Hightlights in Beijing
The Forbidden City, also known as the Imperial Palace, the National Palace Museum, the Purple Forbidden City and Gugong is probably Beijing¡¯s top tourist attraction.  This huge palace complex (one full square kilometer), previously to 23 successive Emperors, is located in the heart of Beijing, on the north side of Tian'anmen Square.  Because of its size, a visit to the palace can be a bit tiring as a good amount of walking is involved, so be prepared.  Three hours should be enough time to cover some of the palace but a person could spend twice that amount of time if they wanted to be more thorough.  Not suprisingly, the Forbidden City is very well catered to tourists as shops selling sandwiches, drinks, guide books, and souvenirs abound. 
Whilst the palace buildings in themselves are beautiful, the incredible size of the complex can actually make it seem a bit like a ghost town. If you don¡¯t learn a bit about the history of the palace before your visit you might find yourself wandering around aimlessly.  Try and do a little research before you go to enhance your visit.  Alternatively you can pick up an audio guide at the entrance for 40 yuan.  Once you know something about the history of the Forbidden City it only takes a little bit of imagination to try and conjure up images of what life inside the palace would have been like centuries ago when it was populated with royalty, eunuchs, servants and concubines.
 
The Forbidden City is rectangular in shape,  surrounded by a moat and a 10 metre high wall, and has 9,999 rooms (one short of the heavenly number of 10,000).  The southern section, or the Outer Court, contains the Hall of Sacred Harmony, Hall of Complete Harmony and Hall of Preserving Harmony.  The northern section, or the Inner Court, contains a number of other halls and the Imperial Garden. It is here that the Emperor and the Royal Family actually lived. 
 
The complex is currently undergoing major renovations in preparation for the 2008 Olympics, so it is likely that some of the buildings and halls will be covered with canvas until then.  Part of the renovation entails repainting the buildings; whilst the bright colours are beautiful it does seem to render the place less authentic as the buildings take on the appearance of looking slightly newish once they¡¯ve been painted.