This beautiful park teems with history and interesting sights, not to mention that it’s simply a picturesque place to stroll through. Beihai Park (literally ‘North Sea Park’) served as an imperial garden for over 1000 years. Kublai Khan had his court here, while most of the buildings on the site now date from the Qing Dynasty, when Emperor Qianlong gave it a thorough remodeling. Weeping willows, ornate bridges and colorful flowerbeds make Beihai Park a wonderful place to spend a clear-weather day.
Covering an area of 700 000 square meters, roughly half of which is taken up by a lake, you could spend a full day wandering through Beihai Park. Starting from the north gate, key sites include the Tranquil Heart Studio (Jing Xin Zhai), the most famous Chinese garden in Beihai Park with Emperor Qianlong and Empress Dowager Cixi among its royal patrons. Nearby is the Nine Dragon Screen. Built in 1756, standing 25.5 meters long and just short of 6 meters high, it features nine flying dragons on each side and 635 dragons in total. Dragon screens are fairly common in China but this is one of the most famous and the only one decorated on both sides.
Heading south brings you to Jade Islet (Qiong Dao). The centerpiece of the islet is the Tibetan style White Pagoda (Bao Ta),which was first built in 1651 and stands almost 36 meters high. To reach the pagoda you need to buy a ticket for Yong’An Temple, which runs down the south slope of the hill on Jade Islet and was built at the same time as the pagoda. However, you can reach the summit of the hill just near the pagoda without buying a ticket for the temple. Also, on the north side of Jade Islet is the restaurant Fangshan, which specializes in Imperial Chinese cuisine. It might be a tourist trap in some ways, but it’s a delightful one.
Finally, in the south of Beihai Park is the Round City. This is a collection of halls an pavilions enclosed inside a 4.6m high, 276m long brick wall. Highlights inside include a sumptuous statue of Buddha carved from white jade, and a jade wine vessel that was used in Kublai Khan’s court. There are signs all around Beihai Park in English to lead you to the various attractions and most sights have explanations in English.
Admission: ¥10 (another ¥10 for Yong An Temple). Open: 6:30am-9pm (park); 9am-5pm (attractions).
Directions: It’s easiest to enter Beihai Park via the south gate (directly west of the north wall of the Forbidden City), or the north gate (on Dianmen Xidajie, just west of the intersection with Dianmenwai Dajie).
Show the taxi driver: 请带我去北海公园北门，谢谢。 (Please take me to Beihai Park. Thank you.)