All About Beijing
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Popular Attraction: The Forbidden City
Also known as the Imperial Palace, the Forbidden City is the former residence of the ancient emperors, and was off-limits to most of the world for 500 years. Now a major tourist attraction, it is the best preserved cluster of ancient buildings in China, with halls, temples, and housing said to contain 9,999 rooms. It is divided into northern and southern parts. The southern section was used for ceremonies and entertaining guests; the northern area was the private residence. The former living quarters now function as museums, and special exhibits are sometimes mounted in other halls of the palace.
The entrance fee is rather steep, but you can easily spend a couple of hours here. No official guide is needed to see the palace (ignore anyone who tells you otherwise). You can rent a self-guided audio tour.