The Forbidden City

Price guide: Mid-range

West Chang'an Avenue, Dongcheng District, Beijing

Price guide: Mid-range

Interior view
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By Tom O'Malley, your Beijing expert

I write for Travel and Leisure (SE .... Read more
#6 of 20
expert-rated things to do in Beijing
Expert overall rating:4.5 out of 5
Value for money:
Recommended for:
Culture vultures, Families with teenagers, First-time travellers, Art, Design and architecture, History, Sightseeing

Best for History - Expert review of The Forbidden City

Discover the epic scale of a palace off-limits to ordinary folk for 500 years.

The physical, political and symbolic heart of Imperial China, the Forbidden City is a staggering feat of palace building. Towering perimeter walls (cemented together by glutinous rice) enclose symmetrically aligned halls and pavilions from which two dynasties of Emperors ruled ‘all under heaven’ for six centuries. These days it’s perennially packed with tourists, but before the end of the Qing in 1911, the palace would have been teeming with servants, including vast harems of hand-picked concubines guarded over by quarrelsome, scheming eunuchs.

With a reported 9,999 buildings across 74 acres, you’re likely to run into palace fatigue if you try to see it all. I usually enter via the quieter north gate where the most interesting buildings and gardens lie, and work my way south only as far as the Hall of Supreme Harmony. More than enough for one day.

Price advice: 

Tickets are 60 RMB per person (40 RMB in low season), but to visit some of the exhibitions, including the fascinating Clock and Watch Gallery, you'll need to purchase another ticket at about 10 RMB.

Expert tips: 
Enter via the north gate to beat the crowds.
Beware of polite, English-speaking locals inviting you to go for tea – it’s almost always a scam.
Bring a sunhat or brolly (for a sunshade) in summer.
Bernardo Bertolucci’s film <em>The Last Emperor<em> offers a fascinating glimpse at what life might have been like for a Qing emperor living in the palace. A good primer before you visit.

More information on The Forbidden City:

Price guide:
Castle / palace, Historic site, Museum
West Chang'an Avenue, Dongcheng District, Beijing
Months open:
All year round
Opening times:
Daily 8:30am-5pm

Have you been to The Forbidden City? Would you recommended it?