the Forbidden City

The Forbidden City, Beijing: The Complete 2023 Guide

The Forbidden City in Beijing, China is a magnificent sight to behold, and a place that has captivated travelers for centuries. For over 500 years, this sprawling imperial palace served as the seat of power for China’s emperors, and today, it remains one of the most impressive and culturally significant landmarks in the world.

Whether you’re a history buff, an architecture enthusiast, or simply looking to experience the magic of one of the world’s greatest cultural treasures, the Forbidden City is a destination that should not be missed. In this travel guide, we’ll take you on a journey through the Forbidden City, sharing tips and insights to help you make the most of your visit to this incredible place.

🌟Forbidden City–General Introduction&Layout

Forbidden City - Gate of Supreme Harmony

The Forbidden City, alternatively known as “紫禁城( ping yin: Zijincheng)” in Chinese, is a massive complex located at the center of the city of Beijing in China. Its construction was initiated by the Yongle Emperor of the Ming Dynasty in the year 1406 and it was officially inaugurated in 1420. Over the centuries, it served as the primary palace for 24 emperors of both the Ming and Qing dynasties. The Forbidden City is vast, covering 720,000 square meters, measuring 960 meters in length and 750 meters in width, and containing over 70 palaces with a staggering 9,000 rooms. As the home to the Palace Museum, it houses an impressive collection of over 1 million precious cultural artifacts, making it one of the largest and most intricate palace complexes in the world.

Layout of the Forbidden City

The Forbidden City complex comprises multiple buildings divided into two main sections: the Outer Court and the Inner Court. Known as “外朝” in Chinese, the Outer Court houses the Three Great Halls, namely the Hall of Supreme Harmony, the Hall of Central Harmony, and the Hall of Preserving Harmony. These halls hold immense significance as they serve as prominent venues for state ceremonies. Additionally, the Hall of Martial Valor and the Hall of Literary Glory are located in the southwest and southeast corners of the Outer Court, respectively.

The Inner Court(Chinese: 内朝), where the Emperor and his family resided, is characterized by the Three Great Halls of the Inner Court: the Palace of Heavenly Purity, the Hall of Union, and the Palace of Earthly Tranquility. These halls served as private quarters for the Emperor and played a crucial role within the Forbidden City. Surrounding the central part of the Inner Court are the Six Western and Six Eastern Palaces, specifically designated for imperial concubines. Notably, the east side of the Six Eastern Palaces and the west side of the Six Western Palaces feature various temples and shrines, including a Tibetan Buddhist temple.

Surrounded by green spaces on three sides, the Forbidden City enjoys a picturesque setting. Jingshan Park lies to the north, while Zhongnanhai stretches to the west. Furthermore, Beihai Park can be found northwest of the Forbidden City.

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🚗How to Get to the Forbidden City

  • By subway: Take Subway Line 1 and get off at Tiananmen West (Exit B) or Tiananmen East Station (Exit B).
  • By bus: Take bus line 1, 2, 52, 59, 82, 120, Sightseeing Bus Line 1 or 2, and get off at Tiananmen East Station
  • By taxi: Show ‘请带我去故宫’ (Please take me to the Forbidden City)

🎫Admission ticket: Apr to Oct: CNY 60 | Nov to Mar: CNY 40
🎫Treasure Gallery & Clocks and Watches Gallery ticket: each CNY 10
⏰Opening hours: Apr to Oct: 8:30-17:00 | Nov to Mar: 8:30-16:30; it is closed on Mondays, except the Chinese statutory holidays.

☀️Best Time to Visit the Forbidden City

The optimal time to fully appreciate the beauty and comfort of the Forbidden City in Beijing is during the period of April to October. Among these months, the most pleasant seasons are April and October. During this time, the peak tourist season has subsided, resulting in fewer visitors and milder temperatures, which makes for an ideal opportunity to explore the Forbidden City without any crowds. Furthermore, the October autumn season paints the Forbidden City in a picturesque light, making it the most stunning time of year to visit. In contrast, April heralds the arrival of spring and the appropriate temperatures that facilitate a relaxed stroll through the gentle greenery of the Forbidden City.

However, it is important to note that traveling during China’s Labor Day (May 1-5) and National Day (October 1-7) should be avoided.

🗺️The Routing Map of the Forbidden City

A routing map of the Forbidden City is essential for visitors because the palace complex is massive, covering over 180 acres with more than 9000 rooms and courtyards. To avoid getting lost or overlooking significant areas within the vast Forbidden City complex, check out a detailed map of the Forbidden City from Travel China Guide.

🌟Recommended Palaces to Explore within the Forbidden City

Meridian Gate (Chinese name:午门)

meridian gate forbidden city
meridian gate forbidden city

The Meridian Gate stands as the largest and southernmost imperial gate, featuring a center passage reserved solely for the emperor’s use. The officials entered and exited through the left gate, while the right gate was reserved for the members of the imperial family. The Forbidden City Meridian Gate was previously used to imprison war prisoners, punish officials, and issue almanacs. The view from the center of the gate is simply breathtaking and majestic, leaving an indescribable sense of mystery in the beholder’s mind.

Hall of Martial Valor (Chinese name:武英殿)

Forbidden City - Hall of Martial Valor

Originally built as the Imperial House for military use during the Ming Dynasty. Today, the Hall of Martial Valor is home to the Forbidden City’s Pottery Gallery, a magnificent exhibition space that showcases more than 1000 pieces of pottery treasures, showcasing all the important pottery varieties in the historical development of ancient China.

