Medical Tourism - Price Considerations

Author: Brent

In the past few years, we have witnessed the rapid growth in medical tourism from a fringe concept to the present state as a full-fledged industry with thousands of Americans packing their bags and traveling the world for procedures ranging Hip Replacements, Spinal Fusions, Artificial Disc Replacements, and Hysterectomies, to all forms of cosmetic and dental procedures.

To be sure, price is one of the chief motivating factors in one’s decision to travel thousands of miles to undergo a surgical procedure in a foreign country. Most procedures performed at world-class hospitals and accredited by the Joint Commission International, a branch of the U.S. hospital accreditation organization range in price from 50% to 80% less expensive than in the U.S.

For the uninsured and under insured, the savings of course are tremendous and sometimes mean the difference between filing for bankruptcy and remaining financially solvent. However, when researching options for receiving treatment abroad, there are a multitude of facets about price that must be considered.

  1. Practically any price can be found for medical procedures on the Internet, so be careful.
  2. It would probably not be prudent to shop for and select the lowest priced option.
  3. Sacrificing superior quality for the savings of a few hundred dollars makes little sense.
  4. Beware of “medical travel package pricing” deals that many companies promote. All inclusive package deals are great for vacations, but not for serious surgical procedures. The logistics involved are simply too challenging to manage as a package deal.
  5. It is very important to have all the diagnostic work conducted in the U.S. in order to have a specific diagnosis to send to the foreign provider for review and quotation, prior to purchasing an airline ticket. This will prevent potential problems and/or surprises once in the destination.
  6. As with any product or service it is imperative to evaluate the real value associated with the price. In terms of medical tourism value relates to not only to the doctor and hospital, but also to the destination (infrastructure, sights, sounds, smells, food, language, and culture), the hotels, and the customer service. Carefully consider your options.

For more information about medical tourism, you're welcome to visit MedRetreat, a U.S. owned and operated medical tourism service agency at MedRetreat. MedRetreat was developed to help protect the American health tourism consumer when traveling abroad to receive medical procedures.


clip_image001Shenzhen (深圳 Shēnzhèn) is a border town in Guangdong, China right across from Hong Kong.

In 1979, Shenzhen (then a series of sleepy fishing villages among the estuaries facing Hong Kong) was designated the first of China's Special Economic Zones (SEZ). The plan was to create a sealed off enclave to experiment with market reforms and performance incentives without posing a threat or risk to the established economic system elsewhere in China. Shenzhen won the honor as it could easily connect to the capital and management resources of Hong Kong and serve as a buffer between a more open border with Hong Kong and the rest of mainland China. Currently it has a population of approximately 8 million, compared to only 30 thousand in the 1980s.

As a purely economic creation, the city lacks much in terms of historical sites but much like Las Vegas, if you have enough money, anything is possible. Since the 1990s, Shenzhen has cultivated tourism and shopping as another cash cow to supplement industry. The various theme parks and shopping arcades attest to all Shenzhen now has to offer to those with an interest other than business.

Get in


In most cases, a visa should be obtained from a Chinese embassy or consulate before arriving anywhere in China. Obtaining a visa on arrival at Hong Kong-China border is no longer possible for US Citizens, it now takes 3-4 days and cost HK$470-1080. It is no longer worth the cost and you may be forced to pay expensive hotel bills in Hong Kong until your visa is granted. RMB (or renminbi ¥, the currency of mainland China) has also made the HK conversion not attractive, but usually only for the Shenzhen or Zhuhai Special Economic Zones. The Lo Wu (Luohu) visa office can be reached at tel. +86 755 8232 7700. According to the ferry transfer desk in Hong Kong airport, the visa office in Shekou is able to issue such visas before 5PM, but currently this is no longer possible for foreigners. Citizens of the United States can not apply for a 'Shenzhen Visa', but have to apply for a tourist visa. United Kingdom Citizens can now get the visa at the Shenzhen border but the cost for UK citizens is upwards of ¥450. Please see the China page for more Visa information. You will have to show airline ticket and hotel accommodation in China before any visa is granted and will be only single entry for 30 days only and this applies to all foreigners. It is now a major issue for anyone trying to do business in China.

You can get a taxi van that will take for from HK Airport to LoWu Station, through customs and immigration, for HK$150. Well worth it if you have a valid visa. The drivers and or desk staff will speak good English.

Sub-provincial city


Shenzhen reflection showing Shun Hing Square in center


Location of Shenzhen within Guangdong in China

By air

Shenzhen Bao'an Airport [1] has domestic and international flights. Direct coach 330 (approx ¥25 at time of writing) connects the airport with downtown with its final stop next to the KeXueGuan Metro Station. Mini-bus K568 connects the airport with Shenzhen Rail Station in Luohu, which is within walking distance of the Lo Wu Border with Hong Kong. Other local buses serving the airport include 327 and 355.

For those who plan to travel to other mainland Chinese cities from Hong Kong, Shenzhen airport makes a viable alternative to Hong Kong International Airport. While most cities in China have direct flights to Hong Kong they are much more expensive than flights to Shenzhen as flights between the mainland and Hong Kong are considered to be international flights and hence, priced as such. With good scheduling you can do your international travel through Hong Kong and then connect via buses or ferry to the Shenzhen airport for your domestic needs, but make sure you have your visa ready before you attempt this. The downside is that Shenzhen airport is not quite as efficient or reliable as that of Hong Kong, so flight delays are more common, and information on delays may be more difficult to obtain.

