Don’t spend too long on Qianmen as the cluster of hutongs that remain are far more interesting. Meandering through the maze of alleys will take you past strange stalls selling pungent meat, chefs sweating over handmade dumplings, jangling rickshaws and neon signs advertising foot massages. Some turnings will take you on to quieter, more residential streets where children play and derelict doorways lead to humble living quarters.
One of the more lively hutongs is Dazhalan Street, and at number 385 is an authentic teashop. Pop in and peruse the shelves and jars stocked with everything from ginseng and jasmine to oolong and puer. The tea is tightly packed either as large 350g-400g discs wrapped in printed paper, loose or in small balls. It’s cheap and makes a nice souvenir to take home.