Spring Is (Almost) Here: Where to Feel the Changing Seasons Around Beijing

We've been downright taunted by the weather lately, what with all the 20C days that get forecasted, only to never quite arrive. So while some of us are still tightly snuggled up in puffy winter coats and mittens, others are already getting into lighter garments. After all, Beijingers are used to being powered by the promises for the better tomorrow. For those who are looking out for signs of spring, we have compiled a few of our favorite places to get out of the city dust and breath in some (less polluted) warming up air.

Beijing Botanical Gardens
One of the obvious choices where flora is plentiful and even the off-beaten path trips are made possible. The park may require the whole day if you are venturing into the temple in addition to making one or two mountain climbs through bushy paths. While it's still a tad too early to see roses in full bloom, the smell of spring has been present in the gardens for weeks. And if you are feeling plant-deprived, then the abundance of our green buddies in the conservatory should be a decent fix. While you're there, why not treat yourself to the slowest of train rides on the newly opened Xijiao line on the way back to the city?

Tonghui River Path (通惠河)
A river-side path is truly a relief for cyclists looking for a clear path. This path is not always flawless, what with switching sides of the river being a common obstacle, ending the road with no explanation over and over. However, if all that can be overlooked, Tonghui offers plenty of cycling and walking opportunities. Hop in at Guomao and head west, where the river runs south, passing the Temple of Heaven park amongst others. It runs smoothly all the way until the west side of the second ring road. From then on, either turn back, or dive into adventure time, since the river splits into a couple of branches, none of which offer a conveniently paved road, but instead rougher, more fun paths, with plenty of detours and (mis)fortunes. What screams "spring!" more than cycling by the river?

Western Hills National Forest Park
The Western Hills Forest Park welcomes guests all year round. Autumn boasts an abundance of golden foliage sightings and views of the city, and spring calls for blossom hunting. Nestled together with the Fragrant Hills Park, it offers some decent hiking (and possible weekend trips thanks to local homestays), along with temples, locally grown food and plenty of greenery. Western Hills National Park has been the troop station of the Eight Banners in the Qing Dynasty (1636-1912) and you can still come across the watchtowers. Two main routes comprise Fragrant Hills or the Eight Great Temples (Badachu), respectively, where you can take a stroll between nunneries and temples. Buses 347, 389, 598, 958, or 972 go to the park and you should get off at Badachu station.

The Great Wall Fresh homestay
Frequented by many as a safe bet for experiencing the less safe parts of the Great Wall, the Chen family's homestay is suitable for a visit all-year round. With apricot trees blooming around April, the mountains surrounding the Great Wall make it into a fairytale-like landscape. Get out of Beijing early in the morning, explore the Great Wall until the evening and then treat yourself to a feast of home-cooked food and enjoy some quality time with the free-roaming chickens or dogs. Contact the family beforehand and arrange the accommodation and meals.

Jingshan Park
No park round-up would be complete without Jingshan park. Accessible to even the busiest of Beijingers, Jingshan trees shade overheated heads in summer and offer a great gazing point over the grim landscape in winter. Coming spring adds some newborn leaves, followed by planted tulips and waking rose bushes. Give it a good few weeks from now if you are hoping for full-blown blooming, but the hunt for popping up tree leaves is already possible.

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Images: Wikimedia, Travel China guide, Just Gola, Tautvile Daugelaite