7 of the best places to see autumn leaves in Beijing

Top locations to see autumn leaves in Beijing and beyond

Autumn is arguably the most pleasant season in Beijing, as the skies clear and foliage bursts into colour. Go in search for golds and reds at these key spots.

Fragrant Hills

Fragrant Hills

The most popular destination for admiring the autumn leaves, Fragrant Hills transforms into a blanket of vivid red. If you can, go in the weekdays to avoid the crowds. The park is situated 28 kilometres north of Beijing and stretches across 395 acres of forestry, hills and lakes. Explore the dozens of ancient sights that dot the park, such as Biyun Temple or the Vajrasana Pagoda, and make sure to take the cable car to the top of Xianglu for stunning views.


A good route is to follow the signs to Mao’s residence (Shuangqing Villa) for an hour-long stroll through the gardens. Be sure not to miss Jingcui Lake on your left. With lily pads resting on the glistening water and wilting willow trees all around, the lake looks like a classic Chinese watercolour, so picture perfect it almost feels clichéd.

Get there Take the subway to Fragrant Hills station (Xijiao Line). It’s a ten-minute cycle or 25-minute walk from there. 

Ditan Park

Ditan Park

Situated just north of downtown central Beijing beyond the Second Ring Road, Ditan Park shimmers in gold in the autumn, thanks to its ginkgo trees. It was built in 1530 during Ming Dynasty as a place where emperors could perform sacrifices to the gods. At its centre is the Temple of Earth, from which the park’s name is derived. It also has a family entertainment area with some rides.

If you avoid the days when special events are on, such as fairs or festivals, it’s usually peaceful, and the tree-lined walkways are wide and spacious; perfect for taking some family shots.

Get there Take the subway and get off at Yonghegong on lines 2 and 5. It’s a five-minute walk from there.


Image: Leeluv via Wikimedia Commons

Badachu Park

Badachu Park

Nestled in the Western Hills, these slopes host an array of Buddhist temples, nunneries and shrines. Centred around the Temple of Divine Light and its 'Buddha Tooth' relic, Badachu Park offers a real sense of spirituality. Monks, nuns and Buddhists far outnumber tourists here; the shrines are active places of worship where locals come to pray for guidance, health and luck in the lottery.

Don’t take the cable car to the top if you don’t want to miss the temples and shrines – although that option might be good for taking some aerial snaps of the autumn leaves. For going back down, delight your kids by taking the exhilarating toboggan slide (60RMB) back to the entrance.

Get there Take the subway to Pingguoyuan station (Line 1); leave via the northeast exit (D) and take bus 972 to the entrance of Badachu Park.

Yuyuantan Park

Yuyuantan Park

This park in west Beijing is best known for its historical diaoyutai (angling terrace), because the writer Wang Yu used to fish there during the Jin dynasty. A favourite scenic spot of the emperors for hundreds of years, it's now the site of the Diaoyutai State Guesthouse – a sort of Chinese Camp David for foreign dignitaries.

The park itself is also famous for its grand ginkgo trees, around 1,000 in total, that burst into vibrant yellows in the autumn. Plus, it has two huge play areas, a definite perk for families.

Get there Take the subway to Military Museum station (lines 1 and 9), and enter from the northern side of China Millennium Monument.


Image: Wpcpey via Wikimedia Commons

Jinhai Lake

Jinhai Lake

For a lake view of fall foliage, head to Jinhai Lake, one of the city's three reservoirs that’s surrounded by beautiful mountains which turn orange and red in the autumn. As well as providing plenty of photo-snapping opportunities, this serene location is home to more than 60 species of bird and water bird, including white storks and grey-crowned cranes.

Go for a tranquil stroll along the long, colourful walkway with traditional eaves, where you can sit on the benches and have a leisurely picnic. Or, if you're up for an adrenaline rush, go on a two-person kayak (100RMB an hour) or a pedal (80RMB an hour, or even a jet ski (25RMB a minute).

Get there Take the 852 bus from Dongzhimen to Pinggu bus station (17 stops). Then take the 45 bus to Jinhai Lake station (12 stops). 

Beijing Botanical Gardens

Beijing Botanical Gardens

For less wild forestry and more pretty flowers, head to Beijing Botanical Gardens in Haidian district. Within its four million square metres (990 acres) of conservatories, hot rooms and outside gardens, the attraction boasts over 6,000 species of plants. These include tropical varieties, water plants such as lotuses and lilies, and species used to make Chinese medicines and rarities such as a sequoia that was discovered in China after it had been thought extinct for millions of years.

Don’t miss Wofosi Temple, which hails from the Tang dynasty. Set into the mountain cliffs, the temple contains a five-metre (16.4 feet) long reclining Buddha.

Get there Take the subway to Botanical Garden station (Xijiao Line). It's a 15-minute walk from there.

Mutianyu Great Wall

Mutianyu Great Wall

No list of autumn destinations is complete without the Great Wall, whose location on mountain ridges makes it ideal for foliage viewing. There are a few places you can go to, but the most family-friendly spot is Mutianyu. Located about 70 kilometres from central Beijing in Huairou district, this section of the wall is about an-hour-and-a-half by car. While further away, it’s less tourist infested than nearby Badaling.

Walk a couple of miles along the historic structure and climb to the top of the many watchtowers. Most of the wall has been renovated which means it’s safe for kids but you can easily make out untouched – or in parts, crumbling – sections stitched along the surrounding mountains. If you don’t want to walk up, you can get a cable car for a leisurely ride up to the foot of the wall. And then slide 1.5 kilometres back down on a toboggan.

Get there The easiest way is to drive or be driven. For chauffeur services or car hire, see Beijing's essential services for families.

Read more

Beijing's best parks

Whether it's a picnic, peace and quiet or play, there's a park for it all

Read more
By: Patrick Moore

Comments