Tiananmen Square

One of the most famous squares in the world, this spot is the beating heart of Beijing and has always been the site of mass protests and national celebrations.

It’s the history, more so than the architecture, behind Tiananmen Square that has brought it into the international spotlight. This public square is surrounded by Beijing’s most famous attractions, a sight you can’t miss if you are in Beijing. Centrally located, Tianaman Square covers an area of nearly 109 acres (44 hectares). It is framed by two imperial gates to its north and south: the Gate of Heavenly Peace (Tiananmen Gate) and the Front Gate (Qianmen Gate). To the west stands the communist-era Great Hall of the People, the meeting place of the Chinese government. To the east is the National Museum of China. Get to the square early and line up for the daily flag-raising ceremony, with soldiers of the People’s Liberation Army marching across the square. This flag is lowered with a similar stately show at sunset.Tiananmen Square is heavily monitored by security cameras, metal detectors and police officers, presumably because it has a long history of a place of dissent. Examples of this dissent include the mass protest against the Versailles Treaty in 1919 and the pro-democracy student uprising 70 years later. These days the atmosphere in the square is very friendly, so take in the scene at your own pace. Buy a kite for your children or watch the locals take photos at the Monument to the People’s Heroes in front of the Chairman Mao Memorial Hall. Inside this hall in the mausoleum, you can get a closer look at Mao Zedong, who died in 1976. Line up to catch a glimpse of what is either his mummified body, or a wax replica, depending on who you ask. Either way, you’ll be filing past the image of one of China’s most famous rulers at rest.To reach Tiananmen Square, take a taxi or the subway Tian’anmen East, Tian’anmen West or Qianmen Station. Many combine their visit to the square with a journey through the adjacent Forbidden City.