How to Visit Forbidden City

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Dear Travelers,

We’d like to have the following quick guide to be always updated for the benefit of new visitors visiting Forbidden City in Beijing. If you have any questions or anybody having used the piece finds necessary updates, please leave a message or feedback. Thanks!

Plan your Beijing tours? Visiting Forbidden City ( The Palace Museum ) is no doubt one of your travel highlights in Beijing.  Then how to buy your Forbidden City entry ticket? When to visit? Which gate to enter? What’s the visiting line? How to beat the crowds?

Here we have a quick guide for you to grab some basic travel tips for visiting Forbidden City.

Tip # 01: Try to Avoid Weekends or Chinese Holidays
Forbidden City is a must see highlight for every first-time visitor to Beijing. Be prepared for crowds of people visiting this complex. Try to avoid visiting  Forbidden City on weekends or public holidays.

On these tourist peak days, the hoards of tourists are thick. Many tour groups ( most domestic ones) seem to aggregate and move about with banners, and colored caps.

Very often you have to elbow your way to see and take pictures. We recommend you come here either early in the morning or in the later afternoon ( not too late to be allowed to enter the museum ) to beat the crowds, enjoy the Forbidden City as it once is before the masses turn up and ruin your photo opportunities.

Tip # 02:  The Entrance Gate and the Exit Gate to Forbidden City
There is just one entrance  to Forbidden City, namely the southern gate, or Meridian Gate, also known as Wumen in Chinese. South of the Southern Gate is Tiananmen Tower and Tiananmen Square.

The entrance  to Forbidden City, namely the southern gate, or Meridian Gate

There is just one exit gate to Forbidden City, namely the northern gate, or Gate of Divine, also known as Shenwu Men in Chinese.

Kinder Reminder:
You have to enter Forbidden City from its southern gate and exit from its northern gate, which is officially set as a one-way south to north travel route. You cannot enter the Southern Gate and exit from the Southern Gate again; you cannot enter the Northern Gate.

How to get to the Southern Gate to Forbidden City?
There are three ways to reach the Southern Gate:
1) Walking to the Southern Gate from the south via Tiananmen Square under the famous Mao portrait;
2) Walking to the Southern Gate from the west via Zhongshan Park
3) Walking to the Southern Gate from the east via Donghuamen and the moat.

If you haven’t been to  Tiananmen Square, you should choose to walk from Tiananmen Square. This approach takes longer time due to the security check at the four square corners on Tiananmen Square.

Walking from the east or west to the Southern Gate would be fast and less crowded.  There are electric transfer carts to take you to the Southern Gate from east and west ( 2 yuan ). If you want to visit Forbidden City with only limited time, you can choose to go to the Southern Gate via east or west instead of walking through Tiananmen Square.

Tip # 03: Entry Ticket Information
Forbidden City accepts Master Card, Visa, and PayUnion cards for ticket purchase. You need to show your passport to buy your entrance tickets. Forbidden City Ticketing Purchase is based on real name policy.

Chinese citizens are required to buy the entrance tickets online in advance. But foreigners still can buy their tickets on the spot through “Passport Window” by the southern gate.

Gate of Supreme Harmony inside Forbidden City

So just go to Forbidden City earlier and line up to buy your ticket and don’t worry about the online ticket booking websites in Chinese.

April 1st – October 31 ( 8:30 – 17:00 )
Last Entry at 16:10
Tickets sold until 16:00
Entrance ticket:RMB 60

November 1st – March 31 (8:30 – 16:30)
Last Entry at 15:40
Tickets sold until 15:30
Entrance Ticket: RMB 40

There are some exhibits within the complex that require additional tickets to access such as the Treasure Gallery and the Clock and Watch Gallery.

Treasure Gallery : RMB 10;
Clock and Watch Gallery: RMB 10

1. Forbidden City is closed for the entire day every Monday, except the Chinese national public holidays and the summer vacation from Jul 01 to Aug. 31;
2. Forbidden City Ticketing Purchase is based on real name policy;
3. You need to show your passport to buy your entrance tickets;
4. Free of charge for children under 1.2 meters, each required to be escorted by an adult;
5. Special 20 yuan tickets are available for China’s elementary, middle school, and university students
(including foreign students studying in Chinese universities) with valid student I.D. or certified letter from school administrator (including students from Hong Kong, Macau, and Taiwan, excluding graduate and adult education students);
6. Seniors over 60 years old are entitled to half price by showing a valid ID or passport.

