How to Visit Forbidden City (Tips, Photos & Map)

Forbidden City

Dear Travellers,

Plan your Beijing tours? Visiting the 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?

We’d like to have the following quick guide to be always updated for the benefit of new visitors visiting the Forbidden City ( the Palace Museum) in Beijing.

If you have any questions or anybody having used the piece finds necessary updates, please leave a message or feedback. Thanks!

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 Public Holidays

Forbidden City is a must see highlight for every first-time visitor to Beijing. Be ready for crowds of people visiting this complex. Try to avoid visiting Forbidden City on weekends or Chinese 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 Right Gate to Forbidden City In & Out

The Palace Museum officially sets the one way travel route from south to north ( no return). So there is just one main entrance to the Forbidden City, namely the southern gate, or Meridian Gate, also known as Wumen (午门)in Chinese. To the south of Forbidden City’s Southern Gate lie Tiananmen Tower and Tiananmen Square.

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

There is one main exit gate to the Forbidden City, namely the northern gate, or Gate of Divine Prowess , also known as Shenwu Men (神武门)in Chinese. So don’t try to enter the Forbidden City from its north gate.

Again Kinder Reminder:
Basically you enter the 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 exit from the Southern Gate again; you cannot enter the Northern Gate either.

Tip 03: How to get to Forbidden City?

When we ask how to get to the Forbidden City, we very often mean how we can get to the southern gate to the Forbidden City since basically we are supposed to enter the Forbidden City from its south main gate and exit from its north main gate, which is officially set as a one-way south to north travel route.

To the south of the Forbidden City’s southern gate lie the Tiananmen Square, the National Museum of China, the Great Hall of the People ( Chinese parliament), The National Centre for the Performing Arts (the Giant Egg) and Qiamen Street.

So if you have half a day available for your trip to the Forbidden City which basically takes about 2 hours, you may add some of the sights nearby to enhance your Beijing experience.

By BusArriving at Tiananmen East Station, take bus number:1, 120, 2, 52, 82, Night 1, Sightseeing Double-Decker Bus 1, and Sightseeing Double-Decker Bus 2.
By Subway ( going to the south gate )Metro Line 1: drop 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 the Forbidden City
Parking for Private CarThe Palace Museum does not have a dedicated parking lot. The nearest public parking lots are just outside Donghua Gate and Jingshan Back Street. The nearby parking is quite limited. Visitors are advised to take public transportation to visit the Palace Museum.

Tip 04: Entry Ticket Information

The Palace Museum is limiting the daily number of visitors to 20,000, so upfront ticket booking is highly recommended. The Palace Museum has cancelled on-site ticket sales. Instead you need to have online real-name ticket purchases.

Tickets are to be sold 10 days in advance until sold out. Tickets can be booked online at Forbidden City ticketing, or through the Forbidden City’s official booking page: Forbidden City Official Ticketing.

Only one ticket per certificate (ID/passport) per day of admission is allowed.
On the day of visit, you can be admitted Forbidden City directly with your ID card or the original household register at any ticket gate. There is no need to exchange paper tickets.

People who buy tickets together on the Internet must check in at the same time and must not check in separately.

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
Some exhibits within the complexTreasure Gallery : RMB 10;
Clock and Watch Gallery: RMB 10

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

1. Forbidden City is closed for the entire day every Monday, except the Chinese national public holidays.
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.
7. Forbidden City Customers Service Hot Lines: 010-85007057 010-85007058 010-85007062 (working hours:08:30-22:00); (Fax): 6523-7344

Tip 05: Suggested Forbidden City Travel Routes

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).

Classic Two-hour Axis Travel Route
1. The Meridian Gate (Wu men – the south gate) 2. Gate of Supreme Harmony (Taihe men) 3. Hall of Supreme Harmony (Taihe dian) 4. Treasures from the Qing Palace 5. Memory of the Old Palace 6. Hall of Central Harmony (Zhonghe dian) 7. Hall of Preserving Harmony (Baohe dian) 8. Gate of Heavenly Purity (Qianqing men) 9. Palace of Heavenly Purity (Qianqing gong) 10. Hall of Union (Jiaotai dian) 11. Palace of Earthly Tranquility (Kunning gong) 12. Imperial Garden (Yu huayuan) 13. Gate of Divine Prowess (Shenwu men – the north gate)

Forbidden City South-to-North Axis 2-hour Travel Route ( Credit: )

