Not many people in Beijing are lucky enough to have their own garden, so if that’s you, why not head north to Yanqing to see a fantastic array of gorgeous gardens? The International Horticultural Exhibition 2019 (Beijing Expo for short), on until October 7th, features around 80 individual gardens from various organisations, each of China’s provinces, and many countries around the world. There are also exhibition halls featuring the latest agricultural techniques and products.
Read on for our guide on how to get to Beijing Expo and what to see, do and eat there!
Part 1 – Booking Tickets
We recommend booking online in advance if possible, although you can buy tickets at the gate when you arrive. Tickets cost 120RMB for an ordinary standard day ticket. You’ll need your passport to get in.
Book online here (all in English).
One day is not enough to see everything, so if you are able, we recommend booking a hotel in the area and going for two days.
Part 2 – Getting there
The easiest way to get the Expo is to take a shuttle bus from one of 6 subway stations.
The bus from Zhuxinzhuang subway station (line 8 / Changping line) runs every day 7am-2pm, returning 12pm-9pm.
Buses from other stations run Saturdays and Sundays only, 7am-2pm, returning 12pm-9pm. The stations are: Bei’anhe, Tiantongyuan North, Jin’anqiao, Xi’erqi and Liuliqiao.
All buses are clearly signposted in English from all platforms. Pay in cash or with WeChat or Yikatong (no discount) at the table before boarding.
We took the bus from Zhuxinzhuang and that was 16RMB each way. Buses leave every half an hour and the journey takes about 75 minutes. Journey times and prices may vary from other stations. The bus from Zhuxinzhuang is Route 1 and stops in the car park opposite Gate 1.
See here for full details on all the ways to get to the expo.
Part 3 – What to see
When you arrive, head to the first information kiosk and pick up an English map; we found them very useful for navigating the site.
If you only have one day, we recommend sticking to the International Horticultural Exhibition Zone (the international gardens), and the Chinese Horticultural Exhibition Zone (the Chinese provincial gardens), but even that may be too much for just one day, so plan ahead carefully if you have limited time. If you have more time, the Natural Environment Zone is a great place for a river stroll and bird watching (we saw herons, egrets, ducks and coots) and you can take your time in the show gardens. We suggest avoiding the Horticultural Experience Pavilion, International Pavilion and China Pavilion – all of which are for exhibiting the agricultural products of countries, and where most of the information is in Chinese.
Part 4 – Amenities
We found toilets, food and beverage outlets to be plentiful and good quality. The best choices are east of Gate 1 (Costa Coffee, McDonald’s, Chinese restaurant), and the International Horticultural Exhibition Zone which has, among others, Pizza Hut, DQ, a frozen yoghurt place, a Turkish restaurant and several Chinese fast-food places. You’ll also find a beer garden in the German Pavilion, a bakery serving fresh baguettes in the French pavilion, and fresh coffee served in the Yemeni Pavilion. Costa has kiosks around the whole site but note that no decaffeinated coffee is served by any of their outlets. Water from shops is cheaper (4 yuan) than from a vending machine (8 yuan). Most outlets open 9am-8pm.
Part 5 – Our highlights
The Chinese Provincial Gardens:
70th Anniversary of the PRC – a classically Chinese garden
Beijing – a series of windows through which you can see lushly-planted scenes
Fujian – a love letter to the capital Xiamen’s city flower, the bougainvillea
Shanghai – an elegant garden with a jazz soundtrack
Xinjiang – this garden seemed more representative of the province than many of the others, with less generic planting
Yunnan – a semi-tropical garden with winding paths and structures in local style that are arranged to make walking through the garden a journey of discovery
Zhejiang – another garden that was true to the spirit of the province with lush planting set around a lawn and clear English signs explaining the plant choices, which was rare in other gardens
The International Gardens:
Holland – each pretty bed has a different theme which is clearly explained
INBAR – the inspiring bamboo pavilion by the International Network for Bamboo and Rattan is a showcase for this incredible, sustainable material
International Potato Center – a unique garden made entirely of potato plants in terraces!
Qatar – the giant pavilion dominates this plot. Walk through the rather dry displays to reach the beautiful roof garden and little themed gardens on each level of the pavilion on the way down. The benches under the pavilion are the perfect cool place for a rest on a hot day.
United Kingdom – representative planting in this small garden is explained with clear signs.
Part 6 – Environmental Considerations
As often happens in China, this event eagerly promotes its ‘green’ credentials but fails to live up to them. Although organisers are promoting mainly public transportation as a way to get to the event, several new highways were built for the Expo. There is no apparent effort to reduce single-use waste, with Costa for example saying they didn’t even have any glasses or mugs for use in-store. There aren’t even any drinking fountains to reduce use of plastic bottles (though weirdly there were lots of ‘hand-washing stations’). There are large screens in the pavilions – that must use huge amounts of electricity – promoting sustainability and talking about protecting endangered plants – but nothing telling people concrete actions they can take to stop it.
Most disappointing of all are the swathes of public planting (not within the show gardens) that used non-native and extremely thirsty plants, when this should have been an opportunity to try out drought-tolerant plants more suited to Beijing’s dry climate.
Of course, if the exhibition encourages people to be more environmentally aware (in however strange a way), or to start their own garden – even if it’s just on their balcony – that can never be a bad thing!
Is the Horticultural Expo something you’d like to visit? Or have you already been there? What did you think of it?
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