Old Town


Datong’s old town has been extensively resurrected at colossal expense to put Datong back on the map. The former mayor ploughed a fortune into trying to turn Datong back into an old town (by rebuilding it). Sadly, a considerable amount of the original old town was levelled before being rebuilt. Nonetheless, what is on show is alluring, especially at night when lanterns illuminate the old town, though an absence of local inhabitants can make the place feel soulless after the day trippers depart.

The rebuilt city walls are a major part of the symphony, and are also delightfully lit up come nightfall. The area east of the Drum Tower (around Gulou Dongjie) feels more atmospheric and less gaudy than the west, with several nice courtyard bars and cafes.

Lonely Planet's must-see attractions

Nearby Datong attractions

1. Datong Mosque

0.08 MILES

Recently restored, this mosque is a particularly quiet and tranquil place. Non-Muslims are not allowed to enter the Prayer Hall (朝真殿, Cháozhèn Diàn), but…

2. Drum Tower

0.13 MILES

The recently restored Drum Tower sits on the central axis that runs through the north and south gates of the restored city wall. Two sets of very steep…

3. Huayan Temple

0.18 MILES

Built by the Khitan during the Liao dynasty (AD 907–1125), this 66,000-sq-metre temple faces east, not south (it’s said the Khitan were sun worshippers)…

4. Nine Dragon Screen

0.19 MILES

Emblazoned with nine coiling dragons picked out in coloured glazed tiles, this is one of the finest yǐngbì (影壁) spirit walls in China (it has two…

5. Prince Dai's Residence

0.24 MILES

Originally built in 1392 but burned to the ground in a huge conflagration in 1644 during the last gasps of the Ming dynasty, this vast palace complex (191…

6. Datong Cathedral

0.34 MILES

This working cathedral – also called the Cathedral of the Immaculate Heart of Mary – is an astonishing sight once you find it and stand before its twin…

7. Shanhua Temple

0.41 MILES

Originally constructed in AD 713 and today standing just inside the city walls, Shanhua Temple was rebuilt during the Jin dynasty. The grand wooden…

8. Datong City Wall

0.46 MILES

This incredible city wall has been rebuilt from the soles up in what must be one of the most ambitious feats of engineering to hit Datong since, well,…