The Forbidden City in Beijing

Complete Guide To Visiting The Forbidden City in Beijing: What To Know Before You Go

Reading Time: 6 minutes

The Forbidden City is undoubtedly the most visited historic site in Beijing and should be on anybody’s list of must-sees when coming to China. During my many visits to Beijing, I’ve visited the Forbidden City more times than I could count and know what to do and what not to do when it comes to visiting the Forbidden City in Beijing.

You can avoid a stressful visit to the Forbidden City in Beijing by reading the following tips first!

Here is what you really need to know about visiting the Forbidden City!

Visiting the Forbidden City in Beijing

When to go

Since the Forbidden City is the number one attraction in Beijing, it’s pretty much always packed with tourists, both foreign and local. However, you can still avoid the crowds if you stick to the following tips when visiting the Forbidden City in Beijing.

Tip # 1 for visiting the Forbidden City in Beijing:

Avoid Weekends or Chinese Public Holidays
Weekends and Chinese holidays are the worst possible days to visit and you are likely going to hate yourself if you decide to visit the Forbidden City on those peak days. There will be tons of tour groups moving about with flags and banners and speaking loudly with their microphones in all different kind of languages. Very often you have to elbow your way to see something and to take photos.

Tip #2 for visiting the Forbidden City in Beijing:

Visit in the early morning or in the late afternoon
I highly recommend heading to the Forbidden City as soon as it opens at 8:30 in the morning when most other tour groups are getting up and have breakfast. The second best time to visit the Forbidden City in Beijing is the late afternoon, 1 hour before closing time at the latest.

The Forbidden City is closed every Monday unless it is a Chinese national holiday, in which case you shouldn’t visit either because of the huge crowds.

Forbidden City Opening Hours

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

Complete Guide To Visiting The Forbidden City in Beijing: What To Know Before You Go

Visiting the Forbidden City in Beijing

How to get to the Forbidden City

The Forbidden City is located in the heart of Beijing and is very easy to get to. You can either take a taxi or hop on the subway and get off at “Tian’anmen East”. From there, take exit B and follow the signs. There also is a security check here at Tiananmen Square.

Visiting the Forbidden City in Beijing

Where to enter the Forbidden City

There is only one entrance to the Forbidden City, called the southern gate, or Wumen 午门 in Chinese. Just south of this entrance is Tiananmen Tower and Tiananmen Square. There is also only one exit gate at the Forbidden City, located in the north. It is not possible to enter in the north and exit in the south. You always enter at the south gate and exit at the north gate. Keep that in mind for your further trip planning and transportation.

There are three different ways to reach the Southern Gate:

#1: Walk to the Southern Gate from the south coming from Tiananmen Square under the famous Mao portrait; this option is great for people visiting for the first time as it gives you the iconic Tiananmen Square views – but it’s also the busiest and takes the most time.

#2: Walk to the Southern Gate from the west via Zhongshan Park

#3: Walking to the Southern Gate from the east via Donghuamen. I recommend this way as it also allows you to get beautiful views of the canals surrounding the Forbidden City and its walls.

Tip: There are electric transfer cars to take you to the Southern Gate from the east or west for only 2 yuan.

Complete Guide To Visiting The Forbidden City in Beijing: What To Know Before You Go

Visiting the Forbidden City in Beijing

How to get tickets / skip the line at the Forbidden City

Generally, you can purchase tickets directly at the ticket office at the southern gate, the only entrance of the Forbidden City. You can either pay cash or by Master Card, Visa, or PayUnion cards. You also need to show your passport to buy your entrance tickets. Chinese citizens are required to purchase the admission tickets online in advance.

However, when I was there last, the ticket office of the Forbidden City was closed for all visitors and everyone had to book their tickets online in advance. So I definitely recommend booking the tickets in advance, as this will also allow you to skip the line at the ticket office if it is operating.

I recommend booking your Forbidden City tickets online through Klook. Tickets are incredibly cheap, usually under $6 USD. Once you are there, you can then get a Forbidden City guide in your language to help you navigate through the rooms of this historic site.

Visiting the Forbidden City in Beijing

How much time should you spend in the Forbidden City?

