One for the ‘gram, this palace really is as pretty as a picture. Imagine a serene spot showcasing all things quintessentially Chinese – intricately designed ancient architecture backdropped by the lush verdure of picturesque gardens, all looking out over a charming lake. Step foot here, and Beijing’s frantic atmosphere will feel a million miles away, that’s for sure.
This is the largest and most well preserved imperial garden in the whole of China. An ensemble of sheer royal beauty, this is where emperors would come to play during – yep, you’ve guessed it – the summer months. When the sweltering heat of the Forbidden City would get too much, all that someone would have to say is “Summer Palace” and anyone who was anyone would be there in a jiffy. So basically, if you consider yourself a somebody, get it on your list now. It’s one of the city’s most visited historical sights, and it’s not hard to see why.
Forefronted by the Tower of Buddhist Incense (the name may not ring a bell but it’s likely that you’ve come across a glossy picture of this one somewhere before), these gardens are dotted by an array of temples and other palatial buildings fit for, well, an emperor. This was, after all, second only to the Forbidden City during the latter part of the Qing Dynasty, so the royal dwellings needed to match up to the royal needs.
With its huge lake, hilltop views, temples, gardens, pavilions, bridges and corridors, the Summer Palace is the very definition of escaping to the countryside. Well maybe not quite the countryside, but this is about as good as it gets in Beijing’s great city depths. And, built not only for pleasure, but to impress, this garden really is pretty good.
In fact, since becoming a public park in 1924, it’s never failed to impress – hence the onslaught of national and international visitors alike. The people just can’t get enough of this little slice of classical Chinese garden heaven.
And the real beauty of the Summer Palace? It offers a different experience in every season. Spring and summer see it in full bloom, autumn displays the fantastical hues of the season change, whilst come winter you’ll find a magical scene of people skating on the frozen lake – and if you’re brave enough, you may even want to try it yourself.
In the heart of the Haidian district, around a 40 minute drive northwest of central Beijing.
6.30am-8pm in summer and 7am-5pm in winter.
There is no strict dress code, but it is always bst to be respectful when touring historical sites such as this.
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