Olympic Park Observation Tower
Station South Gate of Forest Park
Begin your Line 8 odyssey with a trip up Beijing’s fourth-tallest building
– and one of its best vantage points. Its observation deck offers panoramic views of the city. Wait for a clear blue day to make the most of your ascent and take in fantastic views that stretch as far as the Forbidden City, CBD and the Western Hills. 70RMB.
China Science and Technology Museum
Station Olympic Green
Following a comprehensive redesign, China's biggest and best science and technology museum reopened in 2009, boasting five floors filled with interactive exhibits. Built to resemble a wooden block puzzle, the museum shows off the scientific solutions that have shaped our world and beyond, celebrating and oversimplifying the discoveries of both Chinese and Western scientists for young minds. Exhibits have both Chinese and English descriptions. 30RMB.
Station Olympic Sports Center
It's eight years since American swimming titan and possible fish Michael Phelps swept up and brought home – you know it – eight gold medals at the Beijing Olympics. So what legacy for the venue that hosted his amazing aquatic achievements? After a few idle years collecting dust, the Water Cube
reopened in 2010 as a quirky water park complete with a wave pool, lazy river and a myriad of slides. Open until 10pm during the summer, we recommend heading after dark to see the Cube light up in all its colourful glory from the comfort of your rubber ring. 200RMB.
When it was given a facelift in 1995, this secluded Xicheng park
took Rome's Villa d'Este gardens as its inspiration. It might not have the Unesco World Heritage status of its Italian counterpart, but the verdant patches that encircle its central lake, as well as the southen side's archways, statues and sculptures make it a unique alternative to your average Beijing park.
Just west of Guloudajie station on Beiluoguxiang is a neon-lit utopia
for the retro gamer, filled with the consoles of yesteryear and backed up by a soundtrack of '80s and '90s indie classics. Two floors are topped off by the bar's rooftop terrace, an excellent space to while away the evening over the hutongs. Wash away those Mario Kart blues with the house special, the Pickleback – a straight shot of whisky followed by a chaser of pickle juice.
Prince Gong's Mansion
This palatial residence
and ornate gardens off Houhai were built in 1777 for Heshen, a Qing Dynasty official who turned out to be one of the most corrupt scoundrels in Chinese history. The mansion was later named after another resident, straight-shooter Prince Gong. It remains a fantastically well-preserved example of a courtyard home, and a more relaxed alternative to the Forbidden City. 40RMB.
Drum & Bell Towers
This time-telling two-piece straddles the city's historical Central Axis. Used by emperors past to announce the hour across the town, these partners in time
are now viewing towers with delightful vistas over an expanse of hutong rooftops and north towards the Olympic Park. Head up the Drum Tower (or Gulou, as you might know it better) for percussion performances throughout the day. 20-30RMB.
The Chinese term penghao (蓬蒿) is often used to refer to everyday, common people, though this charming little theatre
tucked well away in the depths of Dongmianhua Hutong is far from ordinary. The converted courtyard space seats around 90 people for intimate performances and also has a cosy café and library area, while its rooftop is a pleasant spot for an after-show drink. The theatre hosts various culture workshops and lectures and is also a venue for the ongoing Nanluoguxiang Performing Arts Festival. Go to timeoutbeijing.com for programme information.