Experience One Of Beijing’s Most Delightful Winter Pastimes
There are many skating areas around Beijing, indoor and outdoor, but Houhai has that little something extra. It is something of a Beijing institution, sitting in a prime city locale and surrounded by some of the most intriguing hutong neighborhoods – a maze of enchanting streets, funky eateries, squeaky rickshaws and scrappy stores hawking dusty treasures. Perhaps the best time to enjoy Houhai is in winter, when the water freezes and the ice thickens to give way to a transitory playground on the surface of the lake.
Though the lake is collectively known as Houhai, it is actually divided in two parts that are separated by Yinding Bridge: The northern part is Houhai, which means “the rear sea” in Chinese, while the southern part is called Qianhai, meaning “the front sea,” and has a small island in the middle. Qianhai is the part of the lake that is smaller and friendlier for skaters, as well as more suitable for kids, due to its ease of access and proximity to other facilities like McDonald’s and Starbucks.
There are several entry points to the lake, the easiest being right at the southern end of Qianhai on Diíanmen Xidajie. The next most convenient entry is a little further north on the east side of the lake on Qianhai Dongyan, past Huoshen Temple, and yet another entrance can be found around on the northern side of Qianhai, near Yinding Bridge.
Weekends are definitely the busiest times for skating, when kids ranging from tiny tots to teens can be found slipping, sliding, laughing and falling down on the ice. At the southern end of Qianhai, multicolored flags designate an area where pucks fly and hockey is played.
There are several types of skating equipment available for rental, including skates,bicycles and the somewhat cumbersome two-seater chairs that require ski poles or someone pushing from behind – something of a workout they might be, but enormous fun they are as well! Payment options run by the hour (RMB 15 per three hours for skates) or day (RMB 20 for carts), with a deposit of around RMB 300 for skates and RMB 50 for carts required to rent equipment.
Be sure to hang on to your deposit slip, as you won’t get your refund without it.
Only after the lake has been deemed safe by local safety inspectors is it opened to the public for skating, and any place where the ice is less solid and prone to crack is roped-off. Be sure to steer away from these danger zones, and wear shoes with tread and a thick sole to stay comfortable in the cold. After doing so, you and your family will find that skating on Houhai is one of the most entertaining activities in a Beijing winter, and is something the whole family will enjoy.
To check ice conditions, call 6612 7652 (no English spoken).
Dianmenwai Dajie (aka Pingían Dadao), across from the north gate of Beihai Park, Xicheng District