Above: The Gold Lotus room at Duge Courtyard Boutique Hotel.
A trio of hutong (laneway) hotels in Beijing’s historic heart offer traditional courtyard living with a contemporary twist. True to its name, 3+1 Bedrooms (17 Zhangwang Hutong, Jiu Gulou Dajie; 86-10/6404-7030; 3plus1bedrooms.com; doubles from US$146) has just three minimalist rooms plus a suite, all with their own garden courtyards. Stark white decor and industrial-chic flourishes complement the colorful street life outside, which guests can watch from the property’s rooftop terrace. At the other end of the design spectrum, Duge Courtyard Boutique Hotel (26 Qianyuanensi Hutong, Nanluoguxiang; 86-10/6406-0686; dugecourtyard.com; doubles from US$307) is bright and flamboyant, conceptualized by Belgian jeweler Jehanne de Biolley and her husband Harrison Liu Li Nian. Each of the 10 guest rooms is unique: the Imperial suite shimmers with burnished gold, while the Oriental Train room comes with lush brocades and monogrammed wallpaper. And just steps away is Guxiang 20 (20 Nanluoguxiang; 86-10/6400-5566; guxiang20.com; doubles from US$110), where 28 charcoal-hued rooms are equipped with mod cons like wall-mounted plasma TVs and Wi-Fi. Don’t miss the views from the rooftop tennis court. –HELENA IVESON
Originally appeared in the May 2009 print issue of DestinAsian magazine (“Gypsy Tales: Hutong Hideaways”)