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. tessa says:

    is identification for summer palace entrance compulsory

  2. Daniel says:

    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.

  3. Flora says:

    Just check how much is the boat price now ? And where we can ride in ? Thanks very much

  4. Daniel says:

    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.

  5. Indah says:

    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

  6. Daniel says:

    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!

  7. Bev Hiam says:

    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

  8. Daniel says:

    Dear Bev Hiam,

    As far as I know, no special dress code is needed for entering Summer Palace. Just a normal wear. It is all right to wear shorts above the knees and you don’t have to cover your shoulders.

    Check out the photos I took in front of the 17-arch-bridge in Summer Palace and see how people dress in summer palace:

    https://www.tour-beijing.com/blog/beijing-travel/women-summer-dresses-fashion-beijing-china

    Have a nice time in Summer Palace!

  9. Alan Chow says:

    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?

  10. Daniel says:

    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):

    http://www.tour-beijing.com/car_rental/

    Any further request, please email us at info@tour-beijing.com

    Have a nice trip to Beijing!

  11. Marlies says:

    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.
    Marlies

  12. Daniel says:

    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!

  13. Jared says:

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

    Thanks for all the tips!

  14. Daniel says:

    Dear Jared,

    As far as I know, summer palace has no luggage storage service.

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