With the dim, cold winter on the horizon, now is as good a time as any to get outside and run in Beijing. However, looking for a good running route in the capital can be tough. Even a simple jog can turn into a real-life game of frogger – dodging smoke-coughing cars, bicycles, unyielding pedestrians, and dozens of jianbing carts. Then there’s the air quality. Not always stellar, to say the least. But before you pack up hope and head indoors to pound away on a treadmill, here are five places in Beijing where running is a pleasant (well…less unpleasant) experience.
Photo: Luke Ma
1) Olympic Forest Park View In Map
For the serious runner who wants to escape the bustle and fumes of the city, the Olympic Forest park (奥林匹克森林公园), Beijing’s largest park, is a welcome retreat. It’s perhaps the only in Beijing with marked off paths for walkers, runners, and bicyclists, with a concrete trail extending 3k, 5k, and 10k. Because vehicles are banned from entering, and the trees and greenery soak up some of the surrounding air pollution, even on heavily polluted days in Beijing the environment is more enjoyable here. There are artificial hills, lakes, and some of the strangest modern artwork in Beijing (including a hulking silver sculpture that looks like a T-rex made from barbed wire). And the best part? It’s free to enter, no awkward stopping to pull a wad of bills out of your running tights. Even on weekends its traffic is light enough to enjoy running without tripping over anyone.
Add: Anli Lu, North of the Bird Nest, Chaoyang District, Beijing
How much: Free entry
Opening hours: Daily, 06:00-20:00
Tel: 86 10 8497 2647
Getting there: Take Line 8 to South Gate of Forest Park station, exit D
2) Purple Bamboo Park View In Map
Like the Olympic Forest Park, the Purple Bamboo park/Black Bamboo park (紫竹院公园) is free to enter. It’s a large area, centered around three lily-filled lakes and bamboo-filled corridors, with a concrete path circumventing the entire thing (somewhere close to 5 km). While some Beijing-area heritage sites have become cloyingly commercialized (think Starbucks at the Great Wall), this park has managed to retain its integrity. Go for a morning run here and you’ll see throngs of retired Beijingers practicing tai chi, singing opera, and walking around with cage birds. If you look to the west gate of this park you’ll see the infamous boulder-surrounded villa perched on top of an apartment building, but it may not be there for long as it was ordered to be demolished by the Beijing government after making headlines earlier this summer.
Add: 35 Zhongguancun Nan Dajie, Haidian District, Beijing
How much: Free entry
Opening hours: Daily, 06:00-21:00
Tel: 86 10 68425851
Getting there: Take Line 4 to the National Library station, Exit D. The park’s east entrance is immediately to the west.
Can also take Bus No.s 77, 87, 114, 118, 334, 347, 360, 362, 534, 588, 689, 714, 特5 or 运通104 to the south gate of the Purple Bamboo Park (紫竹院南门)
3) Yuyuantan ParkView In Map
Just south of the Purple Bamboo park, Yuyuantan park (玉渊潭公园）is a sprawling oasis centered on two big lakes, with a path enclosing the entire area (loop close to 6 km). It is more lightly visited than other parks, and in the morning hours it’s mostly populated by retired men swimming in the algae-green water. Like the Purple Bamboo park, running here feels like stepping back into old Beijing. You’re likely to see traditional culture at its finest while enjoying carefully landscaped flowers and ancient trees. In the springtime, a dense patch of cherry trees blossom and attract thousands of visitors. Admission is just two RMB.
Add:10 Xisanhuan Zhonglu, Haidian District, Beijing
How much: 2 RMB
Opening hours: Daily, 06:00-21:00
Tel: 010 8865 3800
Getting there: Take Line 1 or 10 to Gongzhufen, and walk north 20 min, or take buses 32, 65, 78, 414 and get off at the South Gate of Yuyuantan stop
4) Chaoyang ParkView In Map
Perhaps the most foreign-friendly of the places listed is Chaoyang Park (朝阳公园). This park is studded with English-language signs and exercising expats. Like all the places listed above, most vehicles are barred from entering, so you’ll have plenty of space away from honking Audi’s and scooters. Run along the paved paths here, and you can easily cover 10 km without retracing your steps. At times more crowded than the places listed above, especially the southern end of the park, but if you’re in the east of the city, it’s probably your best option.
Add: 1 Chaoyang Gongyuan Nanlu, Chaoyang, Beijing
How much: 5 RMB
Opening hours: Daily, 06:00-22:00
Tel: 86 10 6595 3490
Getting there: Take Line 10 to Tuanjiehu, exit C, and walk east for 20 min. You arrive at the south gate of Chaoyang Park
5) Tsinghua University Campus View In Map
Alright, it might be a little unconventional, but running inside the massive campus walls of Tsinghua Univeristy (清华大学), sealed off from any commotion, can be a great experience. With the majority of campus roads blocked from traffic and little foot traffic in the mornings before classes and evenings (except when the library shuts its doors at 22:30), and all day on weekends, it’s a little like some of the parks listed above. Running one loop around the largest campus in Beijing could easily stretch to 7km, and the more scenic of routes can take you by a lily pond, willow-lined avenues, the University’s famous white “old gate,” and a blue-line marking the path of the 2008 Olympic Marathon, which cut through the University near the west gate.
Add: 30 Shuangqing Lu, Haidian District, Beijing
How much: Free entry
Opening hours: Daily
Getting there: Take Line 13 to Wudaokou station, exit A, walk west 10 min to the main gate, or north 20 min to the northeast gate. Alternatively, take Line 4 to Yuanmingyuan station, exit B; Tsinghua’s west gate is a five minute walk to the east
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Keywords: running outside in Beijing Running in Beijing Beijing parks
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