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Beijing ATTRACTIONS See all

Forbidden City (Imperial Palace)

Have you ever wondered what's so forbidden about the Forbidden City? It's called that because it was closed to the outside world for 500 years. This was the seat of the Ming and the Qing emperors, and no one could enter - or leave - the imperial domain without their permission. These days, the Chinese mainly call it Gu Gong, or Former Palace.

The Forbidden City, or Beijing Imperial Palace, is BIG - you'll need to allow at least one day for your visit. UNESCO have listed it as the largest collection of ancient wooden structures in the world. There are nearly 1,000 rooms in over 800 buildings. However, because it's been ransacked by invaders and gutted by fire several times (wooden buildings, lanterns, you do the math) most of the structures date from the 18th century on.

As you move around the gardens and palatial buildings, which have now been converted to museums, you'll start to get a feel for what it was like to live the imperial life - a highly ritualised existence of exquisite luxury. Here is the Dowager Empress's theatre, with its cunning trap doors; there is the hall of clocks, a collection of the palace's many sumptuous time pieces. Here are various pagodas for the writing and reading of poetry; there are pavilions for viewing opera.

The Inner Court was once reserved for the emperor, his family, and the royal concubines and eunuchs. Its elaborate halls are filled with symbols that evoke the presence of the 'Son of Heaven'. In the Inner Court is a marvelous garden with pavilions and ancient cedars.  

Practical Info

The Forbidden City undergoes a fairly constant process of renovation, in addition to the more large-scale projects it is currently undergoing, so be prepared for some closures when you visit. Nevertheless, there's still plenty of Forbidden City to go around.

Take the Subway (line 1) to Tiananmen Dong, or catch one of the many buses going to Gugong. It's better to approach the Forbidden City by public transport, as taxis are, yes, forbidden to stop outside.

Tours & Tickets

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Private Beijing Bike Tour at Night

5 star rating: Highly Recommended 13 Reviews

Location: Beijing, China
Duration: 3 hours

From USD $98.00
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From USD $133.00

Small Group Beijing City Tour

5 star rating: Highly Recommended 2 Reviews

Location: Beijing, China
Duration: 6-7 hours

From USD $77.00

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