Drum and Bell Towers

Address: 316 Gulou East Street, Dongcheng District, Beijing, China

- Budget


These ancient bastions of time-keeping stand tall in Beijing’s most appealing neighbourhood.

It’s thrilling how you can be zig-zagging happily through grey alleyways on a bicycle, and all of sudden, there they are. Gulou and Zhonglou, a pair of centuries-old towers standing 100 yards apart in the middle of a sleepy residential neighbourhood.

Gulou, the southern-most tower, with its red wooden construction and hip and gable roof would have once contained 24 drums used in the Yuan, Ming and Qing Dynasties to beat the time. Today only one original drum remains, but visitors can catch a decent Chinese drum performance inside the tower seven times daily. It’s also possible to climb the tower for great views south towards the Forbidden City. To the north, The Bell Tower (Zhonglou) is my absolute favourite building in Beijing. Beneath its green glazed roof is, unsurprisingly, a giant copper bell of some 70 tons, but since I’ve lived in the area I’m yet to hear it ring.

Value for money

Price advice

A combined ticket to enter both towers is 30 RMB, or 20 RMB for just the Drum Tower.

Expert tips

Combine with a visit to the neighbouring lakes of Shichahai and the nearby tourist street of Nanluogu Xiang.

The best way to explore this old neighbourhood is by bicycle. You’ll find several bike hire shops along Gulou East Street to the south.

Recommended for

  • Backpackers / Students
  • Families with teenagers
  • First-time travellers
  • Seasoned travellers
  • History
  • Design and architecture