Forbidden City (Palace Museum) – tickets, opening times, highlights, and tips

forbidden city, tickets, highlights, and tour tips

With over 70 halls and 9,000 rooms and occupying about 150,000 square meters, the Forbidden City is the largest existing wooden building complex in the world, whose history can be traced back to 1406 AD. It served as the political center of the empire and the residence of the king, his wife, and concubines in the Ming and Qing dynasties (1406 – 1912) and was converted into a museum in 1925.

According to the official statistics, this place now hoards millions of precious antiques and was listed as a World Cultural Heritage in 1987. It is the best place to learn Chinese royal history and traditional Chinese architecture, a must-visit for every foreign visitor. 

Table of Contents

Basic Information
Estimated length of tourover 3 hours
Opening hours08.30 – 17.00 (April 1st– October 31st)
08.30 – 16.30 (November 1st – March 31st)
Ticket priceAdults:
60 RMB (from April 1st to October 31st)
40 RMB (from November 1st to March 31st)
Children under 1.2 meters: Free

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Location and Transportation

The forbidden city is located right in the center of Beijing and has convenient transport.

Bus: Take No.1, 2, 52, 120 or tourist express 1 or 2, hop off at Tiananmen east, and then walk about 900 meters to reach the entrance

Subway: take subway line 1, take off at Tiananmen East Station, and then walk about 900 meters to the entrance.

Self-drive or taxi: since there is no parking lot in the Forbidden City and vehicles are not allowed to pull over nearby, these ways are not recommended.

Highlights of the Forbidden City

Taihedian (The Hall of Supreme Harmony)

Taihedian (The Hall of Supreme Harmony)

All the buildings in the Forbidden City are scattered around the three grand halls, i.e., Taihedian (The Hall of Supreme Harmony), Zhonghedian (the Hall of Central Harmony), and Baohedian (The Hall of Preserving Harmony).

Taihedian is the largest building in the Forbidden City and rises about 30 meters above the level of the surrounding square. It is the place where the emperors held grand ceremonies, like their weddings, coronations, military expeditions, and Spring Festival banquets. Nowadays, you can see the throne, pillars decorated with dragons, and a box of treasures in it.

Zhoneghedian (The Hall of Central Harmony)

Zhoneghedian (The Hall of Central Harmony)

Zhonghedian is the second one in the row, rising 19 meters and occupying 580 square meters. It was mainly used for the emperors to prepare and rest before the grand ceremonies. It features a plaque hand-written by Qianlong (a well-known emperor in the Qing dynasty), saying 允执厥中, meaning the principal governors should never be biased in making decisions on conflicting opinions, interests, and forces.

Baohedian (The Hall of Preserving Harmony)

Baohedian (The Hall of Preserving Harmoney)

Baohedian is the last of three halls, rising 29.5 meters and occupying 1240 square meters. In the Ming dynasty, the emperors would change into formal suits and receive congratulations from their chancellors after the conferral of their queens and successors here, but in the Qing dynasty, it was mainly used for banquets and the final stage of the imperial examination.

The most spectacular view of Baohedian is called “Qianlongtushui.” When it rains, the numerous dragon heads installed at the base will spit water to prevent waterlogging.  

The Treasure Gallery in Forbidden City

The treasure gallery is located in the northeast corner of the Forbidden City. Although it is charged an extra 10 RMB (approx. 1.5 dollars), I assure you the exhibition is worth every penny of the money.

It displays jewels, jades, pearls, ivory sculptures, colorful corals, crowns, clothes, cups, censers, and seals collected or used by the royal family. You will be amazed by the fine craftsmanship and priceless materials that they are made of.

The Royal Garden

Royal garden in forbidden city

At the north end of the Forbidden City lies the Royal Garden, where the emperors and their partners relaxed and strolled during breaks. Its area is not big, but the design is exquisite. With a few steps, the view you can see will completely change. There are 164 trees, whose ages are all over 300 years.