Hall of Literary Glory (Chinese name:文华殿)

Forbidden City - Hall of Literary Glory

The Hall of Literary Glory is located adjacent to the Hall of Martial Valor and features a symmetrical design. In the Ming Dynasty, it served as the official residence of the heir apparent and was later used as the venue for imperial lectures during the Ming and Qing dynasties. Today, the hall has been transformed into a Painting and Calligraphy Gallery that boasts a vast collection of ancient Chinese paintings of exceptional value. Visitors should note that taking pictures is strictly prohibited within the gallery.

Gate of Supreme Harmony(Chinese name:太和门)

Forbidden City - Gate of Supreme Harmony

The square situated at the rear of the Gate of Supreme Harmony boasts a significant expanse. Standing tall at the Gate of Supreme Harmony, one can spot an impressive pair of bronze lions, which happens to be the largest pair in the entire palace. These lions hold a special significance, as they symbolize the emperor’s imperial power that spread far and wide and the prosperity of his descendants. This gate was used as the morning court of the Ming Emperor, where he conducted discussions on state affairs with his ministers. During the Qing dynasty, the Gate of Supreme Harmony was utilized as a venue for hosting banquets and ceremonies.

Three Great Halls of the Outer Court

Hall of Supreme Harmony(Chinese name:太和殿)

Forbidden City - Hall of Supreme Harmony

The Hall of Supreme Harmony is located at the heart of the Forbidden City. It is the largest hall within the Forbidden City and the grandest wooden structure in China. The traditional architecture of the hall exudes a remarkable sense of dignity and grandeur. The hall sits on a white marble terrace that stands three levels high. Moving inside, one can observe six thick gold-lacquered pillars located within the interior, as well as a central gold throne and gold bricks covering the floor. This stunning palace is also referred to as the Golden Carriage Palace (Jinluan Dian) due to its extravagant golden decor. It features detailed dragon carvings both inside and out. In the past, the Hall of Supreme Harmony was used for a variety of royal functions, including coronations, birthday celebrations, weddings, and other significant occasions.

Hall of Central Harmony(Chinese name:中和殿)

Forbidden City - Hall of Central Harmony

The Hall of Central Harmony is situated between the Hall of Supreme Harmony and the Hall of Preserving Harmony. During the Qing Dynasty, the emperor used this hall as a resting place before conducting official ceremonies. Unlike the other two halls, the Hall of Central Harmony is a square structure and stands out due to its gilded treasure top, showcasing the intricate details of ancient Chinese architecture.

Hall of Preserved Harmony (Chinese name:保和殿)

Forbidden City - Hall of Preserved Harmony

The Hall of Preserved Harmony, though smaller in size than the Hall of Supreme Harmony, boasts a similar architectural style. During the Ming Dynasty, the emperor would change his attire and rest in this hall before participating in the grand ceremony. In the Qing Dynasty, it was commonly used as a location for imperial banquets and imperial examinations. It’s worth noting that the three main halls within the palace have been destroyed by fire multiple times, and over the past hundred years, this particular hall has undergone five name changes.

Three Great Halls of the Inner Court

Palace of Heavenly Purity(Chinese name:乾清宫)

Forbidden City - Palace of Heavenly Purity

The Palace of Heavenly Purity is considered the largest and most superior palace located in the Inner Court of the Forbidden City. Upon entering the door and casting a glance upwards, you will lay your eyes on a plaque adorned with four significant Chinese characters that spell out “正大光明”, which translates to “Justice and Brightness”. This plaque holds significant historical importance and has a compelling story attached to it. The story dates back to the reign of the Yongzheng Emperor, who used it to conceal the name of his chosen heir. In the earlier Ming dynasty, the palace served as the sleeping and working quarters of the emperors, while in the Qing dynasty, it served as the Emperor’s audience hall.

Hall of Union(Chinese name:交泰殿)

Forbidden City - Hall of Union

The Hall of Union was constructed with a similar architectural style to the Hall of Central Harmony. This imperial hall was once used to store the 25 imperial seals of the emperor. The interior of the hall features two remarkable legacies of ancient times: a bronze clepsydra and a big chime clock, both of which have been preserved in excellent condition and still function accurately. The palace was once the residence of the empress in the Ming Dynasty, and in the Qing Dynasty, it became the location for various celebrations, including the birthday of the empress.

Palace of Earthly Tranquility(Chinese name:坤宁宫)

Forbidden City - Palace of Earthly Tranquility

The Palace of Earthly Tranquility, located behind the Hall of Union, served as the living quarters for the Ming Dynasty empresses and was later used as the imperial bridal chamber during the Qing Dynasty. To this day, the palace still showcases the original red décor from past weddings held in the chamber.

Grand Council(Chinese name:军机处)

Located west of the Gate of Heavenly Purity, you will find a series of low and small houses called Grand Council along the high wall. These humble abodes may pale in comparison to the grandeur of the palaces situated in the Forbidden City, yet they hold significant importance. The small rooms served as a secretive location where the emperors of the Qing Dynasty would convene with their ministers to discuss military and political affairs at any given time. In essence, it served as an official state organ during that era.

