Situated within Beijing's Forbidden City, the Imperial Garden of the Palace Museum was built in 1417 as the private green space for China's ruling family. The three-acre (12,000-square-meter) space, set at the northernmost point of the complex just beyond the Gate of Terrestrial Tranquility, occupies less than 2% of the total area of the sprawling Forbidden City, yet it's packed with some 20 structures and pavilions, plus multiple ponds.
At the center of the garden sits the 15th-century Hall of Imperial Peace, where prayers of protection over the palace were once offered to Zhenwudadi, the Taoist God of Water. Pavilions in each of the garden’s four corners represent the seasons, while the entire space is dotted with cypress trees and Chinese wisteria—many hundreds of years old. A multi-hued pebble footpath winds through the garden.
The Forbidden City and its imperial garden are must-sees in Beijing. The two are often included on both private and group tours of the city, which allow visitors short on time to experience the Imperial Palace and other Beijing highlights, such as the Summer Palace and Tiananmen Square.