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Half-Day Visit to Forbidden City

The Forbidden City is axially symmetrical, with the most important and grandest palaces and halls on the central axis and less important ones on two wings. A tour along the central axis is a must, needing 2 hours or so. If you have more time, include some essences on the two wings. Below is a recommended itinerary for a half-day tour along central axis with several sites on two wings. 

forbidden city

Recommended Visit Route

Meridian Gate (Southern Gate) → Inner Golden Water River Bridge → Hall of Literary Glory → Gate of Supreme Harmony → Hall of Supreme Harmony → Hall of Central Harmony → Hall of Preserved Harmony → Hall for Ancestry Worship → Gate of Heavenly Purity → Palace of Heavenly Purity → Hall of Celestial and Terrestrial Union → Palace of Earthly Tranquility → Hall of Mental Cultivation → Six Western Palaces → Imperial Garden → Gate of Divine Prowess (Northern Gate)

After entering from the only entrance, the southern Meridian Gate, you will see five white marble bridges above a winding river immediately. It was dug out for fire protection and flood control.

forbidden city
forbidden city
Then head east to visit the Hall of Literary Glory (Wenhuadian). It was where emperors held reading reports on learning classic Chinese books. The scholars' papers after the final imperial examinations were also graded here. It is now used to exhibit some of the best paintings and calligraphies of China. 

Turn west to the central axis, the next stop will be the Gate of Supreme Harmony (Taihemen), the gate to the Outer Court where emperors held state affairs. It was here that the emperors of the Ming Dynasty (1368 - 1644) held morning courts. 

forbidden city
Treasure Gallery in Forbidden City
Behind it, is a big square and the Hall of Supreme Harmony (Taihedian), the grandest palace of the whole royal palace is on its northern end. The Hall of Supreme Harmony is where the emperors held important national events and ceremonies.

Move north along the central axis, you will then encounter the Hall of Central Harmony (Zhonghedian) and Hall of Preserved Harmony (Baohedian) one by one. Before the big events and ceremonies in the Hall of Supreme Harmony, emperors would get dressed in the Hall of Preserved Harmony and take a rest in the Hall of Central Harmony. In the Qing Dynasty (1644 - 1911), the Hall of Preserved Harmony was also where the final imperial examinations were held. 

Forbidden City, Beijing
Coming out of the Hall of Preserved Harmony, the visit to the Outer Court will be over and let’s go to the Inner Court, the residential area of the royal palace. 

First, you are recommended to see the Hall for Ancestry Worship (Fengxiandian) on the east wing, actually a temple. It is now an exhibition hall for precious clocks and watches luxuriously decorated in various design. 

Treasure Gallery in Forbidden City
Trasure Gallery in Forbidden City
Next, go back to the central axis and walk through the Gate of Heavenly Purity (Qianqingmen) to admire the three main palaces of the Inner Court, namely Palace of Heavenly Purity (Qianqinggong), Hall of Celestial and Terrestrial Union (Jiaotaidian), and Palace of Earthly Tranquility (Kunninggong) from south to north. 

Palace of Heavenly Purity was the residence of the emperors. In Ming Dynasty, it was divided into 9 rooms on two floors and equipped with 27 beds. No one knew which bed the emperor would sleep on, by which way to ensure his safety. In the Qing Dynasty, it was used as the office and banquet hall by the emperors. Palace of Earthly Tranquility was the residence of the empresses and later used as a place of sacrifice and the Hall of Celestial and Terrestrial Union in front of it was where empresses accepted greetings on their birthdays. 

Yangxindian in Forbidden City

When the Palace of Heavenly Purity was used as office and banquet hall by the emperors, they live in the Hall of Mental Cultivation (Yangxindian) on the west wing and next to the Palace of Heavenly Purity. After visiting the three main halls in the Inner Court, you may have a look of it. To its north, is the Six Western Palaces (Xiliugong), the residences for the imperial concubines. 

Return back to the central axis, you will encounter a scenic place, Imperial Garden, the back garden for imperial families to have fun. It is behind the Palace of Earthly Tranquility.

Coming out of the Imperial Garden, you will see the northern gate of the Forbidden City, Gate of Divine Prowess, where you can go through to leave the royal palace. 

How to Reach the Southern Gate of the Forbidden City

1. You may take subway line 1 to Tiananmen East Station (Exit B) or Tiananmen West Station (Exit B). After, go through the Tiananmen Tower and walk north to get there.

2. You may also take city buses 1, 2, 52, 59, 82, 120, Sightseeing Bus Line 1 or 2 to Tiananmen East Station; or buses 1, 5, 52, Sightseeing Bus Line 1 or 2 to Tiananmen West Station.

Public Transportation outside the Northern Gate of the Forbidden City

No subway is available. City buses stopping by include lines 58, 101, 103, 109, 111, 124, 128, Sightseeing Bus Lines 1, 2 and 3. 

 More Routes: 

2-Hour Visit to Forbidden City along the Central Axis

One-Day Visit to Forbidden City

Forbidden City Photography Tour


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

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