Tips for visiting Summer Palace

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Summer Palace Tourist map from willgoto.com


Plan your Beijing Tour? Summer Palace was a royal palace in later Qing Dynasty, only secondary to the Forbidden City ( now the Palace Museum ).Summer Palace is actually not just 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.It also epitomizes classical Chinese architecture, in terms of both garden design and construction. It is the largest royal garden in Beijing, now a good retreat for holiday makers.

Tip # 01: How to time your visit
Normally 2-3 hours are needed to walk around Summer Palace itself. With your time on the city transportation included, you are advised to have allocate at least half day in 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 in a foggy day like a beautiful “water and mountain” Chinese scroll painting. Autumn is the best time walking around Summer Palace, clear and blue sky with comfortable weather.

Tip # 02: How to get to Summer Palace

Metro Line
1. Subway Line 4:
Take subway line 4 to the northest direction and get off at the last but one  of Beigongmen (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 (entrance fee:RMB30) on your left side.

2. Subway Line 10
Take subway line 10 to Bagou station at the end of Line 10, and then get a taxi from outside the station to the New Palace Gate (新建宫门). Or you may just walk for about 1.5km 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 of 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 of 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 the South Gate of 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 50 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 at all, so this can be troublesome.

Tip # 03: Buy a correct entrance ticket
There are two kinds of tickets – Entrance ticket for the garden-like complex and through ticket both for the complex itself also attractions inside the Summer Palace complex.

The ticket prices are divided onto two categories – Low Season ad Peak Season.

Ticket Price

Ticket Types Unit: (RMB ¥)
Low Season
Nov – Mar
High Season
April – Oct
Entrance Ticket RMB ¥20 RMB ¥30 Entrance Tickets don’t include the admission to some paid attractions inside the compound of Summer Palace
Half Price
Entrance Ticket
(for students)
RMB ¥10 RMB ¥15
Through Ticket
(Including the admission to some paid attractions inside the compound of Summer Palace)
RMB ¥50 RMB ¥60
Admissions to the paid attractions  inside the Summer Palace Garden of Virtue and Harmony RMB ¥5 RMB ¥5
Tower of the Fragrance of the Buddha RMB ¥10 RMB ¥10
Wenchang Gallery RMB ¥20 RMB ¥20
Suzhou Street&Hall of Serenity RMB ¥10 RMB ¥10

Note:
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.

Tip # 04: 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 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.

Tip # 05: 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 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.

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  and back to New Palace Gate (loop line)

Starting from East Palace Gate Route: 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

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

Kunming Lake

Kunming Lake taken from Longevity Hill in Summer Palace

Tip # 06: Boating on Kunming Lake
Taking a boat ride starting from the Marble Boat across the lake to the beautiful 17-Arch Bridge is a fun way to have more stunning views.  Boat Ride:10 yuan.

Boat Ride on Kunming Lake

Boat Ride on Kunming Lake

Tip # 07: Familiar with its 3-part layout
The three tour routes are centered around the three main parts in Summer Palace:

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.

The beautiful 17-Arch Bridge.

Tip # 08: Prepare for a 2-3-hour outdoor sightseeing
Visiting Summer Palace needs some 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.

Summer Palace

Summer Palace

Tip # 09: 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 equipments 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 # 10: Opening Time:
High Season (From April 1 to Oct. 31)
Open: 6:30
Tickets stop selling at 18:00;
Close: 20:00

Low Season (From Nov. 1 to Mar. 31 next year)
Open: 7:00
Tickets stop selling at 17:00;
Close: 19:00

After the tickets stop selling, the visitors are not allowed to enter, and to leave on time.

Tip # 10:  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:

Beijing Highlight Day Tour from US$59 P/P
(Tiananmen + Forbidden City + Mutianyu Great Wall)
Beijing Classic City Tour from US$65 P/P
(Tiananmen + Forbidden City + Temple of Heaven + Summer Palace)
Beijing Excursion Tour from US$59 P/P
(Mutianyu Great Wall + Ming Tomb)
Beijing Hutong Highlight Tour from US$59 P/P
( Hutong + Rickshaw)

Mutianyu Great Wall Half Day Tour from US$55 p/p
Hike from Jiankou to Mutianyu Great Wall Day Tour from US$69 p/p

Mutianyu Great Wall Layover Tour from US$65 p/p
Beijing Highlight Layover Tour from US$75 p/p

Further Readings


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.

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64 Responses to “Tips for visiting Summer Palace”

  1. Ida pradjonggo says:

    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. admin says:

    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. Nelya says:

    Can I use my tripod in Summer Palace?

  4. admin says:

    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!

  5. Gina Sales says:

    I would jus tlike to know if the child rates apply for tourists also or for Chinese students only? Thanks.

  6. admin says:

    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.

  7. Narimon says:

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

  8. admin says:

    Hello Narimon,

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

  9. tal says:

    are there any discounts for disabled (not wheelchair users)?

  10. Daniel says:

    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!

  11. Isabella says:

    how much for a dragon boat ride in Summer Palace

  12. Daniel says:

    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!

  13. ellen says:

    why is it better to buy entrance tickets and not through tickets?

  14. Daniel says:

    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.

  15. Jess says:

    Hello! If I don’t go to the extra paid attractions, will I be missing out on a lot? Thank you!

  16. Poppy says:

    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?

  17. Daniel says:

    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.

  18. Daniel says:

    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.

  19. Lucie Zaharoff says:

    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?

  20. Daniel says:

    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: http://www.summerpalace-china.com/default.aspx

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

    3. Hire a legal tour guide to escort you.

  21. ann says:

    Does it open during public holidays such as labor day on May 1st, 2nd and 3rd?

  22. Daniel says:

    Hello Ann,

    Yes, Summer Palace is open everyday all year round.

  23. AnaT says:

    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.=(

  24. Daniel says:

    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!

  25. AnaT says:

    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??

  26. Daniel says:

    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!

  27. Nelson says:

    Hello,

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

    Kind regards,

    Nelson.

  28. Daniel says:

    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!

  29. Ashraf says:

    I have two children of height between 1.2-1.5m. What will be their entrance and other fees?

  30. Daniel says:

    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.

  31. chanty says:

    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

  32. Daniel says:

    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.

  33. low says:

    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.

  34. Daniel says:

    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!

  35. Wai says:

    Hi,

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

    Thank you

  36. Wai says:

    Hi,

    Is the boat ride available in Jan 2016?

    Thanks

  37. Daniel says:

    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.

  38. Daniel says:

    Hi Wai,

    No, the lake in Summer Palace is frozen in winter.

  39. xin says:

    hi

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

    Thx

  40. Daniel says:

    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!

  41. cara says:

    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

  42. Beijing Tour says:

    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 ).

  43. Bryce says:

    Hi,
    Can you elaborate further on the attractions inside the summer palace?

  44. Daniel says:

    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!

  45. Yuri says:

    Hi! Are there restaurants inside summer palace? Or within the area?

  46. Daniel says:

    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.

  47. Sheryl Boze says:

    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

  48. Daniel says:

    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!

  49. Maria says:

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

  50. Daniel says:

    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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