Forbidden City (Imperial Palace)

#3 in Best Things To Do in Beijing
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Key Info

4 Jingshan Front St. Dongcheng Qu

Details

Museums, Castles/Palaces, Sightseeing Type
2 hours to Half Day Time to Spend

scorecard

  • 4.0Value
  • 4.0Facilities
  • 4.5Atmosphere

Operating under the official title of "The Palace Museum," the Forbidden City (also known as the Imperial Palace) has been a place of wonder and mystery for more than 500 years. This massive complex sits on the northern edge of Tiananmen Square at the epicenter of Beijing. Beyond its towering fortifications, you'll find an intricate labyrinth of squares, halls, gates, pavilions, sleeping quarters and temples. In some of the structures, curated art and historic relics have been placed; however, the greatest achievement is the compound itself. Not-to-be-missed highlights include the Meridian Gate, the Turret, the Antiquarium and the Imperial Garden.

Recent visitors, who called the park fascinating, suggest giving yourself plenty of time to tour and buying tickets in advance if you can. Others were disappointed by the sheer volume of tourists and recommend avoiding a weekend visit if possible. You'll also want to wear a hat and sunscreen as there is little shade. Several reviewers also suggested hiring a guide to help you navigate the site and better understand its history, or at the very least, purchasing a map which doubles as a souvenir. Audio guide rentals are another option.

You must enter the Forbidden City through the Meridian Gate, which is easily reached via the Tian'an men East or Tian'an men West subway stops. The palace welcomes visitors Tuesday through Sunday from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. from April to October and until 4:30 p.m. from November to March. Admission costs 60 yuan (about $9) in the high season and 40 yuan (about $6) in the low season. Remember to bring your passport as you'll be required to show to enter. Visit the museum's website for more information.

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#1 The Great Wall of China

Just north of Beijing, you'll find one of the most famous monuments in the world: the Great Wall of China. Although it's unlikely you'll see the whole thing, you should aim to experience a portion of it. That begs the question: Which section?

Only an hour's drive northwest of Beijing, the Badaling section is convenient, hosts a large souvenir market, and has a gondola to whisk visitors up and down the wall. Sounds perfect, right? Well, and that's why thousands of tourists decide to venture here. This can create mob-like scenes that can spoil the trip, but it's unpredictable. Plenty of visitors rave about this section of the wall and say a visit is a must. Entrance to the Badaling section of wall (not including the gondola ride) costs 40 yuan (about $6) in the winter and spring and 45 yuan (about $6.60 ) in the summer and fall. You can start hiking the Badaling portion at 6:40 a.m., and you must be down by 6:30 p.m. every day.

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