Summer Palace (Yiheyuan)#2 in Best Things To Do in Beijing
When the bustle of Beijing becomes too much for you, do as the emperors would do and retreat to the Summer Palace. Located in the northwest suburbs, this oasis – literally, an oasis with serene Kunming Lake – is home to several attractions. Nearly every gate, pavilion, hall and tower has a unique history and merits a photo. Despite the palace's historic appeal, most tourists are charmed by what's outside: The Summer Palace possesses the largest imperial garden in China. The Seventeen-Arch Bridge stretches into Kunming Lake, providing excellent views of the east bank and South Lake Island. And at an impressive 2,388 feet in length, the Long Corridor garners lots of attention.
Travelers are rarely disappointed by the wonders of the Summer Palace. Many advise visiting early in the day to avoid crowds, but regardless, most call the palace amazing. Reviewers suggested setting aside at least half a day to wander the grounds. Visitors also recommended seeing the site with the help of a guide, who can help you understand its vast history.
You can reach the Summer Palace by taking subway line 4 to the Yiheyuan stop and walking from there. The gates of this UNESCO World Heritage site are open daily from 6:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. between April and October and from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. between November and March. However, some attractions do not open until two hours after the gates open. General admission costs 20 yuan (about $3) in the low season and 30 yuan (about $4.30) in the high season, but several "scenic spots," like the Garden of Virtue and Harmony, require an additional fee. A "through ticket," which includes these sites, costs 50 yuan (about $7.30) in low season or 60 yuan (about $9) in high season. A variety of amenities and vendors are available on-site (though some reviewers said the toilets were less than desirable). For more information, check out the Summer Palace's official website.
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#1 The Great Wall of China
Just north of Beijing, you'll find one of the most famous monuments in the world: the Great Wall of China. Although it's unlikely you'll see the whole thing, you should aim to experience a portion of it. That begs the question: Which section?
Only an hour's drive northwest of Beijing, the Badaling section is convenient, hosts a large souvenir market, and has a gondola to whisk visitors up and down the wall. Sounds perfect, right? Well, and that's why thousands of tourists decide to venture here. This can create mob-like scenes that can spoil the trip, but it's unpredictable. Plenty of visitors rave about this section of the wall and say a visit is a must. Entrance to the Badaling section of wall (not including the gondola ride) costs 40 yuan (about $6) in the winter and spring and 45 yuan (about $6.60 ) in the summer and fall. You can start hiking the Badaling portion at 6:40 a.m., and you must be down by 6:30 p.m. every day.
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