One-Day Tour

one day tour in the forbidden city

1. The Meridian Gate(Wu men)
2. “Painting and Calligraphy Gallery” Hall of Martial Valor (Wuying dian)
3. “Ceramics Gallery” Hall of Literary Brilliance (Wenhua dian)
4. Gate of Supreme Harmony (Taihe men)
5. Hall of Supreme Harmony (Taihe dian)
6. Hall of Central Harmony (Zhonghe dian)
7. Hall of Preserving Harmony (Baohe dian)
8. Palace of Heavenly Purity (Qianqing gong)
9. Hall of Union (Jiaotai dian)
10. Palace of Earthly Tranquility (Kunning gong)
11. Hall of Mental Cultivation (Yangxin dian)
12. Area of Six Western Palaces
13. Imperial Garden (Yu huayuan)
14. Area of Six Eastern Palaces
15. “Hall of Clocks” Hall for Ancestral Worship (Fengxian dian)
16. “The Treasure Gallery, Gallery of Qing Imperial Opera” Area of Palace of Tranquil Longevity (Ningshou gong)
17. Gate of Divine Prowess (Shenwu men)

Half-Day Tour

1. Meridian Gate (Wu men) 
2. Hall of Martial Valor (Wuying dian): Painting and Calligraphy Gallery 
3. Gate of Supreme Harmony (Taihe men) 
4. Hall of Supreme Harmony (Taihe dian) 
5. Hall of Central Harmony (Zhonghe dian) 
6. Hall of Preserving Harmony (Baohe dian) 
7. Palace of Heavenly Purity (Qianqing gong) 
8. Hall of Union (Jiaotai dian) 
9. Palace of Earthly Tranquility (Kunning gong) 
10. Area of Six Eastern Palaces (Dong liugong qu) 
11. Hall for Abstinence (Zhai gong) 
12. Outer Court of Palace of the Tranquil Longevity Sector (Ningshougong qu): Treasure Gallery and Stone Drum Gallery 
13. Inner Court of Palace of the Tranquil Longevity Sector (Ningshougong qu): Treasure Gallery, Opera Gallery, and the Well of Consort Zhen (Zhenfei jing) 
14. Gate of Divine Prowess (Shenwu men) 

Vlog about Forbidden City

Find the Best Hotel near Forbidden City

Useful Tips Summarized from Reviews

Advance Reservation: It’s crucial to make a reservation through the official WeChat account of the Palace Museum (“故宫博物院”) at least one week in advance. Same-day tickets are not available, and entry is divided into morning and afternoon sessions. Morning session entry closes at 12:00, while afternoon session entry starts from 11:00.

Audio Guide: Renting an audio guide costs 20 yuan per device. While the signal may not always be strong, it provides a general overview and includes a map of the Forbidden City, which can be helpful for navigation.

Shopping Opportunities: There are numerous cultural and souvenir shops within the Forbidden City offering reasonably priced items. Take your time to explore different stores and compare prices before making a purchase.

Closure Times for Specific Sections: Note that the Treasure Gallery and the Hall of Clocks close at 16:00.

Enjoy Afternoon Tea: Consider indulging in afternoon tea at the Wan Chun Jin Fu Tea House, located in the Kun Ning East Courtyard. With prices ranging from 18 to 58 yuan, the delicacies are beautifully presented, with signature items including peanut pudding, yangmei drink, mung bean soup, and chocolate treats.

Dining Options: For dining, try the Bing Jiao Western Restaurant situated south of the Cining Palace. They offer a variety of beverages including coffee, fruit juice, and milk tea, along with desserts like small cakes and Orleans burgers. The hamburgers and fruit teas are highly recommended.

Entrance Strategy: To enter the Forbidden City quickly, head to the East Prosperity Gate (“东华门”) and walk approximately five to six minutes to the Meridian Gate (“午门”) for security check and entry. Avoiding early morning queues, aiming for entry around 10:00 is advisable.

Exiting the Forbidden City: Keep in mind that the exit is separate from the entrance. You cannot exit from the entrance gate. Instead, leave from the Imperial Garden exit, where you’ll find sightseeing buses available for 10 yuan per person to other attractions like Wangfujing and Drum Tower.

Explore Jing Shan Park: Exiting from the Imperial Garden leads you to Jing Shan Park. It offers stunning panoramic views of the Forbidden City, fewer crowds, and affordable ticket prices. It’s a worthwhile spot for a peaceful stroll and to capture memorable photos.

Interesting Facts about the Forbidden City

Attractions near the Forbidden City

Other Imperial Places in Beijing

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