  • Bangkok Airways[2] fly direct from Bangkok, Thailand.
  • Air Asia[3] fly direct from Kuala Lumpur and Kota Kinabalu in Malaysia.

There is also a helicopter service from the Terminal Marítimo in Macau to Shenzhen airport [4], though it is very expensive.

Taxi fare from Shenzhen Airport to Lo Wu downtown will cost you around ¥100 plus ¥10 for toll.

From Hong Kong airport, there are very frequent bus and van services that can take you from the Hong Kong airport to most hotels in Shenzhen. The bus/van fare is ¥190-250. If you're a seasoned traveler, you can take the bus/van to Huanggang border, go through immigration and then get your own taxi to take you to where you want to go. The bus/van fare to Huanggang is ¥100-150. The bus/van companies have counters inside the airport. The staff at the information booth should be able to direct you to the their counters. There is also ferry services from Hong Kong airport to Shenzhen, check at the information desk for their schedule. A further alternative is to take "Skypier". This service takes you direct from HKIA to the mainland (Shenzhen or Zhuhai) without going through Hong Kong immigrations or Customs or in fact the city itself. There is a booth before you get to Immigration and you purchase your ticket and ask them to get your luggage transferred and then you go by bus to the ferry and then straight to China. It is cheaper and easier than going in to Hong Kong Central or Kowloon. If you exit China this way you get HKD120 departure tax given to you when you arrive at HKIA.

By land

Shenzhen has border train and bus connections to Hong Kong. There are trains to Guangzhou and buses to most nearby cities.

There are 5 land border crossings: Lok Ma Chau, Lo Wu, Sha Tau Kok, Man Kam To and Shenzhen Wan which is the new bridge across the bay..

Lo Wu is the only port for train connections and the most popular connections, operating daily from 6:30AM until midnight, so be aware that the last several trains do not go to Lo Wu. It is the last stop of the KCR East Rail train (HK section). East Rail, which connects to downtown Kowloon at East Tsim Sha Tsui, is the only way to reach Lo Wu. As it is in a restricted area, Lo Wu Station is only for travelling to Shenzhen or beyond, so a visa or other travel document is required to travel there without being fined.

The MTR East Rail Line commuter train which connects East Tsim Sha Tsui to Lo Wu and Lok Ma Chau with several intermediate stops mainly serves Hong Kong locals. It interchanges with the urban section of the MTR at Kowloon Tong Station and East Tsim Sha Tsui Terminal. For those traveling to or from Hong Kong Island, it is recommended to transfer to Cross Harbor Bus in Hung Hom Station or the Tsuen Wan Line at East Tsim Sha Tsui.

The journey from East Tsim Sha Tsui to Lo Wu takes 42 minutes and costs HK$33-36.50, first class is charged double. Trains depart every few minutes but some short trips are operated in rush hour, so check the destination screen before boarding. The train can be crowed during rush hours as it serves millions of commuters along the line as well.

For more details, check the MTR web site [5].

The road border crossings (such as Lok Ma Chau/Huanggang) are accessible by cross-boundary coaches from Hong Kong.

China Railway high-speed trains are available to Guangzhou, where there are more trains to the rest of China than are available in Shenzhen, not to imply Shenzhen's rail service is too limited. The CRH trains leave every thirty minutes during the day and tickets can be easily bought right before departure. Tickets can be purchased at CRH windows or at ticket machines.



Shennan Dadao

Since February 2003, the road border crossing at Huanggang and Lok Ma Chau in Hong Kong

By sea

There are ferries from Hong Kong (TsimShaTsui, Central -also know as HongKong/Macau and the airport), Macau, and Zhuhai. They land at the ferry terminal at Shekou. There is further information available online: Hong Kong Ferry Info [6], Shenzhen Ferry Info [7] (site only in Chinese, English version under construction).



Shenzhen Night View

Getting around

The Shenzhen Metro (深圳地铁) is the most convenient and easy to understand method of transport around the Shenzhen city area. It is very affordable, each ride is ¥5 or less. The train comes about every 10 minutes. Here are some useful web resources:

  • Shenzhen Map [8]
  • Shenzhen Metro official website (Chinese) [9]
  • Unofficial Map and station names (English) [10]
  • Bilingual Shenzhen Metro Flash Map [11]

Taxi meters start at ¥12.50 for the first 2 kilometers, then ¥0.60 for each 250 meters. Late night costs slightly higher.

Local buses run everywhere and start at ¥2 for most trips. The longest bus trip in the city will cost ¥7. Smaller or "mini-"buses start at ¥3, they generally drop you off right at the door. The mini-buses were supposed to be phased out, but some are still operating. They have now been phased out within the Special Economic Zone but are still around outside of it. Most bus lines operate every 5 minutes. be very careful of your wallet and try not to use your phone on a bus (it can get snatched out of your hand).

There is also an International Airport in the Bao'an District. Planes in China are often late (3-4hours) so don't expect to leave on time, and many flights are late all over China. Beijing is by far on the bottom of the list for OTP, whereas long distance bus and train connections to just about anywhere in China leave on time. (Luohu station, Metro stop: Luohu, exit A. This is the same station as the connection to Hong Kong at Lo Wu. NOTE: Buses are located under the Shopping Center, while trains are located next door. As this is where the border crossing for Hong Kong is, the areas are very crowded all day long. Watch your belongings.)

