Yuyuantan Park 玉渊潭公园
A Haidian hotspot, Yuyuantan is renowned for its annual spring Cherry Blossoms Festival. Forty years ago, these precious cherry trees were planted after being shipped as tokens from Japan and inspired park owners named this section of the park Cherry Garden. Roses and magnolias line Liuchun Garden, and to top it all off, Beijing’s biggest and best water tour passes through here, letting visitors board and drift all the way to The Temple of Heaven’s South Gate.
RMB 2 for adults, RMB 1 for students. Daily 6am-8.30pm (Apr 1-Oct 31); daily 6.30am-7pm (Nov 1-Mar 31). 10 Xisanhuan Zhonglu, Haidian District (8865 3800/3806/3806) 海淀区西三环中路10号
By subway: Line 1 to Muxidibei, then walk 30m north
By bus: Bus 320, 114, 717, 727 to Mixidibei station or bus 13, 21, 37, or 65 to Sanlihexikou.
Beihai Park 北海公园
The best thing about Beihai Park is its year-round versatility. Its abundance of pavilions keep it from looking barren in the winter, and throngs of ice skaters zip across its giant frozen lake. Now that winter has passed, take a boat ride across that pretty little body of water. Marvel at the architecture of this 1,000-year-old recreational hub: the Tibetan White Dagoba on the parks’ islet, the Bell and Drum towers and the the Stone Tablets of Qiongdao Chunyin. The foliage is gorgeous, too. Admire the lilies in the Botanical Garden or the park’s display of peonies.
Park activities: A calligraphy exhibition (free, 9am-4pm), Paddle boating (in the warmer months, about RMB 40-60 per person), ice skating (from RMB 30 per person)
Best eats: Nearby restaurants include The Cut Steakhouse, Dadong Roast Duck and Black Sesame Kitchen.
RMB 10 (busy season), RMB 5 (off season). All-access ticket: RMB 20 (Apr 1-Oct 31), RMB 15 (Nov 1- Mar 31). Daily 6.30am-9pm (Apr 1-Oct 31); daily 6.30am-8pm (Nov 1-Mar 31). 1 Wenjin Jie, Xicheng District (north of Forbidden City) (6403 8055, 6404 0610, 6403 8055) 西城区文津街1号(故宫北)
By subway: Line 5 to Zhangzizhong Lu, Line 6 to Beihaibei.
By bus: Take bus 5, 101, 103, 109, 124, 685, 614, 619 to Beihai Park (South Gate). Take bus 13, 42, 107, 111, 118, 609, 701, 623路 to Beihai Park (North Gate).
Longtanhu Park 龙潭湖公园
Ritan and Chaoyang may boast about their beautiful lakeside spots, but Longtanhu is Beijing truest top spot for waterside views. It might also be one of Beijing’s quirkiest destinations, and a perfect fit for youngsters that love offbeat surprises, from the strange duck shaped boat (RMB 60) that carries passengers to a nearby island (a popular hangout for roller bladders) to The Challenger virtual spaceship.
Park activities: The Challenger, tennis courts, an indoor playground, trampolines
Bathrooms: Single person with squat and sit toilets; no changing tables or toilet paper.
RMB 10. Daily 6am-9pm. 8 Longtan Lu, Chongwen District (6711 9915, 6711 9915) 崇文区龙潭路8号(近华普超市)
By bus: Take bus 561 or 8 to Longtanhu station, or bus 12, 684, or 750 to Longtanhu Youyong Chi
Olympic Forest Park 北京奥林匹克公园
Built for the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games, Olympic Forest Park has plenty of room and greenery. A large hill at the park’s northern corner is ideal for hikers. Bridges link small islands, which make for a pleasant variety in scenery for runners that frequent the park. If you love to jog and need a place to keep the kids occupied, this spot is ideal.
Park activities: Several small amusement park rides in the southeastern corner, and to the south lies the China Science and Technology
Museum (a must for kids of all ages).
Bathrooms: Single bathrooms with sit-down toilets. No toilet paper or changing tables.
Free entry. Daily 6am-8pm. 33 Kehui Lu, Beisihuan Zhonglu, Chaoyang District (6452 9060) 朝阳区北四环中路科荟路33号
By subway: Line 8 to Olympic Forest Park
By bus: Take 520 or 81 to West Gate; or 328, 379, 419 to South Gate.
