How to visit Summer Palace (Tips, Photos & Map)

Summer Palace

Are you organizing your Beijing tour? A pivotal stop is the Summer Palace, a historic royal sanctuary that once rivaled the Forbidden City (currently the Palace Museum) in importance. Initially serving as a secondary palace in the later Qing Dynasty, it holds a rich narrative of China’s royal past.

The Summer Palace stands as more than just a royal residence. It was here where Princess Dowager Cixi and emperors of the Qing Dynasty conducted court affairs, welcomed praises, and engaged with foreign diplomats. This site bears testimony to significant historical events and diplomatic interactions that shaped its legacy.

Moreover, the palace showcases the zenith of classical Chinese architectural prowess. Its design reflects the quintessential elements of traditional Chinese gardening and construction techniques. Covering the most extensive area among royal gardens in Beijing, the Summer Palace now serves as an ideal retreat for visitors seeking to experience a blend of historical richness and serene beauty.

In this Summer Palace Travel Guide, you’ll discover how to visit and explore this majestic site, immersing yourself in its historical and cultural significance. A visit here is not just a journey through a royal estate but an excursion into the heart of Chinese heritage and artistry.

Tip 1: How to schedule your visit

Normally it takes about 2 or3 hours to walk around Summer Palace itself. With your time on the city transportation included, you are advised to allocate at least half a day for visiting Summer Palace. Summer Palace presents itself with different views for different seasons.

Winter sees people skiing on the Kunming Lake; spring time finds people breathe under fresh trees and flowers; summer time often sees Summer Palace set in a foggy day like a beautiful “water and mountain” Chinese scroll painting and Autumn is the best time walking around Summer Palace, clear and blue sky with comfortable weather.

Tip 2: How to get to Summer Palace

Summer Palace is located about km by drive to the northeast of Tiananmen Square in Beijing
Address: 19 Xinjian Gongmen Road, Haidian District, Beijing 北京市海淀区新建宫门路19号
Tel: 62881144 Fax : 62881077

Summer Palace about 20 km by drive to the northeast of Tiananmen Square

Summer Palace has three major entry gates:

1) East Gate ( Main Gate ), also called “East Palace Gate” 东宫门
2) North Gate, also called “Beigongmen, or North Palace Gate” 北宫门
3) South Gate, also known as “New Palace Gate” 新建宫门

The Three Entrance Gates and Subway Line 4 & 16 Map ( Bing)

By Subway

1. Beigongmen Station ( or North Gate 北宫门)
Take subway line 4 to the northwest direction and get off at the last but one station — Beigongmen Station ( or North Gate 北宫门) and exit from Exit D and walk to the west, soon you will see the north gate ( Beigongmen Gate )to Summer Palace 颐和园 on your left side.

2. East Palace Gate (东宫门).
Take subway Line 4 or 16,alight at Xiyuan Station (西苑), exit at Exit C2 and walk about 870 meters to the East Palace Gate (东宫门).

3. South Gate, or also known as New Palace Gate (新建宫门)
Take subway line 10 to Bagou station (巴沟站)at the end of Line 10, and then get a taxi from outside the station to the South Gate, or also known as New Palace Gate (新建宫门). Or you may just walk for about 2.9 km from Bagou Station to the New Palace Gate.

Get off Bagou Station, follow your nose, you will meet a river, then turn right and walk along the river bank till the New Palace Gate of Summer Palace.

If confused upon which way to go upon leaving the subway, just follow the crowd.

Public Bus

Buses via the East Gate ( Main Gate) to the Summer Palace (颐和园正门, 东宫门)Bus 330、331、332、346、394、712、718、726、732、737、801、808、817、826

Buses via the North Gate to the Summer Palace (北宫门)Bus 303、330、331、346、375、384、393、634、716、718、737、801、808、817、834、Express 5

Buses via New Palace Gate ( or South Gate) to the Summer Palace (新建宫门)Bus 374、437、481、952、704、992

Taxi Fare

A taxi from Beijing city center will cost about RMB 80 and take about 40 minutes without much traffic.

As you finish your tour and exit, you will find some taxi drivers are reluctant or even refuse to use the meter, only do a set rate, and most don’t want to go all the way back to Beijing downtown at all, so this can be troublesome.

