Where do travelers and tourists from around the world direct their first steps upon arriving in Beijing? The Great Wall of China? Forbidden City? Tian’anmen Square? We went in a different direction – rest assured, there will still be time for Beijing’s biggest attractions.
We begin our coverage from Beijing, where we spent a few days and still feel unsatisfied. We had a total of 7 nights in Beijing itself, but we set aside a few days for excursions in the surrounding area (how can you be in China and not see the Great Wall of China?!), so we didn’t spend the whole week exploring just Beijing. Although there would probably be something to do even for 2 weeks, but we could not afford such comfort.
Flying to China, we had booked accommodations and a train to Xi’an, while we had no detailed plan for exploring Beijing and the surrounding area. We stated that depending on the weather and our capabilities we would plan everything from day to day. We knew that we would go to the Great Wall when the weather was nice, and stay put on worse days. Since the first day was not very sunny, and we were tired from the trip, we decided to go to the Beijing Zoo and the Summer Palace, which were not far from our hotel, although it was not without the subway.
First we went to the Summer Palace (Yíhéyuán) – a huge complex, the former residence of Chinese emperors, with temples, pavilions, ornate corridors, bridges, gardens, an artificial lake, a hill – there is something for everyone.
The best way to get here is directly by subway, line 4 to Xiyuan Station. You can also go a station further to Beigongmen, but getting off just at Xiyuan will give you a straight, wide avenue straight to Summer Palace. Line 4 will also get you to the center and, for example, the Beijing Zoo.
It costs 30 Yuan to enter the complex, and it’s such a large area that you can easily spend a whole day here (70,000 sq. ft.!). By design, it is an ideal place for romantic getaways, where in addition to walking among the beautifully landscaped gardens, you can enjoy a cruise on a small or larger boat or pedal boat.
If you happen not to be on a date it is worth walking among the buildings, climbing the hill to admire the palace and the Beijing skyline (if you happen to have good weather and no smog). There is no specific direction for the tour here, you simply enter the complex and walk between the various facilities. However, we lacked a map on site. At least the buildings were described on the signage in front of them.
Notable buildings include the Hall of Benevolence and Longevity, with animal-shaped sculptures in the courtyard, and the buildings on the Hill of Longevity (60 meters high) with the Buddhist Temple of the Sea of Wisdom at its head.
Be warned, to get to the top you have to climb a bit of stairs and pay extra (who saw it to pay for such an ordeal!), but what you see at the top and maybe more from the top is worth it (although nicer weather is highly recommended).
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And this is what the view looks like on a beautiful sunny day:
We managed to climb the mountain with Olive in a carrier and a stroller on the shoulder, so it wasn’t that hard ;)
In addition to the Hill of Longevity, particularly memorable is the Long Corridor, which is a covered pathway, so to speak, with a beautifully decorated ceiling. It runs along the lake and is 700 meters long.
Also noteworthy is the aforementioned lake(Kunming Lake), on which water bikes and boats glide peacefully (we can only imagine the water lilies missing from this picture). Interestingly, this lake is artificial, and the Longevity Hill was just piled up from the soil that was dug up to enlarge it.
We definitely enjoyed the Long Corridor, the lake and the entrance to Longevity Hill the most. Here we were able to admire for the first time the oriental architecture and the impressive detailed decorations full of contrasting colors, which we couldn’t get enough of.
We hit a very beautiful time, because in the park, spring petals appeared on the trees, so everything was getting colorful and you could feel like in the country of cherry blossoms. In addition, Olive was quite a big attraction and every now and then someone would come up to take a picture, so she was probably the queen of censored Chinese internets for about 5 minutes :)
On the other hand, unfortunately, the smog and cloud cover that day also gave out and left sad and gray memories. Looking at the lake, you’d think it would be the perfect place to shoot scenes straight out of a horror movie, but with the sun shining, you could probably bet on some kind of romantic movie.
On the way back to the subway (to Xiyuan Station), it’s worth snagging some food. Right next to the subway, there are many food outlets, including well-known brands like McDonalds, Pizzu Hut and KFC. There are also, of course, local restaurants, where we stopped for a well-deserved meal at the end of the day :)
Summer Palace is the perfect place to stay, relax and enjoy the views. Just important that you have good weather :)