China’s youths rediscovering cities at a gentler pace

The city walk phenomenon has become so widespread that there are now more than 570,000 related posts on social media platform Xiaohongshu.


Visitors wander through Cinna Lane, or Xinan Li, in downtown Nanjing, capital of Jiangsu province. PHOTO: CHINA DAILY

August 7, 2023

BEIJING – Walking neighborhood tours become popular among China’s young people

City walks have become a trending pastime for young Chinese this summer. The walks involve exploring the city on foot to discover historic landmarks, cultural sites and unique spots. Whether by paid tour or self-guided adventure, people are finding new and exciting ways to experience their cities, Beijing Youth Daily reported.

The phenomenon has become so widespread that there are now more than 570,000 related posts on social media platform Xiaohongshu. Paid organized walks have been springing up in major cities such as Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou and Chengdu, offering routes that range from around 10 yuan ($1.4) to more than 100 yuan in price.

Many people choose to plan their own routes, exploring the city without any predetermined itinerary. Since July, local authorities in Beijing, Nanjing and Xi’an have been promoting classic city walk routes to the public.

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On July 15, a Chengdu-based professional surnamed Xu (pseudonym) attended a city walk event at a cost of 78 yuan. With a group of more than 20 people, they explored old streets, art galleries and the riverbank while receiving explanations from the tour guide. The participants also celebrated Xu’s birthday during the activity.

Xu said: “I live in Chengdu by myself. I have been busy with work lately and haven’t had time to go back to my hometown. I hardly have friends in Chengdu either.

“My family still wants me to have some sort of celebration on my birthday and I also want to reassure them and not to make them feel sorry for me.” So, she decided to share cake with fellow walkers that day, hoping to bring some joy to everyone.

The group gathered on a riverfront square, using their smartphones as flashlights as they sang the birthday song to her.

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Xu said: “In a big city, people need connections, not necessarily in a very close way, but at least one or two bridges.”

According to Beijing Youth Daily, city walks are currently offered by creative planning teams, travel agencies and educational institutions, among others. Most paid tours come with route designs and a guide or facilitator.

A Beijing-based city walk organizer said they only started offering walks this year. They have organized two walks so far with around 20 participants each, charging 19.9 yuan per head. Both included a guide’s explanation and drinking water. Professionals aged 22 to 39 are the target audience and most activities are organized on weekday evenings.

Organizers also try to maintain a balanced gender ratio to ensure a “comfortable social environment”.

Opinions regarding paid city walks are divided. Some believe that paying to wander around the city is a waste of money, while others find the fees acceptable, considering the value provided by tour guides and explanatory services.

Xu said spending tens of yuan on a city walk is within an acceptable price range. The organizer said the fee includes route design, visiting the sites in advance, organization, two group leaders, one photographer, insurance, exclusive nighttime access to an art gallery, bottled water, glow sticks and route cards.

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Xiao Si (pseudonym), however, questions the need to pay for city walks. In Xiao’s opinion, while some paid city walks may be worth it, there are also many ways to enjoy walking the city without having to pay.

Feng Rao, the dean of the tourism research academy at Mafengwo, a travel services and social networking platform, said the popularity of city walks is linked to the changing preferences of young travelers.

Due to travel restrictions during the COVID-19 pandemic, people started to discover the “small joys” around them. This habit has continued and young travelers have begun to focus on exploring beyond tourist attractions, such as ancient buildings, stylish bookstores, trendy cafes, unique pubs and even local markets, Feng noted.

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