Palace of Compassion and Tranquility(Chinese name:慈宁宫)

The Palace of Compassion and Tranquility, formerly the residence of the imperial concubines and a venue for empress dowagers to hold significant ceremonies, has now been converted into a sculpture hall. Over 400 rare cultural relics are showcased within the hall, providing visitors with a unique and remarkable experience.

Palace of Longevity and Good Health (Chinese name:寿康宫)

Forbidden City - Palace of Longevity and Good Health

The construction of this palace was commissioned by the Qianlong Emperor for his mother, Empress Dowager Chongqing. After its completion, the palace was reserved solely for the empress’s dowagers. At present, the palace still preserves the original layout where the Empress Dowager used to reside, making it a significant historical site worth visiting.

Hall of Mental Cultivation(Chinese name:养心殿)

The Hall of Mental Cultivation is situated on the east side of the Palace of Compassion and Tranquility, but unfortunately, I had not visited it yet. This palace was the imperial residence and workplace for the emperors and also the most crucial office within the Forbidden City.

Six Western and Six Eastern Palaces(Chinese name:西六宫)

The Six Western Palaces can be found to the west of the Three Great Halls of the Inner Court. They are named as Palace of Eternal Longevity (永寿宫), Palace of Earthly Honor (翊坤宫), Palace for Gathered Elegance (储秀宫), Hall of the Supreme Principle (太极殿), Palace of Eternal Spring (长春宫), and Palace of Universal Happiness (咸福宫). Each of these palaces features a courtyard, a front hall, a rear hall, and annexes.

These palaces were built as dwelling places for imperial consorts during the Ming and Qing dynasties. The Palace for Gathered Elegance, which I had the opportunity to visit, stands out among the other palaces for its grandeur and size. Interestingly, the interior decoration for Empress Dowager’s birthday celebration is still preserved to this day. The six palaces are connected by several long and narrow passages which give insight into the life of the concubines who lived in very limited spaces.

Imperial Garden(Chinese name:御花园)

Forbidden City - Imperial Garden

The Imperial Garden was primarily used as a location for emperors and their imperial families to relax and enjoy themselves. The garden was divided into two parts, with the east side consisting mainly of buildings intended for rest and viewing, and the west side reserved for worshiping God and Buddha. Although the garden was not as extensive or as intricately designed as one might envision, it was adorned with various trees, rockeries, flowers, and sculptural objects, which enhanced the grandeur of the Forbidden City.

Six Western and Six Eastern Palaces(Chinese name:东六宫)

The Six Eastern Palaces, namely the Palace of Great Benevolence(景仁宫), Palace of Celestial Favour(承乾宫, Palace of Eternal Harmony(雍和宫), Palace of Great Brilliance(景阳宫), Palace of Accumulated Purity(钟粹宫), and Palace of Prolonging Happiness(延禧宫) are positioned to the east of the Three Great Halls of the Inner Court. Each of these palaces was dedicated to the concubines’ residences. The layout of each palace is made up of two courtyards, a front hall, and several side halls.

The living quarters of the concubines in the palace were not spacious, and even the chief concubine who resided in the main hall had to live in a cramped and small square room. The situation was even worse for lower-ranked concubines as they had to share cramped quarters located in the east and west side halls of the imperial palace. Today, these halls serve a different purpose as they have been converted into exhibition spaces where visitors can view Chinese treasures that were once collected by the imperial family.

Hall for Ancestral Worship: Clock and Watch Gallery(Chinese name:钟表馆)

Forbidden City - Hall for Ancestral Worship

During the early Ming Dynasty, the hall was established as a sacred place where the imperial family would honor their ancestors. Today, it has undergone a remarkable transformation into a Clock and Watch Gallery, housing an extensive assortment of timepieces from both domestic and international origins.

These clocks showcase various time-telling methods, including automated doors that reveal a decorative figurine to strike the hour and versions that use floral, butterfly, water, or bird motifs to indicate time. The exhibition room opens promptly at 8:30 in the morning, and a fee of CNY 10 is charged for admission.

Palace of Tranquil Longevity: Treasure Gallery(Chinese name:珍宝馆)

Forbidden City - Treasure Gallery

The Palace of Tranquil Longevity was the designated dwelling place for empress dowagers during their final years. The palace has undergone a transformation and is now home to The Treasure Gallery, an exhibit that features an array of artifacts from China’s Qing Dynasty imperial family. The collection consists of various items including valuable treasures and practical objects used in the everyday lives of the family members such as gold, silver, and jade utensils, tea services, wine pots, and cups. Additionally, the exhibit displays imperial robes, exquisite furnishings, and precious stones. The remarkable showcase at The Treasure Gallery left a lasting impression on me.

Gate of Divine Prowess(Chinese name:神武门)

Forbidden City - Gate of Divine Prowess

The Gate of Divine Prowess, situated at the northern end of the Forbidden City, served as both the main entrance and exit point for various royal members, officials, maids, and eunuchs. The gate also housed a bell and drum system for timekeeping purposes. Exiting through this gate marked the end of a successful visit to this stunning historical landmark.

Corner Tower(Chinese name:角楼)

Forbidden City - Corner Tower

The Corner Towers, positioned in the four cardinal points of the Forbidden City, are well-known for their distinctive shape and exquisite design. The towers resemble four pearls set in the high walls, serving as both a decorative element and defense facilities for the Forbidden City. Visitors can enjoy picturesque views and capture memorable photographs at this spectacular location.

