Day Tour

Forbidden City (3 Hours)

Context Travel

Beijing, China

Valid for Travel Now Through: 01 Mar 2019

Forbidden City (3 Hours )

Beijing, China

Tour Features


  • Culture, History & Arts
  • Sightseeing
  • Walking & Biking



Recommended Ages

12 and Above

Activity Level



Legend says the Forbidden City contains 9,999½ rooms, and the vast spaces and myriad courtyards do make it one of the most fascinating sites in China’s capital. Home to 24 emperors between 1420 and 1924, the Forbidden City offers an opportunity to plunge into China’s imperial power and symbolism. During this three-hour walking tour with a trained historian, we’ll provide a basic overview of this immense and complicated site, while strategically digging deeper into a few themes of imperial history.

Much of our time will focus on the Forbidden City’s sequence of courtyards and pavilions. We may discuss the symbolism of architecture and orientation, paying particular attention to how the courtyards are arranged around North-South Axis, which ran from the imperial throne through the succession of gates and yards and out through the southernmost gate of the city and into the emperor’s realm. It is the same axis that runs through the middle of the Olympic Green, site of the 2008 Summer Olympics.

Our walk will take us through the Gate of Supreme Harmony and into the massive courtyard where the emperor’s civilian and military officials would line up according to rank and position facing the Hall of Supreme Harmony. The largest structure in the Forbidden City, it was remodeled in 2008 using plans drawn by the Kangxi Emperor in the 17th century, this is the centerpiece of the Palace complex and provides a sounding board for discussing the role of the emperor through successive dynasties. Though seldom used except for the highest of state occasions, few structures in Beijing give one the same sense of imperial grandeur and power.Before leaving, we'll visit the Inner Palaces, where the Ming Emperors resided, and Hall of Mental Cultivation, where the last several generations of Manchu rulers lived, worked, and held court. These chambers still house the furnishings and day-to-day household objects of the last emperor and empresses. While the style could be described as “Manchu Frumpy,” given the dearth of other authentic recreations of palace material culture, this glimpse into the past is not to be missed.

Wrapping up our scholar-led Forbidden City tour, we'll emerge with a strong understanding of how imperial rule worked historically in China and the role of the Forbidden City in solidifying that rule.

About Us

The Context vision is to create an atmosphere—a context, if you will—for curious travelers to engage with local experts; to give them access to places and cultures that might otherwise remain out of sight to the casual visitor; to invite them off the tourist track and into the real life of the people, history, and heritage that make these cultural capitals amazing. With no more than six people, you'll participate in an intimate, hands-on, conversational experience. No Tour Guides - Our docents are first and foremost scholars or specialists, with MAs, Ph.D.s, or other terminal degrees in their fields of study.

Insider Tip

Contact your Virtuoso Travel Advisor for insider knowledge to help enhance your experience.

Terms & Conditions

Context walks can be cancelled up to 48 hours prior to the walk with an 85% refund. Within 48 hours all reservations are final and cannot be refunded. Walks are held rain or shine with some variations to accommodate the weather. If you are running late for your meeting with our docent, we ask that you call to alert us so that we can relay the message to the docent. No shows are treated as last-minute cancellations and are non-refundable. Cancellations within three business days need to be made by phone to the emergency number provided in your confirmation email. Cancellations within three business days made via email or by calling our U.S. 800 number may not be honored. Other terms and conditions may apply.

The trademarks VIRTUOSO, the Globe Swirl Logo and SPECIALISTS IN THE ART OF TRAVEL are registered trademarks of Virtuoso, Ltd. Virtuoso, Ltd. has a U.S. copyright registration for the Globe Swirl Logo, ©2000. All rights reserved. Virtuoso CST#2069091-50. California CST# 2069091; TA# 808 - Registered Iowa Travel Agency; Washington UBI # 601 554 183. Registration as a seller of travel does not constitute approval by the State of California.

Reviews and Recommendations for Context Travel


of 3

Virtuoso Verified Traveler

All reviews are from confirmed guests sharing exclusive insights

Sort reviews by

Italy trip

By: Joe C

Reviewed on: 27 Jun 2018

Without question they did a superb job.
  Loading comments. Please wait...

"The Great European Tour"

By: MJ

Reviewed on: 14 Aug 2018

The trip was our first experience with Context and it was amazing!
Travel Advisor:  Donna Peacock
  Loading comments. Please wait...


By: Shari

Reviewed on: 17 Nov 2018

The 6 person maximum of Context tours really made for an intimate learning experience. The docents they get to lead the groups were top notch!
Travel Advisor:  Kelly Millington