Forbidden City © Peter Rowley
The Forbidden City is possibly the foremost attraction of Beijing. It is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and has been declared the largest collection of preserved ancient wooden structures in the world. Lying at the centre of Beijing, the Forbidden City, called Gu Gong in Chinese, was the imperial palace during the Ming and Qing dynasties. It is the biggest and best preserved complex of ancient buildings in China, and the largest palace complex in the world. Construction of the palace complex began in 1407, and for 500 years this inner sanctum was off-limits to most of the world as the emperors lived in luxury, secluded from the masses, surrounded by their families, court officials, servants, eunuchs, concubines and other members of court. The Forbidden City and its centrepiece, the magnificent palace, have a permanent restoration squad, which continually works to keep the 800 buildings and 9,999 rooms inside the Forbidden City complex in perfect condition. The once Forbidden City is now open to all visitors, and is home to the Palace Museum which boasts a priceless collection of ancient artefacts. The complex can get very crowded so it is best to go early in the morning to fully appreciate the layout of the place.
Opening times: Daily 8.30am - 4.30pm (November to March); 8.30am - 5pm (April to October).
Admission: CNY 60 (April to October); CNY 40 (November to March)