Address: Dianmen Outer Avenue, Dongcheng District, Beijing, China

- Free


Ride a pedal boat, nose around ancient mansions or sink a few beers at this trio of lakes.

The curvaceous connecting lakes of Houhai, Xihai and Qianhai are worth a visit whatever the season. I’ve rented cheap pedal boats in the heat of summer, taken a sedate rickshaw ride through the ancient surrounding hutong alleyways in spring and autumn, and got my ice skates on in winter. The Tsingtao flows freely after dark at the neon-festooned bars and al fresco restaurants that surround Xihai and Houhai, whilst further west the nightlife gives way to Taoist temples and the lakeside mansions of princes past.

Value for money

Expert tips

Most of the lakeside bars are tacky affairs, where touts hector you to come inside for ‘happy hour’ specials whatever the time of day or night. Keep walking west on Houhai Nanyan past the main strip of bars and you’ll eventually reach some quieter, more appealing establishments.

Other attractions worth visiting in the Shichahai area include Prince Gong’s Mansion (Liuyun Street) with its classically landscaped gardens, and Jiumen Xiaochi (Nine Gate Snacks), a collection of food stalls showcasing age-old Beijing snacks.

Recommended for

  • Couples
  • Families with teenagers
  • Families with younger children
  • First-time travellers
  • Great views / scenery
  • Nightlife
  • People watching