The entrance to the Forbidden City is through Tiananmen Square. You will pass through two gigantic red gates before entering a city that truly lived up to its name, as it was forbidden to commoners like us. The grand effect is quite striking.

For centuries, it was the residence of twenty-four emperors until the fall of the Qing dynasty in 1911. With its various pavilions, courtyards, gardens, and palaces, plan to spend an entire day there and make sure to have a good guide. Also, brace yourself as you won’t be alone! The Forbidden City is extremely touristy, and you’ll need to be patient to access certain palaces.

The first building you’ll see after passing through the gates is the Hall of Supreme Harmony, which dominates the largest courtyard in the city. Here, you can admire the Dragon Throne where the Emperor presided. Next are the Hall of Central Harmony, the Emperor’s antechamber, and the Hall of Preserved Harmony reserved for banquets, followed by the gardens. In between, you’ll wander through a maze of alleys and small pavilions. There are so many that it’s easy to get lost.

A bit of history: the Emperor was surrounded by concubines and eunuchs. Each night, the Emperor chose a different concubine, and a eunuch would carry her directly to the Emperor’s chamber. To ensure that all the concubines’ children were indeed the Emperor’s, only eunuchs could approach them.

If you look up, you’ll see small guardians on all the building roofs: the more important the building, the more guardians there are.

Important buildings are also guarded by a pair of lions, as we saw at the Lama Temple. The male places a paw on a globe representing the Emperor’s power, and the female places a paw on a lion cub representing fertility.

Throughout the visit, you can also observe hundreds of dragon-headed gargoyles surrounding the pavilions’ platforms.

There is so much to say about the Forbidden City, rich in history as it is. The best way to learn about it is to go and discover it yourself!

Once you have traversed the Forbidden City, you can climb to the top of Coal Hill. This artificial hill, located as an extension of the Forbidden City, is also one of the most beautiful parks in Beijing. It was created using the earth excavated for the moats of the Forbidden City. So why an artificial hill? In Chinese culture, a hill must be situated to the north to protect the city from evil spirits. After climbing the many steps, you’ll reach the summit with a temple and an unparalleled view of the city and its surroundings!

About Author

We are Sophie, Adrien, and our two adorable little ones. Passionate about travel, discovery, and gastronomy, we bought a 2007 Rapido camper van to travel differently, travel more, and introduce our children to the world. Here, we share our wonderful discoveries and tips for activities to do with children in France and beyond ! Welcome !

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