Tip # 04 View the Turrets of Forbidden City and its surrounding moat.
When touring Forbidden City, don’t miss visiting the magnificent turrets of Forbidden City and its surrounding moat. There are four beautiful turrets of the same structure on the four corners of Forbidden City.

The Northeastern Turrets of Forbidden City and City Moat

Each turret tower has nine girders, eighteen columns and 72 ridges. The two turrets on the northeast and northwest corners offer the best photo opportunity.

The turrets are inaccessible to visitors. People usually finish their visit to Forbidden and exit from its north gate. Then turn either right for the northeast turret tower or left for the northwest turret tower outside Forbidden City.

Tip # 05: Walk up to Jingshan Park ( A Panoramic View of Forbidden City)
Jingshan Park is not to be missed, a visit during your tour in Beijing. Jingshan just sits across the north gate to Forbidden City. After finishing your visit of Forbidden City from south to north, you exit from Forbidden City’s north gate.

Jingshan Park

Exiting from the northern gate, raising your head, you will find a pavilion with three-layered eaves perched on a hill. The hill is called Jingshan Hill ( Coal Hill or prospect Hill).

Jingshan Hill is an ideal place to have a panoramic view of Forbidden City and Beijing as whole.  Click “Jingshan Park is not to be missed” for more information.

have a panoramic view of Forbidden City from the top of Jingshan Park.

Tip # 06: How to Get to Forbidden City?
How to Get to Forbidden City (Just north of Tiananmen Square )?

By Bus:
For going to the southern gate ( Wu men), take bus No.1, 10, 120, 126, 2, 20, 37, 4, 52, 59, 728, 802, or Te 1, to “Tian’an Men East”(Tian’an men dong). Or take bus No. 1, 10, 22, 37, 4, 5, 52, 728, 802, or Te1, to “Tian’an men West” (Tian’an men xi).

By Subway ( going to the south gate ):
Metro Line 1: dropp off at Tiananmen West or Tiananmen East Station, walk north through the Tiananmen Tower (Gate of Heavenly Peace), and then you’ll find the Meridian Gate (south gate) to Forbidden City.

Metro Line 2: drop off at Qianmen Station and walk north through the Tiananmen Tower.

Parking for Private Car:
There is no parking outside the two entrance gates to Forbidden City. The following public parking lots are located in the vicinity of the Forbidden City:

*Outside the East Prosperity Gate (Donghua men)
*In the back street of Jingshan Park;
*In front of the Front Gate of Beihai Park
Visitors are encouraged to visit the Museum via public transportation.

Tip # 07: How to Leave Forbidden City After Visit?
The Transportation at the North Gate to Forbidden City is a bit chaos. It is a bit tricky to use the public transport back to your hotel or other attractions you continue to visit afterwards.

A little bit chaotic about the transport in the front of the north gate to Forbidden City when you finish your visit.

The North Gate to Forbidden City

After visiting Forbidden City and exit from its north gate, most of the visitors want to continue their day trips to other attractions or destinations in Beijing like Jinshan Park ( just opposite the north gate to Forbidden City), Wangfujing Street, Beijing Zoo, Summer Palace, Fragrance Hill, Temple of Heaven, Badaling Great Wall, Beijing Railway Station, Beijing West Railway Station, Beijing South Railway Station etc.

But some of them are totally bewildered by the transporttation at Jinshan Front Street in front of the north gate to Forbidden City, which is inaccessible and blocked by fences on both sides of the road.

Please read the following travel information to help plan your day trip:

Jinshan Park ( Prospect Hill or Coal Hill )    ( How to Visit Jingshan Park )
Jinshan Park is just opposite the north gate to Forbidden City, but you are not allowed to cross the street. To visit Jinshan Park ( Prospect Hill ), you are advised to use the underpass 20 meters in the west.

Beihai Park Beijing ( How to Visit Beihai Park )
This park is approxi 800 meters west of the north gate to Forbidden City, just 10-minute walking.

Summer Palace ( How to Visit Summer Palace )
First take the underpass to cross the street and walk west to the Bus No.103 and get off at Beijing Zoo Station, then connect Bus 332 for Summer Palace.

