Sitting on the City Walls

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Address: 57, Nianzi Hutong, Jingshan Front Street, Beijing, 100009, China

Star rating:
1 star hotel

4.1

Well-situated courtyard rooms with great service in a historic location.

As soon as I stepped through the non-descript alleyway door I was hooked. The hotel occupies a secluded hutong locale a stone’s throw from Jingshan Park and the Forbidden City, but it’s peaceful and quiet - a sensory escape from the bustling tourist sites on its doorstep. The ‘city walls’ in the name reference its perch just within the long-gone Imperial City Walls - an inner set that once enclosed the immediate area outside the Forbidden City. Boss Rick, a fountain of local knowledge, informed me that the address – Nianzi Hutong (millstone alley) - was where grain was once milled for the Emperor and his entourage.

Location
4.5
90%
Eating/drinking
3.8
90%
Leisure facilities
n/a
90%
Service
4.3
90%
Value for money
4.4
90%
Bedrooms
3.8
90%
Public areas
4.1
90%

Location

In a safe, quiet and wonderfully atmospheric hutong area a hop, skip and jump from Jingshan Park and the north gate of the Forbidden City. Senior government and military officials live it up in grand courtyards close by (some of the most expensive real-estate in the city), side-by-side with swarthy locals who still share common toilets. It’s also close to the bars and restaurants of Houhai Lake and Nanluogu Xiang.

Bedrooms

Simple and clean – most guest rooms open on to the central covered courtyard, but light sleepers might want to request one of the outer rooms. There are no TVs or toiletries to bump up the price, just basic twins and doubles with soft beds and big shower rooms. Two of the rooms are large enough to add an extra bed, and a split level dormitory can also cater for groups or a big family.

Public areas

The covered courtyard is the usual melange of potted plants, tables and chairs, central water feature and check-in / booking desk, but brighter and tidier than most. Shamefully, I like the full-sized replica Terracotta Warrior glaring at you as you step through the moon gate. Props too for just how much of the original structure remains – check-out the foot-worn stone steps and the creaky, crooked ceilings in the bedrooms.

Eating and drinking

Like similar hotels, the courtyard area doubles as the restaurant, serving basic, foreigner-friendly Chinese nosh like dumplings, fried rice and ‘kungpao’ chicken. It can get quite sociable in the evenings depending on the guests, helped by the fact that big bottles of local beer are only 3 RMB (30p). Coffee and snacks are similarly good value.

Leisure facilities

Free bike hire (though they’re a bit old and rickety), tour and ticket booking, a bookshelf, chess table other bits and bobs to play with.

Service

Excellent. Rick and his team are clearly passionate about what they do and proud of the hotel and its neighbourhood.

Who stays there

British and other European independent travellers and couples. Some North Americans.

Price advice

Breakfast not included. Free WiFi.

Amenities

  • High-Speed Internet
  • Restaurant

Recommended for

  • Backpackers / Students
  • Couples
  • Singles
  • Escaping the crowds
  • Sightseeing
  • History

Pros & Cons

  • Personalised service
  • Captivating sense of history
  • Fantastic location for tourists
  • Room amenities quite basic
  • Tricky for taxis to find
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