The Summer Palace, located in Beijing, China, is a magnificent imperial garden and UNESCO World Heritage Site that attracts millions yearly visitors. With its stunning architecture, tranquil lakes, and lush greens, the Summer Palace offers a captivating retreat from the bustling city. This comprehensive travel guide will delve into the rich history, highlight the must-see attractions, and provide practical tips for making the most of your visit to the Summer Palace.
How to get to the Summer Palace?
It is located 25 km northwest of the city center.
Summer Palace has three major entry gates
East Gate ( Main Gate ), also called “East Palace Gate” 东宫门
North Gate, also called “Beigongmen, or North Palace Gate” 北宫门
South Gate, also known as “New Palace Gate” 新建宫门
Take subway line 4 to Beigongmen station, and you will get to the north gate. You will reach the East gate if you get off 1 station earlier.
Open time and tickets
Summer Palace has the main gate ticket and the package ticket. For some attraction tickets, you need a long day to visit; I recommend you buy the primary gate tickets and go inside and buy the inside park tickets if you feel interested.
Is it open on Monday? YES, It is open every day.
High Season (From April 1 to October 31)
Tickets stop selling at 19:00;
Low Season (From November 1 to March 31 next year)
Tickets stop selling at 18:00;
Summer Palace Admission
30 yuan (peak season)
20 yuan (off-season)
Summer Palace Combo ticket （It includes the entrance fee of all the other parks inside）
60 Yuan (peak season)
50 yuan (off-season)
The pay attractions inside the park: 5 yuan for De He Garden, Wenchang Exhibition 20 yuan; 10 yuan for Foxiang Pavilion; 10 yuan for Suzhou Street
a. The Longevity Hill: Begin your journey by ascending the Longevity Hill, where you will discover magnificent temples, pavilions, and beautiful vistas. Don’t miss the iconic Tower of Buddhist Incense (Fo Xiang Ge) that offers panoramic views of the palace complex.
b. Kunming Lake: Embark on a boat ride across the tranquil Kunming Lake, the centerpiece of the Summer Palace. Enjoy the scenic beauty dotted with charming bridges and the Seventeen-Arch Bridge leading to the elegant South Lake Island.
c. The Marble Boat: Marvel at the unique Marble Boat (Shi Fang), a symbolic structure reflecting the extravagance of the Qing Dynasty. This grand marble structure is a testament to the luxury of the imperial era.
d. The Hall of Benevolence and Longevity: Visit the Hall of Benevolence and Longevity (Renshou Dian), Empress Dowager Cixi’s residence. Explore the beautifully adorned halls and gain insights into the life of the imperial court.
Recommended travel routes
How to make the best of your time?
It is far from the city center, so you must schedule about half a day here.
My favorite route to visit the Summer Palace (To do this you need about 2 hours)
East Gate — The palace area — Long corridor — Tower of Buddhist Incense — Marble boat — Take the cruise to the 17 arches bridge- New palace gate.
Photos of the sights in the Summer Palace
History of the Summer Palace
Why was the Summer Palace built?
Around 1749, the Qianlong Emperor decided to build a palace near Jar Hill and the Western Lake to celebrate the 60th birthday of his mother, Empress Dowager Chongqing, and improve the capital’s waterworks system.
There is another story about the Summer Palace besides the official facts:
Emperor Qianlong got his crown with the help of his mother when he was a little boy. (There was a lot of competition between the princes since the emperors were allowed to have a lot of wives). So, the mother acts as a regent for the state. As the emperor grew up, he felt he couldn’t rule the country because of his mother. She was mighty and a bit addicted to power. So the emperor decided to build a perfect place for his mum and move her out. If the mother knows this, she must feel unhappy. The emperor used the name to improve the capital’s waterworks system to cover the project. He asked the artist to copy the most beautiful architecture in China and unite it in this palace. A few years later, when the Summer Palace finished. The emperor took his mother here on her 60th birthday and told her the Palace was made for her. For such a nice birthday gift, nobody can refuse. So the Summer Palace was officially named “YIHEYUAN,” which means heaven, like a palace for an elder’s life.
It was destroyed twice by Empress Dowager Cixi.
1860, the British and French allies invaded Beijing because of the Opium War. The summer palace, as well as other imperial gardens nearby, are all destroyed and robbed. After the Wall, Emperor Xianfeng died on the fleece. His only four years little son became the emperor. His mother, Empress Dowager Cixi, started to regent the country. She was very obsessively about power and county, the state in her hand. To make her happy, people began building the garden for her when the county had financial difficulty. Empress Dowager Cixi is a metaphor for corrupt nobles in modern China.
In 1912, following the abdication of the Puyi, the Last Emperor, the Summer Palace became the private property of the former imperial family of the Qing Empire. Two years later, the Summer Palace was opened to the public, and entry tickets were sold. In 1924, after Puyi was expelled from the Forbidden City by the warlord Feng Yuxiang, the Beijing municipal government administrated the Summer Palace and turned it into a public park.
A great place to eat near the Summer Palace
Xiyuan subway station is located at a business center. There are so many excellent restaurants outside. You will not only find all American fast food but also find super friendly Chinese restaurants. There are 4 I recommend to you!
If you have any questions, I will be happy to answer your questions and provide you with as much information as you need.