Badaling Great Wall ( How to Visit Badaling Great Wall by train )
Walk westward and find the Bus No.5 and drop off at Deshengmen, then connect Bus 877 for Badaling Great Wall.

Temple of Heaven ( How to Visit Temple of Heaven )
Walk westward for 30 meters and take Bus 814 and get off at Dong Dan, Chongwenmen and Temple of Heaven.

Wangfujing Street or Beijing Railway Station  ( Wangfujing Street )  ( Beijing Railway Station )
Walk west for 30 meters and take trolley bus No.103 and get off at Wangfujiang or Beijing Railway Station.

Beijing West Railway Station ( Beijing West Railway Station )
Take the underpass to cross the street and Take bus 109 and get off at Xuanwumen, connect bus No.9 or 703 for Beijing West Railway Station.

Beijing South Railway Station  ( Beijing South Railway Station )
Walk west for 500 meters and take Bus No. 05 and get off at Qianmen, connect Bus 20 for Beijing West Railway Station.

Tiananmen Square or Subway Line 01  ( How to Visit Tiananmen Square )  ( Subway Line 1 )
Walk west for 500 meters and take Bus No. 05

How to take a Beijing Taxi ( Beijing Taxi )
Walk west for 50 meters and call a cab.

Taking a rickshaw at the north gate is a rip-off.
Don’t ever take a Rickshaw at the north gate of Forbidden City unless you feel like getting lost and extorted.

So if you visit Forbidden City by getting to a wrong gate (north gate), don’t use a local rickshaw to get back to the south gate, just walk to the right gate (south gate).

For the same reason, if you exit from the north gate after visiting Forbidden City, don’t use a rickshaw for your next place.

Tip # 07: Well Schedule Your Visiting Time
The Forbidden City is huge, covering an area of 72 hectares. Normally you should cruise through in two or three hours.

Plan this together with Tiananmen Square, Jinshan Park or Beihai park. Please keep in mind that Tickets sold until 15:30(November 1st – March 31); Tickets sold until 16:00(April 01 – October).

Tip # 08: Hire a Legal Tour Guide or Audio Guides
Forbidden City is much worth visiting, but unless you know the history very well, you should use a Beijing tour guide. You are not advised to use the tourist guides around the entrance. They are self-employed tour guides.

So, try to find a reliable travel agency for your tour guide services or the Recorded guide. The recorded audio guides: these are available for rent walking from south to north. There are numerous signs in English by each building. An actual book would probably better serve you if you want to understand what you are seeing.

Tip # 09: Dress for the Hot Weather
There are very few trees with little shade Forbidden City. It is super hot during the summer. So if coming here in summer, be ready to bring an umbrella for sun protection, bottles of water, and comfy walking shoes. Check Beijing Climate for more information.

Tip #10 Wear Comfortable Shoes
There are lots of outdoor areas so you can’t do a lot of hiding from the sun or rain. Wear your most comfortable shoes.

It’s a long walk! strollers and wheelchairs are available for free at the tourist guide service at both southern gate and the northern gate.

Tip # 11: Avoid Tour Vendors on the Street
There are some tour vendors at each entrance selling their excursions to the Great Wall. Just ignore all handouts that will be forced upon you. Especially bus tours.

They are all too good to be true, and you will be disappointed. See Top 10 Tourist Scams Beijing for more information.

Tip # 12: Be vigilant on Tea House Scam and Ticket Touts ( Top 10 Tourist Scams in Beijing)
A kind reminder that Tea House Scams and ticket touts could possibly pester you around Forbidden City area. Below is a trip report by a victim from Sri Lanka named Akalan:

I wish I read this page 1 week earlier! I was a victim to the “Tea House” scam. The scammer, a lady was very clever. I came to the Tiananmen area and was going to buy the ticket to enter the forbidden city. A lady who was walking besides me casually said “Hello” and started a chat while walking.

In fact this was my 4th trip to China, but first trip to Beijing. Many a times many people, usually young ladies chatted with me and they helped me a lot. Even on the same day morning I went to the Great Wall and a young girl with good English walked with me. All those I met earlier were genuine people who just wanted to help a visitor to their country. Most of the time they did not even allow me to pay a bill, ticket price or taxi fare.

