Beijing’s hutongs offer a glimpse into Ming and Qing Dynasty Beijing. They’re also some of the city’s hippest neighborhoods, home to the trendiest shops, cafes, bars, and restaurants in the Chinese capital.
Bell Tower (Zhonglou)
Di'anmen W St, Xicheng, Beijing
For many centuries, the 157-foot (48-meter) tower was the tallest structure in a city because strictly enforced tradition forbade anyone from looking down on the emperor. Buy a ticket, and climb the tower to see great views of the Drum Tower and the surrounding “hutong” alleyways and courtyards. You can also time your visit to enjoy one of the hourly live drum performances at the tower opposite. Many Beijing cultural tours include a stop at the Bell Tower and the Drum Tower, as they are Beijing icons.
Things to Know Before You Go
The Bell Tower is popular with photographers and history buffs.
The Bell Tower and Drum Tower are close together—just 299 feet (91 meters) apart—and nearly everyone visits the two towers together.
Wear flat, practical shoes if you plan to climb to the top of the tower.
The square that separates the Bell Tower and Drum Tower is smooth, flat, and wheelchair accessible, but the stairs to the top of the tower are extremely steep.
How to Get There
The Bell Tower sits opposite the Drum Tower on Bell Tower and Drum Tower Square on Beijing’s north-south central axis. It’s about 4 miles (6 kilometers) north of Tiananmen Square and a 5-minute walk north of Shichahai subway station (line 8).
When to Get There
The Bell Tower is open from morning until late afternoon seven days a week. As with all popular Chinese attractions, avoid visiting the tower during Chinese national holidays, when the site will be very crowded with long lines.
The Great Bell in the Bell Tower
The chimes of the vast bronze bell inside the Bell Tower once rang out across Beijing—and you can still see the 6.5-foot (2-meter) logs attendants used to strike it. (Chinese bells, traditionally, are struck from the outside rather than rung with clappers.) The bell weighs in at an impressive 69 tons (63 tonnes) and dates back six centuries. According to a local legend, the designer’s young daughter had to sacrifice her life before he could cast the bell.
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- Prince Gong Mansion (Gong Wang Fu)
- Beihai Park (Beihai Gongyuan)
- Yandai Byway (Yandai Xiejie)
- Jingshan Park (Jingshan Gongyuan)
- Forbidden City (Palace Museum)
- Drum Tower (Gulou)
- Back Lake (Houhai)
- Back Lakes (Hou Hai)
- Nine Dragon Screen at the Palace Museum
- Inner Court (Nei Ting)
- Imperial Garden of the Palace Museum
- National Art Museum of China (NAMOC)
- Treasure Gallery