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Here marks the centre of the city, Beijing’s stone heart as it were. We know what you’re thinking. Squares are a feature in the majority of cities around the world and it’s sometimes difficult to see how they could differ, but Tiananmen Square is unique – that’s for sure. This vast expanse of concrete is home to pile, upon pile, of political history. So, if you haven’t had enough of one already, this will be your welcome to modern China and all that it’s about.
It’s one of many jewels in the capital’s – and even the country’s – crown of attractions and probably one of Beijing’s most prominent spots. Although existing in one form or another since 1651, today – fenced by low iron grids and featuring a series of monolithic structures – this square seeks to showcase the great scale of the communist party. And forefronting this advert for communist rule is, of course, the founder of the People’s Republic of China, the late Chairman Mao himself. His portrait is proudly displayed at the square’s northern entrance, which also happens to be the side in which you’ll find the southern entrance of the Forbidden City.
But despite it being flanked by the likes of some big-hitting tourist sites like the Forbidden City, this square is home to some notable sites of its own. The Gate of Heavenly Peace, on which Mao’s picture is adorned, is most visitors first port of call. Capturing the iconic gate is a Tiananmen Square must and gives you a “been there, done that and got the picture” status. And the daily flag-raising ceremony is much like Beijing’s answer to London’s changing of the guards. But as a square that can hold around 600,000 people fairly comfortably, the list of things to see doesn’t end quite so swiftly. Think everything from museums to pretty floral displays. This is the poster child for communism after all, it’s inevitable that it would have a lot going on.
You can’t really say that you’ve been to Beijing without taking a little trip to Tiananmen Square. Yep, that’s how important this landmark is. In fact, you can’t really get a good grip on Chinese politics – in the flesh – without taking in all that the square showcases. The constant police and army presence just confirming how politically charged this dot on the city map is. Even if you’re not bothered about the individual attractions that it offers, a wander here is nothing short of fascinating.
It may not be the world’s, or even China’s, biggest square, but Tiananmen is certainly up there in the top 10. And, although you can expect to have to pass through a checkpoint, it is easily accessible from the four entrances that stand on each of its sides.
To truly make the most of your time in Tiananmen Square, checking out Chairman Mao’s mausoleum and the Monument to the People’s Heroes – both located near the centre of the expanse – should be pretty high on your list. And, if you really want the full experience, the National Museum of China and the Great Hall of the People can also be found here.
Politically charged and packed to the brim with history, Tiananmen Square is a must-see. Which is exactly why we've included it in our Iconic Highlights and Yangtze Discovery base itineraries. You can also click the 'Ancient Icons' button on our Panoramas & Pandas itinerary and a visit to Beijing and Tiananmen Square will be added to your trip. Head over to our itinerary builder now to start planning that trip of a lifetime.
The very centre of downtown Beijing – it lies in front of the Forbidden City’s southern entrance.
5am-12am daily – impressive in the evening when the surrounding buildings are illuminated. At sunrise and sunset you’ll catch the guards raising and lowering the national flag.
Free – although be prepared to have to go through a security checkpoint first.
No dress code but it’s best to be respectful and conservative in such a highly charged political environment a.k.a. Put the midriff away. It’s also best to avoid wearing any clothing that showcases any political – or even religious – slogans or messages.
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