Ritan Park 日坛公园
Featuring architecture from an aged dynasty, and plenty of leafy trees and bushes, there’s more than enough here to help you forget the endless hustle of China’s capital. Little pagodas are dotted throughout Ritan Park – also called Temple of the Sun – a locale that was first declared a premiere destination by Ming-era emperor Jiajing in the sixteenth century. The traditional vibe extends throughout the park, especially at its hub: The Altar to the Sun, which consists of ruins that once stood as a marble sacrificial alter. There are also modern features, including the Ritan Highlife shopping and dining complex, an inflatable playhouse, slides and a sandpit at the playground.
Park activities: A playground (near South Gate), Ritan Highlife, an outdoor rock climbing wall
Best eats: Mostly junk food (hot dogs, chips, instant noodles) within the park. The Stone Boat Cafe and Xiaowangfu are good for Chinese cuisine, while Schindler’s Tankstelle and The Elephant offer hearty German and Russian cuisine, respectively.
Bathrooms: Squat public toilets with toilet paper, but bring spare tissues, just in case; no changing tables.
Free entrance. Daily 6am-10pm (Apr 1-Oct 31); daily 6am-9pm (Nov 1-Mar 31). 6 Ritan Beilu, Chaoyangmenwai, Chaoyang District (8562 2612) 朝阳区朝阳门外日坛北路6号
By bus: Take bus 640 or 639 to Ritan Park
Chaoyang Park 朝阳公园
In Beijing, there’s so much more to a walk in the park than lazy strolls and cloud gazing. Case in point: Chaoyang Park. From the seat rattling 4D movie theater (RMB 25, daily 9am-5pm) to the whirling rides at the amusement park and Happy Monkey Tree Top Adventure Park’s ziplines, there are plenty of fast paced activities here. It’s also one of the Beijing’s top spots to unwind and escape the city’s concrete jungle, thanks to a sprawling grassy area that is perfect for picnics.
Park activities: A 4D movie theater, Happy Monkey Tree Top Adventure Park, an amusement park
Best eats: Mostly junk food within the park (hot dogs, chips, instant noodles); Annie’s, Alio Olio and Muse Parisian Vietnamese Brasserie are near the park’s West Gate.
Bathrooms: Squat public toilets with toilet paper, but it’s usually out, so parents should bring some spare tissue, just in case. No changing tables.
RMB 5. Daily 6am-10pm (Apr 1-Oct 31); daily 6am-9pm (Nov 1-Mar 31). 1 Nongzhan Nanlu, Chaoyang District (6595 3490, 6595 3490) 朝阳区农展南路1号
By bus: Take 302, 729, 502, 350, 406, 431, 499, 672, 673, 988, or 976 to Chaoyang Park South Gate
Temple of Heaven (Tiantan Park) 天坛公园
Apart from the famous pagodas of Temple of Heaven rests a park lined with trees and mahjong tables that draw locals and showcase a far more authentic side of the city. This is an ideal location to go biking or running, or play a round of hackey sack. It is also a hub for local talents to practice their singing or traditional instruments on Sundays. Its a peaceful park that’s perfect to unwind in, despite being next to one of Beijing’s biggest tourist draws.
Bathrooms: Single bathrooms with both sit and squat toilets and toilet paper; some of the bathrooms have changing tables.
RMB 15 (busy season), RMB 10 (off season). All-access ticket: RMB 35 (Apr 1-Oct 31), RMB 30 (Nov 1-Mar 31). Daily 6am-10pm (Apr 1-Oct 31), daily 6am-9pm (Nov 1-Mar 31). 7 Tiantanneidongli Lu, Chongwen District (6702 8866/2402/3036, 6702 8866/8271) 崇文区天坛内东里7号
By subway: Line 5 to Tiantandongmen (Exit A)
Purple Bamboo Park 紫竹院公园
Ritan and Chaoyang draw more foreigners, but Zizhu is still one of Beijing’s biggest parks. It’s also a good destination for families living in Haidian, who don’t want to fight traffic to get to some of the more famed parks. Kids will be wowed by the bamboo trees dotting the park, rarest of all being the purple variety from which the park takes its name.
