Your first choice for outdoor frivolity should be Migas: the parties atop Nali Patio were well worth staying to watch the sun rise over the CBD skyline last year. This year might be even better, with a total refurbishment of the space. Everything has been done with painstaking attention to detail: the inspired new drink menu, the well-thought out DJ sets and the rooftop itself. With added seating, one more dance floor, two new bars and an extra bathroom to suit the extra clientele. Too crowded? Take a breather at the bar downstairs, which will be a cooler, more relaxed and downright sexy place to imbibe this summer.
The outdoor patio at whiskey bar Sealing feels more like an outdoor barbecue down the street. The relaxed setup has smart furniture along a spacious candle-lit rooftop a world away from the Gongti megaclubs down the street. The crowd usually draws a professional set looking for a post-work cocktail and to forget the 9-5 life: looks like they found the perfect place to do it. The drink menu has a long list of quality standby cocktails to sip on, and the bar food is made beneath you at Italian restaurant Metro.
For a touch of class, try the garden at the Shangri-La Hotel’s Garden Bar & Terrace. The outdoor courtyard, built in traditional Chinese style, is nothing short of stunning: outdoor tables overlook rolling lawns set beside koi ponds and bubbling waterfalls. It’s easy to forget that you’re at a hotel bar and not having a quiet drink in a historical park. The garden is great for a lazy weekend, talking over a dessert platter and a selection from a wide variety of teas. Cocktails, though beautiful, lack the refined flavor to match their price (around ¥80)—you’re paying for the setting more than anything else.
If you just want the basics—blue skies, solid drinks and quiet surroundings—the patio at the Golden Sail Water Sports Club, at the northern end of Houhai, is nothing but that. The training center for the Beijing Dragon Boat team every Thursday and Sunday, the dock has a few tables and a drinks menu by the lakeside. You couldn’t be farther away from the rest of the bar strip: there are no tourists, neon lights, or blaring pop covers, and the only sounds you hear might be birds and the odd fisherman casting a line. The tables are so close to the water you can touch it, and a number of couches and wicker tables mistily call out for a lakeside afternoon hangout session.