The Xisi station area is Beijing is known for its hutongs. Much like Nanluoguxiang, Xisi is a historic area that boosts some of Beijing’s most authentic hutongs, but unlike Nanluoguxiang, Xisi is not a popular tourist spot. According to Wiki, “Xisi (Chinese: 西四) literally, the “Western Four” or the “Western Quadrangle”, is the name of an intersection and surrounding neighborhood in Xicheng District, Beijing. Xisi dates to the Yuan Dynasty and was named after the four paifangs, Chinese sign gates, that marked the location. The intersection was known as the Western Four Sign Gates or “Western Four” for short. To the east, in Dongcheng District, there was another intersection with four sign gates called Dongsi or the Eastern Four. The sign gates at Xisi were removed in 1950’s but the location name remains.”
What to do and see around Xisi
Although the sign gate was removed, there are still a few things to see and do in the area. The three main attractions are the Geological Museum of China, Guangji Temple, and Christian Sacred Art.
Geological Museum of China
According to Wiki, “The Geological Museum of China (中国地质博物馆), built in 1916, is a geological museum, boasting 200 thousand specimens. This museum is located in the Xisi area of Beijing and opened on October 1, 1959. It is the earliest geological scientific museum of China.” The Geological Museum of China costs 30 RMB for adults and 15 RMB for student tickets and is open Tuesday thru Saturday from 9:00 to 16:30. The Museum is closed on Monday. You can take a multitude of buses, but the easiest way to reach the museum is by subway line 4, Xisi stop, exit D. When you exit the subway you will see the museum behind you, it is impossible to miss.
According to Culture China, “The Temple of Great Charity 广济寺, situated at the eastern end of Fuchengmennei Street, is one of the best-known Buddhist temples in Beijing. Today the temple is a center of Buddhist learning and serves as the headquarters of the Chinese Buddhist Association.
The architect Liu Wangyun of the Jin Dynasty first built the Temple of Great Charity more than 800 years ago. In the Tianshun reign (1457-1464) of the Ming Dynasty, it was rebuilt by the Monk Pu Hui and named the Temple of Great Mercy and Great Charity. In the ensuing years, it went through a series of repairs and renovations. In 1699, Emperor Kangxi ordered the temple to be renovated and expanded.”
The temple is free for the public and is still used as a place of worship and prayer. This is not a tourist spot, but a functioning temple, so be respectful if you choose to visit this famous temple. The atmosphere is quiet and many local Buddhists use this temple every day for worship. It is worth visiting for a real authentic temple experience. The temple is located across the street from the Geological Museum of China.
Christian Sacred Art
The Christian Sacred Art of Beijing is a small art gallery near Xisi station. This is quite unique for China because there is a very limited Christian presence in China. The gallery holds different paintings and artifacts from around China and the world. They are open Monday thru Saturday from 9:00 – 18:30.
What to eat and drink near Xisi
The hutongs are a live and well in the Xisi area of Beijing, so, there are plenty of noodle shops and local eateries. If you want a real hutong experience, not a tourist hutong experience, try one of the local shops. The owners are usually friendly and will find it interesting to “talk” with you. If you know a little Mandarin, try to hold a conversation and ask about the local area. This can be more fun than busy streets packed with tourists and vendors. There is nothing special or unique about the food or drink in this area and that alone makes it special in its own way. This is how local Beijingers live and work. If you are looking for this type of experience be sure to grab a bowl of noodles in the Xisi hutongs.
Where to stay around Xisi
There a two hostels in the area, if you are looking for budget accommodation, and countless hotels. The hotels in the area range from budget to high end, but the area is farther away from the main tourist attractions, which means major hotel chains are less common in this area. We suggest checking out one of these two hostels first.
According to the Lonely Planet, “Alborada Hostel is a traditional style courtyard house. All rooms have air-conditioning, TV and heating, and all the furnitures are made by environmentally friendly materials. Rooms are set around a peaceful garden courtyard. There is ample hot water. We keep a high standard of cleanliness and hope our guests will help us maintain it as bathing facilities are shared. Our staff can speak good English.”
This hostel is a little hard to find, but it appears to be a quiet and cozy area tucked away in a hutong near Xisi station. The common area is small, but the rooms have air-conditioning and the hostel has washing and cooking facilities. Basic 4 mixed rooms start around $12 (72 RMB) per night and the hostel is located close to major tourist sites.
How to find the hostel: It is very difficult to find the Alborada Hostel. First look for the Una’s House clothing store on the main street. Next to the store is a small hutong and a sign at the end. Follow the signs to the Hostel.
Chinese Box Courtyard Hostel
According to Hostel World, “Chinese Box Courtyard Hostel was rated the best in China at the 2011 Hoscars and it’s not difficult to see why. They serve free dinners three times a week plus tea ceremonies and calligraphy classes on the weekends. We like that there’s also free breakfast, free games and free guidebooks to borrow. The friendly staff are helpful for booking tours throughout China. This hostel is located in central Beijing, just five minutes from Xisi metro station.”
The hostel boosts a 90% rating on Hostel World and is a great option for anyone looking to stay in the Xisi area. Again, there are many major tourist sites near this area and being close to a subway station gives you easy access to all of Beijing.
Final thoughts on Xisi
There is not a lot to see in the Xisi area, but it is still worth the trip if you are interested in traditional hutongs and Buddhist temples. We really enjoyed the temple and exploring the Xisi area. If you are looking for a good place to stay in Beijing away from the major (read overpriced) areas in Beijing, than the Xisi area has many options and is still very close to many major sites. If you have some extra time or an interest in rocks be sure to check out this area.