The area north of the Forbidden City has a scattered collection of sights, many of them remnants of the imperial past, when this area was the home of princes, dukes and monks. Beyond the imperial parks of Jingshan and Beihai is the one part of the city that is truly a pleasure to walk around – the well-preserved hutong district around Houhai. Tucked away here you’ll find Prince Gong’s Palace, Song Qingling’s residence and the Bell and Drum towers, all within strolling distance of one another.
A few kilometres east of here, you’ll find the appealing Nanluogu Xiang, a street where the artsy set hang out, and, right next to the Yonghe Gong subway stop, the Yonghe Gong Tibetan lamasery – one of Beijing’s most colourful (and popular) attractions. While you’re in the vicinity, don’t miss the peaceful – and unjustly ignored – Confucius Temple and Ditan Park, within easy walking distance of one another.
West of this area, you’ll find a number of little museums; the homes of two twentieth-century cultural icons, Lu Xun and Xu Beihong now hold exhibitions of their works, while the Baita Si functions as a museum of religious relics as well as a place of pilgrimage.