No one knows who opened the first store on Nanluogu Xiang, but the area has a little-known history as the nabe of the rich, from princes and generals to the last empress, Wan Rong, and Chiang Kai-shek. Today, the mix of culture, business and art in the historic area has turned this long street into one of Beijing’s most popular neighborhoods. The xiang, or alley, stretches nearly a kilometer long. Sixteen hutongs branch off from the main street, which explains the area’s other name in Chinese, 蜈蚣街 (Wúgōng Jiē), or Centipede Street – the walkways resemble the insect when seen from above. Day or night, the street bustles with activity as both locals and tourists frequent the many toy stores, cozy cafes and funky boutiques along this street. When hunger strikes, take the kids for a snack of British chips or chow down on authentic Indian curry.
Specializing in wooden toys and stationery, Xing Mu just launched its second store on the same street. In its first branch, near the entrance by Di’anmen Dajie, look for wooden pencil cases, leather notebooks and sepia-toned frames. The new shop carries more hand-crafted toys, made not only of wood, but also unconventional materials. For instance, one wall is full of action figures in funny postures, made of forks and PVC pipes.
Daily 10.30am-midnight. 35, 99 Nanluogu Xiang, Dongcheng District (8401 1219) 兴穆手工, 东城区南锣鼓巷35号, 99号
J MAX Handmade Jewelry Design Station
Great for hip moms and teenage daughters with a talent for crafting, this store offers handmade bracelets, necklaces, earrings, belly chains, toe rings and barrettes. If you’ve tired of wearing jewelry made from the same old beads, stones and pearls, you’ll enjoy the use of materials like shell, wool, leather, wood and feathers here. The designers often work in the shop, so if you or your kids are struck by inspiration, they can help you turn your design ideas into wearable art.
Daily 1-10.30pm. 17-4, Nanluogu Xiang, Dongcheng District (6404 5394, 130 2105 9183) 饰绝手工饰品店, 东城区南锣鼓巷17-4号
Woo Scarf & Shawl
A well-designed scarf not only keeps you warm, but also adds color to dark wintry clothes. Founded in Shanghai in 2002, Woo offers upscale accessories like scarves and shawls, as well as soft blankets made of luxurious cashmere, pashmina, fur and silk. If you fancy Chinese styles, you can pick up a double-layered silk scarf with hand embroidery. For an Indian style, opt for festive pieces decorated with mirrors and beads.
Daily 9am-11pm. 17-4, Nanluogu Xiang, Dongcheng District (6404 5395) 妩, 东城区南锣鼓巷110-1号
Catering to young customers who like Chinese traditional art but are also keen on modern trends, Esydragon sells various handmade gifts that have been vamped up with Chinese touches. On a recent visit, a bamboo carriage by the door was filled with stuffed pigs (RMB 50) – modern-era cuteness that also happens to remind many Chinese of their childhood. The store also stocks mugs carved from animal bones and painted with Peking opera masks and Chinese traditional fashions. From soaps that look like stones to ox bone napkin rings, all of the store’s wares are highly innovative, which explains the relatively hefty price tags.
Daily 10am-11pm. 19-1 Nanluogu Xiang, Dongcheng District (8401 1516) 石怡集家居生活礼品店, 东城区南锣鼓巷19-1号.
Even before the Nanluogu Xiang Festival started featuring a T-shirt catwalk, Plastered T-shirts was already renowned for creating fun, attitude-laced shirts for adults and kids alike. Founded by Dominic Johnson-Hill, a British expat, the store carries hip shirts that will please even the most discerning teen shopper in your household. If you aren’t charmed by the ironic kitsch of model peasants on T-shirts, choose from subway tickets, antique cups, and other quirky designs.
Daily 10am-10pm. 61 Nanluogu Xiang, Dongcheng District (139 1020 5721) 创可贴T-恤，东城区南锣鼓巷61号
Mirch Masala: Indian Cuisine
Located roughly midway down the alley, this popular eatery offers authentic South Asian food in a friendly and cozy environment. The menu includes both classic lamb and chicken entrees as well as seafood, vegetarian, and even vegan selections for diners. On the dessert menu, Roshmalai, a dish of homemade cheese, nuts and cream, might just become your kids’ favorites.
Mon 4-10.30pm; Tue-Sat 11am-2.30pm, 5-10.30pm; Sun 11am-10.30pm. 60-2 Nanluogu Xiang, Dongcheng District (6406 4347) 马沙拉之香，东城区南锣鼓巷60-2号