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The Summer Palace and Kunming Lake

The historic summer retreat of China's emperors
Rating: 5 out of 5 by EveryTrail members
Difficulty: Easy
Length: 3.5 miles
Duration: Half day
Family Friendly

Overview:  The Summer Palace was the retreat of emperors for centuries, gradually enlarged and repaired after taking beatings in the Second Opium... more »

Tips:  The Summer Palace is really easy to get to by subway, the cheapest and most tourist friendly way to get around Beijing.

Don't be... more »

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Points of Interest

1. Beigongmen subway station

Start at Beigongmen subway station--the last stop on Line 4. It's about a 10-minute walk from the subway to the east gate of the Summer Palace. Come out of the subway at Exit C, turn right and walk until you reach a corner--turn right again down Yiheyuan Road. There isn't any pavement on this road, so stay close to the wall. Turn right again at... More

The Summer Palace was the retreat of emperors for centuries and now is one of Beijing's principal attractions, so try not to get lost among the tour groups!

Immediately ahead of you as you enter by the east gate is the Hall of Benevolence and Longevity. The front is glassed off, so you'll have to peer inside to see the hardwood throne it houses. ... More

3. Longevity Hill

Follow your nose up Longevity Hill (so named to wish the emperor well) and you'll be rewarded with a gorgeous view of Kunming Lake and the 17-Arch Bridge from outside the Buddhist Tenant's Hall.

It's about a 10-minute stroll to the top of the hill and a reasonably gentle elevation. Paths are paved (although you might struggle with a stroller)... More

4. Buddhist Fragrance Pavilion and Cloud Dispelling Hall

Walk a short distance west along the Long Corridor, an open woodwork walkway with paintings and carvings that lines the lake shore, to the Cloud Dispelling Hall and the Buddhist Fragrance Pavilion. They are situated north-south of each other. Both the Cloud Dispelling Hall and the Buddhist Fragrance Pavilion have steep steps to get up to them, so ... More

5. Empress Cixi's Marble Boat

Come out of the main entrance to the Buddhist Fragrance Pavilion and Cloud Dispelling Hall and turn right, heading west along the north shore of the lake. Follow the Long Corridor to the end where you will find Empress Cixi's Marble Boat. This was built to honor the Chinese navy when the empress decided to refit the palace in 1888, using money... More

Kunming Lake dominates the Summer Palace. It was enlarged, embellished and modelled on Hangzhou's famous West Lake in the 18th century by Emperor Qianlong using 100,000 labourers. It takes up over three quarters of the park.

Buy a ticket for the boat from one of the stalls on the lake front (10RMB per person) and join a queue. The boats go every... More

7. Dragon King Temple and 17-Arch Bridge

The Dragon King Temple is where Cixi went to pray for rain in times of drought. It's also where emperors reviewed the navy's practice exercises on the lake. The island is said to be shaped like a tortoise, symbolizing longevity, and is linked to the shore by the 17-Arch Bridge, which was modeled on the Marco Polo bridge in Suzhou. It's 150 meters ... More

8. Return to subway

Go back the way you came to the subway--left out of the Summer Palace, left at the first corner along Yiheyuan Road then left again when you get to the main road. It shouldn't take you more than 15 minutes. When you get to the subway, you'll need the platform on the left heading to Tian'gongyuan to head back into Beijing.