Nanluoguxiang is a narrow street that runs through the hutongs of Beijing (basically old-Beijing). It’s lined with souvenir shops and small food shops. A lot of Hong Kong style cooking is served here.
Houhai on the other hand is a bar area littered with live stages. Every 5 steps you’ll be indulged in a completely different sound experience than where you stood before. Bands, solo artists, local or foreign, old or young; there’s something for everyone. For those that rather partake instead of standing by the sidelines, you’re sure to find several areas with karaoke set up. Once your ears start hurting you’ll know you’re heading the right direction.
If hookah is your thing you can find the middle eastern delight in several of the bars here. Be wary though that the prices here are pretty much Western, if not more expensive. So if a budget night out is your thing you best load up before you go or dive into the hutong for a more local experience.
Just up northwest of the forbidden city there’s “Beihai Park” (北海公园). With a large white pagoda and several Chinese gardens scattered through it’s 69 hectares, of which half is composed of a big lake, it is one of the biggest imperial gardens in China.
Personally though I find the adjacent smaller and cheaper Jingshan park (景山公园) to be much more enjoyable. Climb up to the top of the park and enjoy the view over the forbidden city, stay for the sunset.