Communication tips:

  • Get a card of your hotel (if you are lost and no one understands your Mandarin)
  • Get your hotel staff to write down the destination names for you on paper. You may also learn some phrases from the [Chinese phrasebook].
  • As a migrant city Mandarin is more widely spoken in Shenzhen than the Cantonese common elsewhere in the region. Taxi drivers are more likely to speak Mandarin than Cantonese.
  • Shenzhen is a linguistic melting pot. You will likely hear every dialect and accent of Mandarin as well as the Guangdong languages of Cantonese, Teochew, and Hakka.


  • Dafen Oil Painting Village — Home to hundreds of artists duplicating classical Western paintings and doing original work, is accessible by bus 106 from Luohu (¥3).
  • Happy Valley Theme Park, [12].
  • He XiangNing Art Museum (何香凝美术馆) [13] — China's second national modern art museum, in addition to the National Art Gallery of China. It contains an excellent collection of world-class modern paintings, and is currently host to the "Fresh Eyes 06" exhibition. It is well worth a visit for anyone interested in art. He Xiangning Art Gallery is located in Overseas Chinese Town (OCT) of Shenzhen. It is accessible via Shenzhen Metro at Hua Qiao Cheng (华侨城) Station, Exit C (or, if closed, use Exit D). Walk west towards the McDonald's restaurant (in direction of terminus station, from Exit D towards Exit C). The art gallery is next door to McDonald's (on the left). Admission is just ¥20, and entrance is free on Fridays.
  • Minsk World [14] — A military theme park centered around the former Soviet aircraft carrier Minsk. The island, flight deck, second and fifth decks of the carrier can be toured. A short film on the carrier's history can be viewed in a small theater to the left of the entrance from the shore. Many key captions and display boards are in English, but Mandarin is predominant. There are tour guides stationed at various exhibits that will give brief explanations of them in Mandarin only. Periodic performances with a military theme occur on the flight deck and fifth deck. For ¥30, you can take a 5 minute motorboat ride around the starboard side of the Minsk and get a good view of it that is not possible from the shore. There are also several exhibits of PLA military equipment on the grounds. Admission is ¥110. The park can be reached via taxi from Lo Hu.
  • Safari Park Shenzhen.
  • Sea World — Currently being fixed and repaired because of a recent storm that flooded most of it.
  • Shenzhen Garden and Flower Exposition Center — A huge outdoor park with a pagoda and beautiful waterfall. Metro: Qiao Cheng Dong, exit A. Admission is ¥50.
  • Shenzhen Horse Racing Club.
  • Shiyan Lake Hot Spring Resort.
  • Splendid China & Chinese Folk Culture Village — A miniature park of China. It contains 24 villages, houses and streets are built in 1:15 ratio. You can find the real people, culture, fashion, habits, religion, language and some foods of 56 nationalities in China, such as Miao, Yi, Bai, Mongol, Uygur and many others. You can find the famous Forbidden City, Terracotta Soldiers, Tibet Potala Palace, Huangshan Mountains, Yunnan's Stone Forest, and of course the Great Wall of China. This miniature park covers 300 thousand square meters, fully forested with beautiful greenery and flower. Do not miss the greatest colossal performance at Chinese Folk Culture Village. Metro: Qiao Cheng Dong.
  • clip_image009Window of The World — Travel around the world in one day. This 480,000 square meters park has a beautiful natural landscapes and wonderful lighting at night. Inside, you can climb the 1:3 ratio Eiffel Tower, Egyptian Pyramid, Pisa Tower, Taj Mahal of India, Grand Canyon, and other famous places of interest. Metro: Shi Jie Zhi Chuang.

  • Xian Hu Buddhist Temple.


Shenzhen Museum

Located at No. 1008 on Shennan Road Central, Shenzhen Museum is one of the eight "cultural establishments" in the early 1980s in Shenzhen. Construction started in February 1984 and the museum opened to the public in November 1988. The museum features both traditional and modern architectural styles and was awarded second prize in the design contest for the best public cultural facilities in China. The museum houses local historical and cultural relics and was visited by former Chinese President Jiang Zemin and other Party and State leaders and heads of state from 81 countries.


