Until the late 1920s, the 24 drums once housed in this tower were Beijing's timepiece. Sadly, all but one of these huge drums have been destroyed. Kublai Khan built the first drum tower on this site in 1272. You can climb to the top of the present tower, which dates from the Ming Dynasty. Old photos of hutong neighborhoods line the walls beyond the drum; there's also a scale model of a traditional courtyard house. The nearby Bell Tower, renovated after a fire in
1747, offers fabulous views of the hutongs from the top of a long, narrow staircase. The huge 63-ton bronze bell, supported by lacquered wood stanchions, is also worth seeing. In recent years, the authorities have demolished a number of historical hutong in this area, so don't be surprised if you come across serious signs of reconstruction around here.
North end of Dianmen Dajie, Beijing, 100009, China