To come to the capital of China and not visit the staggering and fabled Forbidden City is little short of lunacy. Built between 1406 and 1420 and listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1987, the moated complex is composed of 980 buildings, set within symmetrical ‘nesting’ courtyards and terraces, with every facet of its design steeped in symbolism.
The Imperial Palace from the Ming Dynasty until the end of the Qing Dynasty, the Forbidden City is now home to the extraordinary Palace Museum, which holds a breathtaking 340,000 pieces of ceramic and porcelain, and nearly 50,000 paintings.
If possible avoid Mondays when schoolchildren are allowed to visit free, and aim to travel light as bags will often need to be checked. Audio guides are available at the ticket office, but without a doubt the way to get the best from your visit is to hire a group or private guide from Context Travel.
Using docents who are scholars and historians, your experience can be as tailored or free-flow as you like. Taking a morning tour starting at 10am means you can take a well-earned lunch at nearby beautiful Tiandi Yijia restaurant, and once replenished, toddle to close by Liulichang Jie, a sweet street of restored hutong houses, popular for traditional art supplies.
Failing that, plan an afternoon tour and end with cocktails at summer rooftop lounge Yin followed by supper at glorious TRB. Forbidding? Nah-uh. the brands landmark products dating back to the 60s. Heritage and haute hi-fi – pitch perfect.