  • clip_image001[5]Lo Wu (Luo Hu) Commercial City is just across from the Hong Kong border. It offers a very different experience to shopping in Hong Kong and is therefore worth a visit if only spending a short time in China. Spread over several levels are many small stores, each selling similar products: watches, jewellery, handbags, clothes and DVDs. These products are rarely authentic but they are often very well made and detailed fakes. There are many stallholders pressuring shoppers to part with their money but the atmosphere is one of enjoyable bartering. This is the place to go for Western sizes in clothing and shoes! This is also the place to go to have massages and nails done dirt cheap as well. Metro: Luohu, exit A.
  • Dong Men Pedestrian Street is the place to go for clothes and small-ticket items. This place is better than Luohu Commercial City in terms of price and range of items. Other than several department stores, most are smaller stalls. The price is cheap, even at local standards. You can easily spend a day there. Metro: Lao Jie, exit A.
  • Dong Hai Pacific Mall — New movie theatre and 4 level mall, featuring array of restaurants, coffee shops, clothing and other goods. In the heart of 东海 (Dong Hai) neighborhood on the west side of 福田区 (the FuTian district). Just 2 blocks from the Sam's Club/Cinema complex (see below). Accessible from 车公庙地铁站 (CheGongMiao metro station).
  • Wal Mart — Currently there are 8 stores but more are being built all the time. Also check out Carrefour, and Sam's Club. Sam's membership is ¥150. In Futian, they are building a huge Sam's/Wal Mart/ multi-plex theatre.
  • MixC Shopping Mall is for now the largest (and easily the most expensive) shopping mall in Shenzhen. Highlights include the following: Olympic size indoor Ice Skating Rink, Golden Harvest Cinema movie theater, Ole (high end supermarket with many imported items), Spaghetti House, Starbucks, and Taco Bell (not the fast food variety, but an actual restaurant). Metro: Da Ju Yuan, exit C-3.
  • Hua Qiang Bei — Much like Dong Men, this is the place for anything electronic. Starbucks is here too. Metro: Hua Qiang Lu, exit A.
  • Jusco — The Japanese supercenter if you crave western stuff has a location in Shenshen, next door to the CITIC Mall (which also has Starbucks). Metro: Ke Xue Guan, exit D.
  • KingGlory Plaza — A mall, along the lines of MixC. It is fairly high priced. It includes a movie theater as well as the "IN" bar/nightclub (that's the name of it) and "Yellow" bar. Metro: Guo Mao, exit A.
  • Shekou — The expat hangout with everything western that you might be accustomed to. And they have Western food at the local Park-N-Shop Store too. Bus numbers 113, K113, 204, K204 and 328 to the end of the line (to the West) will get you to Shekou.
  • Shenzhen Book City, 5033 Shennandong Rd, Jinshan Plaza, Metro: Ke Xue Guan, exit A. This is a huge bookstore with a great selection of books, music, movies, and multimedia products. The bookstore is the second biggest in the country.
  • Coco Park — New shopping mega complex, located near 购物公园 (shopping center Gou Wu Gong Yuan) metro station. Sports clothing, fashion, some restaurants, including "Norway.Oslo" which has some outdoor seating.
  • SEG Electronics Market — A huge market for all things electronic. The first two floors are components (ICs, wires, switches, etc.) and the other 4 floors will supply you with any electronic device your heart desires.
  • Mingtong Electronics Market — Few minutes from the SEG market houses watch parts, electronic toys, and mobile phone parts.
  • Central Walk — Another Shopping complex in Shenzhen. Base tenant is Carrefour, but also has usual shops, restaurants and a cinema. Starbucks and Italian Best Coffee (Illy Coffee) are located here. Subway (Sandwiches) also has opened here. Located one block away from the exhibition centre on Fuhua Road. Take Metro to Exhibition Centre stop and Central Walk is located at exit B. 5 minutes walk from Coco Park.

Major credit cards i.e. Visa, Masters, HSBC are accepted throughout Shenzhen. JCB and American Express have limited coverage. Cirrus, Plus & Maestro facilities allow owners to withdraw money from banks. Remember to activate your card for the pin usage. MixC has ATMs for some of the international Credit Cards, wherein cash can be withdrawn in those ATMs against your credit limit.

Bank of China, China Merchants Bank, and most Chinese banks accept foreign cards. You may check with your bank to see if they have a local branch here. Most ATMs are open for 24 hours. Some are only opened if you swipe the card at the security doors.

At places in Luo Hu, Cash is highly recommended. Some places charge an extra 10% for credit card purchases. The shop assistants will bring you to shops that have credit card processing machines. At Shopping centers, remember to check with the cashiers to see if they accept credit cards before making purchases. There are few shopping centers that accept credit card with passport verification, though you may lose your discount on the purchase.

For currency information, see the China page.



Shanghai Hotel

Located on Shennan Road Central, the Shanghai Hotel officially opened in 1985. It was a landmark building during the early period of the development of the Shenzhen Special Economic Zone, with the area to its east recognized as the urban area and the area to its west the suburb.