Tip 3: Opening Time

High Season (From April 1 to Oct. 31)
Open: 6:00
Last Entry at 19:00;
Closed: 20:00

Low Season (From Nov. 1 to Mar. 31 next year)
Open: 6:30
Last Entry at 18:00;
Closed: 19:00

Tip 4: Buy a correct entrance ticket

Three kinds of tickets
1) Entrance ticket for the huge park itself.
2) Combo ticket both for the park and also for the pay attractions inside the park.
3) Free Tickets: Foreign tourists aged 60 or above can exchange tickets with their passports; Children under the age of 6 (including 6 years old) or under the height of 1.2 meters (including 1.2 meters) with valid documents are free of charge.

Note: also the ticket prices are divided onto two categories – Low Season ad Peak Season.

Summer Palace Admission
30 yuan (peak season)
20 yuan (off-season)

Summer Palace Combo ticket
60 Yuan (peak season)
50 yuan (off-season)

The pay attractions inside the park: 5 yuan for De He Garden; Wenchang Hospital 20 yuan; 10 yuan for Foxiang Pavilion; 10 yuan for Suzhou Street

1. Combo tickets include both the entrance and the inside pay attractions
2. You are advised to buy entrance tickets instead of combo-tickets.
3. Once you enter the park of Summer Palace and are also interested in some of the paid attractions inside the park.
4. you may purchase a separate pay admission ticket one by one on the spot.
5. Students enjoy half prices.
6 Children under 1.2m high are free of charge.
7. Basically there is no limit to the purchase of entrance tickets due to the fact that the park is sprawling and spacious.

Tip 5: Tips for People with Walking Difficulty

Summer Palace is a huge landscape park. If you can’t walk too far, or have some walking difficulty, you can hire a wheelchair free of charge from your entrance gate with a deposit of 500 yuan.

Alternatively, you can take the boat from the marble boat after walking along the long corridor and back to New Palace Gate if you enter the park through the gate. And you don’t have to retrace.

All the toilets in Summer Palace are are equipped with wheelchair accessible facilities.

Tip 6: English-speaking tour guides in Summer Palace

As for English-speaking tour guides in Summer Palace, you have the following three choices:

1. Hire the official tour guides attached to Summer Palace at East Palace Gate (the main gate) 东宫门.
2. Hire recorded audio guides at any of the three major gates to Summer Palace. You can return the audio guide at any gates.
3. There are some self-employed English-speaking tour guides by the entrance gates who will actively come up to you and ask you to buy their service. Not advised to use their service.

Inquiry:010-62881144, ext 6618

Summer Palace offers English guide , the price are listed below:

180 yuan, an hour and a half

240 yuan, two hours

320 yuan , two hours and a half

within five people , include five peoples ; for each travel group plus one people , pay 10 yuan extra.

Tip 7: Choose the right entrance gate and tour route

So there are three main entrances to Summer Palace – East Palace Gate (the main gate), North Palace Gate ( North Gate )  and New Palace Gate (south gate).

You should get to know the gate you will go through, especially when you take a taxi or bus. Entering Summer Palace via the different three gates, you will have three different tour routes visiting Summer Palace.

Three Visiting Routes starting from the three gates

Starting from New Palace Gate  ( South Gate):
Walk north along East Dyke – the former Court Area (the East Palace Gate, the Hall of Benevolence and Longevity…) – Long Corridor – Longevity Hill – Marble Boat – Ferry Boat  and back to New Palace Gate (loop line).

Starting from East Palace Gate ( Main Gate)
Walk from East Palace Gate: the former Court Area (the East Palace Gate, the Hall of Benevolence and Longevity…) – Long Corridor – Longevity Hill – Marble Boat – Ferry Boat – New Palace Gate ( South Gate )

Starting from North Palace Gate ( North Gate):
Walking from North Palace Gate: Suzhou Street – Marble Boat – Longevity Hill – Long Corridor – the former court area – East Palace Gate ( Main Gate).

Tip 8: Tower of Buddhist Incense

If you are going to visit Summer Palace, you are highly recommended to ascend the Tower of Buddhist Incense at Summer Palace.

Topping the the southern slope of Longevity Hill, the tower faces Kunming Lake southward with its backing on the Hall of the Sea of Wisdom.  

Built on a 21-meter base, the tower has a height of 41 meters, three floors, four eaves and supported by eight pillars. 

On the base of the tower, you are able to have a bird’s eye view of the Kunming Lake and the surrounding area. For more information, please check out: Tower of Buddhist Incense at Summer Palace.

