Concierge.com's insider take:
While large swaths of Beijing's historic hutong districts were razed and replaced with sky malls, this small neighborhood near the Drum Tower has somehow survived the destruction. What started as a quiet row of houses renovated into shops and cafés has rapidly gentrified into a hip area of boutiques, small hotels, and restaurants. Perusing the artsy stores is a pleasure day or night. Start at Grifted for tongue-in-cheek modern reworkings of Cultural Revolution slogans painted onto furniture, accessories, and clothing. Then head to Plastered for brash T-shirts and streetwear. Finally, look for the small wall plate for La Mu, which sells beautiful leather-bound stationery and leather jewelry. For a break from the shopping, Xiaoxin's Cafe at no. 103 serves fresh-brewed coffee and home-baked muffins.