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Our hotel says it is within walking distance (Grand Hyatt).. Do we need a structured tour- or can we just do that on our own?
We stayed at the Hyatt in May. It's a beautiful hotel (bring a bathing suit for the awesome grotto pool), and definitely within walking distance of Tiananmen Square and the Forbidden City. Maybe about ten minutes. In fact, on our first evening, following our flight over from the US and check in late in the afternoon, we walked over to the Square for the evening flag lowering ceremony at sunset. (There is also a flag raising ceremony at sunrise.) I would highly recommend seeing this. (Google this to get the exact times during your visit.)
You certainly don't need a guide for either place, but you might get more out of the Forbidden City if you had one.
You didn't ask about food, and you may already know this, but the restaurant Made in China is in the Hyatt, and is one of the city's famous Peking Duck restaurants. Our dinner there was fantastic. If you email the hotel concierge, they can make a reservation for you and also pre-order the duck, which is a good idea.
As others have mentioned the Grand Hyatt is but a 2-3 block (long blocks though) walk to The Forbidden City and Tianamen Sq. It is a beautiful walk and especially interesting watching all the traffic, cars, trucks, buses, and bikes passing by. For a diversion we choose to take the subway back to the Grand Hyatt (one stop), just to experience the subway in Beijing. Oh, and did I mention the Grand Hyatt is lovely with great service.
Yes, I would get a guide for a first visit to the Forbidden City.
Last edited by cruiseri; November 12th, 2011 at 10:54 PM.
No. I toured the Forbidden City all by myself when I worked in Beijing. They do, however, confiscate your passport as collateral for using their english language headsets. They assured me that my passport would be waiting for me at the exit. It was! This made me a bit nervous but it worked out ok.
Im sure you could go without a tour guide, but when i was there in November I knew nothing about the forbidden city. It was nice to have someone there who explained a lot to us and he also was nice to be able to walk through it and be pick up at a different gate at the other end. He also kept the vendors away from us and our admission fees were paid for in advance.
You can definitely do these two on your own. We had a combined tour that also did the Great Wall with those two, so I know we saw things we wouldn't have seen if we had done it on our own, but as others have said, this would be very doable. Also, yes, there are guides all around that are wanting to give you their tours, but I probably would pass on that. Have a great time. It's a fascinating part of the world.
We have visited Beijing twice on the first visit we went to all the important sites on our own. On the second we had a private licenced guide and driver.
While you certainly can do most of them, including the Forbidden City on your own, to get the full appreciation of the historical significance and the detail we strongly recommend a government licenced guide who is university trained, has passed a rigid examination, and knows the best way to get the most out of the short time you have to visit Beijing.
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