China // Beijing and around //

South of Tian’anmen

The Qianmen area, to the south of Tian’anmen, offers a tempting antidote to the prodigious grandeurs of the Forbidden City – and a quick shift of scale. The lanes and hutongs here comprise a traditional shopping quarter, full of small, specialist stores, which, to a large extent, remain grouped according to their particular trades – though how much character will survive the present huge demolitions is debatable. Down Qianmen Dajie, once the Imperial Way, now a clogged road clustered with small shops, the Natural History and Architecture museums are worth a browse, and Tiantan, the ravishing Temple of Heaven, perfectly set in one of Beijing’s best parks, is an example of imperial architecture at its finest.