During the hot Beijing summers, the imperial family preferred the beautiful gardens and airy pavilions of the Summer Palace to the walled-in Forbidden City. Dowager Empress Cixi took up permanent residence there for a time, giving rise to some wonderful tales of extravagance and excess.
The Summer Palace was listed as World Heritage in 1998. UNESCO reported that the Summer Palace is "a masterpiece of Chinese landscape garden design”.
It harmonizes plants and paths, water and land, architecture and horticulture, epitomizing the philosophy and practice of Chinese garden design, which played a key role in the development of this cultural form throughout the East. It is a potent symbol of one of the world’s major civilizations.
The Summer Palace complex falls naturally into several sections, each with its own distinct character, some meant for administration, some living, and others relaxation.
The highlights of the park include Kunming Lake, The Long Corridor, Longevity Hill, The Marble Boat, and the Garden of Virtue and Harmony.
You can take a 10-minute boat ride to see an island temple, sit and watch a traditional Chinese performance in the restored theater (one of the three great traditional theaters in China), wander around enjoying the different buildings and courtyards, or explore the recreated traditional shops by the river.
According to chinahighlights.com