Forbidden City, China (Palace Museum)

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Chinese Names: 故宫 gù gōng / 紫禁城 zǐ jìn chéng
English Names: Forbidden City / Palace Museum
Location: very center Beijing, China
Area: 72 hectares
Construction Time: 1406 to 1420, Ming Dynasty
Initiator: Emperor Chengzu of the Ming Dynasty
Designer: Kuai Xiang
Previous Residents: 14 emperors from the Ming Dynasty (1368 - 1644), 10 emperors from the Qing Dynasty (1644 -1911), and their royal families.

 Read More:
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Why is it called the Forbidden City?
Top 20 Forbidden City FAQs

The Forbidden City, also known as the Palace Museum, lies in the city center of Beijing, and was once the Chinese imperial palace of the Ming and Qing Dynasties (1368 - 1911). It was listed as a World Heritage Site in 1987 and is the largest, best-preserved ancient timber-built palace complex in the world.

Constructed between 1406 and 1420 during the reign of Emperor Chengzu of the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644), the Forbidden City was home to 24 emperors and their families and acted as the ceremonial and political center of ancient Chinese government throughout 500 years. After the Last Emperor of China left the palace, it later became a museum open to the public in 1925. Since then, the Forbidden City is no longer ‘forbidden’, and now ordinary people are able to take a virtual trip in time to see the secrets and luxury of imperial life.

Rectangular in shape, the Forbidden City is enormous, covering an area of 72 hectares, and boasting more than 9,000 bays of rooms. It is divided into two parts – the Outer Court for national affairs in the south and the Inner Court as living quarters in the north. It is not only an immense architectural masterpiece, but also a treasury housing a unique collection of 1.8 million pieces of art, including ancient calligraphy and painting, imperial artifacts, ancient books and archives. A must-see in Beijing and the world’s most visited museum, it is worth spending half to one day to visit the Forbidden City and appreciate the precious cultural heritage of China.


How to Tour the Forbidden City

Entry and Exit:
The palace allows a south-to-north unidirectional route. Visitors can only enter through the Meridian Gate (Wumen) in the south and leave from the Gate of Divine Prowess (Shenwumen) in the north or the East Prosperity Gate (Donghuamen).
Time Plan:
Two to four hours is recommended for touring the major palaces along the central axis; if you have interest in exploring more on the west and east wings, a whole day would be enough for a thorough visit.
Classic Touring Route of Central Axis:
Meridian Gate → Gate of Supreme Harmony → Hall of Supreme Harmony → Hall of Central Harmony → Hall of Preserved Harmony → Gate of Heavenly Purity → Palace of Heavenly Purity → Hall of Celestial and Terrestrial Union → Palace of Earthly Tranquility → Imperial Garden → Gate of Divine Prowess

 Read More:
How to Visit the Forbidden City - An Insider’s Guide
Travel Tips

Layout and Major Palaces

• Length (north-south): 961 meters (1,051 yards)
• Width (west-east): 753 meters (823 yards)
• Total Area: 72 hectares (178 acres)
• Building Area: 15 hectares (37 acres)

Located to the north of the Tiananmen Square, the rectangular Forbidden City is enclosed by a 10 meters (33 feet) high outer wall and surrounded by a 52 meters (57 yards) wide moat. It has four gates: the Meridian Gate (Wumen) in the south, the Gate of Divine Prowess (Shenwumen) in the north, the West Prosperity Gate (Xihuamen) and the East Prosperity Gate (Donghuamen). On each of the four corners of the outer wall, there is a delicately structured corner tower.

Standing on the wall or the towers, or seeking a higher viewpoint from the Jingshan Mountain to the north of the Forbidden City, you can get the feel of the truly massive scale of the palace complex. For comparison, the Forbidden City is four times the size of the Taj Mahal of India (18 hectares), which is mainly composed of gardens. Here the Forbidden City, with a multitude of palaces, has a building area even larger than that of the Palace of Versailles in France (11 hectares).

The high outer walls enclose a labyrinth of more than 90 palaces and courtyards, with over 9,000 bays of rooms! The layout is in perfect symmetry, with the north-south central axis ingeniously designed for not only the forbidden palace complex, but also the whole of today’s Beijing city. The major palaces extend along the axis, while the minor halls stand on the west and east sides, all being well arranged in five north-south lines: Central Axis, West Wing, East Wing, Outer West Route, and Outer East Route.

For different functions, the complex is divided into the Outer Court in the south and the Inner Court in the north.

The Outer Court was used for state ceremonials, with three main halls on the central axis, namely the Hall of Supreme Harmony (Taihedian), the Hall of Central Harmony (Zhonghedian), and the Hall of Preserved Harmony (Baohedian), and two wing structures – the Hall of Martial Valor (Wuyingdian) in the west, and the Hall of Literary Glory (Wenhuadian) in the east.

The Inner Court was the residential area, including the three central palaces for the emperor and the empress, namely the Palace of Heavenly Purity (Qianqinggong), the Hall of Celestial and Terrestrial Union (Jiaotaidian), and the Palace of Earthly Tranquility (Kunninggong), which are flanked by Six Western Palaces and Six Eastern Palaces for concubines and maids of different ranks. There is an Imperial Garden at northernmost part, affording views and entertainments.

