Summer Palace – Tickets, Opening Times, Highlights, and Tips

summer palace

The Summer Palace (颐和园) was initially constructed in 1750 and renovated and expanded in 1860. It is a vast ensemble of lakes, gardens, and palaces, covers an area of 2.9 square kilometers (1.1 sq mi), and used to be the imperial summer resort of the Qing dynasty. It draws inspiration from the garden designs in South China, pursuing the ultimate harmony between artificial views and nature. Because of its wide range of buildings and scenes, it is dubbed the “museum of royal gardens.” In 1998, UNESCO included it on its World Heritage List.

This tourist attraction is made up of three parts: Kunming Lake, Longevity Hill, and West Causeway. Each of them includes many extraordinary views and buildings. You can row a boat, take a walk, and climb a hill, indulging yourself in the sceneries distinct from what you can see in your motherland.

Table of Contents

Basic information
Estimated length of tour2 hours – 4 hours, depending on the routes
Opening hours06.00 – 19.00 (April 1st – October 31st); Last entry: 19.00
06.30 – 18.00 (November 1st – March 31st); Last entry: 18.00
Ticket Price

30 RMB (approx. 4.3 dollars from April 1st to October 31st)
20 RMB (approx. 3 dollars from November 1st to March 31st)
Children under 1.2 meters: free of charge
Wenchang Gallery (Wenchangyuan): 5 RMB
Garden of Virtue and Harmony (Deheyuan): 5 RMB
Buddhist of Incense (Foxiangge): 10 RMB
Suzhou Street (Suzhoujie): 10 RMB
Combined Ticket (including entry to the palace and all the galleries)
60 RMB (approx. 8.5 dollars from April 1st to October 31st)
50 RMB (approx. 7 dollars from November 1st to March 31st)
Children under 1.2 meters: free of charge

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Location and Transportation

The Summer Palace is located in the Northwest corner of Beijing, not very far from the city center and close to the Old Summer Palace. You can get there by bus, subway, and taxi. Because it has four entrances, the transportation also varies. The cost of a bus and subway will be within 5 RMB, and the cost of a Taxi should range from 20 to 100 RMB, depending on where you are from.

To West Gate:

  • Bus: Take No. 469 or 539 and get off at the stop called “West Gate of the Summer Palace” or “Yiheyuan Xigongmen Zhan”

To North Gate:

  • Bus: Take No. 303, 332, 346, 384, 394, or 563 and get off at the stop called “North Gate of the Summer Palace” or “Yiheyuan Beigongmen Zhan”
  • Subway: Take subway line 4, get off at the stop called “North Gate of the Summer Palace”, and get out from Exit D.

To East Gate:

  • Bus: Take No. 303, 332, 346, or 584 and get off at the stop called “the Summer Palace” or “Yiheyuan Zhan”.
  • Subway: Take subway line 4, get off at the stop called “Xiyuan Zhan”, and get out from Exit C1 or C2.

Highlights of Summer Palace

Seventeen-Arch Bridge (Shiqi Kong Qiao)

seventeen-arch bridge in summer palace
stone lions in the seventeen-arch bridge

Being built in 1750, the seventeen-arch bridge stretches 150 meters, the longest in the imperial gardens in China, and is named for its 17 arches, a classical design in Chinese bridges.

It features 544 stone lions in different poses on the posts of the railings. Some cuddle with their mothers, some chase each other, and some stare into nowhere, which are exceptionally cute and realistic.

This site is also famous for its unique view at dusk. When the sun sinks in the west, its light will pass through the 17 arches and illuminate them.

Tower of the Fragrance of the Buddha (Foxiang Ge)

Tower of the Fragrance of the Buddha in summer palace

The Tower of the Fragrance of the Buddha is the iconic spot of the Summer Palace and constantly appears on relevant postcards, photos, and videos. The lofty building erects on a 20-meter-high stone foundation, has three stories with four-layered eaves, and oversees the whole park.

Inside it is a giant bronze, gilded statue of the thousand-hand Avalokitesvara (Kwan-yin), who symbolizes sympathy in Buddhism and protects her believers in difficulties and sufferings. You will be amazed by her sacred beauty and exotic posture. It is said that Cixi, the female de facto ruler of the empire in the late Qing dynasty, would come here and worship the god every month.

Baoyun Bronze Pavilion (Baoyun Ge Tongdian)

Baoyun Bronze Pavilion in summer palace

To the west of the Tower of the Fragrance of the Buddha, you can find Baoyun Bronze Pavilion, which was constructed in 1755 and has survived all the wars and ravages in the following years. It rises 7.55 meters and weighs 207 tons.