Activities: There is a children’s playground with various activities (from RMB 3, 9am-6pm), ferry boats (RMB 10/person), paddle boats (RMB 50/30 min).
Best eats: Several small eateries inside feature Chinese staple foods like dumplings and noodles.
Bathrooms: Single bathrooms with both sit and squat toilets and toilet paper; some of the bathrooms feature changing tables.
Free entry. Daily 6am-9pm (Apr 1-Oct 31); daily 6am-8pm (Nov 1-Mar 31). 35 Nanjie, Zhongguancun, Haidian District (8841 2800, 8841 2800) 海淀区中关村南大街35号
By bus: Bus 114, 118, 334, 360, 362, 482, 534, 601, 5 特, 104 运通 to Zizhuyuan Nanmen
Fragrant Hills Park (Xiangshan) 香山公园
It’s a bit of a hike to Xiangshan: 10km to the west of the city, to be precise. But that’s the whole point. While most other Beijing parks create an illusion of nature with their lush but meager greenery, Fragrant Hills is the real deal, a true getaway from the city full of trees and groves. Happy hikers will enjoy scaling the hills near the half circle pond and traditional pavilion of the aged Jianxin Study.
Activities: The Mountain Flower Festival (RMB 10, April 1-20) features more than 100,000 potted plants and flowers on display including orchids, rosemary and primulas. The Red Leaf Festival (RMB 12, Oct 1-31) is when guests gather to see the autumn leaves turn with the season. Last year, over a million visited.
Best eats: Xiangshan Restaurant
Bathrooms: Single bathrooms with both sit and squat toilets and toilet paper; no changing tables.
RMB 10 (May 1-Oct 1), RMB 5 (Oct 2- Apr 30). For students or senior citizens (local residents above 65 years old), RMB 5 (May 1-Oct 1), RMB 2.5 (Oct 2- Apr 30). Daily 6am-7pm (Apr 1-Nov 15); daily 6am-6pm (Nov 16-Mar 31). 40 Maimai Jie, Haidian District (6259 9886, 6259 9886) 海淀区买卖街40号
By subway: Line 1 to Pingguoyuan station, then transfer to Pingguoyuan Nan Lu Dong Kou bus station and take bus 318 to Xiangshan station
Tuanjiehu Park 团结湖公园
Tuanjiehu Park has a lot of charm, thanks to its cozy neighborhood atmosphere. Small children will adore the merry go-rounds, while the whole family can partake in splashing around in its family-friendly waterpark. The waterpark has super fast slides and a children’s play area. There is plenty of koi to feed, a roller skating rink and paddle boating.
Park activities: Water park (RMB 60; from June 1 to September 15, 10am-8pm), a Koi pond, carnival-type kiddie rides, paddle boating (RMB 30, daily 9am-8pm), roller skating (RMB 10/hour; RMB 100 deposit. Discount card: RMB 120/20 times, RMB 80/10 times; an additional RMB 1 if after 6.30pm. Rental: RMB 10/hour for skates, RMB 5/hour for safety gear. Daily 9am-9.30pm.)
Bathroom: Squat toilets with sinks and toilet paper; no changing tables.
Best eats: Hot dogs, lamb meat sticks, chips and ice cream are served within the park. Outside the East Gate, there is Guolin Homestyle
Restaurant and Jindingxuan.
Free entrance. Daily 7am-10pm. 16 Tuanjiehu South, Chaoyang District (8597 3603, 8597 3603) 朝阳区团结湖南里16号
By subway: Line 6 and Line 10 to Hujialou station (Exit B).
Additional parks worth exploring
Honglingjin Park 红领巾公园. RMB 12. Daily 6am-9.30pm. 5 Houbalizhuang, Chaoyang District (8581 9548, 8581 0901) 朝阳区后八里庄5号
Grand View Garden 大观园. RMB 40 for adults, RMB 20 for students. Daily 7.30am-5.30pm, 6pm-9pm. 88 Nancaiyuan Jie, Xicheng District (8355 2933/2933) 西城区南菜园街88号
Jingshan Park 景山公园. RMB 10. Daily 6.30am-9pm. 44 Jingshan Xijie, Xicheng District (6404 4071, 6403 8098) 西城区景山西街44号(故宫后对面)
photo by Derajfast and Ivan Walsh on Flickr