Back Lakes (Hou Hai)
While wandering the hutongs lets you see Beijing as it once was, the streets surrounding the lakes, particularly Hou Hai -- the largest of the three -- shows you a modern, hip and international side of Beijing. The banks are lined with cafes, restaurants, bars and hookah dens catering to tourists, locals and the city’s sizable expatriate population alike.
The best way to enjoy the Back Lakes area is to take a pedicab tour of the old hutong neighborhoods in the afternoon. Afterward, take a leisurely walk around the lake before settling in to a table at a restaurant or bar balcony for dinner and drinks as you watch the world go by.