Peaceful at Day, Party by Night
This scenic spot in downtown Beijing
encompasses three willow-lined lakes, as well as plenty of hutongs to explore. Most visitors end up at one of the lakeside bars on Qianhai or Houhai—both of are a chaotic mess of neon lights, pulsating beats, and bad karaoke by sunset. This is a spectacle, if nothing else. Time your visit for the early morning or late afternoon hours, when old men come out to walk their birds and young women walk their dogs. Rent tandem bikes, or prepare lunch and go cruising along the lake in a paddle boat. If it's winter, you can go ice skating or scoot along in chair sleds or ice bicycles.