Back when Beijing consisted of single-story courtyard houses organized into hutongs, the Drum and Bell Towers in central Beijing dominated the landscape. While both structures have been rebuilt, they both date back hundreds of years.
The Drum Tower, built in 1272 during the Yuan Dynasty, originally housed 25 drums; today, only one remains. The Bell Tower was added in 1420 during the Ming Dynasty, and together, the two structures were used as a method of official timekeeping until 1924, when the last Emperor was forced out of the Imperial Palace (Forbidden City).
While you’re touring Beijing’s Imperial sites, keep you ears open and you might hear the drum performances staged daily, even if you’re not at the towers. It’s also possible to climb into both towers. After ascending the steep staircases, you’ll be rewarded with excellent views over the surrounding hutongs.