With that sort of experience, I had no suspicion on this woman. Still my priority was to get into the Forbidden city ASAP, as it was passed 3pm and I knew that the ticket sales would stop at 4 pm. This lady said that she would show me the “East gate” where I can enter without a long queue. Yes, there was a queue of people at the main entrance.

Simply followed her advice and she walked with me to “show” the entrance. On the way she said she is from Xi’An (a city I visited 1 month ago) and we had quite a good conversation on history, culture and languages. She also explained some history of the area.

She said her friends from another province are there and they will meet them in 10 min. If I can wait 10 min, they also can join me to go inside the Forbidden city.

While waiting for them, she suggested me to sit somewhere and have a tea or fruit juice. In fact after walking and climbing whole morning in Great Wall area, I was thirsty and wanted to sit and stretch my legs. So I agreed.

I tried to sit on some chairs laid outside, but she suggested to go inside – less noisy, less dust and air-conditioned!

I picked a Chinese tea and the scam began! You know the rest. Yes, she split the bill, still I lost a few hundred! Worst thing was that she took me to a gate, assuring that I could enter from there, but obviously there were no ticket counters. I had to get to an electric car. The driver charged 20, instead of 2, as he sensed my urgency!

He actually did not take me to the ticket counters, instead, he stopped somewhere and a woman approached me. She was telling me that the ticket counters are closed and she would sell a ticket to me for 100 ! I did not want to let some one rip me off for 3rd time, within 15 min. Finally when I found the ticket counters, they were closed! So I missed the Forbidden City!


Tip # 13: Hail a Taxi on the Road
Please note that taxis are not allowed to stop either at the northern gate or south gate. Some people approaching you for taxi service after you finish your visit at the Forbidden City, may be black taxi drivers. Just avoid them and hail a taxi on the road.

Taxis are not allowed to stop at the northern gate (Shenwu men) according to the local traffic regulations. Visitors exiting from the northern gate need to walk further either east or west to hail a taxi or take a bus.

Tip:  Hassle-free Beijing Guided Tours
If you don’t want to go the do-it-yourself route and prefer the hassle-free escorted tours,  here are some options for Beijing guided tours:

Beijing Highlight Day Tour from US$59 P/P
(Tiananmen + Forbidden City + Mutianyu Great Wall)
Beijing Classic City Tour from US$65 P/P
(Tiananmen + Forbidden City + Temple of Heaven + Summer Palace)
Beijing Excursion Tour from US$59 P/P
(Mutianyu Great Wall + Ming Tomb)
Beijing Hutong Highlight Tour from US$59 P/P
( Hutong + Rickshaw)

Mutianyu Great Wall Half Day Tour from US$55 p/p
Hike from Jiankou to Mutianyu Great Wall Day Tour from US$69 p/p

Mutianyu Great Wall Layover Tour from US$65 p/p
Beijing Highlight Layover Tour from US$75 p/p

Further Readings

Top 10 Attractions in Beijing
How to Visit Forbidden City
How to Visit Temple of Heaven
How to Visit Summer Palace
How to Visit Ming Tombs
How to Visit the Great Wall of China
How to Visit Tiananmen Square
How to Visit Hutongs
How to Visit Olympic Sites

Top 10 Markets in Beijing
Top 10 Shopping Malls in Beijing
Beijing Shopping

Wangfujing Night Snack Street
Qianmen Commercial Street
Beijing Huguosi Street

Any questions, just drop line.

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53 Responses to “How to Visit Forbidden City”

  1. Daniel says:

    Dear JPF,

    Thanks for your feedback on your trip to Beijing!

    Anywhere around the world where there are larger groups of humans, there will be more opportunities for scams. It seems the way of the Universe that these will be filled. You should always be aware, do research and remember that if it seems off, or too good, it is probably a scam. This is true in China, the U.S., or any other place where humans exist.

    For more information about Beijing tourist scams, check out the link below:

  2. James says:


    I’m currently in Beijing until Tuesday 19th. Is the Forbidden City still closed every Monday or has renovation now finished?

    Great website btw

  3. Daniel says:

    Dear James,

    Thanks for your visiting our website!

    Yes, Forbidden City is still closed on Monday. No big renovation is going on.

    Have a nice time in Beijing!

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