Begin the first full day of this Beijing city tour with a visit to the iconic Forbidden City. Most Chinese buildings face south, which according to ancient beliefs, symbolized the barbarian threat and potential invasion from the north. This explains why the main entrance to the Forbidden City faces south towards Tiananmen Square, the third-largest city square in the world.
During the reign of the Ming Dynasty Emperor Yongle in 1420, the construction of the City was completed. And it served as the Imperial administrative center throughout the Ming and Qing Dynasties until the fall of the Empire in 1911.
Beautifully restored for the 2008 Beijing Olympics, the Forbidden City has regained its youthful, vivid colors. For such an unforgettable destination, it’s essential to take one’s time exploring all the ins and outs of the site. Ample time is set aside for visiting all the surrounding courtyards and rooms. After exploring the interior, ascend the artificial coal hill just behind the Forbidden City for a spectacular view of the entire site and layout of the whole of Beijing.
After spending a few hours exploring the City, spend the remainder of the day walking around romantic Beihai Lake, and hutongs encircle the more lively Houhai Lake. Hutongs are the famous Beijing alleyways home to traditional courtyard style homes. Many of which have now been converted into pedestrianized streets boasting charming little restaurants and bars.
Continue the walk onwards to the Drum Tower. Here there will be a demonstration held of how, during the Ming Dynasty, they marked the passing of each hour with a drum roll. From the peak of the tower, it’s also possible to admire the rooftops of the neighboring Hutongs and the Clock Tower just opposite.
Option: Enjoy an evening Kung Fu show in Red theater! The Red Theater is known initially as Chongwen Worker's Cultural Palace Theater. After the renovation, the stage facilities have been dramatically improved, and now the theater specializes in traditional Chinese performances, such as "The Legend of Kung Fu.
- Forbidden City access to visitors will be limited to 80,000 persons per day. Passport copies must be provided at least 11 days advance for personal registration (preferably two weeks to assure a successful booking). Modifying the date, later on, is not possible.
- Visitors are required to bring their passport for a security check upon their visit to the monument.
- Forbidden City remains on Mondays, except July and Aug.