Kunming Lake
The panoramic view of Kunming Lake at Summer Palace from the base of the Tower of Buddhist Incense

 Tip 9: Boating on Kunming Lake

Taking a boat ride starting from the Marble Boat across the lake and pass by the beautiful 17-Arch Bridge is a fun way to have more stunning views.

Ferry Boat Ride:30 yuan (Between Marble Boat and Bronze Cattle Dock)
Operating Time: 8:30 – 16:30

Pleasure Boats ( rowing on the lake): 60 yuan per boat per hour with 400 yuan as deposit) , a kind of paddle boat ( Max 4 people)
Operating Time: 8:30 – 16:30

Boat Ride on Kunming Lake

Tip 10: Familiar with its 3-part layout

The three tour routes are centred around the three main parts in Summer Palace. The entrance ticket also covers the most of the three areas.

The Former Court Area
A royal palace where once Princess Dowager Cixi and the emperor lived and handled court affairs, accepted laudations and received foreign diplomats during their stay in the Summer Palace.

Long Corridor and Longevity Hill
The second part features the Long Corridor, the Hall of Dispelling Clouds, the Tower of Buddhist Incense, the Hall of the Sea of Wisdom, the Back Lake, the Suzhou Market and Longevity Hill.

Kunming Lake and Nanhu Isle
The last part is Kunming Lake, which consists of the Marble Boat, Nanhu Island, the Bronze Ox and the beautiful 17-Arch Bridge.

the beautiful 17-Arch Bridge.
People coming through the famous 17-arch bridge

Tip 11: Prepare for a 2-3-hour outdoor sightseeing

Visiting Summer Palace needs a little bit strong legs with a lot walking since Summer Palace is huge. Dress for the hot or cold weather. The summer in Beijing could be humid and closed, sometimes extremely hot.

Also winter could be very cold. So well prepared for the uncomfortable weather both in winter and summer. You are advised to wear your most comfortable shoes.

It’s a long walk! Food choice in the complex is poor – typical fast food and snacks. So bring your own.

Tip 12: Skating at Summer Palace

Plan your Beijing winter tour? Skating is one of Beijing’s traditional pastimes in winter.  There are a few lake-turned skate rinks with a total skating area of 1000,000 square meters in Beijing. 

Back to the starting point of the skating service center.

Summer Palace is  a big draw for first time visitors to Beijing. The Kunming Lake Skate Rink in Summer Palace is the largest in Beijing totalling 700,000 square meters. See Skating at Summer Palace for more information.

Tip 13: Get to know the official notice to the visitors

1. No visitors are allowed to cross, climb, smoke, swim, skate, fish, spit, foul and litter and so on.
2. No visitors are allowed to camp, cook, fish, capture animals and dig plants inside.
3. No visitors are  allowed to paint and carve on the buildings, ground, stone, facility and tree, and to pick the flowers and spoil the lawn and trees.
4. The north of pavilion of Wenchang and the east of Jiehu Bridge are fist-level fire-proof non-smoking
5.  Expect for hand-powered wheelchairs and baby carriers used by the aged, the disabled, and children, any other vehicle are not allowed to enter without any permission.
6. The professional camera equippments are not allowed to use inside without any permission.
7. Without any permission, don’t perform, sing and make a noise so as to influence and disturb other visitors.|
8. The tour guides inside must have guide qualification.

Tip 14:  Hassle-free Beijing Guided Tours

If you don’t want to go the do-it-yourself route and prefer the hassle-free escorted tours,  here are some options for Beijing guided tours:

Car Rental in Beijing
Beijing Day Tour
Beijing Tour Packages
Beijing Winter Tour
Great Wall Tour
China City Tours
China Tour

Chinese version of the travel guide


Further Readings

Best Time to Visit Beijing
How to plan a trip to Beijing

Women Summer Dresses & Fashion Beijing, China
Winter Skating in Summer Palace.
Sunset over Summer Palace

Top 10 Attractions in Beijing
How to Visit Forbidden City
How to Visit Temple of Heaven
How to Visit Summer Palace
How to Visit Ming Tombs
How to Visit the Great Wall of China
How to Visit Tiananmen Square
How to Visit Hutongs
How to Visit Olympic Sites

Top 10 Markets in Beijing
Top 10 Shopping Malls in Beijing
Beijing Shopping

Wangfujing Night Snack Street
Qianmen Commercial Street
Beijing Huguosi Street

Any questions, just drop line.

