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Forbidden City Entrance: North or South?


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The only reason a first time visitor to Beijing should ever use the south entrance of the Forbidden City is if they plan on renting the audio tour.

(I'm not sure if there is a seperate audio tour now available for those who enter via the north gate.)

I have led private tours for people visiting Beijing for the first time and there are 2 reasons I insist on the north entrance:

1. The first view from atop Jingshan Park is spectacular. This experience is totally ruined if you just finished walking through the palace from Tiananmen Square. There's nothing like seeing the look on people's faces when they gaze at the splendid panorama in front of them before ever setting foot through the gate or in Tiananmen Square.

I get my visitors to Jingshan Park no later than 07:00 so they can see the regulars performing morning exercises before that magnificent view.

2. By going from south to north you end up at Jingshan Park. If the palace was your first destination of the day where do you go next? By going from north to south one logically proceeds to Tiananmen Square, much like the emperor would have done on special occasions long ago.

It simply makes for a better order of sightseeing if you don't have to backtrack from the north gate or try getting back to Tiananmen from Jingshan Park.

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I'm not sure the experience is ruined - you just get to see what you've done rather than what you will do. I agree getting there earlier is a good idea though.

Also, coming out the north gate and through Jingshan park doesn't mean you have to go back to the square - I'd do anything I wanted around Tiananmen first, then the palace, then Jingshan, and then walk (or more realistically a quick taxi ride after all that climbing) up to Houhai. Although having said that, Houhai is getting more and like Sanlitun with better views . . .


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I've only been there once, but I was much more impressed with the 'front' (i.e. southern) half of the palace than with the 'back', especially the first two courtyards as you enter from Tiananmen - breathtaking seen from the south, looking north, and I imagine this was the intended effect. The other way around I just don't think it'd work for me, although next time I'm in Beijing with Y40 to spare, I'll try it your way...


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It's my way or Chang'An Jie!

Look, if you've never been to China before and you start your tour at the north gate, then things just get bigger and better as you proceed south. It's the only way to do it for first timers who are so amazed at that panoramic view of the Forbidden City which entices them to move forward and explore what they just saw, not reflect on what they just walked through. Most first time vistors have limited time for touring all that Beijing has to offer so Houhai is rather low on the list of priorities. I like to take them from Qianmen to the Summer Palace so that they will be at Kunming Lake around sunset time. By going to Tiananmen first it's hard to organize the afternoon,; they'll want to stand in line for Mao's mausoleum or take a peek inside the Great Hall of the People. By arriving at Tiananmen around noon the stomachs take over the mind and the Mao mausoleum is closed so we usually get in the shorter line at Colonel Sanders Mausoleum.

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