Day 2: Summer Palace and Yuanmingyuan Park plus Back Lake

Honestly, our biggest interest for this Beijing trip was the Great Wall. Definitely not Badaling which everyone says that it’s just boring stairs after stairs. Even though it’s not peak season and it’s probably a lot easier to get to Badaling, we wanted to check out something cooler like Jiankou, Simatai or Mutianyu Great Wall. The more busted, the better! Since these Great Walls are situated very far from the city, our research on how to get there via public transportation didn’t go that well as we expected after visiting Temple of Heaven on the first day. As a result, we decided to hold it off and continue the park exploring, which turned out to be pretty good.

Since Summer Palace and Yuanmingyuan Park are pretty close by, we arranged enough time to visit these two parks and planned to have dinner at Back Lake.

Inside Summer Palace

Summer Palace Quick Guide

  • Location – Northwest of the city center; metro line 4 Beigongmen Station
  • How did we get there – Took line 1 at Tian’anmen East Station and changed to line 4 at Xidan Station (2 stops); Got off at Beigongmen Station (15 stops)
  • Admission fee – We paid RMB20.00/head for entrance fee and another RMB10.00/head for Tower of Buddhist Incense through which led us to the bank of Kunming Lake. There are another 3 scenic spots inside the park require admission fee. Also the fees vary with busy season and slack season.
  • Opening time – busy season (Apr 1- Oct 31): 8:30am — 5pm; slack season (Nov 1- Mar 31): 9am — 4pm
  • Services – including boat service, interpretation service and battery cart service.
  • All the details can be found in this Summer Palace Tour Guide on their official site.

Location of Summer Palace (15 kilometers from the city center). Yuanmingyuan Park is closely situated at the east of Summer Palace (click the image below to see the location in Google Maps.)

As the largest royal park in China, Summer Palace covers an expanse of 2.9 square kilometers and is mainly composed of Longevity Hill and the Kunming Lake covering 2.2 square kilometers. In order to reach this man-made lake, you need to go through Tower of Buddhist Incense.

Summer Palace was included on the World Heritage List by UNESCO due to its ridiculously gorgeous design. Wanna learn more about this royal park, you can refer to the specific description of Summer Palace on World Heritage List.

The excavated soil of Kunming Lake was used to build the Longevity Hill.

Other than landscape views, the park is also fulfilled with classic-stylish architectural pavilions, palaces, corridors, gardens, bridges, etc.

Yuanmingyuan Park Quick Guide

  • Location – Northwest of the city center; metro line 4 Yuanmingyuan Park Station
  • How did we get there – We took line 4 from Summer Palace to Yuanmingyuan Park Station (2 stops) and got out from Exit B.
  • Admission fee – RMB10.00 for entrance fee and RMB15.00 for visiting Ruins of the European-style Palaces
  • Opening time - 07:00-19:00 (May-August); 07:00-18:30 (April, September and October); 07:00-17:30 (January, February, March, November and December). Be aware that the ticket office closes two hours before the park closes.
  • Battery Cart – RMB6.00/head for each scenic spots (round way)

Known as Old Summer Palace, Yuanmingyuan Park was originally called the Imperial Gardens built in 18th and early 19th century where the emperors of Qing Dynasty resided. It was famous of many structures such as halls, pavilions, temples, galleries, gardens, lakes, and bridges as well as hundreds of masterpieces of Chinese art and antiquities back then. In 1860, during the Second Opium War, the whole place was burned down by British and French.

Couldn’t imagine how much ‘effort’ they put into in order to destroy these buildings.

Old Summer Palace is combined with three main gardens which covers an area of 3.5 square kilometers. These gardens are -

  1. Garden of Perfect Brightness proper
  2. Garden of Eternal Spring (Chang Chun Yuan)
  3. Elegant Spring Garden (Qi Chun Yuan)

Original source of the map: wikipedia

Exit B of Yuanmingyuan Park Station on line 4 brought us directly to the entrance of Elegant Spring Garden. We passed through this garden and went to visit Ruins of the European-style Palaces at the north edge of Garden of Eternal Spring. There are 14 scenic spots in total inside the park including Panorama Model of Yuanmingyuan Park located in the middle of Garden of Eternal Spring. Prepare for another RMB10.00 as admission fee if you are interested.

Inside of Elegant Spring Garden

Ruins of the European-style Palaces

Apparently, all these parks in Beijing are pretty big, so if you want to see them thoroughly and have a deep understanding about the background, we would recommend 3 hours for Summer Palace and 2-3 hours for Yuanmingyuan Park. We finished our visit for both parks around 5 pm in the afternoon. Time to go to the Back Lake and find something yummy to eat.

Back Lake (Houhai Lake)

We took line 4 again from Yuanmingyuan Park to Xizhimen Station (8 stops) where we changed to line 2 to Guloudajie Station (2 stops).

Back Lake, well-known for its nightlife, is surrounded by many popular restaurants and bars. By the time we arrived there, it’s already getting darker and darker. The modern music playing in the air and the reflection of the colorful lights in the lake made this area very attractive. However, the business there seemed to be a little down during this season except for this Yunnan restaurant – Yunhaiyao (云海肴)! Strongly recommended!

Location of Yunhaiyao Restaurant in Back Lake area

It’s right in between with the Houhai Lake and Qianhai Lake. As soon as you cross the bridge connecting these two lakes where is the most narrow area of the entire lake, Yunhaiyao restaurant is right on your right. Don’t miss out. The food was absolutely irresistible!!!

Interesting hand-craft menu

Delicious food!

All the stuff on their menu looked very tasty and we wish we could go back and try more! For 4 dishes with 1 bottle of beer and a fruit tea, we paid RMB144.00 in total. Sweet deal, isn’t it?

We walked a little bit alongside the lake after dinner not only to digest from the awesome dinner but also to enjoy the nightlife in central Beijing. Guess it was still a little too early for real nightlife to start but the live bands were already playing music and singing…

That’s pretty much about our second day in Beijing. We will be showing you about the whole Great Wall experience next time. Stay tuned! It’s going to be exciting…

——————— SUMMER PALACE ———————


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