Located about 10 kilometres from the downtown of Beijing, Summer Palace was once the largest imperial garden in China. It is a vast area of lakes, gardens, and palaces dominated by Longevity Hill and the Kunming Lake. Summer Palace was first built in 1750 by Emperor Qianglong. It was largely destroyed in the war of 1860 and restored on its original foundations in 1886. I don’t think you need any reasons to visit Summer Palace because this is a must for every visitor of Beijing just like Forbidden City and the Great Wall of China. But if you think you need a proof I give you my five reasons.
1) The Summer Palace is the UNESCO cultural heritage site
The Summer Palace is one of the seven UNESCO World Heritage sites located in the Beijing area. It was inscribed in UNESCO heritage list in 1998 for being a masterpiece of Chinese landscape garden design. The natural landscape of hills and open water is combined with artificial features such as pavilions, halls, palaces, temples and bridges to form a “harmonious ensemble of outstanding aesthetic value”.
2) The best preserved imperial garden in the world
The Summer Palace is the largest and best-preserved royal garden in China and also in the World. The Chinese call it Yihe Yuan, Garden of Restful Peace. Constructed around the Longevity Hill and Kunming Lake, Summer Palace is a vast complex of gardens, palaces, lakes, and hills. The landscaped gardens, temples, and pavilions were designed to achieve harmony with nature and to please the eye. During the hot Beijing summers, the Imperial Family preferred the beautiful gardens of the Summer Palace to the walled-in Forbidden City. Not only the landscape but also the designs of Summer Palace are the best examples among all the ancient gardens.
3) Kunming Lake is the most attractive lake in Beijing area
Kunming Lake in the Summer Palace was created by extending an existing body of water in order to replicate Hangzhou’s famous West Lake which has inspired famous poets, scholars, and artists since the 9th century. The size of the Kunming lake is about 2 square kilometres and it covers three-quarters of the total area of the Summer Palace grounds.The Bronze Ox is one of the most famous attractions of the Lake set on bluestone wave-lined pedestal, overlooking the east shore of the Kunming Lake. The ox is said to have the power to control floods: a major cause of death in ancient China.Boating on Kunming Lake is highly recommended. A ride takes about 10 minutes in one of the charming, colourfully decorated boats, allowing you to enjoy the fascinating landscape with a slow pace of the boat. The boating fee is not included in the entrance fee.
4) It has the longest covered promenade in the world
The Long Corridor in the Summer Palace in Beijing, China, runs for 728m (2388ft) and is built entirely of wood. It is divided by crossbeams into 273 sections. Used as a perfect promenade along the lake, the Long corridor is a unique art gallery, featuring more than 14,000 pictures of landscapes, flowers, birds, human figures and stories on its beams and ceilings. The corridor is giving an additional touch to the place surrounded by amazing natural scenery. It’s registered in Guinness World Records.
5) It’s within easy reach by metro from Beijing city centre
Take subway line 4 in the north direction and get off at Beigongmen (北宫门) station. Then take Exit D and walk to the west, soon you will see the North gate (Beigongmen Gate) to Summer Palace 颐和园 on your left side.
A few practical tips:
- Best time to visit. Spring is pleasant. May is a good time for a visit. Still, September and October are the best months to visit Summer Palace. The autumn there is cool, neither too cold nor too hot. Summer is usually hot and rainy and winter can be quite cold.
- There are three main entrances to Summer Palace – East Palace Gate (the main gate), North Palace Gate and New Palace Gate (South Gate). You should get to know the gate you will go through, especially when you take a taxi or bus. From each gate, you will have a different tour route visiting Summer Palace.
- Most people spend at least half a day here, there’s so much to see and enjoy in the gardens, buildings, and waterways.
- Bring some water and snacks with you just in case. A hat and sunglasses are a must in summer.
Have you been to the Summer Palace? Share your impressions in the comments section!
Author: Anita Sāne
About the author
Anita is a part-time traveler, passionate photographer and a mature career woman from Latvia, traveling mostly solo for more than 10 years. She is a skilled travel planner planning and executing her travels by herself. Anita wants to show you how to travel the world and open your mind to new experiences. Follow her also on Instagram and Pinterest.