Surely the best-value park in Beijing, Jingshan is historic, beautifully landscaped, a hotspot for activities and comes with unique views of the Forbidden City. Yet it only costs ¥2 to get in.
Originally part of a temporary imperial palace in the Jin Dynasty (1166-1208), and later a Yuan-dynasty imperial garden, Jingshan didn’t take on its current guise until the Ming Dynasty when its most striking feature, Coal Hill, was formed with the earth dug up to create the moat surrounding the Forbidden City. The hill now offers unrivalled views of the imperial palaces. You can also see Beihai Park’s distinct White Dagoba from up here, as well as the Drum Tower to the north.
The rest of Jingshan Park is dotted with ancient cypress trees, peony gardens and small squares where people congregate to sing, dance, play music, exercise, practise their water calligraphy or just chat.
As with all Beijing parks, early morning is the best time to visit.
This directs you to the park’s east gate, which is the closest to a subway station (although it’s still quite a walk). The west gate is opposite the east gate of Beihai Park, while the south gate pops you out opposite the north gate of the Forbidden City.
There’s a lovely little courtyard cafe, Alley Coffee, that does fresh coffee and snacks just south of the East Gate. There are also some snack stall by the East Gate of Beihai Park. Otherwise, the nearest places for good food are up towards the Drum and Bell Towers. Cross-the-Bridge Noodles isn’t far. Nor is Yi Long Zhai Xinjiang Restaurant.