On my first sightseeing mission of Beijing, my goal was to visit the Forbidden city, a complex of buildings that served as home for centuries to Ming and Xing Dinasty that ruled China till the revolution in 1911. The palace was constructed in the period 1406-1420 and it hosted totally 24 Chinese emperors.
Some of the residents of the Forbidden City
I have read after that it is possible to come to the Forbidden City by water, I did not go that way but later on I saw that the Forbidden City is actually surounded by water channel. Some people actually fish in this channel.
Water Channel around the Forbidden City
The Forbidden City nowadays has a name of Museum Palace (take this into account when exiting the subway and asking for a way) and since 1987 is under the protection of Unesco that describes it as “the supreme model in the development of ancient Chinese palaces, providing insight into the social development of late dynastic China, especially the ritual and court culture.”
Entrance to Forbidden City (Meridian Gate)
Walking in the Forbidden City
It is mostly constructed of wood and therefore was often damaged by fire and rebuilt after. As precaution, through the complex you will find several big metal pots that served as containers for the water in case of fire.
The whole city is comprised of numerous buildings and after passing them by, they will start to look the same to you, however they are distinguished by their lovely names, such as Hall of Supreme Harmony, Hall of Respectful Thoughts, Palace of Compassion and Tranquillity or Palace of Universal Happiness.
Map of the Forbidden City
Archelogical work in process
Although I did not do it, I would advise you to take the audio guide while walking the Forbidden City. I tried to do a bit of research in advance but due to the size of this complex, it is not possible to remember all the stories related to it. You can also try to find a local guide to give you a personal tour but I guess it is a matter of luck will he be good in it. From the whole complex, I particularly liked the garden situated on the east side that leads you to the East Prosperity Gate. Do count that you will need good 2-3 hours to walk the whole area of the Forbidden City since it is huge and the entrance you used to get in may not be an option to get out so think in advance about your exit strategy.
Park within the Forbidden City
Photo Session in the Forbidden City
My exit strategy was actually non existing so when I tried to get out of the Forbidden City, I have come to the entrance of another beautiful park that is situated on the south west of the complex. The name of this park is Zhongshan Park and although you have to pay a special entrance fee to come in, it is definitively worth it, I have enjoyed my walk through this park very much.
An then after the Hall of Harmony, Tranquility & Co and after these beautiful parks, I ended up on Tiananmen Square, such a grey and dull place. Although Tiananmen means Gate of Heavenly Peace, this has nothing to do with the atmosphere of the place. The atmosphere of the place is hectic, cold and alienated, the square is covered with some street food vendors and photographers and troups of soldiers that are marching the square all the time. Of course, it is a place of historical value since many important events in Chinese history occurred there but it is definitively not a place where I would like to visit again.
Useful info for visiting the Forbidden City: Subway Station Tiananmen East, follow the signs for Palace Museum, entrance fee: 60 RMB (30 RMB for students)