Beijing’s Forbidden City is a must-visit for anyone interested in China’s rich history and cultural heritage. This vast complex of imperial palaces and gardens dates back to the Ming Dynasty, and was home to the emperors of China for almost 500 years. Today, it’s one of the country’s top tourist attractions, drawing millions of visitors every year.
If you’re planning a trip to Beijing and want to explore the Forbidden City, here’s a guide to help you make the most of your visit. In this article, we’ll cover two outdoor activities, two must-see places, and one unusual tip to help you discover this historic site.
Walk in Jingshan Park
Jingshan Park is located just north of the Forbidden City, and is a great place to relax and enjoy some fresh air after a long day of sightseeing. The park covers an area of 23 hectares and is home to a variety of plant and animal species, as well as several historic buildings and monuments. One of the best things to do in Jingshan Park is to climb to the top of the hill for a stunning panoramic view of the Forbidden City. The hill, also known as Coal Hill, was created during the Ming Dynasty using soil excavated from the moat around the imperial palace. Today, it’s a popular spot for locals and tourists alike to take in the breathtaking views of the city.
Visit Beihai Park
Beihai Park is another scenic park located just a short distance from the Forbidden City. It covers an area of 69 hectares and is home to several historic landmarks, including a 15th-century temple, a Tibetan-style pagoda, and a lake with a traditional Chinese stone bridge.
One of the most popular activities in Beihai Park is to take a boat ride on the lake, which offers stunning views of the surrounding gardens and historic structures. Visitors can also stroll along the lakeside paths and enjoy the tranquil scenery, or explore the various temples and pavilions scattered throughout the park.
The Hall of Supreme Harmony
The Hall of Supreme Harmony is one of the most iconic buildings in the Forbidden City, and is considered to be the heart of the imperial palace. Built during the Ming Dynasty and renovated several times during the Qing Dynasty, the hall was used for important state ceremonies and imperial audiences. Today, visitors can explore the hall and marvel at its intricate design and decoration, including ornate carvings, paintings, and statues. The hall also houses several historic artifacts, including the famous imperial throne, which was used by the emperors of China for centuries.
The Palace Museum
The Palace Museum is a must-see for anyone interested in the history and culture of China’s imperial dynasties. Housed in the Forbidden City, the museum is home to a vast collection of artifacts and artworks, including ceramics, jade, bronze, and calligraphy. Visitors can explore the various galleries and exhibits, which offer a fascinating glimpse into the daily life of the imperial court and the artistic achievements of China’s ancient civilizations. Highlights include the Hall of Clocks and Watches, the Treasure Gallery, and the Hall of Martial Valor.
Hall of Mental Cultivation
For a unique and off-the-beaten-path experience in the Forbidden City, consider visiting the Hall of Mental Cultivation. This historic building was once the residence of the Qing emperors, and is known for its elaborate decoration and intricate architecture.What makes the Hall of Mental Cultivation unusual is its connection to one of China’s most famous historical figures: the Empress Dowager Cixi. During the late Qing Dynasty, the empress lived and ruled from the hall, using it as her personal residence and seat of power.
The Drum Tower
The Drum Tower is a historic building located in central Beijing, just a short distance from the Forbidden City. Built during the Ming Dynasty, the tower was once used to keep time and signal the start of the day in the city. Today, visitors can climb to the top of the tower for a panoramic view of the surrounding area, or watch traditional drum performances that take place throughout the day.
The Underground City of Beijing
The Underground City of Beijing is a vast network of tunnels and chambers located beneath the streets of the city. Originally built during the Ming Dynasty, the underground city was expanded and fortified during the Cold War as a shelter in case of nuclear attack. Today, visitors can explore the tunnels and learn about the history and significance of this hidden city. Highlights include the various rooms and chambers, some of which are furnished with vintage furniture and equipment, as well as displays of artifacts and documents related to the underground city’s history.
The Peninsula Beijing is a luxurious five-star hotel located just a short distance from the Forbidden City. The hotel features elegant rooms and suites with modern amenities, including flat-screen TVs, iPod docks, and marble bathrooms. Guests can also enjoy a range of on-site facilities, including a spa, fitness center, and several restaurants serving Chinese and international cuisine.
The Novotel Beijing Peace is a modern four-star hotel located in the heart of the city, just a short walk from the Forbidden City. The hotel features comfortable rooms and suites with modern amenities, including free Wi-Fi, flat-screen TVs, and tea/coffee-making facilities. Guests can also enjoy a range of on-site facilities, including a fitness center, indoor pool, and several restaurants serving Chinese and international cuisine.
Leo Hostel is a budget-friendly option for travelers visiting Beijing’s Forbidden City. Located in the city center, the hostel offers affordable dormitory-style accommodation, as well as private rooms and suites. Guests can also enjoy a range of on-site facilities, including a bar, rooftop terrace, and communal kitchen.
The Orchid Hotel is a charming boutique hotel located in the heart of Beijing’s historic hutongs, just a short distance from the Forbidden City. The hotel features stylish rooms and suites with modern amenities, including free Wi-Fi, flat-screen TVs, and iPod docks. Guests can also enjoy a range of on-site facilities, including a restaurant serving Chinese and international cuisine, a rooftop terrace, and a courtyard garden.
In conclusion, the Forbidden City in Beijing is a must-see destination for travelers interested in Chinese history and culture. With its impressive architecture, beautiful gardens, and fascinating exhibits, there is something for everyone to enjoy. Whether you’re interested in exploring the palace complex itself or venturing out into the surrounding area, there are plenty of outdoor activities, hidden gems, and top-notch accommodations to discover. By following our guide featuring two must-see places, two outdoor activities, one unusual tip, and four top accommodation options, you’ll be sure to have an unforgettable experience exploring this historic and beautiful part of Beijing.