🚶🏻‍♂️Recommended Tour Routes to Visit the Forbidden City

Two-hour Tour

The Meridian Gate(Wu men) – Hall of Supreme Harmony (Taihe dian) – Hall of Central Harmony (Zhonghe dian) – Hall of Preserving Harmony (Baohe dian) – Palace of Heavenly Purity (Qianqing gong) – Hall of Union (Jiaotai dian) – Palace of Earthly Tranquility (Kunning gong) – Imperial Garden(Yuhuayuan) – Gate of Divine Prowess (Shenwumen)

🔥Take note: Typically, when newcomers arrive at the Forbidden City, they tend to opt for the central axis pathway as it offers the simplest and most commonly used way to discover the site. Along this route lie the Three Great Halls of the Outer Court and the Inner Court, which are the most magnificent structures within the Forbidden City. Furthermore, this route is frequently favored by tour groups. Nevertheless, the popularity of this pathway leads to it being quite crowded, with approximately 80 percent of visitors selecting it as their preferred route.

Four-hour Tour

The Meridian Gate(Wu men) – Hall of Martial Valor(Wuying dian): The Ceramics Gallery – Hall of Literary Brilliance (Wenhua dian): Painting and Calligraphy Gallery – Hall of Supreme Harmony (Taihe dian) – Hall of Central Harmony (Zhonghe dian) – Hall of Preserving Harmony (Baohe dian) – Palace of Tranquil Longevity (Ningshougong): Treasure Gallery – Hall for Ancestral Worship (Fengxian dian): Clock and Watch Gallery – Palace of Compassion and Tranquility (Cininggong) – Palace of Longevity and Good Health (Shoukanggong) – Palace of Heavenly Purity (Qianqing gong) – Hall of Union (Jiaotai dian) – Palace of Earthly Tranquility (Kunning gong) – Imperial Garden(Yuhuayuan) – Gate of Divine Prowess (Shenwumen)

🔥Take note: If you happen to have some free time, consider exploring some of the less popular palaces and exhibitions outside of the central axis. It is recommended that you narrow down your choices to two or three favorites to visit.

One-day Tour

The Meridian Gate(Wu men) – East/West Corner Towers – Hall of Martial Valor(Wuying dian): The Ceramics Gallery – Hall of Literary Brilliance (Wenhua dian): Painting and Calligraphy Gallery – Hall of Supreme Harmony (Taihe dian) – Hall of Central Harmony (Zhonghe dian) – Hall of Preserving Harmony (Baohe dian) – Palace of Tranquil Longevity (Ningshougong): Treasure Gallery – Hall for Ancestral Worship (Fengxian dian): Clock and Watch Gallery – Hall of Mental Cultivation (Yangxin dian) – Palace of Compassion and Tranquility (Cininggong) – Palace of Longevity and Good Health (Shoukanggong) – Palace of Heavenly Purity (Qianqing gong) – Hall of Union (Jiaotai dian) – Palace of Earthly Tranquility (Kunning gong) – Six Western and Six Eastern Palaces – Imperial Garden(Yuhuayuan) – Gate of Divine Prowess (Shenwumen)

🔥Take note: If you plan on spending a day at the Forbidden City, you may opt to explore the entire palace by walking from the south to the north in the open area.

🔥Tips: The Forbidden City’s architectural structures are arranged on the central axis from south to north, with the Three Great Halls of the Outer Court and the Inner Court being the most significant points. They boast unparalleled scale and decoration, making them a must-see for anyone visiting the site.

🌟Tips to Avoid Crowds While Visiting the Forbidden City

S-shaped Routing

I suggested taking a different route to avoid the crowd of tourists on the central axis of the Forbidden City. First, enter the Gate of Supreme Harmony, then walk towards the Hall of Supreme Harmony by following the left-hand path before visiting the three halls of the Outer Court consecutively. Finally, proceed along the right-hand path to visit the Treasure Gallery and the three halls of the Inner Court. This way, you can efficiently avoid the tourists and be able to visit the three halls as well as other different buildings.

Avoid the Peak Hours

Many individuals generally arrive at the palace at around 8:30 am to complete the tour by noon, but it is recommended for us to arrive past 9:00 am to avoid the large crowds present at the palace during the morning.

💂🏻‍♂️A Guide is Essential for Visiting the Forbidden City

To obtain comprehensive knowledge of the long-standing history of the Forbidden City, a profound guide is essential, which is unquestionably worthy of the effort. Here are two feasible alternatives.

  • Rent an audio guide: You can rent an audio guide service at the Meridian Gate that helps in interpreting and playing the recorded version of the imperial halls in various languages such as Chinese, English, and others. It is a smart device that you can take with you during the visit. The rental fee for the device is CNY 40.
  • Hire a guide: This highly comprehensive and reasonably priced 4-hour walking tour of the Forbidden City stands out as the top choice. The guide provides personalized face-to-face interaction, enhancing your understanding of the presented information in a more effective and professional manner.

🥘Recommended Restaurants near the Forbidden City

Corner Tower Restaurant

Forbidden City -Corner-Tower-Restaurant

The Corner Tower Restaurant can be found outside the Gate of Divine Prowess in the Forbidden City. Even though the building has been converted into a restaurant, its original structure remains relatively untouched. The restaurant menu is unique and has been specially designed to resemble an imperial edict scroll. A standout dish at the restaurant is the chrysanthemum hotpot, which involves adding chrysanthemum petals to the pot of boiling broth, along with fresh chicken and fish slices. The addition of flower petals enhances the flavor of the meat while also helping to reduce the intake of fat. Your order will also come with five dipping sauces that are uniquely colorful.

