When we first moved to Beijing, my husband was very eager to go visit the Forbidden City. Even still being jet lagged, we headed on our our first weekend in the city to see one of the most popular sights.
We took the subway to get there. The subway in the city is very easy to use, especially once you have a subway card (although the machines are user friendly and in English if you just need to buy a one time pass). The maps are clear and when you arrive at a stop you see signs in English, and they let you know you’ve arrived in English as well. If you’re lucky, you’ll get a seat on the subway, if not you just have to stand for a few stops until you make it to the transfer station to hop onto the next line. It seems that if one train isn’t crowded, then the next one might be. It’s hit or miss whether you’ll have a ride with less people or a ton of people. One thing that I have learned with the subways (and am continuing to work on) is that you want to be sure you know which exit you need to take (A, B, C, D or north, south, east, west, etc) or else you may end up on the wrong side of the road!
The subway took us directly to Tiananmen Square (you can go to Tiananmen East or West). We went to Tiananmen East since it was one stop closer. As soon as we got out of the subway and back on the street, there was just a mass of people. I was wondering what they all were doing, and then we quickly learned that it was a line we needed to stand in so we could go through security.
Once we got through security (be sure you have your passport!), it just took us into the square. From there, you continue on to enter the city. There were definitely a lot of tour groups, but once you got in it wasn’t bad (although we were fortunate enough to go during the “off” season).
Note to self-be sure you get the correct ticket before waiting in the next line to enter the city! So we learned that there are different places to see within the Forbidden City, which means different ticket lines. There is a line to check your bag (I was able to keep my purse with me). There was a line to enter a tower (this was the closest line and where we ended up). We first ended up with a ticket that was not the entrance to the Forbidden City but some tower or something. Fortunately for us, we weren’t in line long (to buy the ticket or to then be denied entrance). Just keep that in mind for the more crowded days! (I looked at the tickets other people were holding in line in order to determine that we did not have the correct one. It’s a good thing they don’t cost a lot!).
Fortunately for us the air was pretty good that day. If you’re able to plan your visit around the air quality, I would try for that. It definitely helps seeing the place when the it doesn’t look so “foggy”. If you’re time is limited, well, you still want to see it, so wear your mask!
So you have the Forbidden City, also known as the Winter Palace, and then the Summer Palace (stay tuned for that blog!). The Forbidden City was pretty flat with building after building. If you need a place to sit, since there’s lots of walking, you’ll find seats. There is definitely a lot of history there between the structures and the old trees.
That’s enough-so we thought!
After we made our way throughout the whole city (some sections were marked off to due reconstruction), we saw some signs for the exit. We followed the exits signs (even though they were on a different side from where we entered. Once we exited the city, (we probably should have walked forward into the Hutongs), we thought we needed to walk around the side. That walk ended up looping back around and to our surprise, we were still in the city! We couldn’t figure out how to actually exit so we could get home. Oh, well. My husband got his best shot of the day then on our long walk back to the beginning.
I’m glad we had a chance to see the Forbidden City. Honestly, I wasn’t overly excited about it, but I’m glad to say that I’ve been there. Stay tuned for some more blogs on some of the other sights we’ve seen!
History from Ben
It’s called that because no one was allowed to enter or leave without the Emperor’s permission. I believe there were approximately 23 Emperors that lived here over the years.
TOTE: The Forbidden City is something you have to see if you’re in Beijing.