After hours of combing through our archives, we feature some places worth a visit over the holiday period to get the most out of Beijing before the cold has us shuddering at the thought of having to go outside.
One of the most striking features of autumn in Beijing is the changing of the leaves. From now until mid-November, we can expect to see the city’s foliage turning bright shades of yellow, orange, and red. Fragrant Hills (Xiangshan) might be the most popular destination to appreciate the changing of the seasons, but it also tends to be one of the busiest.
Instead, we decided to explore the quiet, sprawling grounds of Beijing’s storied academic institutions for a fall family outing rich in history and scenery. This journey takes place in Haidian District and features a walk around Peking University’s (PKU) Weiming Lake, a bike ride and lunch at neighbouring Tsinghua University, a detour to the Old Summer Palace, and dinner at Changchunyuan Gourmet Street.
Most expats are aware that PKU and Tsinghua are two of the most prestigious universities in China, but their appeal goes far beyond the intellectual. That’s why you are as likely to see tour groups as you are to see students on campus. Formerly known as the Imperial University of Peking (京师大学堂), PKU was built in 1898 and the campus hosts many famous attractions. The must-visits for autumn are the beautiful Weiming Lake and Boya Tower on its southeast bank.
To start your journey, take subway line 4 to East Gate of Peking University station and get out at exit A. You will see two admission gates nearby. The one near the newspaper stand is for students and school staff, and the other one is for visitors. If you know someone at PKU, they can bring you in with them; otherwise, you will have to take your passport and register at the other gate.
The PKU campus is relatively small and most places are within walking distance. After you enter the gate, walk straight for about 200m and turn right on Weiming Beilu (未名北路). You will see Boya Tower within 100m. Walking under the trees around the lake, you will pass students reading books on the benches by the water. There are several young ginkgo trees around the lake; their leaves should be a luminous shade of gold by the time this issue is out. Although scarlet maple leaves are what many think of when it comes to autumn foliage, the elegant fan-shaped leaves from this rare, slow-growing tree have a special beauty of their own.
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This article originally appeared on p30-33 of the beijingkids November 2013 issue. Check out the PDF version online at Issuu.com
Photos: Clemence Jiang