When you get a chance to visit Beijing with only one day to spare, here is a classic route for you: the Imperial City one-day tour. Through this, you can experience the spirit of the modern imperial city and the majesty of the ancient royal city. You can also taste the traditional snacks, and experience the quietness of Beijing's hutongs as well as the busy atmosphere of the front gate. In addition to the elegant beauty of the gardens, you will surely enjoy yourself.
You'd better start from Peking University at 7:30 am in order to avoid the peak flow.
You can arrive there at about 8:30 am. There are scenic spots all around including the Great Hall of the People, the National Museum, the Monument to the People's Heroes, Tian'anmen Tower and the Chairman Mao Memorial Hall. Observing them and taking pictures is allowed. If you want to go the Chairman Mao Memorial Hall, you are advised to start off earlier in case it is too crowded.
The Forbidden City
You should enter at 9:00 am and leave by 1 pm. Besides, you are strongly advised to pay attention to the following points.
Remember to rent a tourist listening device which will cost you 10 yuan. It is very informative, including the official and unofficial history, and is much better than the tour guide.
It opens at 8:30 am and you are advised to enter the Forbidden City once it opens so that you can avoid the crowds. Only in this way can you really feel the spirit and courage of the Forbidden City.
You can have lunch in a Jingshan Mountain back street (景山后街). There is a good restaurant called Jianghai Xiaoyuan Restaurant (景海小院餐馆) which is recommended. Walk out of the back gate of the Forbidden City and walk for 10 minutes until you arrive there. Alternatively, you can ask the local people for directions; it is easy to find. It is in an old Beijing shop and is very plain. You can taste noodles with soybean paste (炸酱面), marinades (卤汁), douzhi (豆汁, a fermented drink made from ground beans) and seasoned millet mush (面茶). You can taste the genuine Beijing food which the local Beijing people eat. The prices are quite economical.
On the same street, you can also buy the Beijing-style pastries and preserved fruits. There is a well preserved hutong in Jingshan West Street (景山西街) and you can have a walk there after dinner.
Dazhalan Business Area (大栅栏商务区)
You can take the nearby Bus 5 to go to the Dazhalan area (大栅栏) at about 2:30 pm. It has an old street in which there are many old famous shops which are interesting both on the inside and the outside.
You can end your journey at about 4 pm. Then, you can go through Dazhalan Street (大栅栏) to the commercial street at the front gate where you can buy the famous Beijing roasted duck from Quanjude Roasted Duck Restaurant (全聚德烤鸭店).
If time permits, you can also visit the North Sea Park (北海), the Royal Garden or climb Jingshan Mountain (景山) to overlook the whole panorama of the Forbidden City (故宫) after lunch. Then, you can go to the Dazhalan (大栅栏) area and the front gate in the evening.
In order to avoid the peak flow, visiting the Forbidden City before it closes (at 4:30 pm) is advised.