The Summer Palace
Dating back to 1750, the Summer Palace is located in northwest Beijing. The UNESCO World Heritage site is built on Longevity Hill, alongside Kunming Lake. The manmade lake also contributes to the Palace’s status as a recreational park, with visitors renting small boats and exploring the site from the water. Boat rentals run between 40 CNY and 100 CNY depending on the size of the boat and whether or not it includes a motor, and provide riders with fantastic photo opportunities. The Summer Palace offers plenty of opportunities for photographers on foot as well, and ranks second (after the Forbidden City) on my list of top sites to visit to see Beijing’s traditional Chinese architecture. Set aside two hours if you plan to visit the Summer Palace on foot, adding another hour or two if you wish to rent a boat, as lines can be long on the weekends.
A short distance from the Summer Palace (about 15 minutes by cab), the Old Summer Palace was left in ruins after destruction by the British and French in 1860. Some of the structures that remain in the Old Summer Palace were built in European-style while the Summer Palace features Chinese-style buildings. The structure in the image below shares characteristics with the Trevi Fountain in Rome. If you’re looking to photograph traditional Chinese architecture, you only need visit the Summer Palace -- if you wish to see both, prepare to spend an additional hour touring the Old Summer Palace as well.