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The Forbidden City: Beijing


The Forbidden City in Beijing, the Chinese capital city, was built during the Ming Dynasty between 1406 and 1420 BC. It was the Imperial Palace for over five centuries and saw the rise and fall of twenty-four Chinese emperors. This immense complex was built to house the emperors of the Ming and Qing dynasties in suitably grand style. Today it is one of China’s most famous tourist attractions and is considered an architectural masterpiece. It is said to be priceless and is included on the UNESCO list of world heritage sites due to its historic and cultural importance.

Explore China’s Imperial History

Visitors flock to stroll around the extensive complex, which extends over about 178 acres. The hundreds of palace buildings contain around 9,000 different rooms, so there’s a lot to see here. The whole area is surrounded by a moat, where locals are sometimes spotted fishing. The tallest building is the Wu Men Gate, which is also the entrance to the Forbidden City. The Gate had important ceremonial uses in the past, including the presentation of prisoners of war to the emperor and New Year celebrations. The whole palace complex is designed to be symmetrical and balanced; this aspect is easy to appreciate by looking at aerial photos, which are widely available on the web. But don’t forget to look closer too – architectural details like original flooring and decorative tiles provide pleasing and endless variety. Also, don’t forget to look up as there are also lots of beautifully decorated ceilings.

Inside, the Forbidden City boasts many glittering treasures. The Hall of Supreme Harmony is the largest of the ceremonial halls and should be on any traveller’s itinerary, but there are many others containing wonderful architectural and artistic features. There are also extensive collections of artifacts including jade, porcelain, calligraphy, costumes and armour, trophies, and much more. It also hosts temporary exhibitions of items loaned from other museums.

Advice For Tourists

Visitors must pay an entrance fee, and certain exhibitions and areas inside cost a bit extra. If you want somewhere to relax for free in the Forbidden City, though, try visiting the Imperial Garden in the northern area. There you will find flowers, outdoor sculptures, the 400 year old Consort pine tree, and four pavilions representing the four seasons.

Like any popular tourist attraction, Beijing’s Forbidden City attracts a few unsavoury types. Take care of your belongings and make sure that your¬†travel insurance¬†covers gadgets just in case you are targeted. The Forbidden City is open from 8:30am to 3:30/4pm all year round, every day except Monday. You’ll need at least a full day to explore this magnificent attraction, preferably longer. Audio guides are good value, and human guides are available too (but do check you are happy with their proposed route and their standard of English). With so much to explore, it’s also recommended that you take a pair of comfortable shoes.