The Ultimate Guide to Visiting The Forbidden City

2020-11-28   Leo Kui      0

The Forbidden City which is also called the Palace Museum is probably one of the sights you shouldn’t miss when you’re in Beijing. It has one of the most comprehensive architectural, collections, holding objects which date from 3000 years ago to Qing Dynasty, as you’d expect, it’s one of the biggest palace museums in the world.

With this in mind, you’re going to need some Forbidden City tips to ensure that you see everything you want to see, especially if you have limited time. No matter what your level of history knowledge is, you’ll definitely find something that’ll amaze you, delight you, or give you a passion that you never knew you had. Here is all the information you need to get the most out of your visit to the Forbidden City.


Forbidden City Tip: Logistics
How To Get There?

Address: No.4 Jingshanqian Street, Dongcheng District  Beijing China   Zipcode: 100009

Good news! The Forbidden City is friendly and easy to reach. It is just in north of Tiananmen Square. So before visiting the Forbidden City, you may also want to walk around Tiananmen Square first.

Hop on the Beijing subway, and get yourself to Tiananmen east station (located almost in the middle of the Beijing subway map, on the red Central Line 1). When you arrive on the platform, follow the signs to the exit – if you keep your eyes peeled, you’ll notice signs telling you exactly which exit to go out from in order to reach Tiananmen Square (Go out from Exit B). Once you’ve left the subway station exit B, you’ll find yourself at the end of a long line for the security to go inside Tiananmen. (The Security queue can be very long and easily take you half an hour to go through.) From the doorway down the Tiananmen Tower, it is about 200 meters to get to the Forbidden City.

If you have limited time and don’t want to wait for the long security queue, you can skip Tiananmen Square and walk to the Forbidden City directly. You can visit Tiananmen Square in the afternoon, the queue is usually shorter.

Opening Hours & Ticket Prices
Tickets price April to October November to March
Adults 60RMB 40RMB
Student 20RMB 20RMB
Senior 30RMB 20RMB
10 RMB for the Treasure Gallery;10 RMB for the Clock and Watch Gallery
Open time Open Stop tickets Stop-go inside Close
April to October 8:00 16:00 16:10 17:00
November to March 8:30 15:30 15:40 16:30
How to buy the Forbidden City tickets

Since 2019, you can’t buy the tickets at the tickets office, so you have to use wechat search for “故宫博物院观众服务” or go to their website to book the tickets. The website is, you can book the tickets 10 days before your visit.

There are 80000 tickets every day, which is enough for most days, but if it is the Chinese holidays or some nice weekend, the tickets can be sold out very quickly, so please prepare the tickets beforehand.

The problem is both the wechat and the website are in Chinese, it is difficult for international travelers. Even though you understand Chinese, you will end up typing the Chinese phone number to get the verification code, or the way to pay for the tickets only take wechat pay or Alipay. The best way to save this question is to ask some Chinese people you know to help you book the tickets, such as the hotel you book for or anyone you know who has wechat pay or Alipay.

By the way, the ticket is booked under your passport number, please don’t forget to bring your passport with you.

Food and drink

There are 6 restaurants inside the Forbidden City, it is like fast Chinese food, the quality is ok, and the budget is around 100RMB per person. (I have marked them out on the map below). But it is very easy to find shops to sell water and snacks. A bottle of water is 4 RMB.

Forbidden City Tips: Seeing the highlights

Purple was the symbolic color of the north star, and also traditionally stood for nobility and dignity in China, so the palace was believed to be the center of the cosmos. So the name of the Forbidden City is called “Purple Forbidden City” (Chinese name: 紫禁城 zǐ jìn chéng). It is rectangular in shape, 961 meters long from north to south, and 753 meters wide from east to west. It covers an area of 72 hectares and the total floor space is about 150000 square meters.

Meridian Gate (午门)

The Meridian Gate, the main entrance of the Forbidden City in Beijing, is located on the north-south axis of the Forbidden City. You can always go up to the Gate to see a birds-eye view of the Forbidden City before you go deep inside. When you go inside the Forbidden City, turn left, and you will find the stairs up to the Meridian Gate. There are always some temporary nice exhibitions from all over the world.

Hall of Supreme Harmony (outer court) (太和殿)


The Hall of Supreme Harmony is the most important and largest structure in the Forbidden City and was once the tallest building in the capital. It was used for state occasions, such as the emperor’s birthday, coronations, and the nomination of military leaders.

 Palace of Heavenly Purity (inner court) (乾清宫)

This is the residence of Ming and early Qing emperors, and later an audience hall for receiving foreign envoys and high officials. The highlights are the decorations inside. 1. How the Qing emperor chooses his successors? 2. How the emperor’s office really look like? 3. 6 big mirrors inside, do you know what it is for?…

Six Western Palaces (西六宫)

A dozen smaller palace courtyards lie to the west and east of the three lesser central halls. It was in these self-contained abodes, like far grander versions of Beijing’s sìhéyuàn mansions in the hutong, where most of the emperors and empresses actually lived.