  • Shenzhen Guest House [15]. Located at the center of the busy Dongmen Commercial Area, this 3-star hotel has 584 well-kept guestrooms on offer. Business and leisure facilities are also available to suit a variety of needs.
  • Sunshine Hotel Shenzhen (Sunshine Hotel Shenzhen), [16]. Sunshine Hotel locates in Luohu commercial district, Shenzhen, only a five minute walk brings you to the center of business, shopping, entertainment, and the Guomao Metro Station (Exit A). edit
  • Home Inns — It is the biggest and most reliable economy hotel chain in China. It features high quality and consistent standard rooms with very reasonable prices.
  • Crowne Plaza Hotel (Aka Venice Shen Zhen Hotel in Mandarin) — A four star hotel, located near Window of the World Train station, the Window of the World & Happy Valley (Amusement park). Nice facilities, seasoned staff and excellent service.
  • Holiday Inn — Right in the middle of the center and only three stops from the border. Very new and clean hotel, excellent services for business and leisure travelers. Also includes free Wi-Fi internet access. The staff speaks English reasonably well.
  • Oriental Ginza, Futian district. Four star hotel with excellent service, English speaking staff, and services for both business and leisure travelers. Also includes free internet access. You can get a huge room for less than US$60/night.
  • Windsor Hotel (温莎酒店), 2062 Nanxin Rd, Anshan District. While a little far out of the way the staff is friendly (although English is limited) and the hotel is quiet and clean. Sizable doubles with air conditioning, private bathrooms and free internet (they provide the cable). Rooms start at ¥168 per night.
  • LOFT International Youth Hostel - Double Bed Room for ¥168. Bigger suites available up to 3 bedroom, for under ¥400. Offers beds in its dormitories at between ¥50-60 /night, with a ¥100 deposit. Modern place with keycards, free Wi-Fi, and a nearby supermarket. The hostel can be a bit difficult to find, it is in an industrial estate quite far from the center. Take the metro to Qiaochengdong, head out through Exit A and continue straight along Shennan road for a hundred meters. You will see one massive sign, and several smaller ones, marking a building ahead on your right with "KONKA". Turn right just before that, onto En Ping street. Take a left at the T-section and continue along En Ping, the hostel will be on your right hand side.
  • Intercontinental Shenzhen - A "first-class" hotel which is almost considered a 6-star rating. With a fine selection of foods including Chinese, Mediterranean, Italian, Seafood, and a wide variety of desserts can be found in it's buffet- roughly ¥300. If you are looking for a simple meal that's relatively cheap, you can go to their Chinese restaurant which has a perfect atmosphere to anyone who attends a meal there. Prices of the basic rooms are around ¥1,498.00- ¥1,678.00, and the more deluxe rooms range from ¥1,648.00- ¥5,678.00, [17].
  • Jin Jiang Shenzhen Airlines Hotel[18]. A five-star hotel in Shenzhen, Guangdong, China. Offers elegant rooms with city views, banquet hall, conference rooms, health club with indoor pool, and room service. Local Spas — For ¥80 you can get a massage, swim, and relax, before sleeping. Not ideal conditions, but the price is right. Note: At Chinese New Year (usually February), prices may double or increase many fold. ==Stay safe== Crime levels in Shenzhen are significantly higher than in neighbouring Hong Kong. That being said, it is still no reason to panic as the crime levels are still comparable with any of the great Western cities like Sydney, London or New York. Use your usual commonsense and avoid going to deserted places alone at night, and you will probably be fine. Shenzhen has lots of pickpockets, especially in areas like bus and train stations. Leave your passports in the Hotel's safe deposit. Divide your cash by stuffing some in your pants pocket too. Be careful to exchange money only with recognized places or people as they may give you fake currency. To be safe, only do your currency exchange at the Bank of China. Be sure to keep an eye on the bigger notes (¥100 especially) given during payment to the salespeople, they may exchange it under the table while you are not watching and claim that you have given them a fake note. It is recommended to always keep loose change (smaller denominations) while taking a taxi or shopping at the market. LoWu District and particularly the old part is REAL Chinese culture. You will not find any westerners there but if you are friendly and patient you will discover that the people although very poor by any standards are full of life and very honest. Almost no one will speak any English in this district but don't let that put you off. BE POLITE and FRIENDLY and remember not to shake hands like a hairy foreigner. Be gentle. These are gentle and genuinely nice honest people, in my experience. Although many of the shop holders will go to the electronices district and other places to buy items to resell the bargains are fabulous. Try not to buy too many shoes. They have a wide selection at great prices. You can catch a 97 bus from in front of the Golden Business Centre (Bentley) for 2 yuan but in the old villiage the bus stops are not marked. You will know when you are close because the streets will be packed with people with bicycles taxis buses and cars going both directions with no apparent concern about road rules as westerners know it. ==Get out== *Hong Kong


Luohu Checkpoint Building

Luohu Checkpoint was the first Customs and immigration checkpoint in Shenzhen. Located on the northern bank of Shenzhen River in Huohu District, the new Luohu Checkpoint Building was completed in April 1985. Luohu Checkpoint boasts the heaviest entry and exit traffic of all the overland checkpoints in China, serving as an important gateway connecting the Chinese mainland with Hong Kon

Forbidden City

clip_image004The Forbidden City is the world's largest surviving palace complex and covers 72 ha. It is a rectangle 961 metres from north to south and 753 metres from east to west. It consists of 980 surviving buildings with 8,707 bays of rooms.[1] The Forbidden City was designed to be the centre of the ancient, walled city of Beijing. It is enclosed in a larger, walled area called the Imperial City. The Imperial City is, in turn, enclosed by the Inner City; to its south lies the Outer City.

The Forbidden City remains important in the civic scheme of Beijing. The central north-south axis remains the central axis of Beijing. This axis extends to the south through Tiananmen gate to Tiananmen Square, the ceremonial centre of the People's Republic of China. To the north, it extends through the Bell and Drum Towers to Yongdingmen.[31] Interestingly, this axis is not exactly aligned north-south, but is tilted by slightly more than two degrees. Researchers now believe that the axis was designed in the Yuan Dynasty to be aligned with Xanadu, the other capital of the empire.[32]
Balls and gates



Meridian Gate, the front entrance to the Forbidden City, with two protruding wings.



The northwest corner tower

The Forbidden City is surrounded by a 7.9-metre high city wall[33] and a six-metre deep, 52-metre wide moat. The walls are 8.62 metres wide at the base, tapering to 6.66 metres at the top.[34] These walls served as both defensive walls and retaining walls for the palace. They were constructed with a rammed earth core, and surfaced with three layers of specially baked bricks on both sides, with the interstices filled with mortar.[35]

At the four corners of the wall sit towers ("E") with intricate roofs boasting 72 ridges, reproducing the Pavilion of Prince Teng and the Yellow Crane Pavilion as they appeared in Song Dynasty paintings.[35] These towers are the most visible parts of the palace to commoners outside the walls, and much folklore is attached to them. According to one legend, artisans could not put a corner tower back together after it was dismantled for renovations in the early Qing Dynasty, and it was only rebuilt after the intervention of carpenter-immortal Lu Ban.[33]

The wall is pierced by a gate on each side. At the southern end is the main Meridian Gate ("A").[36] To the north is the Gate of Divine Might ("B"), which faces Jingshan Park. The east and west gates are called the "East Glorious Gate" ("D") and "West Glorious Gate" ("C"). All gates in the Forbidden City are decorated with a nine-by-nine array of golden door nails, except for the East Glorious Gate, which has only eight rows.[37]