89 thoughts on “How to visit Summer Palace (Tips, Photos & Map)

  1. Pls let me know, which entering gate and kind of tour, that the best choose to take for visiting summer palace. Also which ticket that we should buy? Thanks

  2. You are suggested to take the loop line route as below:
    Starting from New Palace Gate (south gate) Loop Line Route: New Palace Gate – Walk north along East Dyke – the former Court Area (the East Palace Gate, the Hall of Benevolence and Longevity…) – Long Corridor – Longevity Hill – Marble Boat – Ferry Boat – New Palace Gate (loop line).

    1. You are advised to buy entrance tickets instead of through tickets.
    2. Once you enter the park of Summer Palace and are also interested in some of the paid attractions inside the park, you may purchase a separate admission ticket one by one.
    3. Students enjoy half prices.
    4. Children under 1.2m high are free of charge.

  3. It is all right to carry a tripod for an ordinary camera or small and unprofessional video camera. If you carry a big and professional video camera, you have to report to Summer palace for permission. Have a nice day in Summer Palace!

  4. The official website of Summer Palace says:

    1) Children ( under 1.2 meters high): free of Charge ( of course, in my opinion, this policy applies to foreign kids.)

    2) Students with ID cards can be entilted to the half price for the entrance tickets of Summer Palace ( excluding the entrance tickets for some attractions inside Summer Palace). This “Half Price” policy doesn’t apply to adult education ( further education or continuing education). Foreign students enjoy the same privilege as Chinese counterparts.

  5. My son (21) is Thai student study in Bangkok. Can His student ID card use for half price entrance fee?

  6. Hello Narimon,

    As far as I know, only foreign students studying in China are entitled to the half price admission.

  7. Hello Tal,

    Summer Palace and other attractions in Beijing will give discount or free tickets to the disabled, but as far as I know, in China a disabled person must present an official certificate that indicates the degree of that disabled person. Bur for a foreign disabled person, where to get a Chinese certificate? We are not quite clear on it. Just go to Sumemr Palace and talk to them for a possible discount. Have a good time!

  8. Hello Isabella,

    RMB 10 for the dragon ferry boat from the marble boat dock to the dock at Tongniu (Copper Ox) near the New Palace Gate (新建宫门). Have a good day!

  9. Hello Ellen,

    It is better to buy the entrance tickets. If you are interested in any particualar paid attractions inside the park, you can pay at the ticketing office on the spot.

  10. Hi Daniel,

    May I know if it would be better to visit summer palace in the morning or afternoon, if I’m going this December?

  11. Hello Jess,

    These paid attractions inside the park are not must see sights. If you don’t have time or any interest, just forget them.

  12. Hello Poppy,

    It makes no big differdence whether visiting in the morning or afternoon as far as the weather on that day is clear for the whole day. If you like to take sunset photos of Summer Palace, you’d better go visit in the afternoon. In winter, the sun is setting around 4:30pm.

  13. I am worried that we will not fully understand what we are seeing unless we are accompanied by a guide. Is my concern realistic? If so, is it possible to hire a guide?

  14. Hello Lucie Zaharoff,

    Well, there are several ways to understand the great place like Summer Palace

    1. Do some online research about Summer Palace, such as visting its official website:

    2. Hire an Audio Guide. The recorded audio guides: these are available for rent walking.

    3. Hire a legal tour guide to escort you.

  15. Hi! I’m traveling to Beijing on June and I have a very, very, VERY tight schedule, I’m going to the Great Wall at 6 am and plan to return to Beijing at 3 pm, do you think I’ll enjoy the visit to the Sumemr Palace at this time? I know it will take time on the subway and stuff, and I really don’t care how exhausted I’m gonna be, I just want to know if it would worth the effort. What do you think? Is the only time I can go, is that or not going to the Summer Palace at all.=(

  16. Hello Anat,

    Are you going to visit the two places by using public transport ( subway and buses)? If the answer is yes, then personally I don’t think you have enough time to tour these two places. Maybe, on your next trip to Beijing to visit the second attraction. Have a good time in Beijing!

  17. Hi, me again, I got to stay another day in Beijing!!=D I have a question, I didn’t understand the opening and closing time, is it open at 06:30 and they stop selling tickets at 18:00 and close at 20:00??

  18. Hello Anat,

    Yes, Summer Palace is open at 6:30am, tickets stop selling tickets at 6:00pm and close at 8:00pm. Have a good time!

  19. Hello,

    Are DSLR cameras allowed if taking photographs is a hobby? I may be bringing a tripod too – is this allowed?

