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Forbidden City Guide

Beijing Attractions: Forbidden City Guide

Forbidden City 紫禁城

Forbidden City, Beijing.
  • A not-to-be missed sight in Beijing
  • Over 800 buildings & 9000 rooms
  • Largest collection of buildings from China's past
  • AKA Palace Museum
  • Originally dates from 15th century
  • Historic heart of the Chinese Empire
  • Present buildings date mostly from the 18th century

Beijing's massive Forbidden City (hear the Chinese pronunciation) was the palace of the Chinese emperors during the Ming and the Qing Dynasties.

The Forbidden City is located just north of Tiananmen Square in the center of Beijing and is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and one of the most famous building complexes in the world.

Forbidden City (Gugong) Dragon Wall, Beijing, China.

Forbidden City (Gugong) Dragon Wall, Beijing

Roofline Figures, Beijing, China.

Rooflines, Forbidden City

Many of the buildings today date from the Qing Period (1644-1911) as much of the Forbidden City was destroyed by fire and or ransacked during the Ming Period (1368-1644).

The grounds cover approximately 720,000 square meters, or 178 acres, and contain some 800 buildings with supposedly 9,999 rooms. Wear comfortable shoes and go slow. The scale of the grounds is overwhelming.

The Forbidden City is a huge rectangle surrounded by a six-meter deep moat and a ten-meter high ochre-colored wall. There are five halls, seventeen palaces, and many, many other buildings and exhibits.

As you enter from the street, you will pass through a gauntlet of soldiers stationed on the bridges that cross the small external moat; then you will pass under the iconic portrait of Chairman Mao. It is free to enter this gate.

Forbidden City, Beijing, China.Forbidden City, Beijing.

Forbidden City Moat, Beijing.

Forbidden City Moat China Mash Photos

The Forbidden City Access

Here you will run into many people selling various things. Keep walking.

To continue through and past the next gate, you will have to pay. This will bring you into the Outer Court area. Among the highlights of the Outer Court is the Hall of Great Harmony in front of which stands the Gate of Supreme Harmony.

Carrying on, you reach the Inner Court. This area was in the past restricted to the Emperor's entourage: his family, concubines, and eunuchs. The Palace of Heavenly Purity is the most interesting site in this area.

The buildings in the Forbidden City are built on three north-south axes. Those on the middle axis are the most important buildings. This runs from Meridian Gate in the south all the way to the Gate of Divine Might in the north. The western axis has gardens and religious buildings, but much of it is closed. As you get closer to the rear, strolling becomes more comfortable as there are many small courtyards and museum-style exhibits, and things are on a more human scale.

Forbidden City, Beijing, China.Forbidden City, Beijing.

At the far northern end of the Forbidden City is the imperial garden. This is the end of the grounds. You can exit here, or, as many do, loop back on the other side of the grounds and hike back to the main entrance. There is the requisite gift shop and a small place for snacks.

The Forbidden City is now undergoing repairs, the first of which will be completed in time for the Olympics in 2008; the job will be totally done by 2020.

Forbidden City, Beijing.

Forbidden City, Beijing, China

Forbidden City Access - how to get to the Forbidden City

North of Tiananmen Square, the Forbidden City is less than one minute from Tianan Men Dong Subway Station.

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The Forbidden City is open from 8:30 am - 5:30 pm (4:30 pm in winter). Admission to the Forbidden City costs 40 yuan in the winter, 60 yuan in the summer. Audio tours are available in many languages and cost 40 yuan to rent. Allow at least 2-3 hours to walk the grounds. For disabled, there are ramps in the central part of the grounds. However, much of it is not accessible.

Tel: 6513 2255

Forbidden City Further Reading

Read more about the Forbidden City

Read about the parts of the Forbidden City visitors cannot see

Forbidden City Gate.

Forbidden City Gate China Mash Photos

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