The Meridian Gate has two protruding wings forming three sides of a square (Wumen, or Meridian Gate, Square) before it.[38] The gate has five gateways. The central gateway is part of the Imperial Way, a stone flagged path that forms the central axis of the Forbidden City and the ancient city of Beijing itself, and leads all the way from the Gate of China in the south to Jingshan in the north. Only the Emperor may walk or ride on the Imperial Way, except for the Empress on the occasion of her wedding, and successful students after the Imperial Examination.[37]

Outer Court

clip_image004 clip_image005

The Hall of Supreme Harmony The throne in the Hall of Preserving Harmony



The Hall of Central Harmony (foreground) and the Hall of Preserving Harmony

Traditionally, the Forbidden City is divided into two parts. The Outer Court () or Front Court () includes the southern sections, and was used for ceremonial purposes. The Inner Court () or Back Palace () includes the northern sections, and was the residence of the Emperor and his family, and was used for day-to-day affairs of state. (The approximate dividing line shown as red dash in the plan above). Generally, the Forbidden City has three vertical axes. The most important buildings are situated on the central north-south axis.[37]

Entering from the Meridian Gate, one encounters a large square, pierced by the meandering Inner Golden Water River, which is crossed by five bridges. Beyond the square stands the Gate of Supreme Harmony ("F"). Behind that is the Hall of Supreme Harmony Square.[39] A three-tiered white marble terrace rises from this square. Three halls stand on top of this terrace, the focus of the palace complex. From the south, these are the Hall of Supreme Harmony (殿), the Hall of Central Harmony (殿), and the Hall of Preserving Harmony (殿).[40]

The Hall of Supreme Harmony ("G") is the largest, and rises some 30 metres above the level of the surrounding square. It is the ceremonial centre of imperial power, and the largest surviving wooden structure in China. It is nine bays wide and five bays deep, the numbers 13 and 20 being symbolically connected to the majesty of the Emperor.[41] Set into the ceiling at the centre of the hall is an intricate caisson decorated with a coiled dragon, from the mouth of which issues a chandelier-like set of metal balls, called the "Xuanyuan Mirror".[42] In the Ming Dynasty, the Emperor held court here to discuss affairs of state. During the Qing Dynasty, as Emperors held court far more frequently, a less ceremonious location was used instead, and the Hall of Supreme Harmony was only used for ceremonial purposes, such as coronations, investitures, and imperial weddings.[43]

The Hall of Central Harmony is a smaller, square hall, used by the Emperor to prepare and rest before and during ceremonies.[44] Behind it, the Hall of Preserving Harmony, was used for rehearsing ceremonies, and was also the site of the final stage of the Imperial examination.[45] All three halls feature imperial thrones, the largest and most elaborate one being that in the Hall of Supreme Harmony.[46]

At the centre of the ramps leading up to the terraces from the northern and southern sides are ceremonial ramps, part of the Imperial Way, featuring elaborate and symbolic bas-relief carvings. The northern ramp, behind the Hall of Preserving Harmony, is carved from a single piece of stone 16.57 metres long, 3.07 metres wide, and 1.7 metres thick. It weighs some 200 tonnes and is the largest such carving in China.[6] The southern ramp, in front of the Hall of Supreme Harmony, is even longer, but is made from two stone slabs joined together — the joint was ingeniously hidden using overlapping bas-relief carvings, and was only discovered when weathering widened the gap in the 20th century.[47]

In the south west and south east of the Outer Court are the halls of Military Eminence ("H") and Literary Glory ("J"). The former was used at various times for the Emperor to receive ministers and hold court, and later housed the Palace's own printing house. The latter was used for ceremonial lectures by highly regarded Confucian scholars, and later became the office of the Grand Secretariat. A copy of the Siku Quanshu was stored there. To the north-east are the Southern Three Places () ("K"), which was the residence of the Crown Prince.[39]

Inner Court

The Inner Court is separated from the Outer Court by an oblong courtyard lying orthogonal to the City's main axis. It was the home of the Emperor and his family. In the Qing Dynasty, the Emperor lived and worked almost exclusively in the Inner Court, with the Outer Court used only for ceremonial purposes.[48]



The Palace of Heavenly Purity

At the centre of the Inner Court is another set of three halls ("L"). From the south, these are the Palace of Heavenly Purity (), Hall of Union, and the Palace of Earthly Tranquility. Smaller than the Outer Court halls, the three halls of the Inner Court were the official residences of the Emperor and the Empress. The Emperor, representing Yang and the Heavens, would occupy the Palace of Heavenly Purity. The Empress, representing Yin and the Earth, would occupy the Palace of Earthly Tranquility. In between them was the Hall of Union, where the Yin and Yang mixed to produce harmony.[49]



The throne in the Palace of Heavenly Purity

The Palace of Heavenly Purity is a double-eaved building, and set on a single-level white marble platform. It is connected to the Gate of Heavenly Purity to its south by a raised walkway. In the Ming Dynasty, it was the residence of the Emperor. However, beginning from the Yongzheng Emperor of the Qing Dynasty, the Emperor lived instead at the smaller Hall of Mental Cultivation to the west, out of respect to the memory of the Kangxi Emperor.[33] The Palace of Heavenly Purity then became the Emperor's audience hall.[50] A caisson is set into the roof, featuring a coiled dragon. Above the throne hangs a tablet reading "Justice and Honour" (Chinese: 正大光明; pinyin: zhèngdàguāngmíng).[51]

The Palace of Earthly Tranquility () is a double-eaved building, 9 bays wide and 3 bays deep. In the Ming Dynasty, it was the residence of the Empress. In the Qing Dynasty, large portions of the Palace were converted for Shamanist worship by the new Manchu rulers. From the reign of the Yongzheng Emperor, the Empress moved out of the Palace. However, two rooms in the Palace of Earthly Harmony were retained for use on the Emperor's wedding night.[52]

Between these two palaces is the Hall of Union, which is square in shape with a pyramidal roof. Stored here are the twenty-five Imperial Seals of the Qing Dynasty, as well as other ceremonial items.[53]



The Nine Dragons Screen in front of the Palace of Tranquil Longevity

Behind these three halls lies the Imperial Garden ("M"). Relatively small, and compact in design, the garden nevertheless contains several elaborate landscaping features.[54] To the north of the garden is the Gate of Divine Might, the north gate of the palace.