There are 9,999 rooms at the Forbidden City. Even though you cannot enter all of them, it’s still a huge place and will take quite some time to explore and really take in. I would say anywhere between 2 and 3 hours seems like a good amount of time to really experience the Forbidden City.

However, I once visited the Forbidden City during a short weekend trip and made it through the whole area in only 45 minutes. If you don’t have much time, just want to take a few pictures and just want to visit for the sake of visiting the Forbidden City, it is possible to do it in 45 minutes.

Check out my other article for more beautiful things to see in Beijing.

Complete Guide To Visiting The Forbidden City in Beijing: What To Know Before You Go

Visiting the Forbidden City in Beijing

What to wear when visiting the Forbidden City

There are no official guidelines or restrictions on what you can and cannot wear to the Forbidden City, but I definitely recommend wearing comfortable shoes as you will walk a lot! Also, don’t forget to bring a lot of water, especially during the hot summer months! You might also want to wear sunscreen and a hat in summer. In winter, Beijing is extremely cold so warm shoes and a thick coat is also recommended.

Visiting the Forbidden City in Beijing

How to see the Forbidden City from Above

Jingshan Park offers amazing panoramic views of the entire Forbidden City and is not to be missed during a trip to the Forbidden City. Jingshan Park is located just across from the north gate, the exit of the Forbidden City. Therefore, it’s best to visit the park after touring the Forbidden City. When you exit the Forbidden City through the northern gate, you will notice a beautiful three-layered pavilion on a hill right across the street. This hill is called Jingshan Hill and is the ideal place to have a panoramic view of the Forbidden City and Beijing as a whole. Admission to the park is free.

How To See Beijing During A Layover

Visiting the Forbidden City in Beijing

Is the Summer Palace located in the Forbidden City?

The Summer Palace is another main attraction in Beijing but is located in the northwest of Beijing, rather far from the Forbidden City and the center of the city. I recommend dedicated half a day or a full day to exploring the Summer Palace – not on the same day when visiting the Forbidden City.

Visiting the Forbidden City in Beijing

Is the Temple of Heaven Part of the Forbidden City?

The Temple of Heaven is another popular attraction in Beijing but it is not part of the Forbidden City. The Temple of Heaven is located south of the Forbidden City and is often mistakenly referred to as the Forbidden Temple. To get there, take the subway and get off at Tiantan East Gate. This will take about 1 hour from the Forbidden City. You can also get a taxi.

Visiting the Forbidden City in Beijing

Beijing Airport to Forbidden City

There are 4 ways to get from Beijing Capital Airport (PEK) to Forbidden City

Subway

From Beijing Capital Airport Terminal 2 or Terminal 3, you can take the subway to Sanyuanqiao Station. Then transfer to Line 10 and continue to Guomao Station. From there, change to Line 1 and ride to Tian’anmen East Station. Finally, you can reach the Forbidden City by walking from Tian’anmen East Station.
Duration: 1hr 15m

Shuttle Bus

From Beijing Capital International Airport Terminal 2 or Terminal 3, you can take the Line 10 bus that goes to Wangfujing Street. After arriving at Wangfujing Street, you can reach the Forbidden City by walking from there.
Duration: 1hr 15m

Taxi

You can find taxis at designated taxi stands located outside the arrival halls of Terminal 1, Terminal 2, and Terminal 3 at the airport.
Duration: 40m

Private Drive

At the airport you can find many companies that offer a private driver to the place of your choice. You just need to book in advance.
Duration: 30m

Which hotels are located near the Forbidden City?

Since the Forbidden City is located in the center of the city, it’s a great location to be based during a trip to Beijing and there are many hotels nearby. I recommend the following hotels near the Forbidden City in Beijing:

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Complete Guide To Visiting The Forbidden City in Beijing

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Linda

Linda has been living in Asia since 2012 and loves sharing her travel and life experiences on her website. She currently works remotely in Online Marketing and also teaches various English classes in South Korea.

1 Comments

  1. Mich on May 9, 2023 at 12:07 am

    It is very informative. Thank you. 🙂

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