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  • Writer's pictureCamille Bryant

What You Need To Know Before Visiting The Forbidden City In Beijing

If you’ve been bitten by the travel bug and you’re wondering where your next vacation is going to be, I can help you decide by putting in a vote for The Forbidden City. But there are some things you need to know before booking your trip.

China not only has legit amazing cuisine and culture, it also has nonstop fantastic things to do. From the impressive Great Wall to the breathtakingly gorgeous Yu Garden, there’s no shortage of things to see there. However, if you’re wanting to grab your besties to take a peek at the historic Forbidden City, take note. There are a few things you need to know about it before you arrive.

1. It’ll make you feel incredibly small

When we say that the Forbidden City is big, we really mean it. This massive precinct sprawls out across 7.75 million square feet. To put it into perspective, you could cram three of the French Louvres into it. Rumor has it that it took over a million people to build it over the course of 14 years. If you’re wondering about its plush accommodations, wonder no longer. The Forbidden City has nearly 9,000 rooms tucked away in almost 1,000 buildings. Kinda makes you wish you and your girlfriends could crash there for a night, huh?


2. The Forbidden City still has forbidden areas

If you’ve been wanting to pop into the Forbidden City for a tour, you should know that you’re still not allowed to see all of it. Yup, some parts of the Forbidden City? Still forbidden. Womp-womp. But don’t worry, it’s nothing personal. They’d love to host you, but over the past several centuries (it was finished in 1420, after all!), it’s finally started to show its age. Up to 40% of the Forbidden City remains closed to the public while repairs are done on the damaged areas. Once they finish it up, though, they’ll reopen those parts to the public.


3. It completely lacks any trees outside it

When you think of the sheer amount of work that went into the construction of the Forbidden City, you’d probably assume that they sprung for a little landscaping, too. After all, what’s a gorgeous abode without a couple of shade trees to lounge beneath, right? Nope. There are approximately zero trees surrounding the Forbidden City. While there’s no super apparent reason why they went that route, it’s believed that they didn’t plant any vegetation for two reasons. One, they thought it would be distracting during important ceremonies and two? They didn’t want any party crashers sneaking through the gates. Fair enough!


4. Don’t expect to see any birds sitting on it

While birds can seem graceful from a distance, they have a tendency to -- shall we say -- soil anything that happens to be below them. Because the Forbidden City is so sacred, the architects who built it took special care to make sure no birdies would be disrespecting it. When you visit the Forbidden City, take a closer look at the slope and tile of its roofs. Notice anything different about it? The combination of the steep pitch of the roof and the super slippery texture of the tiles adorning it was entirely intentional, and the logic was simple yet flawless: no birds, no bird droppings. Problem solved.


5. It may have been for royals, but the cats remain king

When the Forbidden City was initially built, it was intended to be a palace. While it’s now more of a museum these days, it still hosts the most majestic and regal animal known to mankind…cats! These four-legged felines roam the Forbidden City like they own the place, and nobody has the heart to evict them. When the ladies of the court moved into the Forbidden City during the Ming and Qing dynasties, they brought their companions with them. Once the empires collapsed, the cats remained on the property. Some of the kitties that live onsite are direct descendants of royalty, but they mingle with the commoners (strays!), as well.


Whether you already had the Forbidden City on your must-see list, or this is your first time learning about it, it’s truly a place that you really can’t afford to miss when you visit China!


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