The Forbidden City is probably Beijing’s most famous landmark (not counting the Great Wall) as it is a grand set of buildings that once functioned as the home of the Ming and Qing emperors. The Summer Palace was built as an imperial garden around Kunming Lake that served as a getaway for the royalty during the summer months, and it is also the largest imperial garden in China.
I enjoyed this palace even more than the Forbidden City (possibly because the air had improved) and it was my favorite place I visited in Beijing (Great Wall aside). It isn’t as centrally located as the Forbidden City or most of Beijing’s other attractions, but the subway ride isn’t long. The North Gate is a short walk from Beigongmen station, and a ticket is only 20 yuan in the winter months.
Audio guides are available for a fee, and I would recommend one as they provide a lot of good information about the palace. There is a lot to see here.
From the North Gate, the first part of the palace is at a small mock-shopping street, meant to resemble the streets of Suzhou. Apparently the royals would pretend to shop here.
Close by is the Four Great Regions temple, a beautiful Tibetan-style temple.
The lake isn’t far away from here, and at the lake is the Marble Boat, which isn’t actually a boat. It’s connected to the land built in a boat style.
Near the Marble Boat is the Long Corridor, which is, well… a long corridor.
The paintings in the corridor are beautiful, definitely take time to check them out.
The Tower of Buddhist Incense is probably the most recognizable part of the Summer Palace. It costs an additional small fee of 10 yuan.
Continuing around the lake, there are more palace buildings.
Walk further along the lake and there is a good view of the Tower of Buddhist Incense and a tall pagoda on the other side.
Straight ahead is the beautiful 17-arch bridge.
I left the palace from the South Gate. There isn’t a subway station close by so I hailed a taxi to drive me to the nearest one. Only the North Gate has a subway station in its vicinity.
There are signs around Kunming Lake saying not to step on the ice, but a lot of the Chinese people there weren’t listening to the sign so I decided not to listen either (I really wanted to walk on the frozen lake) and no one seemed to care that people were walking on it.