Day Tour

Forbidden City (3 Hours)

Context Travel

Beijing, China

Valid for Travel Now Through: 01 Feb 2021

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

Context Travel offers cultural and historical tours and activities led by deep subject-matter experts in over 50 cities around the world. With coverage of lesser known locales as well as main city sites, our experts take clients through in-depth, thematic topics to help them get to know a city more deeply. The tours are designed to be the ideal environment for learning – they are conversation-driven private experiences that are structured, but never scripted.

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.

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Reviews and Recommendations for Context Travel


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Italy trip

By: Joe C

Reviewed on: 27 Jun 2018

Without question they did a superb job.
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"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
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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

Context Travel: One very good tour, one medium good tour

By: Rob

Reviewed on: 27 Feb 2019

We had two tours, one entitled "Intro to HK: Colony to Financial Powerhouse" and the other "Kowloon Street Food Tour". The first had an architectural as well as historical framework, which was worthwhile, and our guide was very earnest and enthusiastic. We liked her very much. Our second tour, ostensibly a "Kowloon Street Food" got a little off track onto some political topics (reference is made in the description to discussing "local issues") but we made clear to our guide that we much preferred to spend our limited time checking out the street food and markets, and leaving politics and history aside. (Every guide prior to this had given us a similar capsule history of HK.) In fairness to our review of the guide, my wife and I were extremely tired by the time of our evening tour, and had to conclude the tour early, and we do not fault our guide in any way for our "running out of steam". Our guide was nice, though he made a couple of comments that might have been better left unsaid.
Travel Advisor:  Rachel Dicker

Context Tours

By: DHunt

Reviewed on: 05 Mar 2019

We were highly impressed with context tours. Each guide was very knowledgeable and the private group setting allowed us to really spend time and enjoy each site without feeling like we were part of a herd. Further, the guide is interactive, not just dictating into a radio with information.
Travel Advisor:  Nathan Cripps