Best date and times to visit
Peak hours are between 10:00 and 13:00.
Try to come either in the morning, at opening time or in the afternoon, after 14:00 to avoid crowds.
The Forbidden city is always more crowded on weekends than on weekdays.
High season (with longer opening hours) lasts from the 1st of April until the 31st of October. July and August are the busiest months, with Chinese school holidays taking place. Don’t plan your visit of the Forbidden City on the “Golden Week” (beginning of October): most Chinese people will have a 7-day holiday (due to the Chinese National Day). The Labor Day holiday is also a period to avoid, with the tourist peak lasting from the 26th of April to the 4th of May. Crowds will be everywhere, along with very long waiting lines and busy transport - very frustrating!
During the low season (from November to the end of March) the complex sees on average half as many visitors. We suggest you avoid the Spring Festival rush period (it lasts 40 days and takes place in February-March).
The number of visitors per day is limited to 80,000 (during the “Golden Week” and other peak periods this number can easily be reached by midday).
In order to have a crowd-free visit, it’s best not to take a tour: most groups follow the same itinerary connecting the south entrance of the complex to the north one. Step aside and explore the alleys, passageways and palaces off the beaten path.
The Forbidden City is huge, covering an area of 72 hectares. Plan to spend about 3-4 hours.
Some of the fanciest mechanical clocks from the Imperial collection are wound up and put into action twice a day - at 11:00 and 14:00 in the Clocks gallery.
In case it gets too crowded and too hot (in summer) - opt for cooler and quieter parts of the Complex not located on the central axis: like the Treasures Gallery (in the eastern part of the inner court).
Grab a guide book or an audio-guide to discover all the history of the place.
Take a bottle of water with you (it’s quite expensive on site).
Photo credits to Mr Thinktank via Flickr
There are two main gates: the Meridian Gate in the south (entrance only) and the Gate of Divine in the north (exit only).
Be sure to arrive at the right one in the south of the complex, otherwise you’ll have to go for a long walk to reach the one you need: the distance between these two gates is 960 meters!
From the 1st of April to the 31st of October:
Tuesday-Sunday from 08:30 to 17:00
Last ticket: at 16:00
Last entry: at 16:10
Open on Mondays during public holidays
From the 1st of November to the 31st of March:
Tuesday-Sunday from 08:30 to 16:30
Last ticket: at 15:30
Last entry: at 15:40
Open on Mondays during public holidays and in July & August
- Adult: ¥40 (during low season: from Nov. 1 to Mar. 31);
- Adult: ¥60 (during high season: from Apr. 1 to Oct. 31)
- Children under 120 cm in height are free of charge.
The Treasure Gallery: a separate ¥10-ticket needed.
The Clock and Watch Gallery: a separate ¥10-ticket needed.
Special ¥20 tickets are available for students enrolled in Chinese primary and secondary schools and universities with valid student ID or certified letter from the school administrator. This applies to foreign students and students from Hong Kong, Macau, and Taiwan, but excludes post-graduate and adult education students.
Photo credits to Eric Beato via Flickr
Photo credits to LWYang via Flickr