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. Hi Tessa,

    As far as I know, unlike Forbidden City ( where you need to show your passport to buy your ticket), in Summer Palace you don’t have to show passport or ID unless you want to purchase discounted tickets for students and seniors.

  2. Hi Flora,

    The boat price is 10 yuan.

    You can take the boat from the Marble Boat across the lake and reach the pier at 17-Arch Bridge, and vice versa.

  3. HI, i want ask, it is MUST to have tour guide?? It is possible if i want look around alone (not with the tour guide)? Thank You

  4. Dear Indah,

    Of course, you can. There are English signs appointing to the directions or offering brief information.

    Have a nice time in Summer palace!

  5. Is there any dress code within the Summer Palace? Do we have to cover our shoulders or wear something that covers knees? Thanks for your help

  6. I am planning to visit Mutianyu Great Wall and Summer Palace on the same day in early December. Would like to travel out early to Great wall to have more time over there and plan to reach summer palace around 3pm and will there be enough or worthwhile time for my visit to summer palace ? What is the last ticketing time and closing time for Summer palace and the opening time for Great wall in December period ? I am planning to rent a car with a driver and what will be the charge like?

  7. Dear Alan Chow:

    Summer Palace in December:
    Entrance time for the main gates: 7 : 00 —— 17 : 00
    Last ticketing time: 16:00
    Closing time: 19:00 ( the time people inside the park must leave )

    Mutinayu Great Wall in December
    Entrance time for Mutianyu: 8 : 00 —— 17 : 00
    Last ticketing time: 15:00
    Closing time: 19:00

    As for the car rental with driver, check out the link below ( Just for your reference):

    Any further request, please email us at [email protected]

    Have a nice trip to Beijing!

  8. I arrive at 6:30 at Beijing Airport departing only at 15:20.
    Would that leave me enough time to go visit the Summer palace. How much time would a taxi need to take me there and what is the approx cost.
    Thank you for any info you might provide.

  9. Dear Marlies,

    You arrive at 6:30. Then clear the customs and go to the official taxi stand, line up for a taxi around 8:30. The taxi ride from the airport to Summer Palace takes about one and half hours, costing you about 130 – 150 depending on the actual traffic then. So you arrive at Summer Palace around 10:00. After two hour sightseeing, take a taxi back to Beijing Capital Airport. You are back to the airport around 13:30, a good time to catch your flight.

    Just for your reference. Hope everything works out all right for you!

  10. Is there an opportunity to rent a locker for luggage at the summer palace?

    Thanks for all the tips!

  11. Hi, I am planning a family trip in Beijing. I came upon this post and I was wondering if the tour routes are suggested routes or are planned out?

    It also mean if I enter by the North Palace Gate, would I be able to exit at the New Palace Gate?

    This is because I was thinking to go to Great Wall first then visit the Summer Palace (i know it is tiring to walk all day).

    Looking forward to your reply! Thank you! 🙂

  12. Dear Jollie,

    All the walking routes relative to the visit to Summer Palace are only for your reference. You can enter the North Palace Gate and exit from the New Palace gate.

    Enjoy your Summer Palace trip!

  13. hi,

    i will have a professional camera with me even though photography is just a hobby to me (and not my profession). do i also need a permission and if so, where and how do i get it?

    thank you!

  14. Dear Ann,

    What kind of the professional camera do you have? I have several professional cameras too. I went to Summer Palace several times carrying my camera pack with two Canon cameras ( EOS 5D Mark IV ) and three lenses ( 11-24, 24- 70,and 100 – 400 ). Nobody stops me.

    Everyday there are quite some local photography amateures taking pictures in Summer Palace, who have very good cameras too.

    Basically it is all right to use a professional camera provided that you are not working in team for commercial photography.

    The above is just for your reference! Have a nice time!

  15. I’m plannig to visit Summer Palace on May 1st and I’m worried about having the tickets sold out (planning to visit in the afternoon). Summer palace has limit number of entrances? Is there any way to buy the admission ticket in advance? I was checking in their website and seems that they only sell for the next 5 days.

  16. Dear Carolina Araguez,

    As far as I know, there is no limit to the buying of daily tickets for Summer Palace since it is huge and spacious. No worry.

    But be sure to get to the park before it stop selling tickets. Tickets stop selling at 18:00. Once you are inside the park, you can visit till 20:00.

    Have a nice time!

  17. At what gate should I enter to rent a wheelchair? May I leave it at another gate and obtain my refund for the deposit?

  18. Dear Nana Royer,

    Yes, basically if you pay the deposit of 500 yuan, you can rent and return a wheelchair at any of the six gates in Summer Palace.

  19. If you said student paid different price, is that for local student there or even visitor as long as they are in school age range?

  20. Dear Elsa,

    As far as I know, as long as you study in China as a student, you are entitled to the discounted entrance fees to the sights in Beijing.

  21. Hello,

    How much is the official tour guide (English speaking) from the summer palace?

  22. Dear Rizki Andarini,

    Thanks for your inquiry! Not sure if you are able to hire an English speaking tour guide in Summer Palace. Basically you can rent an audio guide at the entrance. Have a nice time in Summer Palace!

  23. My son tried to go to the Summer Palace last year and it was sold out on the day he went. Is there a way to purchase tickets in advance online?

  24. Dear Benjamin,

    Thanks for your inquiry!

    As far as I know, there is no daily limit to entrance tickets selling for Summer Palace. Suppose Summer Palace is closed at 8:00pm, but tickets stop selling at 4:00 pm. So maybe your son came to Summer Palace too late and missed the ticketing time. Next time try to get to Summer Palace earlier to secure the ticket, basically you will definitely get the ticket. Have a good time in Beijing!

    By the way, I fail to find any booking websites offering ticket only booking service. Most of them offer a combo: tour + ticket.

  25. summer palace offer english guide , the price are triplex,

    180 yuan, an hour and a half

    240 yuan, two hours

    320 yuan , two hours and a half

    within five people , include five peoples , plus one people , 10yuan extra

  26. May I know if any bicycle rent in the summer palace ?because I will travel with elderly and they can’t walk too far except with bicycle

  27. Dear Tina,

    Thanks for your inquiry!

    As far as I know, there is no bike rental booth in Summer Palace for people cycling around the park. But they do offer free wheelchairs for seniors with a deposit of 500 yuan. Enjoy your trip!

  28. Hello, can we jog around the park? Or would that be disrespectful?
    Thank you

  29. Dear Francisco,

    It is ok to run slowly in the park if there are not many people on the way. Have a good time!

  30. Dear Meg,

    You can buy a ticket at the ticketing booth by the entrance on the spot. Have a nice time!

  31. I am handicapped but can walk some.

    What gate, what loop, would you recommend for a highlight tour. The boats on the water sound lovely. Do they just go to two spots or can I make a water loop?

  32. Dear M k,

    Thanks for your inquiry!

    In your case, I suggest you visit Summer Palace via its East Palace Gate ( East Gate ). Walk along the world-famous long-corridor and get to the dock ( near the marble boat ). Then buy two single boating tickets ( to and back ) about 10 yuan each. Have a nice time in Summer palace!

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