A Spectacular Visit to the best preserved Royal Garden in the World- Summer Palace

Beijing is the capital city of the People's Republic of China whose story goes back at least 3000 years and it is also an important military and trading centre of China. In Beijing, you can find a wealth of history, both ancient and modern. In North East of central Beijing, there is a most famous landscaped garden with interesting traditional buildings, Summer Palace situated in Haidian District. It was an imperial garden in the ancient era for royalty. But today it is a retreat for everyone who travel busy and noisy Beijing environment. It is only 20km(12 miles) short drive from central Beijing, but seems like another world.  


After spending 5days in Beijing we had a chance to visit gorgeous Palace complex. Me and my family were at the Summer Palace in late April 2017 and we spent a whole day here after seeing the Great Wall the day before. In the garden, the weather is slightly cooler than in the city of Beijing. Definitely this will happily engage you for a full day. Among the interesting places in Beijing, Forbidden City, Temple of heaven, Tienanmen Square and other attractions, the Summer Palace is my favorite.


The Summer Palace (in Chinese Yihe Yuan)  is now the existing largest and the best preserved royal garden in China also in the World, counted as one of the four famous Chinese imperial gardens. The other three gardens are Chengde Summer Palace, Suzhou Humble Administrator's Garden, and Suzhou Lingering Garden. 290 hectares (716acre) the Summer Palace ,known as the Royal Garden Museum.


There are four entrances to summer palace.  

  • West Palace Gate, 
  • North Palace Gate, 
  • East Palace Gate
  • South palace Gate

East Palace gate is the Main Gate of the entrance and it is called East Gate as well. North Palace Gate also called “Beigongmen or North Gate”. South Gate, also known as “New Palace Gate. But the most popular traveling route is to enter Summer Palace from the North Gate. 

The palace complex has over 3,000 man made ancient structures, beautiful lake, temples, halls, pavilions, corridors,landscaped gardens, towers which are decorated with fine stone,carvings, bronze sculptures, etc.There are marvelous paintings you can see there. It is covered 3/4 with the water, the rest are hills and amazing palaces. Not only the landscape but also the design of Summer Palace is the best model about all the ancient gardens.


This historical complex has different sections with own features, such as administration, living and relaxation. The main outstanding features at the Summer Palace are The Long Corridor, Kunming Lake, Longevity Hill, court Area, The Marble Boat, and the Garden of Virtue and Harmony. 


Long Corridor

An extremely interesting feature of the Summer Palace is the ‘Long Corridor’ which runs 728m (2388feet) alongside the lake. It was completely built of wood and divided by 273 sections by crossbeams. Each of the corridor beams, side pillars and even ceiling have unique paintings. Can you imagine, the Long corridor is a special art gallery full of 14 000 unique paintings. The paintings on its beams and ceilings demonstrates of landscapes, flowers, birds, human figures and folk tales.


The Long corridor is the longest corridor in the world. This is giving an additional touch to the place surrounded by wonderful natural scenery. Do you know, because of all amazing features, It is registered in Guinness World Records!!!

Kunming Lake

Kunming Lake is about 2 sq km and takes up about three-quarter of the park area. It is in the center of the park and the key landscape feature of the Summer Palace, in conjunction with Longevity Hill.

East Causeway of the Kunming lake is connected to the West Causeway by Long Gallery. The lake area has famous attractions. Among them Seventeen Arch Bridge, Bronze Ox, Spacious Pavilion, Marble Boat are most highlighted.

Boat ride on Kunming Lake is highly recommended. The ride takes about 10 minutes. But boat ride is not include in the entrance ticket. You should buy a separate ticket for that. The boat is very beautiful and colorful with full of cultural decorations.

Seventeen Arch Bridge

The famous 17-arch bridge spans between Nanhu Island in the west and the eastern shore of the Kunming Lake. It was built during the Emperor Qianlong ruling period from 1711-1799. The bridge is 150 m (490 ft) long and  8 meters (26 ft) width. Rainbow shaped bridge is an important attraction in the lake area. 


