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Summer Palace

  • Beijing, China

Last updated: 08 April, 2024

The former retreat of China’s imperial rulers, the Summer Palace is a masterpiece of classical Chinese garden design on a truly awesome scale. Artificial hills, lakes, opulent buildings and graceful arched bridges convene in carefully orchestrated harmony.

Now a UNESCO World Heritage Site, the gardens, 12km northwest of the Forbidden City, were first built in the 12th century but were developed to their artistic height during the Qing Dynasty (1644 – 1912).

Most famously, the Summer Palace became the royal retirement home of Cixi, the Empress Dowager, a formidable character who ruled China from behind the curtain for almost five decades. The palace and its gardens were remodelled to serve as her private retirement complex.

There’s plenty to see and do, from strolling the famous ‘Long Corridor’ to pleasure boating on Kunming Lake. Several of the palace buildings hold historical artefacts and exhibits, including possessions belonging to the Empress Dowager.

Logistics

Price from: £3
Minimum age: 0
Age suitable: 13+
When: All year around

Getting there & doing it

The nearest subway station is Beigongmen (Line 4), right outside the north gate, or Xiyuan (Line 4), close to the east (main) gate. The Xijiao light-rail line, connected to the Beijing subway, stops outside the west gate. When leaving, taxis congregate outside the exits, though barter hard, as they often demand an inflated fee.

Once inside, take your pick – stroll around the gardens and parks, take a boat ride on the lake, enjoy a picnic under a willow tree and/or visit the temple complex. Maps are available (for a small price) at the entrance. The palace complex is landscaped across a large area, so plenty of walking is required.

Eating and drinking options in and around the park are limited, but you can treat yourself to afternoon tea at the Aman, a swanky resort hotel next to the Summer Palace’s east gate.

When to do it

It’s open all year round, seven days a week.

The best time to arrive is in the morning, as the crowds descend in the afternoon, especially on weekends and public holidays. The grounds are at their prettiest in spring.

Who to go with: organised tours

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Our selection of the best Viator tours of this attraction or activity

  • Beijing

On this full-day Beijing Private tour, you will see two of the most popular attractions in China: the Mutianyu Section of the Great Wall and the Summer Palace. Mutianyu section of the Great Wall enjoys less tourists making it easier to access and enjoy. Visiting the Summer Palace, you will see one of the most beautiful gardens in China. Tour includes tasty local lunch, all entrance fee, an English-speaking guide and transport by private vehicle.

Price $160

Min age 0

Rating 4.93 / 5 [538 ratings]

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  • Beijing

Do full justice to three of Beijing’s must-see sights with a privately guided city sightseeing trip. Check out Tiananmen Square, the immense square at the heart of the city, and explore the highlights of the Forbidden Palace and the Summer Palace on guided walking tours. entrance fees, private transport with a guide and driver, and hotel pickup and drop-off with lunch at the local Chinese restaurant are all included. -Private tour of Beijing Tiananmen Square, Forbidden City, and Summer Palace --Stroll around vast Tianmenan Square, the world’s largest public space -Explore the Forbidden Palace, the seat of China’s emperors for 500 years -Stroll around the lakes, pavilions, and gardens of the Summer Palace -Transport by private vehicle including hotel pickup and drop-off -Entrance fees included Personalized attention from a private guide, with a separate driver

Price $190

Min age 0

Rating 4.97 / 5 [90 ratings]

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  • Beijing

This amazing classic city tour of Beijing is something you don't want to miss while traveling. Come and travel with the experienced and knowledgeable tour guide to visit the Mutianyu section, a stretch less crowded than the others. Afternoon tour, visit one of the most famous imperial gardens - Summer Palace, to know more history, architecture, and cultural significance, understand the stories of the Dragon Lady as well.

Price $220

Min age 8

Rating 4.98 / 5 [64 ratings]

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  • Beijing

Want a Hassle-Free, "No more than 9 people" small-sized Group Tour for the two most beautiful attractions in Beijing? Want to get on the Great Wall early morning to avoid the crowds and queues? A ferry boat ride in the Kunming Lake of the Summer Palace to enjoy the cooler air in summer? This is the Tour you looking for!

Price $99

Min age 0

Rating 4.90 / 5 [62 ratings]

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