The moat, the high walls, and the ominous name notwithstanding, you are actually permitted to enter the Forbidden City. If you’re visiting China, a more appropriate name might be the Mandatory Stop.
Formerly the home of 24 emperors whose collective rule spanned two dynasties and more than 500 years, the Forbidden City is now an unparalleled epicenter of ancient Chinese architecture and art. The Palace Museum displays 8,000-year-old painted pots; bona fide Ming vases; and jaden carvings of horses, camels, and smiling Buddhas.
Climb the steps to the Hall of Supreme Harmony where the throne room, once the seat of Chinese power, shines with imperial reds and golds. Looking down at the crowds in the courtyard, you’ll feel the urge to make your own decrees. Rule with wisdom.
Photography by Best View Stock/Alamy
This article was first published in July 2013. Some facts may have aged gracelessly. Please call ahead to verify information.