The 6 Western Palaces are the Original Forms of the Old life. You can easily find the palace where the last emperor lived and Cixi’s palace.

Six Eastern Palaces(东六宫)

Like the 6 Western Palaces, these are also the palaces where the concubines live. But they are changed into exhibitions now. The bronzes exhibition at the Palace of Celestial Favour and Palace of Enteral Harmony. Ceramic exhibition at the Palace of Prolonging Happiness.

Treasure Gallery (珍宝馆)

On the northeastern edge of the complex is what feels like a mini Forbidden City all of its own. This is the Palace of Tranquil Longevity, built around 1771 for Qing emperor Qianlong’s retirement, though he never moved in.

9 dragon screen is just at the entrance. There are a lot of exhibitions inside, such as the Jade exhibition at the Palace of Tranquil Longevity, The Drum-shaped stone locks exhibition at the Hall of Imperial Supremacy.

Imperial Garden (御花园)

The Imperial Garden is 130 meters wide over 90 meters long. In the Garden, there are ancient towering pines and junipers. grass. strange flowers and rocks. The whole garden is where ladies living in the forbidden city like to walk around. It is very elegant.

 Forbidden City Tips: Ending the day

Well, you should be experiencing the Forbidden City burnout by now. So that’s why I advise stopping here because otherwise, everything becomes a bit of a blur. And that doesn’t do justice to the collections, or the people who have carefully curated them.

Jinshan Park (景山公园)

Jinshan Park does not belong to the Forbidden City, it is at the north exit of the Forbidden City. It is a super nice view if you go up the hill to see the Forbidden City which can make your Forbidden city visit complete.

So what I advise now is to go to the rather excellent gift shop, the Forbidden City, and the sights around are too good to devote just one day too; use the guide to pinpoint exactly what else you’d like to see, and mark them for the next time.

Jingshan Park Travel Guide

Forbidden City travel FAQS
How to avoid the crowd?

Early bird and late bird!

Early bird is always helpful to avoid the crowd. But it is not my favorite time to go early.

The reason, I don’t recommend you go early is because everyone thinks the same, especially the tour groups. There is always a long queue waiting at the front door(medium gate) before it’s open.

So if you only have 1 or 2 hours to visit, I highly recommend you go after 1:30 pm. It is much better.

Every day from 10:00 am to 1:00 pm, the Museum receives the highest number of daily visitors.

If you want to stay a whole day inside, be the early bird, since it is very big.

There are some Chinese holidays, it is always busy. If you can skip them, it helps you get a better travel experience.

Dates to avoid visiting China!

How to visit the Forbidden City by myself?

If you want to see as much as you could, please read the blog below. It can easily take you 4 hours or more.

Forbidden City Map + Best Travel Routes (Without BACK AND FORTH)

If you don’t have time, just choose some of the interesting sights to see.

Tour Guide or Audio Guide

If you want to learn more details about the Forbidden City, a tour guide is very important. But you can also easily get an audio guide at the entrance (The cost of renting any version of the device is CNY 40 (Chinese and Cantonese are both CNY 20), return at the exit, no deposit needed). It includes 35 languages.

What should I wear?

There is nothing particularly you should concern about regarding the dress. Just wear comfortable walking shoes as it is big inside with a lot of steps.

What MUST I take?

Your passport. You need your passport to get into the Forbidden City. There is always a security check near the square, so it is a must before you visit.

Wheelchair Accessible

Yes. Just around the axis of the Forbidden City.

Where to finish the Forbidden city trip

There are 2 exits in the Forbidden City the North gate and the East gate.

Most people choose the north gate to go out.

There are 3 reasons I recommend you use the East gate.

A. Your time is very limited. You can just jump in and take some photos and leave. It can help you save a lot of time. Especially, you may waste time in the queue. B. You are with people who are not good walkers. This is an easy way for people to get an impression of the Forbidden City. C. If you want to take an amazing photo of the Forbidden City. The best time is 10 minutes before its closes. It may be very rushed to go out from the north gate, so the east gate is the best choice.

Other sights near the Forbidden City

After completing the Forbidden City trip, it is better to go up to Jingshan Park to enjoy a birds-eye view of the Forbidden City.

The Forbidden City turret is also a great place for photos.

Beihai Park is just 5 minute walk from the North Gate of the Forbidden City.

Good restaurants near the Forbidden City

After the long walk, I guess you must feel a bit tired and hungry. Unfortunately, there is no good restaurant near the north gate of the Forbidden City, but a good coffee restaurant you may like to go to.[ Alley Coffee 寻常巷陌  It is near the east gate of Jinshan Park, about 5 minute walk from the North Gate of the Forbidden City.

Or you can walk a little bit more to the East Gate, the Sijimingfu Beijing Duck restaurant is there. Highly recommend!!!

Can I visit the Great Wall and the Forbidden City in 1 day?

It is doable if you have limited time such as a layover. But both of them will be a bit rush, I would like to suggest you make them in 2 days.

Did you enjoy this guide to Forbidden City tips? Was it helpful? Let me know in the comments below!

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