This expanse of elaborate Qing-style pavilions, bridges, walkways, and gardens, scattered along the shores of immense Kunming Lake, is the grandest imperial playground in China; it was constructed from 1749 to 1764.
The Summer Palace is located 12km northwest of the city center in Haidian. Take bus no. 726 from just west of Wudaokou light rail station; or take a 30- to 40-minute taxi from the center of city. A more pleasant option is to travel here by boat along the renovated canal system; “imperial yachts” leave from the Beizhan Houhu Matou, behind the Beijing Exhibition Center just south of the Beijing Aquarium, docking at Nan Ruyi Men in the south of the park. Go early and allow at least 4 hours for touring the major sites on your own. Spots around the lake are perfect for picnics, and Kunming Lake is ideal for skating in the depths of winter.
The Summer Palace park covers roughly 290 hectares, with Kunming Lake in the south and Longevity Hill in the north. The lake’s northern shore boasts most of the buildings and other attractions and is the most popular area for strolls, although it is more pleasant to walk around the smaller lakes behind Longevity Hill. The hill itself has a number of temples as well as Baoyun Ge (Precious Clouds Pavilion). There are dozens of pavilions and a number of bridges on all sides of the lake, enough to make a full day of exploration, if you so choose.
Long Corridor (Chang Lang)
Among the more memorable attractions in Beijing, this covered wooden promenade stretches 700m along the northern shore of Kunming Lake. Each crossbeam, ceiling, and pillar is painted with a different scene taken from Chinese history, literature, myth, and geography .
Seventeen-Arch Bridge (Shiqi Kong Qiao)
This 150m-long marble bridge connects South Lake Island to the east shore of Kunming Lake. There is a rather striking life-size bronze ox near the eastern foot of the bridge.