Distributed to the east and west of the three main halls are a series of self-contained courtyards and minor palaces, where the Emperor's concubines and children lived. Directly to the west is the Hall of Mental Cultivation ("N"). Originally a minor palace, this became the de facto residence and office of the Emperor starting from Yongzheng. In the last decades of the Qing Dynasty, empresses dowager, including Cixi, held court from the eastern partition of the hall. Located around the Hall of Mental Cultivation are the offices of the Grand Council and other key government bodies.[55]

The north-eastern section of the Inner Court is taken up by the Palace of Tranquil Longevity (宁寿宫) ("O"), a complex built by the Qianlong Emperor in anticipation of his retirement. It mirrors the set-up of the Forbidden City proper and features an "outer court", an "inner court", and gardens and temples. The entrance to the Palace of Tranquil Longevity is marked by a glazed-tile Nine Dragons Screen.[56]


Religion was an important part of life for the imperial court. In the Qing Dynasty, the Palace of Earthly Harmony became a place of Manchu Shamanist ceremony. At the same time, the native Chinese Taoist religion continued to have an important role throughout the Ming and Qing dynasties. There were two Taoist shrines, one in the imperial garden and another in the central area of the Inner Court.[57]

Another prevalent form of religion in the Qing Dynasty palace was Tibetan Buddhism, or Lamaism. A number of temples and shrines were scattered throughout the Inner Court. Buddhist iconography also proliferated in the interior decorations of many buildings.[58] Of these, the Pavilion of the Rain of Flowers is one of the most important. It housed a large number of Buddhist statues, icons, and mandalas, placed in ritualistic arrangements.[59]


Main article: History of the Forbidden City



The Forbidden City as depicted in a Ming Dynasty painting

The site of the Forbidden City was part of the Imperial city during the Mongol Yuan Dynasty. Upon the establishment of the Ming Dynasty, the Hongwu Emperor moved the capital from Beijing in the north to Nanjing in the south, and ordered that the Mongol palaces be razed. When his son Zhu Di became the Yongle Emperor, he moved the capital to Beijing, and construction began in 1406 of what would become the Forbidden City.[4]

Construction lasted 15 years, and required more than a million workers.[6] Material used include whole logs of precious Phoebe zhennan wood (Chinese: 楠木; pinyin: nánmù) found in the jungles of south-western China, and large blocks of marble from quarries near Beijing.[7] The floors of major halls were paved with "golden bricks" (Chinese: ; pinyin: jīnzhuān), specially baked paving bricks from Suzhou.[6]

From 1420 to 1644, the Forbidden City was the seat of the Ming Dynasty. In April 1644, it was captured by rebel forces led by Li Zicheng, who proclaimed himself emperor of the Shun Dynasty.[8] He soon fled before the combined armies of former Ming general Wu Sangui and Manchu forces, setting fire to parts of the Forbidden City in the process.[9] By October, the Manchus had achieved supremacy in northern China, and a ceremony was held at the Forbidden City to proclaim the young Shunzhi Emperor as ruler of all China under the Qing Dynasty.[10] The Qing rulers changed the names of the principal buildings, to emphasise "Harmony" rather than "Supremacy",[11] made the name plates bilingual (Chinese and Manchu),[12] and introduced Shamanist elements to the palace.[13]

In 1860, during the Second Opium War, Anglo-French forces took control of the Forbidden City and occupied it until the end of the war.[14] In 1900 Empress Dowager Cixi fled from the Forbidden City during the Boxer Rebellion, leaving it to be occupied by forces of the treaty powers until the following year.

After being the home of 24 emperors—fourteen of the Ming Dynasty and ten of the Qing Dynasty—the Forbidden City ceased being the political center of China in 1912 with the abdication of Puyi, the last Emperor of China[15]. Puyi sold many treasures to finance his expensive lifestyle, while others were stolen by palace eunuchs. Under an agreement with the new Republic of China government, Puyi remained in the Inner Court, while the Outer Court was given over to public use,[16] until he was evicted after a coup in 1924.[17] The Palace Museum was then established in the Forbidden City.[18] In 1933, the Japanese invasion of China forced the evacuation of the national treasures in the Forbidden City.[19] Part of the collection was returned at the end of World War II,[20] but the other part was evacuated to Taiwan in 1947 under orders by Chiang Kai-shek, whose Kuomintang was losing the Chinese Civil War. This relatively small but high quality collection was kept in storage for many years since the KMT still hoped to return to the mainland. Finally, in 1965, they again became public, at the core of the National Palace Museum in Taipei.[21]



The East Glorious Gate under renovation as part of the 19-year restoration process.

