Code: FC05

2-Hour Visit to Forbidden City along the Central Axis

Covering an area of 720,000 square meters (178 acers) with over 70 palaces and more than 9,000 rooms, Forbidden City is honored as the largest and the most complex royal palace in the world. It is hard to visit it all during just one visit. The most classic and popular sightseeing route is along the 960 meters (1,050 yards) long central axis, where groups of solemnly halls and palaces spread out. Requiring only 2 hours’ visit time, it is recommended to tourists with tight schedule to soak up the overshadowing grandness and hidden charms of the royal palace.


Admission Matters

The admission tickets can only be bought online at most 10 days in advance. As the Forbidden City receives a limited number of visitors each day, you are highly advised to reserve a ticket in advance, in case that they are sold out. This website, TravelChinaGuide offers the ticket booking service in English. If you know Chinese, you may book one directly from the official website of the palace.  

Recommended Visit Route

Meridian Gate (Southern Gate) → Inner Golden Water River Bridge → Gate of Supreme Harmony → Hall of Supreme Harmony → Hall of Central Harmony → Hall of Preserved Harmony → Gate of Heavenly Purity → Palace of Heavenly Purity → Hall of Celestial and Terrestrial Union → Palace of Earthly Tranquility → Imperial Garden → Gate of Divine Prowess (Northern Gate)

Kind Reminder: We suggest that you hire a professional English tour guide from the office beside the Meridian Gate before entry. The charge is CNY300 at least, based on the time duration and size of the visitors group. Alternatively, you can rent an audio guide, which only costs CNY40 with a deposit of CNY100 for one. After you return it at the Gate of Diving Prowess, you can get your deposit back.

At present, tourists are only allowed to enter from the Meridian Gate, the southern gate, also the main gate of the Forbidden City. Enter through the gateway in the middle, which was exclusively used by the Emperors. 

Just inside the Meridian Gate along the central axis, you will find five parallel marble bridges, with a bow-shape river flowing beneath them. They are called the Inner Golden Water Bridges and Inner Golden Water River. It is a nice photography site to take some great pictures with the Gate of Supreme Harmony (Taihemen) to its north as the background. 

Cross over Inner Golden Water Bridges, and you will get to the main entrance of the Outer Court of the Forbidden City, the Gate of Supreme Harmony (Taihemen). It is the grandest palace gate in the Forbidden City. You can see two vivid bronze lions symbolizing "dignity" and "authority" standing majestically outside of the gate. 

Continuing the tour, you will find yourself at a stately square after going through the Gate of Supreme Harmony. You will feel more surprised when you get closer to the architecture on the Central Axis at the north end of the square. At more than 8 meters high white marble terrace with three tiers, the Hall of Supreme Harmony (Taihedian), the Hall of Central Harmony (Zhonghedian) and Hall of Preserved Harmony (Baohedian), stand on the central axis from south to north. They are the three main halls in the Outer Court of the Forbidden City. 

As China's largest existing wooden building, the Hall of Supreme Harmony is also the highest and grandest structure at the key position in Forbidden City. It was dedicated to important ceremonies and momentous imperial decrees, such as the enthronement of new emperor, the emperor's wedding, birthday, as well as banquets on every Winter Solstice, Chinese New Year Day, etc. As the smallest one among the three main halls, the Hall of Central Harmony was mainly a hall for the emperor to take a rest on his way to the Hall of Supreme Harmony when there was a ceremony. The Hall of Preserved Harmony was the place where the emperors gave banquets to high court officials on New Year's Eve and the fifteenth day of the first lunar month. 

So far you have finished the visit to the most important sites of the Outer Court. Then, you could get to the Inner Court via the Gate of Heavenly Purity (Qianqingmen). 

A few minutes' walk after entering the Gate of Heavenly Purity unfolds the Palace of Heavenly Purity (Qianqinggong), Hall of Celestial and Terrestrial Union (Jiaotaidian), and Palace of Earthly Tranquility (Kunninggong) from south to north. They are the three main halls in the Inner Court. The Palace of Heavenly Purity was designed as the residence of the emperor, while the Palace of Earthly Tranquility of the empress. Symbolizing that the emperor and empress should be deeply attached to each other and live in harmony as it has been called in Chinese, the Hall of Celestial and Terrestrial Union was located between the Palace of Heavenly Purity and the Palace of Earthly Tranquility. 

While marveling at the grand palaces, halls and the splendid treasures, you are advised to go further north along the central axis to the Imperial Garden (Yuhuayuan). It was a place for the emperor, empress and concubines to relax and enjoy the beautiful views.

To the north of the Imperial Garden, is the Gate of Diving Prowess (Shenwumen), the northern gate, also the exit for tourists. 

 More Routes: 

Half-Day Visit to Forbidden City 

One-Day Visit to Forbidden City

Forbidden City Photography Tour


 Recommended itinerary with Forbidden City: 
Best Beijing: 4 Days to Forbidden City, Badaling Great Wall, Summer Palace...

Questions & Answers
Asked by Elizabeth Harvey-Foulds from CANADA | Oct. 26, 2019 18:12Reply
Guide vs audio guide
We want to do the central axis tour and I'm wondering if 4 people can share an audio guide or if we would each have to rent one for 40 Yuan. Can we hire an English guide for 100 Y and if so, for how long would they guide us? We are expecting it will take us three hours to go through the central axis.
Answers (1)
Answered by Cathy | Oct. 28, 2019 01:05

As I know, one audio guide has one earphone so that it can only be used for one person. For a visit through the Central Axis with an English guide, the price is CNY 300 and the duration is about 1 hour.
Asked by Marc Pelissier from FRANCE | Sep. 16, 2018 14:33Reply
How long is approximately the visit with this central axis itinerary
How long would be the walk with this itinerary of Forbidden City along the Central Axis (considering of course some stops to watch and take pictures) ? Thanks
Answers (1)
Answered by Elaine | Sep. 17, 2018 17:04

Normally, it takes about 2 to 3 hours to walk along the Central Axis of Forbidden City with some stops to watch and take pictures. But if you want to learn more about the Forbidden City and see the collection of cultural relics, you are suggested to slow down and spend half day in Forbidden City. Just remind you do not visit there on holidays or weekend to avoid the crowds. Besides, it is closed on every Monday. Have a nice trip.
Asked by Axel from USA | Nov. 02, 2017 00:43Reply
What to visit First?
We want to visit the Forbidden City and Great Wall on the same, is that doable? Or should we visit each place on different dates? We are trying to avoid staying over 72-hours in China to avoid getting a VISA. We don't know where to stay at, if closer to Forbidden City or closer to Great Wall.
Answers (1)
Answered by Sona | Nov. 02, 2017 19:34

The Forbidden City and the Great Wall can be visited the same day. The trip to each site usually takes about a half day respectively. It is suggested that you stay near the Forbidden City in downtown area. Badaling Great Wall is around 1.5 hours' drive from downtown.
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