📍Location: outside the Gate of Divine Prowess
💰Price: CNY 180
⏰Open Time: 17:30 – 22:00

Corner Tower Cafe

The Corner Tower Cafe is situated outside the Gate of Divine Prowess, adjacent to the Corner Tower Restaurant, and it garnered immense popularity immediately after its opening. The simple yet ancient interior design of the cafe features Chinese-style wooden tables and chairs, which add to the overall cultural ambiance. The cafe serves two types of drinks – classic coffee, including mocha and latte, and a selection of royal drinks, such as Chocolate Latte, Hot Chocolate, and Black Tea Latte.

📍Location: outside the Gate of Divine Prowess
💰Price: CNY 54
⏰Open Time: 08:30 – 19:00

Bingjiao

The Bingjiao restaurant, formerly used to store ice for the imperial family in ancient times, is now a restaurant located next to the Palace of Compassion and Tranquility (Cining Gong). The restaurant has a unique interior design theme centered around “ice”, with glass imitations of ice bricks present throughout the space. The menu mainly consists of fast food with a price range of CNY 46 to CNY 298, featuring a signature dish of Imperial Roast Duck set meal, but prior reservations are necessary.

📍Location: Beside the Palace of Compassion and Tranquility
💰Price: CNY 46
⏰Open Time: 08:00-16:00

⭐ Top Pick: Siji Minfu Roast Duck

Forbidden City - Siji-Minfu-Roast-Duck

The well-known duck eatery located adjacent to the Donghua Gate of the Forbidden City offers visitors the chance to observe the entire roast duck cooking process. The duck prepared at the restaurant is not greasy and has a delicious, crispy texture. Additionally, the duck pairs perfectly with the thin pancakes. As a result, numerous tourists specifically travel to the Forbidden City for this culinary delight.

📍Location: No.11 Nanchizi Street, Dongcheng District
💰Price: CNY 150
⏰Open Time: 10:30 – 21:30

TRB Forbidden City

This is a well-known and popular French restaurant situated outside the Forbidden City. The restaurant is elegantly decorated with Chinese elements, adding to its charm and unique character. The menu offers a wide range of mouth-watering dishes, ranging from pre-dinner bread, cold dishes, main courses, and desserts, which are exceptionally exquisite, with the Foie Gras being a must-try delicacy. Whether you prefer to sit upstairs or downstairs, there is no shortage of excellent seats available for viewing.

📍Location: No.95 Donghuamen Main Street, Dongcheng District
💰Price: CNY 480
⏰Open Time: 11:30 AM – 2:30 PM|5:30 PM – 10:00 PM

🏡Recommended Hotels near the Forbidden City

🌟MY TOP PICK🌟

Waldorf Astoria Beijing( ⭐4.8)

The Waldorf Astoria Beijing is a super fancy hotel that sits right in the heart of the lively Wangfujing area in Beijing. They’ve got a whopping 170 amazing rooms, with 9 of them having really cool terraces, and another 38 super luxurious suites. This place is known for being super fancy and having awesome service that caters to your every need. Plus, they’ve got a bunch of restaurants to choose from, like a French spot, a lounge, and a Cantonese restaurant, so you can have a really great eating experience too.

🌟MID-RANGE PICK🌟

Renaissance Beijing Wangfujing Hotel( ⭐4.7)

Renaissance Beijing Wangfujing Hotel is in the center of Beijing, and they’ve got 329 really nice guestrooms and suites that mix modern tech with warm colors. Half of the rooms even have an amazing view of the Forbidden City! They’ve got a great vibe that fits right in with the historical area, and you can try out some signature Chinese food at Wanli, or get some international grub at Food Studio. Plus, they’ve got an indoor pool, fitness center, and a chill spa.

Jingshan Garden Hotel( ⭐4.7)

The Jingshan Garden Hotel is super easy to find – just head down to Sanyanjing Hutong and you’ll see it. The entrance might be small, but it’s got this really cool rustic vibe with red and wood accents that make it stand out. They’ve got 15 rooms, and each one is decked out with really authentic-looking wooden furniture that gives off some major Chinese vibes. The rooms are pretty spacious too, with about 30 square meters of room for sleeping and hanging out. And let’s not forget about the bed – apparently, the mattress is so plush that it feels like sleeping on a fluffy cloud!

🌟SMALL-RANGE PICK🌟

Crystal Orange Hotel ( ⭐4.8)

Crystal Orange Hotel is a great spot for couples! It’s way more romantic and stylish than some of the other budget hotels around Beijing. The hotel is conveniently situated on Wangfujing Pedestrian Street, offering a peaceful environment and easy access to Tiananmen Square, the Forbidden City, and Wangfujing commercial street. The rooms aren’t huge, but they’ve got everything you need and the staff will even help you with your bags. You can enjoy a nice breakfast with a mix of Chinese and Western dishes, with plenty of food options to choose from.

