1. Sipping coffee or an evening cocktail lakeside at Houhai or on one of the rooftop restaurants or bars overlooking the lake.

2. Exploring Houhai's well-preserved hutongs and historical sites by pedicab or bicycle.

3. Skating on Houhai Lake in winter or, in the warmer months, taking an evening boat tour of the lake. Dine onboard on barbecued lamb provided by

Kaorouji. Romantics, take note: you'll be serenaded by your own personal pipa (four-stringed lute) musician at this old lakeside restaurant, which specializes in Chinese-style barbecue. 14 Qianhai Dongyan, just southeast of the Silver Ingot Bridge, Xicheng District, Beijing, 100009. 010/6404–2554.

4. Wandering the hills and temples of historic Beihai Park. In the evening, eat the way the emperors did with an imperial banquet at Fangshan Restaurant in the park.

5. Shopping for great gifts and snazzy clothes on the cheap at Xidan.