Half a Day Travel Route
1. The Meridian Gate (Wu men – the south gate) 2. Hall of Martial Valor (Wuying dian) 3. Gate of Supreme Harmony (Taihe men) 4. Hall of Supreme Harmony (Taihe dian) 5. Hall of Central Harmony (Zhonghe dian) 6.Hall of Preserving Harmony (Baohe dian) 7. Hall of Clocks 8. Palace of Heavenly Purity (Qianqing gong) 9. Hall of Union (Jiaotai dian) 10. alace of Earthly Tranquility (Kunning gong) 11. Hall of Mental Cultivation (Yangxin dian) 12. Imperial Garden (Yu huayuan) 13. Gate of Divine Prowess (Shenwu men the north gate)

Tip 06: View the Turrets and the Moat

When touring the 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 opportunities. How to Take the Best Photos of Forbidden City Turret and Moat.

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

Tip 07: A Panoramic View of Forbidden City

Jingshan Park is not to miss on your Beijing tour for a panoramic view of the Forbidden City and the city of Beijing as a whole. . Jingshan just sits across the north gate to the Forbidden City.

After finishing your visit of the Forbidden City from south to north, you exit from the Forbidden City’s north gate.

Jingshan Park

Exiting from the northern gate, raising your head, you will find a pavilion has 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 the Beijing city 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 08: Public Transport after your visit to Forbidden City

It is a bit tricky to use the public transport back to your hotel or other attractions you continue to visit afterwards.

Public bus stations around the Forbidden City’s North Gate:
Public Bus Number: 101, 103, 109, 124 trolleybus and No. 58, Night 13, Sightseeing Bus 1, Sightseeing Bus 2.

Public Bus stations around Jingshan Park East Gate
Public Bus Number: No. 111, Trolleybus 124 and No. 58, Night bus 2

The North Gate to Forbidden City

After visiting the 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 Park Park ( just opposite the north gate to Forbidden City), the nearby Beihai Park, Wangfujing Street, Beijing Zoo, Summer Palace, Fragrance Hill, Temple of Heaven, the Great Wall of China and the list is much longer.

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

Jinshan Park ( Prospect Hill or Coal Hill )    ( How to Visit Jingshan Park )
Jinshan Park is just opposite the north gate to the 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 approx 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 09: Hire a legitimate Tour Guide or Audio Guides

The 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. Most of them 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 many signs in English by each building. An actual book would probably better serve you if you want to understand what you are seeing.

Tip 10 : 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 out: Beijing Climate for more information.

Tip 11: 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 12: 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 in Beijing for more information.

Tip 13: Be vigilant on Tea House Scam and Ticket Touts

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 ( click Top 10 Tourist Scams in Beijing for more information) :

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 14: 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 try to 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. Check out Beijing Taxi for more information.

Tip 15:  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:

Car Rental in Beijing
Beijing Day Tour
Beijing Tour Packages
Great Wall Tour
Beijing Winter Tour
Beijing Tour
China City Tours
China Tour

Chinese version of the travel guide


Further Readings

Best Time to Visit Beijing
How to plan a trip to Beijing

Top 10 Attractions in Beijing
Top 10 Tourist Scams 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.

62 thoughts on “How to Visit Forbidden City (Tips, Photos & Map)

  1. 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. Hi

    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. 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!

  4. Are the booking agencies you mentioned reliable? I’m planning on booking a group tour but most of the ones that I found online had really terrible reviews.

  5. If Tiananmen Tower is closed till end april can you still get to The Forbidden City ? Thanks

  6. Dear Roger,

    Thanks for your inquiry!

    Yes, you can walk to Forbidden City from Tiananmen Square through the gate to Tiananmen Tower. Have a nice time!

  7. Hi,how long does it take to get tickets when in the que on the spot please?weekdays and weekends.many thanks!

  8. How long does it take to get the tickets in the que pls?weekends and weekdays. thank you

  9. Dear Radkulena,

    Basically people are required to buy tickets online. It is hard to predict the queue time.

  10. Hello

    Since when it eas announcrd that the visits to tha ForbidenCity
    would not be allowed end september?

    I already have plane tickets to be there

  11. Dear Thales Zugman,

    For confirmed trips to Beijing during the closure period, you are kindly suggested to rearrange your itinerary to Summer Palace or Hutong, which are also highlights of a Beijing day tour.

    Better adjust your plan to other sites to make the most out of your holiday. Beijing has much more to offer even though Forbidden City is the main draw.

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