Winding small streets, wooden doors and countless hurried workers swiftly cycling past leisurely groups of elderly inhabitants on their street-side stools.
Discretely hiding amidst glittering skyscrapers and eternally-packed highways are the remnants of a time long-gone: The Hutongs.
These nostalgic alleyways and traditional courtyard residences (siheyuan) are typical of the Old Beijing. Today, only few remain and are cherished by locals and tourists alike. Located within this precious part of town, is The Orchid, a firm favourite with travellers looking for somewhere hip but still down-to-earth.
As an ordinary passer-by, you would never notice the small door sign hanging above a door that is located within a small side-street – leading you into a charming lobby of wooden interiors, inviting sofas and dimmed lights. No visitor is deprived of warm greetings from the staff – creating that sought-out air of familiarity and warmth that hotels can often lack. Upon arrival, guests also receive post-cards, a map including key sights, restaurants and bars, and a variety of recommendations that were useful even to a Beijing resident like myself!
The rooms themselves are separated into four categories:
The Courtyard room (comes with one queen bedroom with a view positioned around The Orchid’s central courtyard garden at 805 RMB per night including tax and a big breakfast).
The Garden king room (has its own small natural green space at 1035 RMB per night including tax and a big breakfast).
The Yin room (is a spacious king room which comes with a garden and outdoor sitting area at RMB 1380 per night including tax and a big breakfast).
The Yang room (is a king room with a private rooftop terrace showing wonderful views of the local neighbourhood at 1380 RMB per night including tax and a big breakfast).
As spaces in the Hutongs tend to be much smaller in general, I would definitely suggest getting one of the more expensive rooms for an extra comfortable experience. I stayed in the Garden Room, which was cosy and had an incredibly comfortable bed and rain shower, but did not include any extra unnecessary frills. Alternatively, the Orchid also offers a select number of ‘residences’, which are more like an Airbnb and great for families – some are however located a little further away from the main hotel itself and will require a 10-15-minute walk to breakfast.
And breakfast is something that should not be missed! The Orchid’s restaurant, Toast, is located just above the lobby, and has become an all-time brunch favourite amongst Beijing locals. With innovative combinations of Asian, Middle Eastern and European flavours, you will discover delicious dishes that will leave your mouth watering for more. I especially recommend the gluten-free banana pancakes, which are neither too sweet nor too salty. The service is just as friendly as in the lobby, so don’t hesitate to ask for the chef’s suggestions. During warmer months, Toast also opens its wonderful terrace, from which you can gaze over the Hutong rooftop and observe multi-coloured cats lazing around in the sun.
Guests are invited to mingle in dumpling-making classes and occasional wine-tastings. If you want to go alone, grab a walking map which has been painstakingly created by the Tibetan and Canadian co-founders that plots the tastiest traditional eats in the area.
Whilst your taxi driver might occasionally hiccup finding their way, it is safe and The Orchid is a perfect hide-out for the Citizen Femme looking for a more local and homely experience, where you will be living right in the beating heart of Old Beijing.