Old Summer Palace, or Yuan Ming Yuan – The Gardens of Perfect Brightness, as the locals would know it must be one of the best kept secrets in the city. It’s location is very central in Haidian district, the area is covers is large (3.5 sq km, or 860 acres) and the number of visitors (at least on the days we have been there) is relatively low. Maybe it is because people confuse the name with the Summer Palace, or because this place is mainly about nature rather than buildings, since those were destroyed by the British and French troops around 1860 during the Second Opium War.
The park consists of three main parts: the Garden of Perfect Brightness proper, Garden of Eternal Spring and Elegant Spring Garden. first time we visited the park it was the time of the Lotus festival and those beautiful white and pink flowers could be seen all over the lakes and ponds. The northern part of the park had black swans and other birds, which had also attached a large number of photographers trying to catch them on film.
This park goes good both for the mind as well as body, as one can stroll for hours around, take a little boat ride, sit down for a pack lunch to enjoy a meal in the restaurant over a lake (note that bicycled are not allowed, but one can buy battery car tickets if one gets tired of walking). Kids loved running around the place, up and down the little bridges and along the old walls and of course in our case (after a rain), splashing in puddles with their rubber boots. We all had fun and were tired but relaxed at the end of the day!
Late May-early June is the perfect time for Lotus-flower spotting. So beautiful!
Giant lily pads and a pavilion near the main entrance of the park. This is one of the few original buildings that survived the descruction
A little green pond
Lotus flowers and a fountain, on the background also a restaurant and a steep bridge
The park is full of little paths and bridges to cross
A moment from the past…
Miss C. enjoying the boat ride and look at fish and other boats
The best preserved part of the European-styled palace ruins
A rainy day can still be a perfect trip day, especially after the rain stops the real fun can start…
Exploring the ruins
Trying to clear our way to the central pavilion in the restored Wanhuazhen labyrinth
Last tranquil pond at the other end of the park
The area is huge and a day barely is enough to discover the grounds and ruins of the old summer palace (we only managed to cover the two smaller parts during our first full-day visit)
My review of the Old Summer Palace (Yuan Ming Yuan/ 圆明园): Excellent
Address: Haidian District, No. 28 Qinghua West Road (Qing Hua Xi Lu)/ 海淀区清华西路28号
“Beautiful and fun place for the whole family. Look for specific events or special times such as the lotus flowers blooming in May-June or the lanterns in late summer. A boat tour is very relaxing and fun way to tour the place and admire the beauty of the nature. Cross sometimes very steep bridges, walk along the wooden decks and let your imagination run with the ruins on how gorgeus this place has been.
Have a picnic, admire the black swans and race the restoed stone-walled labyrinth to the pavillion. Even on a hot summer this park is bearable because of the presence of water elements. The entrance fee is low and you get certainly your money’s worth here. Enjoy Yuan Ming Yuan!”