Great Hall of the People

Notable Building in Forbidden City & Dongcheng Central

On the western side of Tiān’ānmén Sq, on a site previously occupied by Taichang Temple, the Jinyiwei (Ming dynasty secret service) and the Ministry of Justice, the Great Hall of the People is the venue of the legislature, the National People’s Congress (NPC). The 1959 Soviet-style architecture (which features on the ¥100 note) is monolithic and intimidating, and a fitting symbol of China’s huge bureaucracy. The ticket office is on the south side of the building; bags must be checked in but cameras are admitted.

Inside you can peek into 29 of its lifeless rooms named after the provinces of the Chinese universe. Also on show is the banquet room where US President Richard Nixon dined in 1972, and the 10,000-seat auditorium with the communist red star embedded in a galaxy of ceiling lights – though you'll have to pay an extra ¥60 to get your photo taken in order to see the full span of the ceiling. Note that the building can be closed to tourists without notice when the political circus is in town.