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Commoners beware – and yes, unless you’re somehow distantly related to an Emperor or two, we’re referring to you – the Forbidden City wasn’t exactly built to welcome in the likes of us. Eunuchs being an exception of course. Oh yes, we’re talking old school mentality here. Where hierarchy ruled the roost and all those who weren’t considered to be ‘somebody’, well quite frankly, they were nobodies.
It’s the most important imperial palace in China, and thankfully, this beast of Beijing is a little more welcoming since being listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1987. So you can breathe a swift sigh of relief and add it to your bucket-list ASAP, because this is what you call a sight to behold. And made up of a staggering 980 buildings, it might take you a while to take it all in.
Built in the early part of the 15th century by Emperor Zhu Di of the Ming Dynasty, this is a landmark that houses a whole lot of history. However, due to numerous fires, the structure that stands before us today likely dates from the early 18th century onwards. But, despite the need for a number of rebuilds, Beijing’s Forbidden City remains the largest and best preserved collection of ancient buildings in the whole of China.
Today, the city that once forbade the entrance of ‘common people’ and homed a long line of Emperors is much of a museum, showcasing relics and art from the lengthy time period in which the Forbidden City was in use. In fact, one-sixth of China’s cultural relics are housed here – pretty impressive, right?
So cameras at the ready, because showcasing architecture that influenced a whole multitude of constructions not just across China, but the whole of Asia, things are about to get quintessentially Chinese on that feed of yours.
The Forbidden City offers the ultimate opportunity to step back in time and uncover China’s fascinating past. From Ming to Qing Dynasties and even on to its most recent relations – or lack of relation as the case may be – to Chinese politics under the rule of the founder of modern China, Chairman Mao, this imperial palace has certainly served its purpose as a symbol of power.
Split into two parts – south and north – to represent both the inner and outer courts of the 24 Emperors that ruled here, the Forbidden City gives a beguiling insight into the showmanship that went into being a dynasty ruler. A divided life that is only emphasised by the city’s very name, not to mention the 10 metre tall wall that encloses the whole complex.
This is a place where the beauty is in the detail. It may be vast, but taking note of the intricate designs that vary from building to building is the only way to truly appreciate one of China’s greatest icons. Look out for the abundant use of ‘royal’ yellow, the huge bronze vats that flank the city’s major palaces and the gilded designs that give the Forbidden City its opulent atmosphere.
And, when you’ve had your fill of getting up close and personal with every building from the Palace of Heavenly Purity to the Hall of Mental Cultivation, make your way up the nearby hill in Jingshan Park for aerial views that will blow you away.
China is mind boggling that’s for sure, but if you’d like to get your head around some of its fascinating past then a wander around the Forbidden City is a must. Start with our Iconic Highlights or Yangtze Discovery base itinerary or click the 'Ancient Icons' button to add Beijing to our Panoramas & Pandas itinerary. Head over to our itinerary builder to start planning that trip of a lifetime.
The very heart of the city.
Closed on Mondays and you need around 3-4 hours to really see it.
40 CNY in winter and 60 CNY in summer.
There is no strict dress code, but it is always best to be respectful when touring sites such as this. Yep, that means midriffs away for this one.
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