Hutongs are narrow alleys associated with courtyard residences of which Beijing is known for. There are a several well-preserved Hutongs in the Houhai area (Yandai Xiejie, Ya'er, Houhaibeiyan, and Qinjing hutongs) and the Beixinqiao area (Jiudaowan, Beixin, Beixingqiaoertian and Xintaican hutongs). The word hutong comes from the Mongolian word ''hottog'' meaning water well.
Beixinqiao Jiudaowan (nine turns) Hutong has the most side alleys and non-residents usually get lost in the myriad of turns. Qianshi Hutong (Money Market Hutong), measuring about 30-40 meters, located in ZhuBaoshi Street is the narrowest hutong with narrowest part measures 40cm wide, which makes it nearly impossible for two people to cross paths without having to turn sideways. The shortest hutong is Guantongxiang Hutong, only 30m in total.
Hutongs surround the Forbidden City and where there are hutongs, there are traditional courtyard houses where imperial officials lived. Hutongs provided a passageway between courtyard houses, also called Siheyuan or quadrangle courtyards.
Hutong Tours by pedicab are very popular in the Shichahai area, that is, the area around the central lakes of Beijing, especially Houhai. Always bargain and reach a clear agreement before getting in a pedicab. Although most of the drivers will not speak English, some of them will give a brochure explaining the history of a hutong and courtyard. There are some courtyards that have individual tours. These tours may vary in price. Most famous courtyards have a museum or gallery on the premises so beware of the hefty entrance fee.
Add: Shichahai, Xicheng District, Beijing
Bus routes: 13, 42, 107, 111, 118, 810, 823, 850