How to visit Shichahai

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmailby feather


Shichahai is often referred as “Houhai”, or “Back Lake” by foreign visitors who kill time in its bar area in the evening.

Actually Houhai (back lake) is just part of Shichahai. Shichahai is composed of three lakes – Qianhai (front lake), Houhai (back lake) and Xihai (west lake). Sometime local people also use “Houhai” to refer to Shichahai.

Beijing Hutong Tourist Map

Beijing Hutong Tourist Map


Shichahai literally means “Ten Temple Lake”, indicating there used to be ten temples around Shichahai. Today some of the temples are still there, including Guangji Temple, Huitong Temple, Huoshen Temple, Guangfu Guan ( a taoist temple )…

If you are fed up with the gentrification in Beijing; if you lose interest in modern Beijing; if you feel sad about the fact that Beijing is becoming less like Beijing;

if you want to see a traditional Beijing; if you try to find a quiet place in the busy Beijing, come to Shichahai!

Rickshaw Drivers in Shichahai

Tip # 1:  Your Beijing trip incomplete without visiting Shichahai

1) Long history – older than the original construction of Beijing City.

The form of Shichahai Lake dates back to over 800 years ago, a little older than the urban building started here during Yuan Dynasty ( 1279-1368). It was once a part of the old Grand Canal of the Yuan Dynasty 700 years ago.

2) A paradise of common people in Beijing
It is a paradise for the local people – Ice skating in winter; enjoy flower and willow trees in spring; Boating in summer and enjoy lotus in autumn; drinking, eating and shopping all year around.

3) Religious Culture
Attracted by its beautiful scenery and charming environment, many temples in Beijing were built around Shichahai. Today you still can find some of the temples there making you remember the old days.

4) Celebrity Culture
For the same reason, many celebrities and public figures, including former royal family members, chose Shichahai as their temporary or permanent living place such as Prince Gong’ Mansion, Prince Chun’s Palace, the former residence of Song Ching-ling (Ms. Sun Yat-sen), the residence of Guo Moruo…

5) Hutong Culture
The featuring urban construction of Hutong system was laid out during Yuan Dynasty (1279-1368). Today you still can find many local people still live in these alley courtyards (Siheyuan) gradually formed about 800 years ago.

6) Ancient Timepiece
Bell and Drum Tower near Shichahai used to announce the time and is now a tourist attraction.

7) Bar Culture

Here West meets East. As a fastest-growing spot for late-night drinking, Shichahai is crowed by a few fashionable bars. Several dance clubs are in the works, but for now this remains the finest place in the city for a quiet drink.




Yinding Bridge and Houhai Lake, hub of Shichahai

Tip # 2:  Top things to do around Shichahai
1) Up Beijing Bell and Drum Tower having bird’s-eye view of the surrounding communities of hutongs and siheyuan – existing traditional Beijing.

2) Walk along Yandai Xiejie ( Tobacco Pipe Lean Street ), a quaint 800-year-old hutong located directly north of Yinding Bridge and the south of the Drum Tower. It used to be well-known for selling long-stemmed pipes, hence the name.

3) Standing on the Silver Ingot Bridge ( Yinding Bridge ), a narrow bridge linking Qianhai Lake and Houhai Lake, the hub of Shichhai area with surrounding hutongs, bars and restaurants.

4) Explore some typical hutongs in the Shichahai area such as Da Jinsi Hutong Tao, the most famous hutongs keeping the original layout of Hutong Area.

5) Take a boat cruising on the Shichahai Lake in Qianhai and Houhai of Shichahai. Rent a boat and paddle your way around the lake area to enjoy the sunset on the water.

6) Mix with an ordinary courtyard family for a home visit.

7) Exlore the Prince Gong’ Mansion. It was once the private residence of He Shen, a favorite minister of Emperor Qianlong of the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911), it was first built in 1777. In 1851, the mansion was given to Prince Gong by Emperor Xianfeng (1851-1862), hence the name. Now it is one of the most well preserved mansions in Beijing.

8) Talk with Mr.Dacheng Bai, a local folk craftsman, famous for making “Zongren Bai“, a traditional “Zongren”, a kind the figurines of drama characters made of the hair of a pig or a horse, cloth and silk, listed a city-level intangible cultural heritage in Beijing.

9) See the former residence of Mr.Mei Lanfang (1894 – 1961), the internationally famous Beijing Opera master, founder of one of the three greatest acting methods created by Shakespeare Stanislavsky and Meilanfang.

10) Explore the former residence of Soong Ching Ling ( 1890-1981 ), once a garden of one of the Qing Dynasty princes’ mansions. She was late Honorary Chairman of the People’s Republic of China. She is known as “the Mother of China”.

11) Visit the residence of Gu Moruo. Guo Meruo Memorial Hall (1892-1978) was an outstanding Chinese writer, poet, dramatist, historian, archaeologist and palaeographer.

12) Kill your evenings here. A nice place to visit after dark. For drinks, stick with beer or other bottled beverages.

Tip # 3:  Scams in the Shicahai area
1) Be wary of some unethical rickshaw drivers who rip you off by offering you exorbitant prices since there is no fixed official price for the rickshaw tour, meaning that non-Chinese tourists get quoted inflated prices. Normally RMB 50 per hour. You have to haggle with the rickshaw drivers!

