Tian'anmen Square

Beijing, China

Hailed as one of the largest town squares in the world, Tiananmen Square covers a staggering 109 acres in the center of Beijing. The name literally translates to ‘Gate of Heavenly Peace’ which is the gate marking the boundary between the historic square and the magnificent Forbidden City to its north.

The place holds a wealth of history, both in its brick and mortar and the political events that unfolded in its vicinity. Due to this reason, the area is heavily secured by police, uniformed and those undercover, cameras and has checkpoints on entry that confirm identification (so keep your passport on you) and check belongings before granting entry to Tiananmen which is open at 05:00 and closes at 22:00 daily. Once inside, you will be awed by the enormity of the area and all the exploring (and photo!) opportunities.

The iconic picture of Chairman Mao, adorning the Tiananmen Gate in the north is a perfect starting spot when visiting the square, which is readily accessible via public transport (subway line 1 and buses). You snap a selfie with the Chairman and enter for the flag ceremony. Beyond that is the Monument to the Peoples Heroes, an imposing commemorative structure. And farther ahead is Chairman Mao’s Mausoleum. All in a neat straight line. Flanking these to the right and left are The Great Hall of The People (Entry RMB30) and National Museum of China (General Free Entry; though it closed for renovation in March 2019). Most places are closed on Monday and have specific timings. A trip to Tiananmen square is ideally combined with the neighboring Forbidden city, taking half a day.

Perhaps one of the most sought-after experience is to witness the flag hoisting and lowering ceremony at day break and sundown. However, patriotic locals are present daily in great numbers so snagging a good spot requires forfeiting precious z’s and arriving way before the crack of dawn. You can catch the various tributes and statues around the square while there. Chairman Mao’s Memorial Hall has short admission time (08:00 to 12:00), free entry and long lines so maybe arriving early can help kill two birds with one night of sacrificed sleep. It is important to note that cameras and bags are not allowed inside the mausoleum and will need to be deposited at paid lockers in the vicinity. But be careful of con-men posing as officials or kind humans as they swindle you.

Night times lend an ethereal feel to the square under the illumination of the grand buildings and absence of sweltering day crowds. June 4 sees increased security as in the year 1989, that day, protests turned violent, leaving bitter memories to date. Preferably plan around that. On public holidays and specially October 1, the crowds are bigger, but the flower displays in Tiananmen are also grander and the added splash of color really make for an exquisite memory. Whatever your timing, no trip to Beijing is complete without a visit here!

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