    Kind regards,


  20. Hello Nelson,

    Don’t make yourself look like a professional photographer since people are not allowed to do commercials on some important sites such as Forbidden City.

    I’ve seen people bring their tripods, but still keep a low profile. Have a good time in Beijing!

  21. Hello Ashraf,

    The official website of Summer Palace says that children under 1.2 meters are free of charge. Children with student cards can be entitled to half price.

  22. If you enter through north gate and exits at east gate, how do you go back to the subway station back to the city? Please advise. Thanks

  23. Hello Chanty,

    As far as I know, you still need to walk back to the north gate for the subway line 4 for a return trip.

  24. I am planning to visit Mutianyu Great Wall and Summer Palace on the same day in early December.The proposed itinerary I have is that I will reach Summer Palace at 4pm .Would that be enough or worthwhile time for my visit? There wl be 3 teenagers with me.I will be renting a car and a guide.

  25. Hello Low,

    Basically you are able to reach Summer Palace at 4pm. One of our trip advisors will contact you to quote the prices for your car rental and tour guide. Have a good time in Beijing!

  26. Hi,

    Are there any English speaking tour guide we can hire at the entrance or at various attractions inside the Palace?

    Thank you

  27. Hi Wai,

    As for English speaking tour guides in Summer Palace, you have the following three choices:

    1. Hire the official tour guides attached to Summer Palace at East Palace Gate (the main gate) 东宫门.
    2. Hire recorded audio guides at any of the four gates of Summer Palace. You can return the audio guide at any gates.
    3. There are some self-employed English speaking tour guides by the entrance gates who will actively come up to you and ask you to buy their service. Not advised to use their service.

  28. hi

    Any space / locker to put my luggage there?
    I will go from metro line 4.
    And how much does it cost?


  29. Hi Xin,

    As far as I know, there is no official luggage storage service in Summer Palace. You’d better store your luggage at your hotel or airport or railway station. Have a good trip!

  30. hello,

    how much is a hired tour guide for the summer palace? will they also take us on the boat trips from certain places such as from marble boat past the bridge and good scenes?

    thank you

  31. Hi

    Basically, you can hire recorded audio guides at any of the four gates of Summer Palace. You can return the audio guide at any gates. You can easily find the wharf for the boating from marble boat ( 10 yuan ).

  32. Hi Bryce,

    1. Entrance Ticket: RMB 30 ( April – October )
    You can buy an admission ticket to enter Summer Palace generally

    2. All inclusive ticket: RMB 60 ( April – October )
    You can buy an all-inclusive ticket to enter Summer Palace and its inside pay sites such as Wenchang Gallery, Garden of Virtue and Harmony, Suzhou Street & Hall of Serenity and Tower of the Fragrance of the Buddha.

    3. First buy an entrance ticket,then buy any of the pay sites inside Summer Palace
    Entrance Fee: RMB 30
    Wenchang Gallery: RMB 20
    Garden of Virtue and Harmony: RMB 5
    Suzhou Street & Hall of Serenity: RMB 10
    Tower of the Fragrance of the Buddha: 10

    Have a good time in Beijing!

  33. Hi Yuri,

    THere are some restaurants outside East Palace Gate (the main gate), North Palace Gate ( North Gate). There are also some eating places within the compound of Summer Palace. Buty they are expensive with few choices.

  34. Hi Daniel ~
    My husband and I are planning to visit Beijing next February. We both have limited mobility and I will be in a travel wheelchair. Any advice on what locations are not accessible or special arrangements we should make in advance? For example, I sense we are not good candidates for the Ming Tombs or the Summer Palace. Your thoughts? Thank you so much

  35. Hi Sheryl Boze,

    Welcome to Beijing! Most of the major attractions in Beijing are wheelchairs friendly. Summer Palace is accessible for wheelchair users too.

    As for Ming Tommb, no worry. There are totally 13 tombs in Ming Tomb burial area. But only two tombs are open to the public: Dingling Tomb and Changling Tomb. Dingling Tomb is excavated with undergroup palace which is a bit hard for you. But Changling Tomb is okay for you with lots of exhibits on the ground and you don’t have to go down the underground palace. So if you want to go to Ming Tombs, just go to Changling Tomb.

    Have a good time in Beijing!

  36. Hello.
    Is there a possibility of not geting in because of not enough tickets during october holidays 1-7 th?

  37. Hi Maria,

    As far as I know, unlike Forbidden City, there is no limitation to the number of daily tourists visiting Summer Palace.

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