Centered around a giant lake, Yuyuantan Park is a serene locale, perfect for families who want to relax on a weekend. But before you rush into the park’s tranquil grounds, there are a number of impressive sights just outside, including the Chinese National Military Museum and the China Millennium Monument (which also houses the Beijing World Art Museum), both of which are worth a visit. Although all of these locations are sufficiently large to visit individually, it’s possible to get a taste of each with this itinerary, which takes approximately four hours.
The easiest way to get to Yuyuantan Park, which touches the West Third Ring Road (西三环路Xisanhuan Lu), is via subway Line 1; get off at the Military Museum, Exit A. From here you will immediately be able to see the stunning façade of the museum, with arguably the most impressive socialist-modernistic architecture outside Tian’anmen. Given the museum’s popularity it can sometimes be a bit crowded at the entrance, but it’s well worth the wait. Entrance is free. Inside, the kids can scramble over tanks, battleships and fighter planes while the adults can admire the realist socialist artwork and sculpture. Despite containing fascinating exhibitions on Chinese military history, some of the installations can be a tad graphic, and the vast room full of sub-machine guns, rifles, mines and swords might not be to everyone’s taste.
When exiting the museum, take the first right. Follow that road (named Junbo Xilu) around the corner past the roadside shops selling melon slices and touristy gifts including maps, wind-up toys and model planes. From here you will be able to see the impressive China Millennium Monument; a giant, round, sundial-shaped structure. Built to celebrate 5,000 years of Chinese history, it incorporates a written and visual timeline culminating in a spectacular steel needle. Also well worth a visit is the Beijing World Art Museum inside the monument (RMB 30 for adults and RMB 20 for children). They’re currently holding a comparative exhibition about the Han and Roman empires, which will entertain older kids who’ve been bitten by the history bug.
After all that culture, it’s time to head to the park to relax. Leave the Millennium
Monument from the back exit and you will be at the south entrance to Yuyuantan Park. Entry is RMB 2. You may also find groups of Chinese people dancing the waltz, adding to the charming atmosphere. From the entrance you will be able to walk straight to the lakeside passing a couple of badminton courts on the way. Overhanging trees, providing shelter and privacy for walkers and amorous couples, shade the enormous lake. During warm summer, months boating on the lake is very popular. Upon reaching the lake you’ll find the king of boat rental piers to your left. Boat rental ranges from RMB 60-100 per hour depending on your choice of craft. A RMB 200 deposit is required. Little kids will love the car-shaped boats, circular ladybird boats and the mock-battleship.
The southwest of the park is currently undergoing renovations, so to get to the other side of the lake, double back and cross the stone bridge in the middle of the lake. Yuyuantan Park is particularly famous for its cherry trees, which bloom from late April to early May, but they still offer visitors a beautiful vista even in mid-summer and autumn. The cherry park has its own smaller lake, filled with water lilies and flanked by a café, a great place for a pit stop.
From the café, you can enjoy a relaxing stroll around the north side of the lake. If you still have the energy, you can continue all the way around to the south side; however, you’ll need to leave the lake briefly to get around the renovation work. During your stroll you will pass the Diaoyutai guesthouse, which plays host to high-level government meetings and visiting heads of state. Dotted around the south side of the lake are a number of good play areas for kids to let off some steam. Exit via the south gate of the park to get back to the subway. Cafés and restaurants are not plentiful in this area. However, you will find a McDonald’s directly opposite the Military Museum. We recommend you bypass the junk food and snack stalls, and by bringing your own picnic lunch to enjoy under the cherry trees. This autumn is the perfect time to get out and explore this hidden gem in the west of Beijing.
With text adapted from Beijing by Foot.
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