Summer Palace

Address: Kunminghu East Road, Haidian District, Beijing, China

- Budget


Escape to this Imperial pleasure park of lakes, temples, pagodas and classical gardens.

A royal pleasure retreat in northwest Beijing, this sprawling collection of pagodas, temples, towers and bridges flanking Kunming Lake was the favourite playground of the notorious Empress Dowager Cixi in the late 19th century, who would retire here in summer to escape the stultifying heat of the Forbidden City. It was she who commissioned the Marble Boat – a wasteful folly now a mandatory photo stop after visitors have tramped the length of the ornately carved, covered Long Corridor on the north shore of the lake. My other must-see sights are the 17-arch bridge and the resplendent Tower of Buddhist Incense with its commanding perch on Longevity Hill.

Value for money

Price advice

Tickets are 50 RMB (high season), and I would recommended purchasing one of the excellent souvenir maps on top for 10 RMB.

Expert tips

The Summer Palace is one of Beijing’s most popular tourist attractions. Needless to say, avoid visiting on weekends or holidays if you want to beat the crowds.

If you want to hire a pedal boat for an hour (40 RMB per person) you’ll need at least 200 RMB cash for a deposit.

The subway is now the fastest way to reach the Summer Palace from the centre of town. Take Line 4 (Yiheyuan stop).

Recommended for

  • Culture vultures
  • First-time travellers
  • Great views / scenery
  • Design and architecture
  • Nature / wildlife