The Summer Palace is probably the most beautiful park in Beijing. It is known throughout the world for its landscaping and architecture. Its gardens are especially impressive, and are the primary reason UNESCO named it a World Heritage Site in 1998.
The focal point for the Summer Palace is Kunming Lake. In the summer months, tourists rent boats to paddle around the lake. In the winter, the lake freezes over, and is popular with Beijing’s ice skaters. Kunming Lake is manmade, with the dirt dredged up used to build Longevity Hill
Visitors who like to walk may enjoy a walk around Kunming Lake. This takes a couple of hours, but provides a respite from the crowds at the north end of the park. It also provides a different perspective on the Tower of Buddhist Incense which sits at the top of Longevity Hill.
Summer Palace Is a Top Beijing Attraction
The Summer Palace is one of the top four tourist attractions in Beijing. This means it can be extremely crowded. However, putting up with the crowds is worth it. Various halls are located at the north end of the Summer Palace. Tourists are not allowed in most of them, and must be content with looking through door ways and windows. There are intimate courtyards with benches to provide places to rest.
The Long Corridor is a highlight of the Summer Palace. It is the most famous walkway in China. The Long Corridor is almost 2,400 feet long, and is covered with thousands of hand-painted scenes.
The Marble Boat is a short distance from the west end of the Long Corridor. It’s really wood, but painted to look like marble. It’s famous because the Dowager Empress Cixi diverted naval funds to rebuild the boat, which was destroyed by British and French armies in the Second Opium War in 1860. The Summer Palace was heavily damaged during at this time. It was destroyed again 40 years later by foreign armies during the Boxer Rebellion. Little trace of the destruction remains today.
Suzhou Street Features Old-Style Shopping
Suzhou Street is another must-see at the Summer Palace. Suzhou Street is a shopping street built along a canal to resemble a Qing Dynasty street in the town of Suzhou near Shanghai. It was originally built as a place where emperors and their concubines could walk without interference. It is a good place to buy special souvenirs or rest over a cup of tea.
In China, the Summer Palace is known as Yiheyuan, and this is how directional signs read. Visitors arriving by subway should get off at the Yiheyuan stop on Line 4. The Summer Palace opens daily at 8:30 a.m.