The Summer Palace is Beijing’s largest royal garden, and easily one of its most iconic attractions. It sprawls over an area of nearly 3 square kilometres, with a significant chunk covered by Kunming Lake. Construction began in 1750 so Beijing’s elites would have a relaxing place to escape the city’s sweltering summer heat. Unlike other famous attractions like the Forbidden City, which can become a bit repetitive, the Summer Palace boasts an incredible variety of bridges, temples, pavilions, and temples!
We’d prepared for relatively mild and sunny weather forecasts, and instead encountered substantial snowfall and chilly temperatures. Although far from what one might expect given the garden’s name, our visit was still remarkable and highly worthwhile. With names like the Precious Cloud Pavilion and the Lilac Court, it is clear this site was developed to be in harmony with its natural surroundings. With a fantastic array of pavilions, temples, bridges and unusual trees, we were far from bored.
Located in the northwest of Beijing, the Summer Palace (Yiheyuan, 颐和园) is easily accessible by subway- about 40 minutes from central Qianmen station. Take line 4 to Beigongmen station, exit C2. Walk straight out of the exit for several minutes, and turn right when a tourist sign in Mandarin indicates a distance of 1100 metres or so. It sounds confusing, but as long as by turning right you keep the edge of the wall on your right hand side, you’ll end up at the garden’s east gate!
One piece of advice: print out and bring a map with you, or be sure to snap a photo of one of the very few maps on site! Although we were quite happy wandering around the complex and stumbling upon its attractions, a map would have been very helpful to plan our visit, especially as we were pressed for time.
Curious about some of the foods we sampled during our stay in Beijing? Get acquainted with the culinary delights of Beijing, and stay tuned for several more posts on my adventures!