Beijing is the capital city of China and a bustling metropolis – a mix of modern-day business and innovation with deep history and culture. Beijing sites like the Great Wall and the National Museum of China are no-brainers for visiting while in China, but there are also many parks throughout the city that are must-see spots as well. With more than 300 parks to explore throughout Beijing, you’ll want to explore the city’s hidden gardens on your next trip to China.
Here are a few of our top picks for Beijing parks:
Parks with iconic Chinese culture
First built in 1750 as a luxurious getaway for the royal families to rest and entertain, the Summer Palace gardens and grounds have been destroyed and restored throughout their ancient history, but now serve as an iconic attraction in Beijing. The Summer Palace is a masterpiece of Chinese landscape design, with Kunming Lake and Longevity Hill (Wanshou Shan) melding effortlessly with the pavilions, bridges, temple, and gardens that have been created there.
Located in central Beijing, Beihai Park is one of the oldest imperial gardens in China, dating back to the 11th century. The park was opened to the public in 1925 for visitors to enjoy the lake and surrounding gardens, pavilions and towers. Beihai is a lovely combination of impressive imperial palaces with solemn religious buildings, with the notable White Pagoda located on Jade Flower Island (Qionghua) in the middle of the lake.
Temple of Heaven
Likely you’ve heard or the Temple of Heaven or seen it in movies, but it’s more than just an incredible piece of history and architecture. The well-known temple is set within copious flower gardens, fountains and pine woods, all of which make for enjoyable strolling and sight-seeing.
Parks to enjoy without leaving the city:
Sometimes also called Coal Hill, Jingshan Park is situated right in the city center, facing the north gate of the Forbidden City. From within Jingshan Park visitors can reach the highest point in Beijing and get a full view of the Forbidden City below. The park’s 50+ acres boast gardens as well as locals who gather to socialize, play music or do tai chi.
Just a mile north of the Forbidden City, and northwest of Beihai Lake, is an area that consists of three lakes. Qianhai (Front Lake), Houhai (Rear Lake) and Xihai (West Lake) make up the Shichahai river area. Here you’ll find tranquil scenes during the day – waterways linked by bridges and walking paths, visitors touring the area in pedicabs, courtyards and willow trees. You can rent a paddle boat and explore the lakes or even ice skate in the winter. At night, the various restaurants and bars make for another exciting element to this park area of Beijing.
Parks to boost your brain
Beijing Botanical Garden
Head to the Beijing Botanical Garden to take in aesthetic beauty, entertainment, science and education all in one place. Established in 1955, the capital city’s botanical garden spans hundreds of acres and features thousands of species of trees, flowers, herbs, and more, both in gardens and in copious greenhouses. There are also several Buddhist temples located on the grounds. The Beijing Botanical Garden is not only picturesque, but also an important location for science education and research.
Zhoukoudian Peking Man Site
The Peking Man Site is southwest of Beijing and the place of ongoing geological and archaeological research. It was here at Zhoukoudian that remains of Sinanthropus pekinensis – or “Peking man,” as the new species was called when it was discovered in 1921 – were found. The limestone hills of the Zhoukoudian region have been the site of many other fossil discoveries, including Homo sapiens and other remains from as far back as 18,000 BC.
Parks to get your blood pumping
Badaling and Mutianyu sections of the Great Wall
If you’re less interested in lounging on a green grassy field and more interested in taking in the views while hiking an historic path, be sure to check out the Badaling and Mutianyu sections of the Great Wall. Transportation to Badaling is quick and easy, and the paths on this section of the wall are well-preserved and good for hiking. While not treacherous, there are many stairs as the wall ascends and descends. However, the incredible views from the watchtowers along this stretch make it well worth the trek. Highlights include sunrise or sunset from the North 6th Watchtower (also dubbed the Sun Watching Tower) and the Bear Garden, where more than 300 black and brown bears live. At Mutianyu, the 20 watchtowers are many steps upward, so some visitors opt to take the cable car up. To descend, visitors can take a slide down, zoom down on a zip line, or simply walk back down. After that visitors may visit the “China Dream Stones City” and the Lu Ming Recreation Zoo.
Parks with water activities
Surrounded on three sides by mountains, Yanqi Lake Park is home to excellent waterfowl, mountain hiking trails and scenic surrounds, as well as views of the Great Wall to the north and red-roofed temples to the west. In addition, there is an amusement park with water and land activities. Yanqi Lake also offers new high-end developments such as the Sunrise Kempinski Hotel, about which CNN asked “Is this the most incredible hotel to open this year?”
Jinhai is the third biggest reservoir in Beijing, very well protected, and an excellent fishing spot. In addition to the natural environment, the water park at Jinhai offers visitors boat rentals and water slides – and don’t forget about the nearby Jack Nicklaus signature golf course.
Parks for weekend picnics
If you have a bit more time, head outside the city and explore the nearby forest parks.
Beijing Beigong National Forest Park
Head outside of the city center and explore the nearest and biggest national forest park to downtown Beijing. The flowers in Beigong bloom throughout the spring and summer, an ancient stone bridge dates back to the Qing Dynasty, and walking paths, lakes, and valleys make Beigoing National Forest Park an ideal spot for picnics and getting back to nature.
Located northeast of Beijing’s city center, Xiangshan Park is home to “Fragrant Hill,” a scenic spot famous for its vistas, especially in the fall. The Fragrant Hill Red Leaves Festival is a standout event in October each year, but Xiangshan Park is incredible year-round thanks to the imperial architecture, temples and memorials found throughout the park and area.