From national celebrations to mass protests, Beijing’s main square has been the scene of many of China’s most important gatherings and is a must-see for any visitor.
Tiananmen Square is one of the most iconic – and biggest – squares in the world. Palatial gates, ancient architecture and fascinating history draw hundreds of thousands of visitors every year from China and beyond. This gigantic plaza is at the heart of Beijing in more ways than one and is enclosed by many of the city’s most important attractions.
At 44 hectares, Tiananmen Square is the 4th largest square in the world and its scale is matched only by the splendour of the surrounding architecture. To the north and south lie the magnificent imperial gates, the Gate of Heavenly Peace (Tiananmen Gate) and the Front Gate (Qianmen Gate). The seat of the Chinese government, the Great Hall of the People, is located to the west and the National Museum of China is to the east.
At the centre of the square is the Chairman Mao Memorial Hall, in front of which you’ll more than likely find tourists and locals having their picture taken at the Monument to the People’s Heroes. Stepping inside the hall you can join the queues to see the mummified remains of Mao Zedong, China’s famous communist leader who died in 1976. It’s an eerie but unforgettable experience, filing past the body (or a wax replica, depending on who you believe) of one of the 20th century’s great figures.
The square is most famous in the Western world as being the site of the pro-democracy student uprising in 1989 which was brutally put down by the government, and this history of protest in the square has meant that there is a heavy security presence at all times, with security cameras, metal detectors and plenty of police officers.
The atmosphere is very friendly despite this and it’s a pleasant place to stroll around at your own pace. You can pose for photos or even buy a kite from one of the many vendors. Tiananmen Square is on nearly all major bus routes and is served by three different subway stations – Tiananmen East, Tiananmen West and Qianmen Station.