There are 544 extraordinary lions on the columns of the white marble parapets in the bridge. Lions sculptures with different postures and expressions.It also also a perfect spot for many photographers. On each end of the bridge is a carved wired beast which looks like traditional mythical animals in Chinese stories. 

Bronze Ox

You can see the Bronze Ox sitting beside the water and overlooking, on the east bank of Kunming Lake. It is an actual size ox made of bronze and pacing this ox on the lake bank in 1755, ancient emperors believed to prevent flooding forever. The bronze ox was originally covered with gold foil and called it the "Golden Ox" but the gold foil was removed when the Summer Palace was destroying time to time.


According to the history, another reason of the bronze ox was to monitor the water level.  The imprint writing with 80 character on the back of the ox was written by Emperor Qianlong (1711-1799) and said  'Golden Ox' Inscription' by him.

Longevity Hill 

With a height of 59m (194ft) Longevity Hill is standing beside Kunming Lake in The Summer Palace.It is part of the Yanshan Mountains. The Longevity Hill was initially called the Wengshan Hill. In 1752, It was renamed by Emperor Qianlong. 


We climbed Longevity Hill, very steep in some places but breathtaking views of the Beijing skyline. On top of Longevity Hill stands  a two storied Buddhist building calls Hall of the sea of Wisdom. When you go through the Hall of the Sea of Wisdom, you can see the rear of Longevity Hill and the significant building complex of typical Tibetan Buddhist Temples with concrete roof tiles and cement brick floors.

How to get there

By subway

Compared with a taxi, taking the subway is an economical and easily accessible way to travel in Beijing. We took metro train to go there because it was very convenient for us with kids. There are two metro stations in Line 4 that serves the Summer Palace. Beigongmen Station and Xiyuan Station which are the second and third last stations on Line 4 respectively.
Both of these two stations are 10-minute walk to the Gate of the Summer Palace. This gate is the East Gate too. But I would like to recommend getting off at the Xiyuan Station and leave from Exit C2 to get out because it is 10 minutes very easy to walk to the East Gate. 
If you get off at the Beigongmen Station,  you should leave from Exit A1. You can walk 400m to the North Gate of the Summer palace from there. 

If you don't have heavy luggage and enjoy exploring Beijing, taking the subway is the best choice. If you confuse to which way to go to leave the subway, just follow the crowd.
By Taxi
A taxi from central Beijing to the Summer Palace would cost around 60 RMB and take about 45 minutes without much traffic. During rush hours in the morning and the afternoon, the traffic in Beijing  is very heavy. If you plan to go during this time, you must expect the traffic delay. Taking a taxi is a good option, if you don't like crowds.
By Bus
There are buses to the Summer Palace. But Taking a bus in Beijing is not recommended. Buses are not reliable and as a foreigner, finding the right route is so hard.I t is crowded and time-consuming too.
You may use sightseeing Bus Line 3 which is more convenient for travelers than common city buses.

From Airport to The summer Palace

The Summer Palace is situated 40km (25miles) away from Beijing Capital Airport and takes 1hour by a taxi. But it is costly. There are no direct buses or metro trains to the summer palace from the Airport. The most convenient and recommended method is to take an Airport Express at Terminal 3 and get off Sanyuanqiao stop and take metro Line 10 to Heidian and get off at Huangzhuang station. Then get Metro Line 4 and get off at the Xiyuan Station. 


UNESCO World Heritage Site

China has thousands years history and rich culture. It is home to the large number of priceless places especially 7 UNESCO World Heritage Sites can be found only in the capital city of China, Beijing.

In December 1998, UNESCO included the Summer Palace on World Heritage Site List and listed the 18th century park. It declared the Summer Palace "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". 

In 2006 Chinese government started distributing memorial coins to celebrate the summer palace as a cultural relic of the world as well as one of the first national AAAAA (5A) tourist spots in China.


History Of the Summer Palace

The Summer Palace is originally named "Qingyiyuan" in Chinese language meaning of "Gardens of Clear Ripples". It is a royal garden built by Emperor Qianlong, 4th emperor of the Qing Dynasty in 1750 to celebrate his mothers birthday. Later it was used as a garden where emperors and empresses would get away the heat of Beijing in summers.

During the hot Beijing summers, the imperial family preferred the beautiful gardens and opened pavilions of the Summer Palace to the enclose in Forbidden City. It became the main residence for the royal family of the Ming Dynasty till 1860. It was destroyed by the Anglo French Allied Forces in 1860 and Empress Dowager Cixi rebuilt the palace in 1888. According to the history she lived here till her death.

But it was not the only attack to the Summer Palace. It was destroyed again by the Allied Forces of the Eight Powers in 1900. But one of the final act of the Quin Dynasty(1644–1912) rebuilt it in 1912 and it was opened to the public as a tourist attraction in 1924.

Purchasing  Admission Tickets

General admission ticket for an adults is 30RMB and students enjoy half price. But all students who wants to get half price tickets should have an ID. Children under 6 years or under 1.2m (3.9ft )in height can enter free of charge. Seniors over 60 years old and children aged between 6-18 can get half price tickets.

General admission includes access to about 3000 halls on the park and when you take general admission ticket you can enjoy all four galleries too. If not you will charged 5RMB for each gallery. There are some paid attractions inside the park. You should get separate tickets one by one if want to go that spots.

Buy tickets for The Summer Palace from the counter, or book tickets online. But I recommend buy your admission tickets in advance by online. It is saved hours of waiting in the queue. The tickets are released 7 days in advance, we can book the tickets as soon as they are available.

Amazing day of beautify and ancient history.

This is one of the most popular and very well known tourist attractions of Beijing like Forbidden City. A tour to Beijing is absolutely not completed without a visit to The Summer Palace and this world heritage ancient site can be experienced with a little amount of fee. It is demonstrating of classical Chinese architecture, in terms of both garden design and construction. The largest landscaped royal garden in Beijing, now a good sanctuary for holiday makers.

Normally it takes about 4 to 5 hours to walk around Summer Palace itself. We walked for 5-6 hours around this amazing place but with kids we did not see half of it. This is the ideal place to explore. A fantastic day that we could happily remind. Though we didn't quite cover every inch of it but had a good try. So,you are advised to reserve at least half a day here. 

Such a magnificent place. Big and breathtaking. you cannot see it all in one day. We have visited most of the tourist attractions in Beijing. But I would suggest the Summer Palace as a must see unforgettable attraction when in Beijing, no matter how long you have. If you can’t walk too far, or have some walking difficulty, you can hire a wheelchair free of charge at the entrance. But you have deposit 500 RMB for that.

This is a highlight of our China trip. Strongly interests and attractive by everything here and you would not hesitate to visit it twice.This is a magical site, you can feel the proud lush Chinese history. Fabulous and so much to see. You can imagine what it was like to live like an emperor.

We enjoyed a slow walking around the Kunming Lake and though the Summer Palace just before sunset. Had finished another Perfect Tour... Beautiful and peaceful.....


Travel Tips.

  • Be sure to wear comfortable clothes and shoes. 
  • Come here early during weekdays to avoid the crowd.
  • Carry your passport or any other identity proof.
  • I recommend getting out of the Summer Palace from the North Gate, from where you can go directly to the Beigongmen Station to get back to central Beijing.
  • Bring hat and sunscreen in summer.
  • Buy your admission tickets in advance by online.
  • If you can’t walk too far, or have some walking difficulty, don't forget to hire a wheelchair free of charge at the entrance. 
  • China is comparatively a “cheaper” destination to travel.

  • China is one of the safest countries in the world for female travelers. 


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