Summer Palace Beijing was built as a royal retreat in the Jin Dynasty in the twelfth to thirteenth centuries. Today, it is one of the many must-do Beijing attractions that make this ancient yet buzzing and modern city one of the top vacation destinations in China. The palace, whose Chinese name is Yihe Yuan, has been extended and augmented throughout the centuries, and now stands as a memorial to past dynasties, as well as a stunning architectural and botanical treasure.
Yihe Yuan became a luxurious royal garden in the Qing Dynasty, designed to play host to royal families taking rest and enjoying entertainment. Occupying over 290 hectares of land, three quarters of which is covered in water, the two main features of the Summer Palace Beijing are Longevity Hill and Kunming Lake. The garden is designed so as to give magnificent views, fit for royals to gaze at while they relax and survey their grounds. Many Beijing China tours include the palace as a day trip. There aren't many hotels for tourists in the immediate area, so it's best to return in the evening and book into one of the hundreds of top-quality Beijing hotels.
The buildings of the Summer Palace Beijing are composed of delicate structures taking the oval shape as a theme, including towers, bridges, pavilions, and corridors. Inside the court area, visitors will find Emperor Guangxu's offices, and the Hall of Ripples, where the Emperor kept his residence. The court area also leads to the legendary Long Corridor, a covered walkway through the garden, which was constructed so that the royals could enjoy the outdoors while protected from the weather. The corridor was built in the eighteenth century, and is famous for its length (over 2,300 feet) and for its rich, ornate decoration. Such magnificent structures as the Long Corridor and the Hall of Ripples ensure that the Summer Palace is ranked alongside Beijing's list of iconic attractions, such as the Forbidden City, and the Temple of Heaven.
The front of the Summer Palace Beijing looks onto a serene lake. Visitors can admire several striking features in and around the lake, such as a commanding statue of a bronze ox on the waterside and six separate bridges, including the exquisite Jade Belt Bridge, known to be the most beautiful of the group. Behind the palace you will find dense foliage and winding paths, as well as Kunming Lake and Back Lake, of which Kunming Lake is by far the largest and most impressive. Here, visitors can enjoy the unique atmosphere of China's classical gardens. These gardens draw inspiration from the famous network of classical gardens in Suzhou, in Southern China.
Getting to the palace is relatively easy, as visitors can take the subway from Beijing, or a bus, to travel the 9 miles from the center of Beijing to the palace. You'll arrive at Beigongment station, and the palace is five-minute walk away. It's advised to leave about an hour and a half for a proper look around the gardens and buildings. There is an entrance fee to the palace, as well as extra fees for entering particular gardens or buildings.