I read that you needed to leave enough time while in Beijing to be able to explore the Forbidden City (aka Palace Museum) properly so decided to make this my first stop during my time in Beijing.
The Forbidden City was the residence of the Chinese Emperors during Imperial times from the middle ages all the way through to modern times when Emperor PuYi abdicated as the last emperor in 1912. It is definitely worth a visit to see the grandeur, history and intimate detail in all of the buildings and you can easily spend 4 hours here depending on how long you take to look around and whether you decide to see everything or not.
There are two types of ticket you can get… the first one is just a basic entry ticket or you can buy an all-inclusive “Tao Piao” ticket which allows you entry to all of the additional exhibits such as the Hall of Clocks – but unless you have an urge to visit them this probably isn’t worth it.
I decided to rent a self-guided audio tour to explore the Forbidden City at my own pace. Basically it’s a map of the city with LED lights on them showing you where you have been and where you still need to visit. The light flashes when you reach each location and the machine then explains in detail about the place you’re in through the attached earphones. They’re definitely worth using as you’ll hear a lot more information this way than if you take a guided tour, and it allows you to go at your own pace. They cost 40Yuan to rent plus a 100Yuan deposit which you get back when you return the unit.
I spent just under 4 hours exploring the city via my audio guide and still didn’t see everything but I saw so many amazing sights during my time here. These included all of the former palaces, temples, residences of the emperor and his court. There were also banquet halls, statues, gardens and so much more. I took so many photos!
On my way out of the city I saw what was probably my most disturbing scene of the whole holiday – a kid decided to tip his own pants open, squat, and empty his bowels right in the middle of the exit courtyard right next to me… so i quickly made my way to my next stop which was Jingshan Park – a Buddhist temple overlooking the north gate of the Forbidden City.
Jingshan Park only costs 2 Yuan to enter and is a beautiful park built around a large hill that was created when the Forbidden City’s moat was dug. You can walk all the way to the top to see a Buddhist Temple and, weather permitting, have magnificent views over the Forbidden city.
Unfortunately there was too much smog in the air when I visited so I decided to make my way out of the park, past the spot where Emperor Chongzhen hanged himself, and explore the city for a bit. I wandered past the Bell Tower and Drum Tower, snacked on some street food before deciding to make my way to the Olympic Park.
London is hosting the next Olympics in 2 years time so I felt it was almost my duty to visit the Beijing Olympic Site. I took the subway there and probably spent an hour in the area taking photos, looking at the Water Cube, Bird’s Nest Stadium and a few other places before coming back to my hotel. I need an early night tonight as I’m getting up early for the flag raising ceremony tomorrow.
Here are a couple more photos from today I thought I’d include..
Finally for today a video showing one of the two main courtyards of the Forbidden City: