The Summer Palace is an imperial garden built by Emperor Qianlong in 1750 to celebrate his mothers birthday, it was later used as a garden where emperors and empresses would escape the heat of Beijing’s summers.
The palace covers a staggering 290 hectares featuring a massive lake, temples, halls, pavilions, corridors, towers which are decorated with fine stone, bronze sculptures and feature paintings, all amongst a garden of ancient pines and cypress trees.
A major feature of the Summer Palace is the man-made Kunming Lake covering over 2 square kilometers and having three islands all connected via beautiful stone bridges.
In the late years of the Qing Dynasty, the Summer Palace was also used to entertain foreign dignitaries and became China’s most active stage for handling foreign affairs at the time.
A fascinating feature of the Summer Palace is the ‘Long Corridor’ which runs alongside the lake for almost a kilometer! As per the photo below, each of the corridors beams features a unique painting. In total there are 14,000 paintings!
Much like the Forbidden City in Central Beijing, you could spend all day if not days wandering around this place and admiring what is now touted as one of civilisations greatest treasures.
Official website: summerpalace-china.com
Getting To the Summer Palace
Subway: Take subway line 4 to Xiyuan Station (西苑) and walk to the East Gate (8 mins) OR Take subway line 4 to Beigongmen Station (北宫门) and walk to the North Gate (8 mins)
Bus: Take Sightseeing Bus Line 3 (观光3线), and get off at Summer Palace North Palace Gate Station (颐和园北宫门)
Taxi: Show the driver 頤和園 (Summer Palace) – a taxi from central Beijing to the Summer Palace would cost around 50 RMB and take about 40 minutes.
Address: 19 Xin-jian-gong-men Road, Haidian District, Beijing. 北京市海淀区新建宫门路19号颐和园内
Ticket Prices and Opening Hours
You have the option of buying just the entrance ticket and wandering the grounds and should you choose to enter the main attractions listed below there will be an extra fee. Alternatively, you can buy a ‘Through Ticket” that covers everything.
|Ticket Type||Price (RMB)|
|April to October||November to March|
|Tower of Buddhist Incense||10||10|
|Suzhou Street and Danning Hall||10||10|
|Opening Hours||06:30 – 18:00||07:00 – 17:00|
You can also hire a boat from one of several docks and cruise the lake. Pedal Boat 60 RMB/hour and electric boat 80 RMB/hour.
Suggested Tour Routes and Map for the Summer Palace
I strongly urge you to have a route plan so as not to wear yourself out and miss some of the highlights. Remember, this place is massive. This route below takes in many of the highlights and should fill in about 2.5 to 3 hours. It starts at the North gate and departs at the East Gate. You can also do it in reverse by entering at the East Gate and departing at the North Gate.
From the North Gate
The North gate — Suzhou Street Bridge — Tower of the Fragrance of the Buddha — The Temple of Dispelling Clouds — Long Corridor — The Hall of happiness and longevity — Yiyun Hall — The Hall of Jade Ripples — The Garden of Virtue and Harmony — The Hall of Benevolence and Longevity
From the East Gate
The East Palace gate — The Hall of Benevolence and Longevity — The Garden of Virtue and Harmony — The Hall of Jade Ripples — Yiyun Hall — The Hall of Happiness and Longevity — Long Corridor — The Temple of Dispelling Clouds — Tower of the Fragrance of the Buddha — Suzhou Street Bridge
Where to Stay in Beijing?
One of my top picks for places to stay is the Sofu Hotel, which has a small food street near its door, it’s four-star, and is a very short walk to Ping’anli Station which gives you access to Line 4 and 6. Another choice is the Novotel Xinqiao which is four star and very near Chongwenmen Station or the Ji Hotel at Xuanwumen Station. All three are super convenient for getting around the attractions of Beijing by subway.
See also, my hand-picked list of the top 15 spa hotels in Beijing.
This post was first published May 18, 2010 and last updated Sep, 2018.