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Forbidden City, Beijing

City Center
China's insider take:

Built during the Ming dynasty by 200,000 laborers and completed in 1422, this grandiose palace sits at the heart of the modern-day capital city. The complex is a vast maze of courtyards and ceremonial halls surrounded by towering walls—it's designed to make you feel tiny, and it does. It's a fitting home for an emperor, and for about 500 years, only Sons of Heaven, their families, and their attendants were allowed inside the walls. The site became a museum in the early 20th century (after the abdication of the Qing dynasty's last emperor, Puyi), and today you can stroll through ornamental gardens and ornate buildings and admire the palace treasures on display. Unfortunately, many of the main buildings are undergoing centenary refurbishment and are swathed in scaffolding (the overhaul will be completed in 2020), but they're splendid nonetheless.

Information may have changed since the date of publication. Please confirm details with individual establishments before planning your trip.