The Forbidden City, or Imperial Palace, is the world’s largest palace complex, with more than 800 buildings and some 8,000 rooms set in the heart of Beijing. Deemed off-limits to visitors for some five centuries, today this UNESCO World Heritage Site is one of the city’s most popular attractions.
With so much to see at this Beijing landmark—everything from the living quarters of emperors to ceremonial rooms and galleries lined with Imperial artifacts—many visitors opt to visit with a guide who can navigate the vast complex from the Ming and Qing dynasties and point out its most interesting features. Those short on time in the Chinese capital can opt for a day tour that combines a Forbidden City visit with time at other Beijing attractions, such as Tiananmen Square, Temple of Heaven, Summer Palace, and the Great Wall. As well, number of gardens, museums, pagodas, and pavilions dot the area.
Things to Know Before You Go
- Choose between a standard entrance ticket and a city tour that includes access to the Temple of Heaven and the Summer Palace.
- For a more personal experience of the Forbidden City and other Beijing highlights, choose a private tour.
- As many as 80,000 people visit the Forbidden City daily, so it’s best to book ahead or book a tour that includes skip-the-line access.
- The Forbidden City offers little shade, so bring sunscreen, a hat, and plenty of water if visiting on a warm day.
- Wear comfortable shoes and be prepared for a fair amount of walking.
How to Get There
Arriving by public transport or walking is preferred over taxi, as taxis are not allowed to stop nearby. Take the subway Line 1 to Tiananmen West or Tiananmen East, or catch one of the many buses going to Gugong.
When to Get There
To avoid crowds at this popular Beijing attraction, it’s best to visit first thing in the morning when the ticket office opens. Avoid weekends and Chinese national holidays.
Best View of the Forbidden City
Before or after touring the Forbidden City, it’s nice to get a sense of its size by seeing it from above. Jingshan Park, located just across from the palace’s north gate, is home to the highest point in Beijing and affords the best panoramic, bird’s-eye view of the Forbidden City.