With the congestion and fast pace of life, it’s easy to forget what a green city Beijing is, blessed with some of China’s biggest and best public parks. Here, we look at three parks that are pleasant to visit even before spring begins. All of Beijing’s city parks are open throughout the coronavirus outbreak, but may be limiting entries, though at the time of writing the three listed below had no restrictions.
Please note that apart from toilets, facilities inside are closed. Also, because this is China, always check ahead before making any plans. Things can change very fast, so forewarned is forearmed!
Olympic Park (奥林匹克森林公园）
Subway Station: South Gate of Forest Park (森林公园南门)
Beijing’s biggest urban park, Olympic Forest Park opened in 2008 after 5 years of construction. It was a venue for tennis, hockey and archery events and became a public park after the games. With its many different habitats this park is a wildlife haven, and after 12 years to mature it looks like it has always been there.
The park was designed with environment in mind. Water from the Qinghe Waste Water Treatment Plant is used for landscape irrigation and to recharge the lakes, and the trees in the park sequester an estimated 3,962 metric tons (8,735,000 lbs) of CO2 every year (equivalent to taking 777 passenger vehicles off the road). There are running paths and clean, well-maintained facilities. The park is bisected by the North Fifth Ring Road and a forested bridge joins the two sections. With the subway station right outside the south gate, this park is a wonderfully convenient place to escape the city whilst being right in the middle of it.
Beihai Park (北海公园)
Subway Station: Beihai North (北海北)
At 170 acres, Beihai is actually one of the largest Chinese gardens in the world. Begun in the Jin Dynasty, in 1129, the gardens were built north of the main city as Emperor Zhangzong’s country resort. A huge lake, Taiye Lake, was excavated, and was split into three in the Ming Dynasty, creating Beihai (Northern Lake), Zhonghai (Central Lake) and Nanhai (Southern Lake). (This area is now known as Shichahai, or just Houhai by Beijing’s foreign community.) The lake takes up most of the park, and to walk around it takes about half an hour at a brisk pace, though note that the route around the lake isn’t a closed loop, but more like a horseshoe with two entrances in the south.
Most of the buildings are Ming and Qing, and include temples and pavilions. The park is dominated by the White Pagoda, built in 1651 in honour of a visit by the fifth Dalai Lama.
Tongzhou Canal Park (通州运河公园) & Grand Canal Forest Park (大运河森林公园 )
Subway Station: Beiyunhe West (北运河西)
The Grand Canal originally connected to the lakes of Shichahai by the Tonghui River (which is the waterway that can be seen running parallel to the Batong subway line all the way to Guomao). Built in different sections, it was unified into a single waterway during the Sui Dynasty (581–618 AD). Extending to Hangzhou on the east coast near Shanghai, this completely man-made waterway is an engineering marvel, and was a crucial trading route in ancient China.
The section of canal in the central area of Tongzhou district has been a public park since 1936, and the two parks, which are right next to each other, are now a wonderful place to stroll, run or have fun – there are running and cycling paths, various cafes, restaurants and an amusement park along its length. You probably won’t make it very far on foot as the park extends for many kilometres along the canal banks, so hiring a bike is your best bet to see more. Note that there are few public toilets in some sections of these parks.
Which is your favourite park to visit in the colder months? Let us know in the comments on Facebook or Twitter. For more information about anything listed here, please contact us or use the form below to let us know your specific requirements. We look forward to hearing from you!
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