Purple Bamboo Park to the Summer Palace
An idyllic float to one of Beijing's most famous palaces
Purple Bamboo Park (zizhuyuan) is one of Beijing’s largest and most spectacular inner-city parks. It’s made up of small islands and bridges dotted around three lakes, and filled with beautiful (duh) bamboo. From here you can take a boat trip (40RMB; 70RMB return) on the Changhe River up to the Summer Palace.
You’re never going to find total solitude in a Beijing park, or in one of the city’s biggest tourist attractions, but there are surprisingly tranquil spots in both. The north part of Purple Bamboo Park is your best bet for some peace. There's also plenty going on, with a small amusement area near the south gate (around 20RMB a ride) and local park life – pensioners playing hacky sack (jianzi), basically. As for the Summer Palace… What, a Unesco World Heritage site isn’t enough?
The boat trip to the Summer Palace is a must-try. You may have to sit on rickety seats, most likely squeezed uncomfortably close to an ayi with garlic breath, but it’s definitely a unique experience. The view on the 30-minute ride isn’t always postcard-perfect, taking in a few factories and random suburbs, but, as you draw closer to the Summer Palace, the view improves massively. You also go under some historic bridges as you follow the path Empress Dowager Cixi would have taken to her warm-weather pad.
The Summer Palace can get rammed in the summer (obvs), especially around the famous Longevity Hill. If you’ve been to the palace before, skip the big-name tourist draws and head to the Garden of Harmonious Pleasures (xiequ yuan), in the Summer Palace’s northeast corner. A mini-lake with ornate footbridges decorate this quiet spot, which is aptly described as ‘a park within a park’.
Getting there Take Line 4 to National Library subway station and walk to the park.
Travel time 30 minutes from Dongzhimen.
Cost Summer Palace entrance fee is 30RMB or 15RMB for students.