 Read More:
Layout of Forbidden City – Outer Court and Inner Court in Perfect Axisymmetry
How big is the Forbidden City?
How Many Rooms are there in the Forbidden City? 9999.5?
 See More: Forbidden City Maps

Follow the Experts to Explore the Essence of Forbidden City

  • Epic of Ancient Chinese Architecture 
  • 600 Years’ History 
  • Imperial Life and Anecdotes 
  • Top-Level Exhibitions 
  • Cultural Souvenirs Frenzy 

How to Get to the Forbidden City

Entry is allowed only through the Meridian Gate, the south gate of the museum.

1. Subway:
Take subway line 1, get off at Tiananmen East Station (Exit B) or Tiananmen West Station (Exit B), walk 500 meters (550 yards) to the Tiananmen Tower, and then walk north to the Meridian Gate.
► If you would like to tour the Tiananmen Square first, beside subway line 1, you can also take subway line 2, get off at Qianmen Station (Exit A), walk north through the square to find the Tiananmen Tower, and then go further north to reach the Meridian Gate.

2. Bus:
Take bus line 1, 2, 52, 59, 82, 120, Sightseeing Bus Line 1 or 2, and get off at Tiananmen East Station; or take bus line 1, 5, 52, Sightseeing Bus Line 1 or 2, and get off at Tiananmen West Station.

 Read More:
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How to Leave the Forbidden City

Exit is allowed through the northern Gate of Divine Prowess, and the East Prosperity Gate.

The Gate of Divine Prowess faces Jingshan Park to the north. You can visit the park and climb up the Jingshan Mountain to get a panoramic view of the Forbidden City. If you want to leave directly from here, there are bus lines 58, 101, 103, 109, 124, 128, Sightseeing Bus Lines 1, 2 and 3 available at Gugong (Forbidden City) Station, and bus lines 58, 111, 124 and Sightseeing Bus Line 3 at Jingshan East Gate Station.

From the East Prosperity Gate, you can walk 800 meters (875 yards) east to the Wangfujing Street. If you plan to leave directly, take Sightseeing Bus Line 2 from Gugong East Gate Station or bus line 2 or 82 from Donghuamen Station.

How to Buy Forbidden City Tickets

1. A maximum of 80,000 visitors are allowed daily before 2020, but now during the epidemic prevention period, it allows 30,000 visitors a day.

2. All visitors need to buy e-tickets online beforehand, through the official website of the museum (no English service) or travel agencies offering English service.

3. The tickets are sold 10 days in advance on the official website, while earlier booking is accepted by some travel agencies. It is recommended to buy as early as possible for the tickets are in demand especially during holidays.

4. Passports of foreigners or ID cards of visitors from Mainland China, Hong Kong, Macau and Taiwan are needed when buying tickets. Each individual is limited to one ticket for one day.

5. Show your passport or ID card at the entrance, and there is no need to get the paper tickets.

6. If you fail to buy a ticket online beforehand, you can scan the official QR code at the entrance square to buy one if there are still tickets left for that day.
Entrance Ticket Price April to October: CNY 60
November to March: CNY 40
Treasure Gallery CNY 10 (in the Palace of Tranquil Longevity, including the Opera Museum and Stone Drum Museum)
Clocks and Watches Gallery CNY 10 (in the Hall for Ancestry Worship)

1. Free admission for children 6 years old or younger and children under 1.2 meters (3.9 feet) in height.
2. For minors between 6 and 18 years old, the admission ticket price is CNY 20 and the ticket for Treasure Gallery and Clocks and Watches Gallery each is CNY 5.
3. Seniors older than 60 can enjoy half price for both the entrance tickets and the tickets for the two galleries.
4. The Annual Ticket (CNY 300 for 10 entries a year) only applies to Chinese citizens.

Opening Hours

Months Opening Hours Ticketing Time Entry Time
April to October 8:30-17:00 8:30-16:00 8:30-16:10
November to March 8:30-16:30 8:30-15:30 8:30-15:40

 It is closed on Mondays, except the Chinese statutory holidays.

 Read More: Forbidden City Opening Hours

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- Last updated on Aug. 14, 2023 by Catherine He -
Questions & Answers on Forbidden City
Asked by Tam from VIET NAM | Aug. 12, 2023 04:20Reply

This is Tam from Viet Nam.
I would like to buy Beijing Forbidden City admission tickets for my family group (7 people) on 31 Aug 2023 morning time, but I can not buy online because I can not read Chinese language.
So you you help me to buy ticket

Thanks so much and looking for your feedback soon.

Answers (1)
Answered by Emily | Aug. 14, 2023 00:33

As I know, TravelChinaGuide doesn't offer ticket booking service of the Forbidden City now as this attraction is really in hot demand and it is hard to purchase any ticket. It is suggested for you to book a tour and they may book tickets in advance for you.
Asked by AEOW from THAILAND | Aug. 10, 2023 21:22Reply
ticket online
How I buy the ticket online, please advise ?
Answers (1)
Answered by Alex | Aug. 11, 2023 00:02

You can buy Forbidden City tickets at its official WeChat account. They are released at 20:00 7 days prior to the visit. As the tickets are in great demand, you are advised to book at the first time they are available.
Asked by Rachele from ITALY | Jul. 18, 2023 02:53Reply
Buy a ticket
Is it possible to buy a ticket for the forbidden city and the heaven temple in advace in order to avoid queue?
Answers (1)
Answered by Emily | Jul. 18, 2023 18:32

As I know, booking online is must and no ticket is available at the spot. However, July and August are travel peak time and it is hard to snag tickets. It is suggested to book as early as possible.
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