Building in the Foreign Legation.

Former Legation Quarter

Forbidden City & Dongcheng Central

Following the Second Opium War in 1860, one of Britain's treaty demands was for permanent diplomatic digs in Beijing, hence the Legation Quarter, a three-quarter square mile of inner city given over to foreign legations (embassies) in Beijing until WWII. Western-style banks, apartments, embassy gates and a church from that era survive to this day. Running eastwards from Tian'anmen Sq, Dongjiaomin Xiang (formerly Legation St) is the main drag into the area.

The Legation Quarter gained worldwide notoriety in the summer of 1900 as the site of a 55-day siege during the Boxer Rebellion. Following its liberation by the forces of an eight-nation alliance, the quarter was rebuilt, expanded and walled off from the rest of the city. Soldiers were garrisoned within, foreigners living inside were exempt from Chinese law, and Chinese themselves were forbidden to enter without a pass, which, it can be assumed, didn't do much for international relations.

Most of the former embassy sites are now occupied by the Chinese government, but you can explore the handsome parade ground of the American Legation, home to jazz den Blue Note and the upmarket Yunnan restaurant Lost Heaven. St Michael's Church, built in 1901 a year after the siege, attests to the expanding influence and power of the foreigners after the Boxer Rebellion.

Lonely Planet's must-see attractions

Nearby Forbidden City & Dongcheng Central attractions

1. Former Yokohama Specie Bank

0.03 MILES

Built after the Boxer Rebellion in 1910, this is one of most impressive western-style buildings in the Former Legation Quarter. It's now home to the China…

2. Beijing Police Museum

0.11 MILES

Propaganda notwithstanding, this is an engaging foray into the storied history of Beijing’s police force. Learn how China's first Security Bureau (PSB)…

3. Former French Post Office

0.13 MILES

In Beijing's Former Legation Quarter, this grey brick building served as the French Post Office in the early 20th century. It was recently a Sichuan…

4. Former British Legation

0.19 MILES

This historic entryway is all you can see of the palatial former British Legation, now home to China's Security Bureau. It was where most of the…

5. Former Dutch Legation

0.19 MILES

A green-roofed building rises behind a wall at No 40, which was once the Dutch Legation. To the north, a faded street sign reads 'USSR Embassy Compound…

6. Former French Legation

0.21 MILES

The imposing red gateway here, bearing a passing resemblance to the Arc de Triomphe, belonged to the French Legation. The two Chinese lions flanking the…

7. St Michael's Church

0.28 MILES

Within the former Legation Quarter is this wonderfully gothic church, established in 1901 to serve the neighbouring Former French Legation and meet the…

8. National Museum of China

0.33 MILES

Vast and energy-sapping, China's showpiece museum is housed in an immense 1950s Soviet-style building on the eastern side of Tian'anmen Sq, and claims to…