This place is as important to visit as the Great Wall, but again do not come on a scorching hot day as it is not enjoyable at all since there is so much distance to cover. The palace accounts for more than 300 hectares of land and even though a large proportion of it is taken up by a lake, the walking distances are long. I would recommend leaving a whole day, at least 4 hours if you want to cover all of it, however you could easily spend 6 hours here. If you are coming here with more than one person leave enough time to hire a pedal boat on the lake! It looked like great fun, however, not the best thing to do on your own.
Travel Note: Do not take a tour! It’s completely unnecessary and you can’t enjoy it at your own pace. Take the subway on line 4 to Xi Yuan and turn left down the main street avoiding the tritaxis. I spent 15 minutes trying to work out where to go whilst being harassed with the constant “hello sir, Summer Palace! I take you!”. After having looked at the map numerous times next to the subway station I couldn’t work out why the summer palace wouldn’t be posted on there, and so I finally asked a passer-by. It turns out that the Summer Palace was sign posted initially, but the tritaxi drivers had ripped that part off the map, so tourists can’t find it! I walked 500 m down the road and there it was.