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The Forbidden City is a palace complex in the center of Beijing. It is the largest imperial palace in the world. A visit to the ‘Palace Museum’ can be a wondrous time, or frustrating and exhausting because of its large scale.
Follow our tips and advice to make your trip more relaxing and enjoyable. Alternatively, you could contact our travel advisors for a tailor-made trip to Beijing including the palace.
The Forbidden City consists of 980 buildings with more than 8,700 rooms, and holds extensive collections of relics. We recommend you include in your tour the main halls, the priceless collections, and some spots with interesting legends and anecdotes.
The six halls on the central line of the complex are the most popular and the most important. Most tour groups only go through these six halls plus a visit to the imperial garden at the end of the tour.
We understand you may hate the idea of only scratching the surface of the palace’s mysteries and getting caught in the milling crowds.
We recommend these less-visited halls to the sides of the central axis, for a deeper understanding of the history and culture, and to avoid crowds.
Our 4-Day Emperor Tour offer travelers the opportunity to explore these hidden halls and the history and stories behind them.
There are more than a million works of art in the Palace Museum collections, including ceramics, paintings, calligraphy, and bronzes.
A visit to some of these collection halls will allow you to have a glimpse of the luxurious life of the palace in centuries gone by.
The main exhibitions are:
We advise you to add a literal overview of the ‘Crimson Palace’ complex, an opportunity overlooked by most travelers or tour groups. Enjoy a bird’s-eye view of the palace from Jingshan Park, and marvel at its scale and integrated fengshui design.
Most sweeping Forbidden City photos, which may have inspired you on social media, are taken from Jingshan Park.
Our specialists have explored all the facets of the Forbidden City and uncovered the best things to see. They can use their first-hand knowledge to help you decide where to go and what to see, and help create an unique tour for you.
We understand that, after a long journey to get to Beijing, you probably won’t want to rush through the museum in only 2 hours. Allow half a day if you want to travel at an enjoyable pace, or learn more about the imperial palace.
The 2-hour route follows the central axis to see the largest, but nevertheless similar, six halls along with some museum displays to the left and right of this main axis, and a garden at the end.
This briefest of tours can give you a quick snapshot of the Forbidden City. Expect to be overrun by herds of tourists, getting bogged down or driven aside by the fight-to-the-front, as you try to catch a glimpse of what the timeworn commentary and Chinese cacophony is about.
Want to stay away from the noisy parts of the regular tourist route? Desire to go deep into the history and culture of the Forbidden City? Our half-day itinerary is a great option.
It includes the must-see main palaces (at times when the crowds part) and some lesser known ones, built in different styles and serving different functions, priceless displays, and the bird’s eye view from Jingshan (aptly named ‘Scenery Hill’).
The peak travel season for the Forbidden City is from April to October; the low season is from November to March.
From our experience, the best time to visit the Forbidden City is from mid-October to the end of November. This short autumn season boasts comfortable temperatures and fewer crowds.
The Forbidden City is always more crowded during weekends and Chinese public holidays such as National Day Holiday (October 1–7) and Labor Day Holiday (May 1–3).
To avoid crowds, we suggest that you:
Travel with us to skip the lines at the entrance, and avoid the rat-race-route.
A knowledgeable and well-spoken guide is essential. A good guide will help you discover the stories and culture behind the imperial halls, making your trip more fun and inspiring.
This review from TripAdvisor sums it up quite well:
“Without her (the guide), I think I would have been walking around aimless. So much to see and take in, it is gargantuan and gets a bit samey.” - Aisling B, Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates
Three options are available: rent an audio guide, hire a guide at the museum, or have a private guide included in your private tour (as we do).
A private guide is recommended for the best quality experience. He/she can answer your questions, navigate the crowds, and lead you to the best spots for photos.
If you are seeking a real journey of discovery, a private tour with a knowledgeable guide is the best option.
Having explored the Forbidden City at least 50 times each, our local guides are familiar with every corner of the Palace Museum. They are skilled at making your trip informative and enjoyable.
Tell us your requirements and one of our specialists will be in touch to plan a unique trip for you.
Here are some sample itineraries for your inspiration: