Departs and Operates
Tour Type: Exclusive Private Tour
Vehicle: Car or Van
Departs: 8:00am or 1:30pm
Returns: 12:00pm or 5:30pm
Duration: Approx. 4 hours
Pick-up: Your hotel/residence
• This tour will take you to the peaceful center of the old imperial city, once strictly the domain of the royal elite. You’ll head to the Shichahai lake area: Once the domain of only those of the imperial class, Shichahai is now a popular place for both Beijingers and tourists to relax and unwind. Shichahai is noted for its deep-rooted cultural significance, as old Hutongs and courtyard homes abound. After our walk through Shichahai we’ll head on over to the Drum and Bell towers, which were used during the Ming and Qing dynasties to help people keep track of the time (there were no digital watches back then!)
• You’ll get to tour an authentic courtyard home, as well as experience a rickshaw tour through the zigzag of narrow alleys (known in Beijing as Hutongs)
1. You will be picked up from your hotel, and we will make our way to the Shichahai lake area, which is located in the heart of the city. Because of traffic, it will take us around 30 minutes to get there.
2. We will arrive at the Shichahai lake area. Shichahai is a famous scenic area that includes three lakes (Qian Hai, meaning Front Sea; Hou Hai, meaning Back Sea and Xi Hai, meaning Western Sea), surrounding places of historic interest and scenic beauty, and remnants of old-style Beijing residences, Hutong and courtyards. Shichahai is always a good place for local Beijingers' recreational life, and in the last 200 years, many governmental officers, celebrities, monks and nuns chose to build mansions, temples and nunneries in Shichahai. Thus, Shichahai's attraction lies not only in its natural beauty, but also in the historical value of its architecture. The lakeshore is packed with young people chatting, drinking and generally relaxing as wood pigeons coo overhead. In recent years it has become famous for nightlife because it is home to several popular restaurants, bars, and cafes.
3. For a great example of Shichahai’s historical importance, we will visit a 300 year-old courtyard home. With the help of your English-speaking tour guide of the courtyard, you will have a detailed explanation of the old courtyard (Siheyuan) - its history, its layout, its Fengshui, and its traditional Chinese culture involved. This courtyard is a private residence of the Zhu family. It can be dated to the Ming dynasty (1368 - 1644 ), and it is also one of the most complete existing courtyards in Beijing.
4. After your tour of the Zhu courtyard home, you’ll go on a 20-minute rickshaw tour of the Hutongs in the area. Hutongs are courtyard homes grouped together around narrow alleys, and served as the lifeline and center of everyday life in old Beijing. The Hutongs were a critical component in the development and evolution of Beijing folklore and culture. Going on this Hutong tour, you will feel like you have traveled back in time to a far different China, one where there was still an emperor sitting in the Forbidden City, and where there was still enough time to enjoy the simple pleasures of common life.
5. Following your Hutong tour, we will take a leisurely stroll along the lake, where we will gradually come across Yandai Xiejie Street. Yanandai Xiejie (Tobacco Pipe Lean Street ) is a quaint 800-year-old hutong located directly north of Yinding Bridge between Qianhai and Houhai in the Shichahai area and the south of the Drum Tower. The street used to be well known for sellers of long-stemmed pipes, hence the name. Now, it is a street lined with numerous antique stores and trendy bars. After walking through the street, we will come arrive at the old Drum and Bell Tower.
6. The bell and drum were originally used as musical instruments in China. Afterward, however, they were used for telling time. As early as in the Han Dynasty (206 BC-220), there was 'a morning bell and a dusk drum'. Telling the time by bell and drum played an important role in helping people live and work regularly when there was no other means to keep track of the time. As a result, bell and drum towers became public architectures, and were widely constructed in almost every city throughout the country since the Han Dynasty. In the history of their construction, the bell and drum towers of Beijing are the largest and highest. Their layout is unique, in that they were placed fore-and-aft, not as the traditional sense of standing right-and-left horizontally. We will walk around the towers, and we will go up into the Drum Tower, which will give you a great bird’s-eye view of the city. If we’re lucky, we’ll also catch a performance of the drums while we are in the tower.
7. After our visit to the Drum Tower, we will drive directly back to your hotel, and you will be dropped off, thus ending the tour.