Ritan Park, otherwise known as the Temple of the Sun, was constructed during the reign of the Ming emperor Jiajing in 1530. It encloses a sacrificial alter to the sun and was one of imperial Beijing’s four historic altars. After its destruction in the early 20th century, Ritan Park was rebuilt in 1951. Nestled in the middle of the CBD, Ritan Park packs a surprising amount of family-friendly spots into a limited space. Take a leisurely stroll through the leafy park, admire the lake dotted with beautifully painted pavilions, let your kids burn off extra energy in the playground, go fishing, fly a kite and even try your hand at rock climbing. What makes a visit to Ritan Park so easy is the number and variety of dining choices in the area; whether you’re looking for an outdoor terrace, a lake-side seat, or a cosy indoor space to take off the autumn chill – you’ll find it here.
Start your tour from the North Gate of Ritan Park, located on Ritan Beilu. Park entrance is free of charge. Go straight ahead and you’ll see the North Heavenly Gate, which was the original gateway to the park. After passing through the gate, on your immediate left you’ll see a tree-lined path which passes the old Bell Tower. It is now a yoga center, run by Yogi Yoga. While not suitable for kids, they offer a range of yoga classes for adults. Next-door is the Chinese restaurant Xiao Wang Fu (1), where families can sample Beijing delicacies while enjoying alfresco dining on the outdoor terrace. If continuing along the path you eventually stumble across the Sacrificial Offering Pavilion as well as the park’s main attraction: the Alter to the Sun. Though currently being restored, it will open to the public early next year.
From the Alter’s arch entrance, there are several paths leading to different sections of the park. Stick to the right and head towards to the west entrance of the park. En route you’ll find the Southwest Scenic Area, which consists of several small lakes surrounded by tall willow trees. Take your time to stroll through this lovely area, which if you haven’t eaten already is great for an outdoor picnic. If visiting on a weekend, expect to hear groups of lao Beijing ren singing Beijing opera. If you’re lucky, you might also see a few fan dancers. For those who did not pack lunch, head to the Stone Boat Café (2), located on the lake’s edge. Serving a small selection Beijing staples including jiaozi and zhajiang mian (thick, cold noodles served with a salty sauce and eight brightly colored vegetables), as well as coffee and tea, the Stone Boat is a good place for a pit-stop. Parents with little kids should opt for indoor seating; the outdoor area has an unguarded platform positioned over the water, which if you’re not careful could result in a nasty fall into the lake.
After making your way through the Southwest Scenic Area, you’ll come to the south gate of the park. There are several dining and shopping options around this area, including Schindler’s Tankstelle (3) and Ritan Office Building (featuring a decent range of kids clothes, should you have the time to hunt for them) located just outside the south gate. If staying inside the park, continue your stroll past the South Gate and on to the playground (4). Families will want to spend the bulk of their time here, as there are plenty of activities to keep the little ones occupied. The playground includes an inflatable playhouse, large trampolines, bumper cars, a merry-go-round, an indoor playhouse and sandpit, as well as various rides and games. Some amusements are a tad rundown, so best to inspect them before letting the kids loose. Also worth a look is the nearby fishing pond (5), complete with fishing rod rentals. Fishermen are limited to three catches a day. Continue walking northeast along the circular pedestrian path and you’ll come across the climbing wall (6), where you and the kids can play spider monkey.
To round off the day, follow the path back to the North Gate where you’ll find Ritan Highlife – a shopping and dining complex. If a hearty meal is what your brood needs after a full day of walking, climbing and playing, try The Elephant (7), a Russian favorite that is guaranteed to warm you up as the sun goes down.
Ritan Park 日坛公园
Daily 6am-10pm (May 1- Sep 30), Daily 6am-9pm (Oct 1-Apr 30). 6 Ritan Beilu, Chaoyang District (8561 6301)
Yogi Yoga 悠季瑜伽
Daily 10am-8pm. North gate of Ritan Park, Chaoyang District (8561 5506)
Xiao Wang Fu 小王府
Daily 11.30am-2pm, 5.30-10pm. Inside Ritan Park, near North Gate (8561 5985)
Stone Boat Café 石舫斋咖啡厅
Daily 10am-11pm. Lakeside, southwest corner of Ritan Park, Chaoyang District (6501 9986)
Schindler’s Tankstelle 申德勒加油站
Daily 10am-midnight. 15A Guanghua Lu (200m east of Ritan Park South Gate), Chaoyang District (8562 6439)
Ritan Office Building 日坛商务楼
Daily 10am-7pm. 15 Guanghua Lu, Chaoyang District (6502 1528)
Daily 9am-5pm. RMB 2-20 per ride or game.
Fishing pond 钓鱼池
Daily 9am-5pm. RMB 10 deposit, RMB 5 per half hour.
Climbing wall 攀岩墙
Daily 10am-10pm. RMB 10 per climb, RMB 30 per day. (8562 6352)
The Elephant 大笨象
Daily 9am-2am. Ritan Shangjie, Courtyard 39, Shenlu Jie, Chaoyang District (8561 4013)