack court
- 景山公园 Jingshan Park
- 王府井 Wangfujing shopping street
- 东交民巷 Dongjiaomin street cutting straight through the Legation Quarter
- 船板胡同 Chuanban Hutong
- 三里屯 Sanlitun, bar and shopping street in east Beijing
- 金融街 Financial Street
- 西单 Xidan shopping street
- 阜成门 Fuchengmen, west 2nd ring road subway station on line 2