If you’re staying in a hostel in Beijing, chances are it’ll be around the city centre, hopefully walking distance from these two iconic areas in Beijing. I’m typing this from my hostel, 400m from Tiananmen, sitting in the 6th floor bar, staring at Chairman Mao’s Mausoleum.
Tiananmen Square and the Forbidden city are directly opposite from each other, so jump on the Subway to Tiananmen East or West (Line 1) or Qianmen (Line 2).
I’ve been to Tiananmen square probably 10 times, and the Forbidden city 3 times, it’s a nice area to burn a whole day. Food around the area is a little over priced but nothing too crazy. Expect to spend a lot of the day getting asked for a photo by Chinese tourists, you’ll feel like quite the celebrity!
The Forbidden City:
One of the most visited sites in the whole world, thanks to the hordes of Chinese tourists pouring in daily, the Forbidden City gets packed, especially on weekends so try to avoid going on a Saturday or Sunday.
Also, the gates open at 8.30, so queue up around 8.15am and you’ll have an almost empty Forbidden City to talk pics of. Much better. It closes at 5pm.
The place is massive so make sure your camera is charged, and wear decent footwear, it’s a long walk! Give yourself at least 2 or 3 hours to get around.
Tickets are 60RMB ($10)
The biggest square in the world is right in front of the Forbidden City, Mao built this as a sign of the strength of Communism and it’s still going strong. His embalmed body is in a mausoleum in the south of the square. You can see it (for free) between 8am-12.00, no cameras or bags allowed (drop them in the building east of the mausoleum, not free).
In the morning’s and evening they have a flag raising (and lowering) ceremony, but it’s not that special to be honest. There are grand museums, parliament buildings and viewing halls surround the square, all of which demonstrate some pretty cool communist style architecture.
This is an awesome way to spend your first full day in Beijing, tick off some major tourist sights and have a throughly enjoyable day, finish the night off with some Peking duck and you’ll be flying (I’m off to get some right now actually). Happy travels!