Visitors can explore the modern transition of Beijing’s hutong alleys. // © 2012 istockphoto.com
China’s hutong alleyways have gained notoriety in the last few years as the destruction of the ancient neighborhoods became necessary with the construction of a more modern Beijing. But the remaining alleyways have become a popular tourist attraction with many companies offering walking tours of the area. Context Travel’s new walking seminar, Hip Hutongs, is an innovative new tour of the city’s historic alleyways. Focusing on contemporary design, fashion and architecture, Hip Hutongs looks at how China’s creative industries are taking over the less-touristy alleys and transforming them into a vision of new China.
“China is desperately trying to avoid what economists are calling the ‘middle income trap’ and move away from the traditional Made in China, Designed Elsewhere paradigm of the iPhone and so much else,” says Context Travel co-founder Paul Bennett. “This walk looks at how the creative industries such as media, architecture and fashion are being enlisted in this program, and how they’re taking Beijing’s historic — and often threatened by development — hutongs and reinventing them.”
Hip Hutongs is led by the editor of a local fashion magazine in Beijing and focuses on hutongs that aren’t typically visited on traditional tourist itineraries or by packaged tour operators. Groups visit a wide range of spaces, from interior courtyards to former homes converted into boutique hotels, design stores and ateliers. The walk visits a number of smaller, lesser-known or hidden spaces in Beijing, including the garden of an emperor’s consort that now hosts a world-famous concept store.
Hip Hutongs is offered as a private tour as well as a group walking seminar for independent visitors to Beijing. This tour lasts three hours and is available daily. Group walks cost $86 per person. Private tours cost $385 for a party of up to six people. As with all Context walking seminars, groups are led by a credentialed expert and limited to six people.