💛12 Hidden Attractions Around the Forbidden City

A lot of people tend to visit Beijing and prioritize popular tourist attractions such as the Forbidden City, Tiananmen Square, and the National Museum. However, there are numerous hidden treasure attractions located near the Forbidden City that not many people know about. In this regard, I have compiled a list of 12 places that provide a quieter, less crowded experience while allowing you to learn and absorb the rich culture and history of China.

The Imperial Archive(Chinese name:皇史宬)

Forbidden City Nearby -The Imperial Archive

The Imperial Archive was established in 1534 and served as a repository for important archiving documents during the Ming and Qing dynasties. One of the most striking features of the main building is its brick construction without any beams, columns, or wooden nails, making it an exceptional example of stonework. The nine glazed beasts on the main hall are considered to be of high architectural standard, second only to the Hall of Supreme Harmony in the Forbidden City. Although some of the archives from that time have been transferred to the First Historical Archives of China, the Imperial Archive still houses many treasures of the Ming and Qing Dynasties within its walls, including imperial genealogies, imperial edicts, routine memorials, and much more.

📍Location: 136 Nanchizi Avenue, Dongcheng District
🎫Ticket: Free
⏰Open Time: 9:00-16:00(Mon – Fri)

Pudu Temple — Manchu Style Palace(Chinese name:普度寺)

Forbidden City Nearby -Pudu Temple

The Pudu Temple is one of the eight mysterious and lesser-known temples around the Forbidden City, and it has a rich history spanning more than six centuries. The temple’s architectural design showcases a pronounced Manchu style. Among the eight temples situated in the Forbidden City, Pudu Temple is the only one open to the public. The temple and surrounding area, which has a park-like atmosphere, provide a peaceful and tranquil environment where visitors can admire the antique buildings and catch a glimpse of the Corner Tower in the Forbidden City. Additionally, the main hall is accessible to the public during exhibitions.

📍Location: 35 Nanchizi Avenue, Dongcheng District
🎫Ticket: Free
⏰Open Time: 8:00-17:00

Songzhu Temple & Zhizhu Temple(Chinese name:嵩祝寺及智珠寺)

Forbidden City Nearby -Songzhu Temple Zhizhu Temple

When I initially learned about this place, I found it amusing that a Belgian(not a Chinese?) named Wenshounuo led a team in its restoration. The project took a total of five years, during which more than 80 murals were salvaged, and 70 beams were replaced in 2007. The interior of the temple is a blend of both ancient and modern aesthetics, making it a popular destination for tourists seeking the perfect photo. However, visitors should know that free commercial photography is no longer allowed. Portraits can only be taken with mobile phones, and cameras are only permitted to capture photos of the buildings. Additionally, the temple offers paid options like sunrise and sunset experiences and yoga sessions.

📍Location: 23 North Alley, Dongcheng District
🎫Ticket: Free
⏰Open Time: 11:00-19:00, till 23:00 on Fri-Sat

Hall of Imperial Longevity(Chinese name:寿皇殿)

Forbidden City Nearby -Hall of Imperial Longevity

When tourists visit the Forbidden City, they often take a brief trip to Jingshan Mountain to marvel at the beautiful sights of the Forbidden City and the surrounding landscapes. Afterward, they typically head north to capture the breathtaking view of the central axis of the North. If visitors turn their gaze toward the north, they might notice a stunning, shimmering complex of ancient buildings, known as the Qing Dynasty royal ancestor worship hall or the Hall of Imperial Longevity. This complex has been restored to its original historical design and is the second-largest ancient architectural complex on the central axis, excluding the Forbidden City. This beautiful complex is a hidden gem in Jingshan Park, offering visitors a small, peaceful area to enjoy the magnificent beauty of royal architecture.

📍Location: 44 Jinshan West Street, Xicheng District
🎫Ticket: CNY 2
⏰Open Time: 9:00-:16:00(Tue-Sun)

Round City(Chinese name:团城)

Forbidden City Nearby -The Round City

The Round City is located adjacent to the southern entrance of Beihai Park, a frequently overlooked location, but it offers numerous attractions despite its small size. The primary structure, known as the Hall of Divine Light, bears a striking resemblance to the Corner Tower of the Forbidden City and boasts an intricate design. Internally, the hall houses a seated statue of Sakyamuni Buddha originating from Burma, which was meticulously carved from a single block of white jade. Positioned in front of the hall is an extensive wine vessel crafted from green jade, which is the sole remaining artifact from Kublai Khan’s palace dating back to 1265.

📍Location: Beihai Park, No.1 Wenjin Street
🎫Ticket: CNY 1 (cash only)
⏰Open Time: 6:00-21:00(Tue-Sun)

Imperial Ancestral Temple(Chinese name:太庙)

Forbidden City Nearby -Imperial Ancestral Temple

Many individuals who have visited Tian’anmen Square often head straight for the Forbidden City without realizing the presence of two significant altar temples on both sides. These temples, known as the Imperial Ancestral Temple and Temple of Earth and Cereals, played a crucial role during the Ming and Qing Dynasties as places for the royal family to honor their ancestors. One of the most remarkable features of the Imperial Ancestral Temple is its Hall for Worship of Ancestors, standing at a notable height of 32.46 meters, making it taller than the Hall of Supreme Harmony in the Forbidden City. The hall is adorned with resplendent golden bricks on the ground and 68 golden nanmu pillars that exude an aura of grandeur and luxury.

