Normally, there’s very little reason to visit the area of Beijing bounded to the east and west by West Third and Second Ring Roads and to the north and south by subway Lines 1 and 4. However, something very special happens every spring between late March and the beginning of May: cherry blossom season at Yuyuantan Park.
I’ve mentioned Yuyuantan before in the beijingkids print edition, but if you haven’t been before I would really recommend going before the blooming period ends.
At 137 hectares, Yuyuantan is modest by Beijing standards. The park is dominated by two bodies of water imaginatively named the East Lake and the West Lake.
The cherry trees are concentrated in the northwest quadrant of the park. Now numbering in the thousands, they are descended from 180 specimens given to China from Japan in 1973.
When my dad and I visited the park in 2011, there were throngs of people picknicking under the trees and posing for pictures with the riot of pink, yellow, and white cherry blossoms. Hawkers sold street snacks, fake cherry blossom crowns, toys, and other knickknacks.
We spent the afternoon strolling between the trees, taking pictures, and people watching – not doing much at all except enjoying the beautiful spring weather.
The more ambitious can make a day trip out of Yuyuantan and the nearby Military Museum, which is located right by the subway near the south gate of the park. The CCTV Tower, which offers panoramic views of Beijing for a fee, is also nearby.
There are two public restrooms within the cherry tree area, but I’d recommend bringing hand sanitizer and tissues just in case. Avoid going on weekends if you can; otherwise, show up early to claim a prime picnic spot. Pack enough food and snacks to last you for the day, as the onsite options are pretty limited.
Yuyuantan Park 玉渊潭公园
RMB 10 during the Cherry Festival. Daily 6am-9.30pm (summer), daily 6.30am-7pm (winter). 10 Xisanhuan Zhonglu, Haidian District (8865 3800) www.yytpark.com 海淀区西三环中路10号
Sijia Chen is a contributing editor at beijingkids and a freelance writer specializing in parenting, education, travel, environment, and culture. Her work has appeared in Travel + Leisure, The Independent, Midnight Poutine, Rover Arts, and more. Follow her on Twitter at @sijiawrites or email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Photos: Sijia Chen