Front Gate (Qianmen Gate)
The centrally located Front Gate (Qianmen Gate) is also known as Zhengyangmen and was originally part of the old city walls. The towering structure with typical Chinese curved roof stands 138 feet (42 meters) tall and was once one of the main entrances to the imperial city. The carefully preserved structure is symbolic of Beijing’s cultural heritage, linking the royal imperial domain with the suburban outer city.
The Front Gate was originally built in 1419 and restored in the early 20th century. The complex now consists of just the Gate of True Sun and the grey Arrow Tower, which is also called Jianlou. The rest of the wall has been taken down.
Come here to see one of only a few preserved examples of Beijing’s old fortifications. For a small entrance fee, you can venture inside and see an exhibit about the history of the city. See how the imperial city would have looked at its peak by browsing the old photos and relics on display. The small museum traces Beijing’s development throughout the centuries.
After delving into the capital’s past, climb up the stairs to the top of the structure to see present-day Beijing in full glory. Most buildings in this area are low-level, so you can enjoy uninterrupted views of the city’s urban center. It’s also a great location to watch the hive of activity on Tiananmen Square below.
Admire the formidable structure of the Arrow Tower from the outside. Note the large number of windows, once used by guards to keep watch and to shoot arrows at approaching enemies. It is worth coming back here at night, when the buildings are lit up.
For souvenirs, modern fashion and a lunch of Peking duck, dumplings or noodles, visit historic Qianmen Street. This pedestrian area begins at the watchtower and is a major shopping precinct.
Front Gate looms over the southern end of Tiananmen Square. The gate is a short walk from the Forbidden City and close to the Qianmen subway station.