While most people coming to China´s capital leave the city with a visit to the Forbidden City only, I recently found out that missing out on the beautiful Summer Palace a bit outside of the downtown borders could be best described as a sightseeing deficit. Even if you happen to go on one of China´s biggest public holidays with ten thousands of other keen visitors…
It was my second rotation on the Airbus A380 and it had been quite a few weeks already since I had last been to the amazing Chinese capital.
Even though fully booked, the flight had been truly harmonious and after reaching the hotel and a well-deserved nap afterwards, I spend the rest of the arrival day in the area around, finishing up with dinner at my favorite after flight dim sum restaurant in walking distance.
The next morning, I left during the earlier hours (not being aware that April 30th and May 1st were both highly popular and important public holidays for the Chinese) with the intention to avoid rush hour in the Beijing metro.
As I found out the latest at the palace´s entrance, I was not the only one with this idea. A bit in shock about the numbers of people heading the same direction from Beigongmen metro station (Line 4, Exit D and then walk down the street to the left), I guessed that there must have been something special about this day. And once I was confronted with the outrageous numbers of people standing in line in front of the ticket booths, I was certain that I might have just picked the wrong day to find peace and quiet in one of Beijing´s most beautiful arranged historic sites.
Over 43,000 visitors were expected just for this one day, a sign inside the premise stated. It actually felt like I was sharing Summer Palace with half a million! There were spots where walking was only possible in a queue as the pathways were so congested, but I managed to still find back streets here and there to escape the throng.
But even if my visit turned out to be a bit more stressful as I had intended it to be, Summer Palace should absolutely be part of your city exploration once you visit Beijing and you have a few days to spare.
It is the largest and most well-preserved royal park in China and is also known and referred to as “The Museum of Royal Gardens“.
Originally built around 1750 as “Garden of Clear Ripples” and intended as an imperial retreat to the royal families, the palace and gardens were completely devastated during the Anglo-French rampages and was reconstructed during 1888. Another ravage by the Allied-Forces took place in 1900.
After being repaired in the two consecutive years, the palace was finally opened to the public in 1924, receiving UNESCO World Heritage status in 1998. It is also the first national AAAAA tourist spot in China and spreads out over 742,8 acres, including more than 3,000 man-made ancient structures including pavilions, towers, bridges, corridors and buildings.
My favorite parts of the tour were the walk around Kunming Lake and the way up towards the Tower of Buddhist Incense.
A website suggested to plan at least three hours for a visit. Well, I did not even visit all the parts that I had bought access to (60 Yuan = 7,86€ for the combi ticket), but I was not even finished after 5 1/2 hours… After that, I was so exhausted by walking and the masses of people who I had to retreat back to the hotel. But it was worth every minute!
And since getting there is so easy by using the metro, you should definitely include it in your travel plans. Particularly with a walk around the lake, if your schedule permits.
As always, I have a few pictures from the park and the palace for you to enjoy. Sharing greatly appreciated! Safe travels!