2) Shichahai rickshaws are also restricted in their route access mainly due to the different administrative zones. For instance, rickshaw drivers in Houhai area are not allowed to go to Bell Tower and Drum Tower since Houhai is under administration of Xicheng District while Bell and Drum Tower under Dongcheng District, which sounds a  little ridiculous!

3) Rickshaws driver are paid a fee for taking tourists to tea houses around Shichahai area. Be wary of tea scam!

Shichahai Bars in the evening

Tip # 4:  How to get there and how to plan your trip to Shichahai
You either visit Shichahai directly or mix Shichahai into your city tour.

Route 1: Take subway 2 or 5 and get off the station of Lama Temple. First visit Lama Temple. After finishing Lama temple, then come out of the temple, on your right side across the street, you will find a street with an arc.

It is the famous Chengxian Street. Walking west along the street, you will come across Kong Miao (Temple of Confucius) and the neighboring Guozijian (Imperial Academy). Walking along Guozijian Jie west until it meets Andingmennei Dajie.Enter this commercial road, turn left and walk south to Guloudong Dajie,another major thoroughfare.

Turn right (west) and walk to Drum Tower. Returning south to Dianmenwai Dajie ( north of Drum Tower), turning onto Yandai Jie, the first lane on the right. A board on the right tells that makers of long-stem pipes once lined the lane’s narrow way. Turn left onto the arched bridgeYinding Qiao that separates Houhai and Qianhai lakes.

Route 2: First visit Beihai Park, then go out of its north gate. Shichahai is just north of Beihai Park‘s north gate ( Back Gate). Walking along the Qianhai area and hutongs.

Public Bus:
Take public bus No. 5, 60, 107, 108, and No.111 then get off at Drum tower or North Gate of Beihai Park
Business hours of Bar street: 10:30-13:00  and  17:00-21:00

Tip: Beijing Hutong Guided Tours
If you don’t want to go the do-it-yourself hutong tours and prefer the hassle-free escorted tours,  here are some options for guided tours to Hutong (Shichahai):

Beijing Hutong Highlight Half Day Tour from US$49 p/p

Beijing Hutong Highlight One Day Tour from US$59 p/p

Further Readings

Top 10 Attractions in Beijing
How to Visit Forbidden City
How to Visit Temple of Heaven
How to Visit Summer Palace
How to Visit Ming Tombs
How to Visit the Great Wall of China
How to Visit Tiananmen Square
How to Visit Hutongs
How to Visit Olympic Sites

Top 10 Markets in Beijing
Top 10 Shopping Malls in Beijing
Beijing Shopping

Wangfujing Night Snack Street
Qianmen Commercial Street
Beijing Huguosi Street

Any questions, just drop a  line.

Tags: ,

4 Responses to “How to visit Shichahai”

  1. Sharon Oniwa says:

    We will be staying at the Shichahai Shadow Art Performance. Is transportation to the Great Wall, Forbidden City and the Beiging Opera easily accessible?

  2. Daniel says:

    Hi Sharon Oniwa,

    Thanks for your inquiry! I think your hotel (Shichahai Shadow Art Performance) is centrally located in Shichahai area. You may use Subway line 6 ( your nearest subway station is Beihai Station to interchange for other subway lines to reach Badaling Great Wall, Forbidden City and Beijing Opera.

    See the following links for more information:

    How to Visit Great Wall of China

    How to Visit Badaling Great Wall by train

    How to Visit Forbidden City

    Beijing Opera Major Houses:

    Huguang Huiguan Guild Hall ( 北京湖广会馆)
    Add: 3 Hufang Road, Xuanwu District ,Beijing 北京市西城区虎坊路3号
    Tel: 010-63518284
    Time: 9: 00—19: 00 closed on Monday
    Bus: Take buses No. 6、14、15、25、23、109 and get off at Hufangqiao stop
    Subway: Take Subway Line2 get off at Hepingmena and take Bus No.7 at Hepingmennei.

    Liyuan Theatre (梨园)
    Add: 1/F , Qianmen Jianguo Hotel, No.175, Yongan Road, Hufangqiao, Xuanwu District, Beijing
    Performance Time: 19:30-20:40
    Tel: 51664621/51662182
    Bus: Take bus No.6,15,822, get off at Yongan Road.

    Zhengyici Theatre (正乙祠戏楼)
    Add: No. 220 Xiheyan Street 北京市西城区前门西河沿街220号
    Time: from 19:30pm
    Ticket: 280、380、580、580(Private Room)、880(Private room)

    Chang’an Grand Theatre
    Add: No.7, Jinguomennei St., Dongcheng District
    Time: afternoon and evening show

  3. Ife Ogunyinka says:

    Hello, I would like to know what day of the week and times that the Shichahai is open and also is there any entrance fee?

    Thank you.

  4. Daniel says:

    Dear Ife Ogunyinka,

    Shchahai is an old residential area without any entrance fee. But if you want to take a rickshaw ( Hutong tour ) or visit any attractions within Shichahai, such as boating on the lakes, visiting Bell Tower or Drum Tower, you need to pay the entrance fees respectively.

Questions and Answers: