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Forbidden City (Palace Museum)

Lying at the city center and called Gu Gong in Chinese, it was the imperial palace for twenty-four emperors during the Ming and Qing dynasties. It was first built throughout 14 years during the reign of Emperor Chengzu  in the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644). Ancient Chinese Astronomers believed that the Purple Star (Polaris) was in the center of heaven and the Heavenly Emperor lived in the Purple Palace. The Palace for the emperor on earth was so called the Purple City. It was forbidden to enter without special permission of the empeor. Hence its name 'The Purple Forbidden City', usually 'The Forbidden City'.

Now known as the Palace Museum, it is to the north of Tiananmen Square. Rectangular in shape, it is the world's largest palace complex and covers 74 hectares. Surrounded by a 52-meter-wide moat and a 10-meter-high wall are more than 8,700 rooms. The wall has a gate on each side. Opposite the Tiananmen Gate, to the north is the Gate of Divine Might (Shenwumen). The distance between these two gates is 960 meters, while the distance between the east and west gates is 750 meters. There are unique and delicately structured towers on each of the four corners of the curtain wall. These afford views over both the palace and the city outside.
 Facts & History
Virtual Guide
Travel Tips & FAQs
Architectural Characteristics

It is divided into two parts. The southern section, or the Outer Court was where the emperor exercised his supreme power over the nation. The northern section, or the Inner Court was where he lived with his royal family.

Until 1924 when the last emperor of China was driven from the Inner Court, fourteen emperors of the Ming dynasty and ten emperors of the Qing dynasty had reigned here. Having been the imperial palace for some five centuries, it houses numerous rare treasures and curiosities. Listed by UNESCO as a World Cultural Heritage Site in 1987, the Palace Museum is now one of the most popular tourist attractions world-wide.
Construction of the palace complex began in 1407, the 5th year of the Yongle reign of the third emperor (Emperor Chengzu, Zhu Di) of the Ming dynasty. It was completed fourteen years later in 1420, and then the capital city was moved from Nanjing to Beijing the next year. It was said that a million workers including one hundred thousand artisans were driven into the  long-term hard labor. Stone needed was quarried from Fangshan District. It was said a well was dug every fifty meters along the road in order to pour water onto the road in winter to slide huge stones on ice into the city. Huge amounts of timber and other materials were freighted from faraway provinces.

Ancient Chinese people displayed their very considerable skills in building it. Take the grand red city wall for example. It has an 8.6 meters wide base reducing to 6.66 meters wide at the top. The angular shape of the wall totally frustrates attempts to climb it. The bricks were made from white lime and glutinous rice while the cement is made from glutinous rice and egg whites. These incredible materials make the wall extraordinarily strong.

Since yellow is the symbol of the royal family, it is the dominant color in it. Roofs are built with yellow glazed tiles; decorations in the palace are painted yellow; even the bricks on the ground are made yellow by a special process. However, there is one exception. Wenyuange, the royal library, has a black roof. The reason is that it was believed black represented water then and could extinguish fire.

Nowadays, it is open to tourists from home and abroad. Splendid painted decoration on these royal architectural wonders, the grand and deluxe halls, with their surprisingly magnificent treasures will certainly satisfy 'modern civilians'.

Touring Route and Time

The museum carries out a south-to-north unidirectional itinerary. Visitors can only enter through the Meridian Gate (Wumen) and leave from the Gate of Divine Prowess (Shenwumen) or East Prosperity Gate (Donghuamen). Three to four hours is enough for touring the central axis; if you have interest in exploring more about the imperial palace, more time need to be spent in the west and east wings.


 How to get there:
Entry is allowed only through the Meridian Gate, the south gate of the museum.

1.   Subway:
a.   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;
b.   Take subway line 2, get off at Qianmen Station (Exit A), walk north through the Tiananmen Square, pass the Tiananmen Tower, and then find the Meridian Gate further north.

2.   Bus:
a.   Take bus no. 1, 2, 52, 59, 82, 99, 120, 126, Tourist Line 1, or Tourist Line 2, and get off at Tiananmen East Station;
b.   Take bus no. 1, 5, 52, 99, Tourist Line 1, or Tourist Line 2, and get off at Tiananmen West Station.
 Beijing Bus / Subway Search

 How to leave:
Exit is allowed only through the Gate of Divine Prowess in the north of the museum, and the East Prosperity Gate.

1.   Leaving from the Gate of Divine Prowess:
a.   Take bus no. 58, 101, 103, 109, 124, 685, Tourist Line 1, or Tourist Line 2 at Gugong (Forbidden City) Station.
b.   Take bus no. 58, 111, or 124 at Jiangshan East Gate Station.

2.   Leaving from the East Prosperity Gate:
a.   Take bus no. 2 or 82 at Donghuamen Station.
b.   Take Tourist Line 2 at Gugong East Gate Station.


Entrance Ticket April to October: CNY 60
November to the next March: CNY 40

*  Free for children under 3.9 feet (1.2 meters), each accompanied by an adult.
*  The Annual Ticket (CNY 300 for 10 entries a year) is only applied to Chinese citizens.

The above fares do not include the admission fee for the Treasure Gallery and the Clock and Watch Gallery.
Treasure Gallery (in Palace of Tranquil Longevity, including the Opera Museum and Stone Drum Museum): CNY 10;
Clock and Watch Gallery (in Hall for Ancestry Worship): CNY 10


1.   The museum allows 80,000 visitors a day. Some tickets will be reserved by tour groups, and up to 40,000 tickets are available online for Chinese visitors 10 days ahead, so there are usually 20,000 to 30,000 tickets available on the spot. It is important for foreign independent tourists to get there and buy tickets as early as possible, especially during holidays.

2.   Real-name policy has been carried out in ticketing. Second-generation ID cards of Chinese visitors and passports of foreigners need to be shown when buying tickets. Chinese need to swipe their ID cards at the entrance, while foreigners should go through the special channel(s) to have their passports checked.

Opening Hours

Months Opening Hours Ticketing Time Entry Time
April to October 8:30-17:00 8:30-16:00


November to the next March 8:30-16:30 8:30-15:30 8:30-15:40

It is closed on Mondays, except the Chinese statutory holidays and the summer vacation from Jul. 1 to Aug. 31.


 Exhibition in Olympic Tower
In Beijing Olympic Park, there is a special exhibition hall in the Olympic Tower displaying rare historical relics from the Forbidden City. Following the themes of Chinese Five Elements, visitors are able to appreciate 202 pieces of gold and silver wares of the Qing Dynasty in 2015. Furniture, jade articles, bronzes and porcelains will be exhibited in the coming four years. A cinema is available inside for visitors to watch videos and learn more about the imperial palace. The exhibition is likely to open at night by the end of 2015.

Admission fee: CNY 200 for climbing the tower and seeing the exhibition; CNY 70 for the exhibition only.