📍Location: East of Tian ‘anmen Square, Chang ‘an Avenue
🎫Ticket: CNY 2
⏰Open Time: 9:00-17:00

Altar of Earth and Harvests(Chinese name:社稷坛)

Forbidden City Nearby - Altar of Earth and Harvests

On the route leading toward Zhongshan Park is a notable square structure known as the Altar of Earth and Harvests. This historic altar contains five different types of soil, each representing a specific element such as gold, wood, water, fire and earth, all collected from different regions of the country. The Altar of Earth and Harvests was an important location for national soil and grain ceremonies during the Ming and Qing dynasties. Throughout the year, visitors can enjoy various seasonal flowers such as plum blossoms in March, tulips in April, and beautiful ginkgo trees adorn the altar in October.

📍Location: Within Zhongshan Park, east of Tian ‘anmen Square, Chang ‘an Avenue
🎫Ticket: CNY 3
⏰Open Time: 6:00-20:00

Former Sino-French University(Chinese name:原中法大学)

Forbidden City Nearby - Former Sino-French University

The Imperial Archive was established in 1534 and served as a repository for important archiving documents during the Ming and Qing dynasties. One of the most striking features of the main building is its brick construction without any beams, columns, or wooden nails, making it an exceptional example of stonework. The nine glazed beasts on the main hall are considered to be of high architectural standard, second only to the Hall of Supreme Harmony in the Forbidden City. Although some of the archives from that time have been transferred to the First Historical Archives of China, the Imperial Archive still houses many treasures of the Ming and Qing Dynasties within its walls, including imperial genealogies, imperial edicts, routine memorials, and much more.

📍Location: 20 Huangchenggen North Street, Dongcheng District
🎫Ticket: Free, advance booking required
⏰Open Time: 9:00-17:00(Tue-Sun)

Site of the Editorial Office of La Jeunesse(Chinese name:《新青年》编辑部)

Forbidden City Nearby - Site of the Editorial Office of La Jeunesse

It is an old Beijing-style courtyard house, which was once the former residence of Chen Duxiu in Beijing, who found the Chinese literary magazine of New Youth(French: La Jeunesse). The courtyard is small and unique, and the two opposite rooms are transformed into exhibition halls, telling about China’s new cultural movement at that time. Additionally, visitors have the chance to try mimeographing, and can personally print the cover of the first edition of New Youth magazine.

📍Location: 20 Jiangan Hutong, Beichizi Street
🎫Ticket: Free, advance booking required
⏰Open Time: 9:00-17:00(Tue-Sun)

Peking University Red Building(Chinese name:北大红楼)

Forbidden City Nearby - Peking University Red Building

By walking in the northeast direction of the Forbidden City, visitors can come across a beautiful red brick house called the Peking University Red Building which was a crucial location for revolutionary activities. The exhibition rooms have been restored to resemble the setting during the May 4th Movement, including the parade preparation room and office. Tourists can also purchase souvenirs such as stationery, refrigerator stickers, clothes, canvas bags, and more next to the big iron door. Be sure to get them stamped on your way out.

📍Location: 29 Wusi Street, Dongcheng District
🎫Ticket: Free, advance booking required
⏰Open Time: 9:00-16:30(Tue-Sun)

🌿Facts About The Forbidden City

Why is it called the Forbidden City?

The Forbidden City is the Chinese term Zijincheng, which roughly translates to “Purple Forbidden City” in English. The name “Forbidden City” has been associated with it for several reasons.

  • In ancient times, the color purple was associated with power and good fortune. It was believed to be the color of auspice, and there was a saying that “the Purple Air comes from the east – a propitious omen.” The Jade Emperor, who claimed to be the son of Heaven, resided in the legendary Heavenly Palace, known as the “Purple Forbidden” Palace or Ziwei Palace. To correspond with the Heavenly Emperor, the emperor chose the central axis of Beijing to build the Purple Palace on Earth. This is the origin of the “purple”.
  • The palace where the royal family resides is heavily guarded and majestic to ensure their safety and maintain their dignity. Due to its restricted nature, ordinary people are not allowed to enter the palace grounds, hence the term “forbidden.”
  • In the past, Beijing was constructed with three primary divisions, namely the outer city, inner city, and palace city. Commoners resided in the outer city while the inner city, also referred to as the Imperial city, was reserved for members of the imperial house. The palace city, where the emperor lived and worked, was referred to as the ‘Forbidden City’.

What is the Forbidden City used for today?

Today, the Forbidden City is home to the Palace Museum. It has numerous exhibitions that showcase valuable cultural artifacts, such as the Gallery of Painting and Calligraphy, The Ceramics Gallery, The Bronze Gallery, The Furniture Gallery, The Tools of War Gallery, The Gallery of Historic Architecture, The Sculpture Gallery, The Gallery of Qing Imperial Opera, The Treasure Gallery, and The Gallery of Clocks. These exhibitions contain a plethora of ancient art treasures, totaling 1,052,653 pieces, and represent one-sixth of China’s cultural artifacts. The museum hosts the richest collection of cultural relics in China, making it world-renowned in ancient culture and art. Some of the treasures found here are priceless national relics known to be unique.

Who built the Forbidden City?

The design of the Forbidden City was a collaborative effort involving many skilled designers rather than just one individual. The initial designer of the Forbidden City was Liu Ji, who planned it according to the layout and style of the “Forbidden City” in Nanjing. Chen Gui then took charge as the chief planner for the construction of the Forbidden City, earning the emperor’s appreciation. Several notable individuals also played pivotal roles in the building process including Cai Xin, a woodworker, Yang Qing, a bricklayer, and Lu Xiang, a stonemason who contributed significantly to the design and construction of the Forbidden City.

