Forbidden City FAQ

The Forbidden City is the largest and best-preserved imperial palace complex in the world. Fourteen emperors in the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644) and ten emperors in the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911) worked and lived with their imperial families in it. It is of great interest to tourists both from home and abroad.

 Why is it called the "Forbidden City"? Is it forbidden now?
 The Forbidden City used to be the imperial palace in the Ming and Qing Dynasties, and ordinary people were not allowed in without permission. Hence, it is called the "Forbidden" City. No, it is not forbidden today because it has been transformed into the Palace Museum and opened to the public. Tourists can visit it.

 What can I see in the Forbidden City?
 It is a large imperial palace with more than 8,700 bays, including magnificent palaces, splendid halls, grand towers, wonderful pavilions, and beautiful belvederes. The perfect designs of these ancient buildings will leave a deep impression on you. The exquisite decorations on the roofs, eaves, walls, railings, pillars and furniture will make you amazed and fascinated! Moreover, there are numerous precious cultural relics on exhibition.

Forbidden City
Magnificent Architecture
Headgear of the Empress of Ming Dynasty
Headgear of the Empress of Ming Dynasty

 When is the best time to visit it?
 You can visit the Forbidden City anytime in a year. But you had better avoid summer vacations between July and August and China's public holidays when there would be a sea of people. In addition, you are advised to arrive early in the morning in case that the tickets should be sold out.

  Is it open on weekends and during public holidays? What about during the Chinese New Year?
 Yes, it is open on weekends and during public holidays, including the Chinese New Year. The opening time is 8:30 to 17:00 from April to October, and 8:30 to 16:30 from November and the next March. However, it is closed on Mondays except July, August, and public holidays.

 Where is it? How can I get there?
 The Forbidden City is situated to the north of the Tiananmen Square in the center of Beijing. Please remember that the only entrance is the Meridian Gate (South Gate). Tourists can reach there either by subway or by bus.
 By Subway:
1. Take subway line 1, get off at Tiananmen East Station (Exit A) or Tiananmen West Station (Exit B), find the Tiananmen Tower, and then walk north to the Meridian Gate;
2. Take subway line 2, get off at Qianmen Station (Exit A), walk north across the Tiananmen Square, pass the Tiananmen Tower, and then find the Meridian Gate further north.

 By Bus:
1. Take bus no. 1, 2, 10, 37, 52, 59, 82, 90, 99, 120, 126, 203, 205, 210, 728, Zhuan 1, or Zhuan 2, and get off at Tiananmen East Station;
2. Take bus no. 1, 5, 10, 22, 52, 90, 99, 205, 728, Zhuan 1, or Zhuan 2, and get off at Tiananmen West Station.

 Is it far from the Tiananmen Square?
 No. The Forbidden City is next to the Tiananmen Square. You can walk there from the Square in several minutes. First, find the Tiananmen Tower with a portrait of Chairman Mao, pass through the tower and you will see the Meridian Gate.

 How much is the admission fee?
 The admission fee is CNY 60 from April to October, and CNY 40 from November to the next March. The ticket prices for Treasure Gallery and Clock Gallery are both CNY 10. Children less than 3.9 feet (1.2 meters) in height are admitted free of charge.

 Do I need to reserve a ticket? Where and when?
 Yes, if possible, you may reserve a ticket in advance, especially when you will visit during the peak season; because the palace museum only receives at most 80,000 visitors each day, and it will save you time and energy from waiting in a long queue on the spot.

Tickets can be booked on the official website ( at most ten days in advance; please note that the online reservation stops at 21:00 the day before the visit date. The booking page is in Chinese only. If you have a Chinese friend, ask him or her to help you. Your valid certificate like passport is required for the booking.

After online payment, the system will generate a reservation number. Before going inside, you need to collect the paper ticket with the reservation number and certificate used for booking at the designated window nearby the entrance.

 Can I buy a ticket on the spot upon arrival?
 Generally speaking, you can get a ticket on the spot if arriving there early enough. Currently, there are still 30,000 tickets sold on the spot each day. But you may need to wait for a while in a queue.

 How long should I visit it? What is the recommended route?
 The Forbidden City is very large. It runs 823 yards (753 meters) from east to west, and extends 1,051 yards (961 meters) from north to south. You are advised to visit it for three hours or one day.

If your schedule is tight, you can spend three hours touring from the south entrance to the north exit along the central axis. Time permitting, you can spend one day there. Apart from the central axis, you can also visit the palaces and halls on the East Wing, the East Outer Wing, the West Wing, and the West Outer Wing.

 What are the top attractions in the Forbidden City?
  Outer Court: Hall of Supreme Harmony; Hall of Central Harmony; Hall of Preserved Harmony
 Inner Court: Palace of Heavenly Purity; Hall of Celestial and Terrestrial Union; Palace of Earthly Tranquility
 Must-see Exhibition Hall: Treasure Gallery

 Which palaces did emperors live in?
 Fourteen emperors of the Ming Dynasty and two emperors of the Qing Dynasty lived in the Palace of Heavenly Purity (Qianqinggong). Eight emperors of the Qing Dynasty lived in the Hall of Mental Cultivation (Yangxindian).

 How many cultural relics are on exhibition in the Palace Museum (Forbidden City)?
 There are nearly one million articles, including some 350,000 ceramics; 150,000 jade pieces, cloisonné, glass, stationery, carving and lacquer wares; 130,000 textile embroideries; nearly 100,000 jewelries, accessories, martial weapons, musical instruments, clocks and daily-use appliances; 100,000 paintings and calligraphy works; some 60,000 inscriptions; 30,000 metal wares; as well as some 20,000 sculptures.

 Is photography allowed in the Forbidden City?
 Yes, it is. Photography is permitted for private use outdoors throughout the Forbidden City, except for sites or areas with "No Photography" sighs. But the use of tripods and flash is prohibited in both special and permanent exhibition halls.

 Who built it?
 Upon ascending the throne in 1402, Emperor Chengzu of the Ming Dynasty intended to move the capital from Nanjing to Beijing, so he ordered building the Forbidden City. It was constructed in fourteen years from 1406 to 1420. 230,000 artisans and millions of laborers participated in the construction.

 Further Reading
Facts & History of Forbidden City