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PRICEVaries by venue
POPULAR TIMESWeekends; summer
RESERVE IN ADVANCENo
WAIT TIME WITHOUT RESERVATIONNone
HIGHLIGHTSInteresting hutongs; nightlife
Wrapped around a scenic chain of lakes north of Beihai Park that has a been a hub of the cultural elite for centuries, this charming hutong is replete with narrow cobbled alleyways, grand mansions of former nobles, lively teahouses, and some of the city’s most hopping nightlife. By day, rickshaw drivers offer bicycle tours of the main sights, and locals take to the lakes on boats or skates (depending on the season). After the sun goes down, colored lanterns are hung out at a string of chilled-out lakeside lounges where Beijing’s hip crowd gets their cocktail-sipping groove on.
GO HERE WITH
A date; friends; family
WHY WE LIKE IT
If you really want to dive into the maze of hutongs squiggled around the most ancient quarters of Beijing, this is a good spot from which to start. We like pairing an afternoon of strolling the historic lanes and scoping some of the restored noble mansions dotting the lakeside with a restorative break at the Family Fu Teahouse.
WHAT WE WOULD CHANGE
Aggressive rickshaw drivers. In the most popular “pick up” areas, over-enthusiastic touts sometimes even chase potential fares down the street. Don’t show interest unless you really mean it.
GOOD TO KNOW
Houhai’s name can be confusing. Though “Houhai” is the name of only one of the three lakes in the area (the other two are Qianhai and Xihai), it’s commonly used to refer to all three lakes as well as the surrounding neighborhood. Despite the fact that the rickshaw drivers can be overly pushy when cruising for fares, it’s worth dealing with their bad manners and going for a ride because they give a great overview of the area. (Some even offer English-language commentary.) You’ll need to bargain for the fare–RMB 150 is a reasonable price for a full tour, though at peak summer season you’ll need to be a tenacious negotiator if you want to score anything approaching a “reasonable price.” Avoid the nightlife on the refurbished “Lotus Lane” section of Houhai (just across from the North Gate of Beihai Park)–it’s a tourist trap.
Nan Luo Gu Xiang (Beijing)
Read more about Houhai in The Diary
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