For many people, the water in the lakes at Houhai isn’t clean enough to consider jumping in. For the rest of us, a quick dip here can be a fun way to spend a couple of hours with some Beijingers.
Some locals swim in Houhai every single day of the year, come rain or shine, snow or ice! Yes, even when Houhai freezes over (from November to March), a dedicated few still visit the lakeshore, strip off layer upon layer of winter clothing and, after bashing a hole in the ice, take the most invigorating plunge you could ever imagine.
During the summer, of course, lake swimming is more of a family affair, with kids jumping around in rubber rings as their parents stand by, watching them play.
You’re free to swim anywhere, but the most popular spots are here (just northwest of the big pagoda), or on the east side of the lake directly south of here, from where locals swim across to the small island.
Top Tip 1:
If you’re planning on doing a proper swim, wear goggles.
Top Tip 2:
If you’re planning on just larking around, wear something on your feet so you can stand on the lake-bed without worrying about standing on anything sharp. The water is only about five-feet deep so you’re rarely out of your depth.
Top Tip 3:
If you’ve got kids, head to Tian Yi Goods Market first to pick up rubber rings, inflatable balls, armbands and the like. You can also get swimming goggles here.
Top Tip 4:
Keep your mouth closed! It might be fun to swim in Houhai, but it’s not much fun drinking it.
Gulou Dajie (1km)