From 1416 to 1911, this was the imperial palace, home to 24 Ming and Qing dynasty emperors and their families and staff. In 1912, after the abdication of Puyi, the last emperor of China, the Outer Court opened to the public; in 1925 the Palace Museum was opened, with a collection of nearly 1 million Chinese antiquities. The Forbidden City has nearly 1,000 buildings spread across 72 hectares (178 acres), making it the world's largest palace complex.
By Sophie Friedman, AFAR Local Expert
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Forbidden City, Beijing,China
As a tourist in Beijing, a must-see for me on the itinerary was the Forbidden City. Construction began in 1406 A.D., and lasted for 15 years, with more than a million workers involved in the process. The palace complex spans some 178 acres, so wear really good walking shoes when visiting! I was surprised to see the water canals throughout—I was unaware of this feature before visiting, but it certainly adds to the majesty of the place.
By Janet Pierce
Order at the Forbidden City
On my visit to the Forbidden City, the blustering wind made all attempts at focused photography nearly impossible but my eyes were locked on the guard's calculated movements. I wanted to capture this stunning moment of orderly procession but I was quickly losing feeling in my fingers. As if anticipating my intentions, the third guard turned in my direction and my finger instantly released. By far, one of my favorite memories from our trip to China.
By Lindsey Tramuta, AFAR Contributor
Discovering the Forbidden City: No Map Required
I used to be a docile tourist—get a map and brochure at the entrance, follow the prescribed route, or make a beeline for points of my interest. But one day impatience taught me the rollicking fun of ignorance and discovery. I didn’t feel like waiting in line at the Forbidden City in Beijing to pick up a guide map. I stumbled in unprepared for the enormity of the place. I spent the entire day until closing wandering corridors with no clue what I would find around the next corner. I think anyone with a map could not appreciate the labyrinthine nature of the city the way I did, crisscrossing the place several times trying to ensure I didn’t miss anything. I anticipated nothing, so even the largest temples and most expansive courtyards were astounding surprises to me, and I found my way into nooks and crannies where no one with a map charting out "points of interest" would have bothered to look. It was truly one of the most fun days of my life, and was a lasting lesson in the true nature of discovery.
Entrance to the Forbidden City
The most fantastic ancient tourist site in Beijing, only accessible to Chinese dynastic rulers until quite recently, when China opens its borders to tourists. The architecture is completely restored and the site is gigantic. Once you enter, you can walk through the maze of a palace that used to be the home of the emperor and his family.
By Sara Melvin
On the way to dinner
This is actually in the hilly park behind the Forbidden City, which was created when the City was built. My host told me what this says, but jet lag and time have taken their toll on my memory. Now I just remember it as being strikingly beautiful. We ate in a well-known and very old restaurant which was once part of the imperial grounds.
By Anonymous User
Trip inside the Forbidden City
The interesting fact about the title hanging inside this hall is that, the sun casts a light on the wording specifically at noon time. The four-letter wording (wrote by emperor Qian Long) means that emperor should handle all the matters with fair. There are a lot of detail works inside the architecture design of the Forbidden City. It's better to visit with a guide. Although some will choose a guided tour, an audio guide is an easiest way to tour the palace by yourself.
The Red Doors Inside Of Forbidden City
There are way too many doors inside of the forbidden city. Sometimes, take a peek at the closed door and you might see the path leads to another door. Also, a good tour guide might tell you more stories associated with them.
The Color Palette of the Forbidden City - Beijing, China
Beside the architectural beauty of the Forbidden City, I just love the color palette of the entire palace. The lavish gold, red and green mixture created such contrast yet cohesive look.
My favorite photos are of doors, alley ways, small streets. They are calling you "walk this way.." Who knows what you will find when you walk through...
By AFAR Traveler
Entering the Forbidden City
After an hour of weaving through alleyways, we temporarily escaped the blistering sun and waited to enter the Forbidden City.
Forbidden City Gargoyles
My husband and I wandered through the grounds of the Forbidden City in Beijing, snapping photos and trying to avoid the swarms of tour groups. Each group could be identified by a crowd of Chinese tourists all wearing the same color of baseball cap. People wandered everywhere, and it was a struggle to picture the sprawling palace as it used to be- a serene home simply to an emperor and his staff. Even more difficult was trying to snap a picture without a baseball cap in it. However, I was able to get this shot of a row of gargoyles lining the base of a patio. I took a moment and tried to imagine the carvings gurgling and spouting rainwater. I managed to lose myself in the history of the majestic palace- but only for a moment.
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