Beihai Park is the park that lives in many native Beijingers’ hearts. Built as an imperial garden during the Jin Dynasty (1115 – 1234 C.E.), it was listed as one of the National Cultural Relics Protection Sites in 1961. Except for seven years, from 1971 to 1978, during the Cultural Revolution when Beihai Park was shut down allegedly for the private pleasure of Mao Zedong’s wife Jiang Qing, it has been a home for pleasant childhood memories of Beijingers young and old. The White Tower Temple and the lake, that takes up over half of the park, are the two landmarks of Beihai Park. The lake is superb for seekers of outdoor fun during all seasons; you can either skate on the frozen lake in winter, or pedal across the tranquil waters on duck boats when it’s warmer.
1 Wenjin Street, Xicheng District, Beijing, +8610 64033225
The ginkgo trees along this street are beautiful throughout the year, but they are especially photogenic in autumn when the leaves change to a beautiful golden color. The boulevard has become one of the best places for social media during the fall season. Remember to take a photographer with you when you go there, and beware of the crowds!
Located in the Dongcheng District, Tiantan used to be the place of worship for emperors in the Ming and Qing Dynasties. Approximately four times the size of the Forbidden City, it is the largest existing sacrificial complex built in ancient China, and was listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1998. It was opened to the public as a park in 1918 under the reign of Kuomintang. As well as the monumental Hall of Prayers, the grand lawn near the park’s entrance is also a beautiful place for photos.
1 Tiantan East Road, Dongcheng District, Beijing, +8610 67028866
Ditan Park (Temple of Earth) was made to worship the God of Earth by the emperors of the Ming and Qing Dynasties. The sacrificial ceremonies have, of course, long stopped now, but it remains a significant place for modern Beijingers as it hosts the most famous book fair in Beijing. Perhaps no park is as infused with the smell of ink as Ditan Park.
Andingmen Waidajie, Dongcheng District, Beijing, +8610 64214657
Summer Palace is the most famous garden that represents the history of the late Qing Dynasty. Originally built under the reign of the Qianlong Emperor and named Qingyi Garden, it was partly destroyed by the joint Anglo-French force during its plunder of the Old Summer Palace. In 1884, the Empress Dowager ordered the garden redesigned to suite her imperial abode outside the Forbidden City. It is believed that the luxurious redesign was so costly that Prince Chun, who was in charge of the project, misappropriated a large sum of the Navy funds to pay for it, which partly led to China’s failure in the Sino-Japanese War of 1894-1895. Now, Summer Palace is one of the best places to relax and view the lotus flowers.
19 Xinjiangongmen Road, Haidian District, Beijing, +86 62881144
For lovers of the Forbidden City, Jingshan Park is a place you would regret not visiting. Located on the northern border of the Forbidden City, you can have a bird’s-eye view of the Chinese imperial palace from the Ming and Qing Dynasties. Rumor has it that Chongzhen, the last emperor of the Ming Dynasty, hanged himself on an old locust tree in the park when he was being chased by Li Zicheng’s rebel army.
44 Jingshan West Street, Xicheng District, Beijing, +8610 64038098
This comparatively young park was open to the public in 2001, but what it aims to exhibit is not at all young. The park was built as an outdoor museum featuring the Imperial City’s Dong’an Gate. The decision to turn the park into a museum was made during the construction of the park when the heritage of the gate was discovered. A small segment of the Imperial City’s wall, as well as a traditional Chinese courtyard between East Factory and Cuihua Hutong were also restored for the public to view.
If there’s a vote for the most beautiful park in Beijing, then Zizhuyuan Park would win. The towering bamboo forest is a perfect place for you to find peace in the secular world, not to mention snap a beautiful photo. Fun fact, there’s an old saying in Beijing about Zizhuyuan Park: “Couples who go to the Taoranting Park will get married; couples who go to Zizhuyuan Park will break up.” So for superstitious couples, the park may be a place you want to avoid (which means that Zizhuyuan will be a haven for singletons!).
35 Zhongguancun South Street, Haidian District, Beijing, +8610 88412800￼
Here’s the best go-to park for couples: Taoranting Park. Built in 1952, the park is a mixture of classical Chinese architecture and modern garden art. The feature of the park, Taoranting (Joyful Pavillion), became one of the Four Pavilions of China after its construction in the Qing Dynasty. The black board inscribed with golden characters of “Taoranting” is the calligraphy of Qi Baishi, one of the most influential painters in contemporary China. Taoranting Park is especially beautiful with cherry blossoms in spring.
19 Taiping Street, Xicheng District, Beijing, +8610 63588801
The Grand View Park is a park inspired by a grand novel, literally. It was built exactly according to the Dream of the Red Chamber, one of China’s Four Great Classical Novels, after the novel was adapted into a TV series in 1984. Here you can experience the life of the main characters of the book, and imagine more genuinely the romance between Jia Baoyu and Lin Daiyu. Near the north gate of the park, there’s a tea house in which you can observe Beijing folk arts and Tianjin crosstalk (comedic performing arts).
12 Nancaiyuan Street, Xicheng District, Beijing, +8610 63544994