Why was the Forbidden City built?

In 1402, the King of Yan of the Ming Dynasty, Zhu Di, waged and won a four-year civil war against his nephew Zhu Yunwen, and took control of the throne. To ensure his power in the kingdom, Zhu Di decided to shift the capital to Beijing. In the 4th year of Yongle during the Ming Dynasty in 1406 AD, Zhu Di initiated the construction of the Forbidden City in Beijing, which was modeled after the one in Nanjing. The construction of the Forbidden City was completed 14 years later, in the 18th year of Yongle in 1420. Despite many fires and rebuilds during the Ming and Qing dynasties, the Forbidden City still stands today.

What is the reason behind the name “Gold Bricks”?

Brick-paved floors and grounds can be observed in the Forbidden City. These bricks are called Jinzhuan, or ‘gold bricks’, and are not made of real gold. Instead, they are crafted from a fine clay that is best suited for making dense bricks. The process of making such a brick takes 720 days; and they are quite expensive, costing as much as one or two gold pieces. Thus, they are known as “gold bricks.” As cultural relics, their value has more than doubled over time. For instance, a pair of gold bricks from the imperial kiln sold for over CNY 800,000 during the Yongle period.

Why is The Forbidden City known as The World of Dragons?

In ancient China, dragons held great significance, especially for the royal family. The Chinese emperors were considered the true dragons and the rulers of the earth, earning them the title “Son of Heaven.” The Forbidden City, which served as the imperial palace during the Ming and Qing dynasties, was decorated with dragon motifs in its halls, bridges, stone carvings, jade seals, and imperial robes, symbolizing the Emperor’s supreme nobility. The Hall of Supreme Harmony, one of the Forbidden City’s halls, contains an extensive collection of 12,654 dragon ornaments. All these dragon symbols represented the Emperor’s supreme rule.

China Travel Planning Guide&FAQ

🎫Do I need a visa for China?

Yes. Most visitors to China will need a visa to enter the country. The type of visa you need will depend on the purpose and duration of your trip, as well as your nationality. If you are a resident of the US, you must apply for a Chinese visa at the Consular Office in the country. On the other hand, inhabitants of countries like Japan, Canada, and the UK can request a visa through the Chinese Visa Application Service Center.

🤔Why is it necessary to install a VPN in China?

In China, the government has strict regulations on internet access, leading to the blocking of popular websites and social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, Google, and YouTube. To access these sites, a VPN is suggested as a means of bypassing the restrictions. It is important to choose a reputable VPN provider and use caution while doing so. ExpressVPN has been historically deemed the most reliable VPN for this purpose, despite being heavily targeted by China’s censors. Nevertheless, it is still a widely preferred option owing to its ease of installation and user-friendliness.

📲Is it necessary to have a Chinese SIM card while in China?

Yes. It is crucial to acknowledge that accessing the internet in China may pose limitations due to certain websites being prohibited or filtered. To ensure uninterrupted connectivity while staying in China, purchasing a local SIM card is advisable. For optimum results, acquiring SIM cards from either China Unicom or China Mobile is recommended. While China Mobile has the most comprehensive coverage in China and is a market leader, China Unicom is more compatible with foreign phones, enabling 3G and 4G services. Or you can purchase a SIM card online.

🔮Should I buy China travel insurance?

Yes. Although China is generally a safe country for travel, it is still possible to encounter accidents or other unexpected occurrences. Therefore, obtaining travel insurance can provide a sense of security and financial protection. In my research, I have found that World Nomads is a reputable travel insurance provider that covers a wide range of activities and is recommended for the average traveler. Nevertheless, I advise you to compare insurance quotes from various providers before making a decision.

🚙Can you rent a car in China?

Unfeasible. Obtaining a Chinese driver’s license to rent a car and self-drive may seem like an option, but it is not a practical choice for most foreigners. Therefore, many prefer to opt for a driver or public transportation when navigating China, as it proves to be more convenient.

✈️What’s the best site to purchase flight tickets for China?

I suggest using Trip for affordable flights to China. As a China-based company, they often offer lower prices compared to foreign companies. Additionally, they offer English-speaking phone support in case of any issues.

🏡What is the best way to book hotels in China?

Not only does Trip offer a wider range of flight options, but it also provides a greater selection of hotels to choose from. Moreover, Agoda is a reliable resource for hotels throughout Asia.

🎒What do I pack for China?

Travel adapter and converter: China uses a different electrical system than many other countries, so it’s important to bring a travel adapter and converter if you plan to use electronic devices such as phones, cameras, and laptops.  
Sunscreen: The UV index in China can be high, particularly during the summer months, and prolonged exposure to the sun without protection can cause skin damage and increase the risk of skin cancer.
Deodorant: It should be noted that finding deodorant in China may not be a simple task.

📚Can a guidebook for traveling to China be useful?

Yes. If you’re planning to travel to China for the first time, a travel guidebook can be a valuable resource, and Lonely Planet is one of the most reputable guides available globally. Its comprehensive itineraries and recommendations take into account your personal preferences and can save you both time and money. The insider tips are also extremely helpful in navigating China’s unique cultural landscape like a local.

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