Located just a RMB 10 cab ride away from Xiang Shan, Beijing Botanical Garden is the perfect setting for a family picnic. Covering a whopping 564,000sqm area, this green haven features over 6,000 plant species in various outdoor gardens and greenhouses. The size of the park means that you can always find a quiet spot to indulge in playtime with the kids, reading by the lake, or even an afternoon snooze.
Chinese literature fans can tour Cao Xueqin’s Memorial in the eastern part of the park, where the author worked on the manuscript for the classic Dream of the Red Chamber. The memorial houses several exhibition rooms detailing the author’s background, influences, and research for his novel.
From the South Gate, walk north to reach the Tropical Conservatory. Located in the center of the Botanical Garden, the 9,800sqm conservatory is an important site for plant conservation and research. The second floor houses the sweltering and awe-inspiring cacti display. For a break, head to the tiny cafe on the ground floor, which sells drinks and snacks for slightly marked up prices.
Continue north to Wofo Si, or Reclining Buddha Temple. One of the oldest in Beijing, the temple was built during the Tang dynasty over 1,300 years ago. A long road lined with old cypress trees leads up to the second archway and opens onto five rows of halls. The most impressive is the centerpiece of the temple: a massive reclining statue of the Buddha that was cast in bronze during the Yuan dynasty and weighs in at 54 tons. Wee ones will enjoy the carp and turtle pond, where dozens of painted turtles clamber over each other to vie for the best sunbathing spot.
At the end of the day, cabs can be found just outside the Botanical Garden’s South Gate. There’s also a bus station just across the street to the east. Catch Bus 331 or 696 to Beigongmen Station subway stop on Line 4. The ride takes about 45 minutes with traffic.
Beijing Botanical Garden 北京植物园
Daily 6am-8pm (summer), daily 7.30am-5pm (winter). RMB 5, RMB 2.5 (students with ID), RMB 45 (includes admission for outdoor gardens, Conservatory, and Wofo Si). Xiangshan Lu, Haidian District (6259 1283, firstname.lastname@example.org) 海淀区香山路
Photos: Drnantu (Flickr), Sijia Chen, and storyvillegirl (Flickr)