As its name suggests, every piece of this building is cast in bronze. The craftsmen first built wax molds of components and then poured the melted metal fluid into them. After it solidified, they broke the molds and got what they wanted. This pavilion is a masterpiece of conventional Chinese techniques and makes you wow at the wisdom of the workers.

Suzhou Street

Suzhou street in summer palace

Near the North Gate of the Summer Palace, you will find Suzhou Street, a replica of some commercial street in South China. It stretches 300 meters and is now packed with shops selling food, drinks, and souvenirs. But initially, it was exclusively for emperors and empresses. When they paid a visit, the eunuchs and maids would play merchants so the royal family could pretend to go shopping as ordinary people. And most of the time, they were just left empty. Pretty extravagant, isn’t it?

Bronze Ox (Tongniu)

bronze ox in summer palace

Near the Xinjiangong Gate and at the east end of the 17-arch bridge, a bronze ox couches on the bank. In fact, you can easily find similar statues near most lakes and rivers in China. According to myths, these bronze animals can guard the residents and keep the floods down.

On its back is inscribed an ode of eighty words composed by Emperor Qianlong (1711 – 1799), who was keen on art and left remarks on basically everything. This ode refers to the legend of ancient Chinese fighting against floods and conveys the hope that the sculpture would protect the park.

West Causeway (Xidi)

West Causeway in summer palace

The West Causeway crosses Kunming Lake from the southeast to the northwest. It is molded on the Su Causeway of the West Lake in Hangzhou, the most well-known and beautiful lake in China, and is connected by six sophisticated bridges and planted with willow and peach trees. When the spring comes, and their leaves sprout and flowers blossom, the wonderful scenery will make you believe that you have come to South China. 

Also, you will find many residents dancing, playing music, enjoying the sunshine, or simply breathing the fresh air here, a good place to blend in.

Sea of Wisdom Temple (Zhihui Hai)

Sea of Wisdom Temple in summer palace

Since the temple adopts an arch design and does have a single pillar or beam, it is also known as the “Beamless Hall”. But what makes it stand out among the numerous halls in the Summer Palace is the 1110 Infinite Longevity Buddha statues carved on the exterior of the wall. The name of the temple is a term from Buddhism, meaning the Buddha’s wisdom is like the endless ocean and can give people infinite inspiration. 

travelling routes in summer palace
Click on the picture to zoom in

Route 1: Enter the Summer Palace from the North gate, tour around Longevity Hill, turn left to enjoy the views of Kunming Lake and various halls, and then leave from Xinjiangongmen.

This route is not that physically demanding but still covers most of the highlights of the Summer Palace.

Route 2: Enter the Summer Palace from the South Ruyi gate, walk along the West Causeway, reach Longevity Hill from the west, and then leave the park from the North Gate after visiting Suzhou Street.

This route focuses more on the beautiful scenery of the Summer Palace and leaves the magnificent buildings to the last. But since the long distance it covers, it may not suit senior citizens and children.

Vlog about Summer Palace

Find the Best Hotel near Summer Palace

Useful Tips Summarized from Reviews

Choose the Entrance Wisely:

  • The Summer Palace has six entrances. It’s recommended to enter from the North Ruins Gate (北如意门) as it typically has fewer people and more gentle pathways.
  • The North Palace Gate (北宫门) is closest to subway station C exit, but it can get crowded during peak seasons and weekends. However, it’s advantageous as it’s close to Suzhou Street and the Four Great Regions.
  • The East Palace Gate (东宫门) is near West Yuan Station (西苑站) and is popular among tour groups.
  • The New Palace Gate (新建宫门) has fewer crowds but is farther from the subway, requiring a taxi or bus ride.
  • The West Gate and the South Ruins Gate (南如意门) are farther from the main attractions, so they are not recommended unless you plan to spend a significant amount of time in Beijing.

Focus on Main Attractions: Most of the key attractions in the Summer Palace are concentrated near the East and North Palace Gates. Other gates have more scattered attractions.

Ticket Strategy: If you’re uncertain about spending a full day at the Summer Palace, consider purchasing the main entrance ticket first and buying tickets for specific attractions inside as needed.

Bring Snacks: The Summer Palace is vast, and it’s easy to spend several hours exploring. Snack options inside the park are limited and prices can be high, so it’s advisable to bring your own snacks.

Afternoon Tea at Harmony Park: Inside Harmony Park (谐趣园), there is a hidden palace-style afternoon tea coffee shop. It offers a charming atmosphere with views of the lotus pond in the front and the rockery in the back, making it a delightful spot to relax and enjoy some sunshine.

Interesting Facts

Other Imperial Places in Beijing

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