Houhai is directly north of Tian'anmen Square and just south of subway Line 2. Because of its proximity to the Forbiddent City, this area was historically home to court officials and the city's elite. Some of their residence still stand. Today the area has noisy bars and restaurants.
Historic sites include the Drum and Bell Towers and former residences of literati and court officials, including revolutionary author Guo Morou (18 Qianhai Xijie, 010-66125392), Song Qingling, Sun Yat-sen's widow (46 Houhai Beiyan, 010-64044205), and Chinese author, Mao Dun (13 Yuanensi Hutong, 010-53044089). Prince Gong's Mansion, a courtyard home that housed He Shen, a corrupt member of Emperor Qianlong's imperial guard, can also be found in the area.
The Lama Temple and Confucius Temple are nearby, along with lesser known temples like Guanghua (31 Ya'er Hutong, 010-64035032).
Aside from the alleyways and historic sites, what attracts most people is the variety of bars and restaurants. Lotus Lane and Yandai Xiejie are two popular strips along Qianhai Lake. The strip along the western bank of Qianhai and Houhai lakes is also popular, as well as the renovated Nanluoguxiang Hutong, east of the lake. North of the lakes are the National Stadium and National Aquatics Center, known as the Water Cube, built for the 2008 Olympics.