After the establishment of the People's Republic of China in 1949, some damage was done to the Forbidden City as the country was swept up in revolutionary zeal.[22] During the Cultural Revolution, however, further destruction was prevented when Premier Zhou Enlai sent an army battalion to guard the city.[23]

The Forbidden City was declared a World Heritage Site in 1987 by UNESCO as the "Imperial Palace of the Ming and Qing Dynasties",[24] due to its significant place in the development of Chinese architecture and culture. It is currently administered by the Palace Museum, which is currently carrying out a sixteen-year restoration project to repair and restore all buildings in the Forbidden City to their pre-1912 state.[25]

In recent years, the presence of commercial enterprises in the Forbidden City has become controversial.[26] A Starbucks store,[27] which opened in 2000,[28] sparked objections[29] and eventually closed on July 13, 2007. Chinese media also took notice of a pair of souvenir shops that refused to admit Chinese citizens in order to price-gouge foreign customers in 2006.

The forbidden city is a vast complex of halls, temples and housing which make up the former residence of the ancient emperors. Also known as the Imperial Palace, the complex is said to contain 9,999 rooms.


The complex is divided into a northern and southern part. The southern area is where the emperor would hold ceremonies and entertain guests. The northern half was kept completely private residence accessible only to the select circles of the emperor.


Today, the Forbidden City is one of the world's most famous tourist attractions and lately becoming ever more popular with film crews who pay a hefty price to film Chinese period pieces.



As you walk around the Forbidden City you can really lose yourself as the outside world of Beijing is barely visible from most parts. You can really experience a little of the feel of being a Chinese Emperor.


The price to get into the Forbidden City is pretty high, around 60 RMB but you will easily while away a couple of hours here. For an additional 20 RMB or so, you can purchase an audio tour in one of many languages. This tour is world-class. The English version is done by Roger Moore (of James Bond fame). Together with some sound effects he expertly guides you through the complex. Worth every penny.

Getting to the Forbidden City couldn't be easier. It is located at the rear of Tiananmen Square. You can go to the Tiananmen East (116) or Tiananmen West (117) Line 1 subway stations and walk behind Mao's picture.

Like Tiananmen, we do not recommend you go by taxi to the Forbidden City unless you live a long way away as the taxis cannot easily park near the south entrance. Instead you can go by subway or walk from Wangfujing Street. The name of the Forbidden City in Chinese is as follows.

Hokkaido City, Japan

Hokkaidō (help·info) (北海道, ? literally "North Sea Circuit"), formerly known as Ezo, Yezo, Yeso, or Yesso, is Japan's second largest island and the largest, northernmost of its 47 prefectural-level subdivisions. The Tsugaru Strait separates Hokkaidō from Honshū, although the two islands are connected by the underwater Seikan Tunnel. The largest city on Hokkaidō is its capital, Sapporo, which is also its only ordinance-designated city.

Naming of Hokkaidō

When establishing the Development Commission (開拓使), the Meiji Government decided to change the name of Ezochi. Matsuura Takeshirō submitted six ideas, including names such as Kaihokudo (海北道) and Hokkaidō (北加伊道) to the government. The government eventually decided to use the name Hokkaidō, but decided to write it as 北海道, as a compromise between 海北道 and because of the similarity with names such as Tōkaidō (東海道). According to Matsuura, the name was thought up because the Ainu called the region Kai. Historically, many peoples who had interactions with the ancestors of the Ainu called them and their islands Kuyi, Kuye, Qoy, or some similar name, which may have some connection to the early modern form Kai. The Kai element also strongly resembles the Sino-Japanese reading of the characters 蝦夷 (Sino-Japanese /ka.i/, Japanese kun /emisi/), which have been used for over a thousand years in China and Japan as the standard orthographic form to be used when referring to Ainu and related peoples; it is possible that Matsuura's Kai was actually an alteration, influenced by the Sino-Japanese reading of 蝦夷 Ka-i, of the Nivkh exonym for the Ainu, namely Qoy.


Sōunkyō, a gorge in the Daisetsu-zan Volcanic Area.

The island of Hokkaidō is located at the north end of Japan, near Russia, and has coastlines on the Sea of Japan, the Sea of Okhotsk, and the Pacific Ocean. The center of the island has a number of mountains and volcanic plateaus, and there are coastal plains in all directions. Major cities include Sapporo and Asahikawa in the central region and the port of Hakodate facing Honshū.

The governmental jurisdiction of Hokkaidō incorporates several smaller islands, including Rishiri, Okushiri Island, and Rebun. (By Japanese reckoning, Hokkaidō also incorporates several of the Kuril Islands.) Because the prefectural status of Hokkaidō is denoted by the in its name, it is rarely referred to as "Hokkaidō Prefecture", except when necessary to distinguish the governmental entity from the island.

The island ranks 21st in the world by area. It is 3.6% smaller than the island of Ireland while Hispaniola is 6.1% smaller than Hokkaidō. By population it ranks 20th, between Ireland and Sicily. Hokkaidō's population is 4.7% less than that of the island of Ireland, and Sicily's is 12% lower than Hokkaidō's.

Seismic activity

Like the rest of Japan, Hokkaidō is seismically active. Aside from numerous earthquakes, the following volcanoes are still considered active (at least one eruption since 1850):

See also: Category:Volcanoes of Hokkaidō

In 1993, an earthquake of magnitude 7.8 generated a tsunami which devastated Okushiri, killing 202. An earthquake of magnitude 8.0 struck near the island on 25 September 2003 at 19:50:07 (UTC).

National Parks and quasi-national parks

There are still many undisturbed forests in Hokkaidō, including:

National parks

Shiretoko National Park*

Akan National Park

Kushiro Shitsugen National Park

Daisetsuzan National Park

Shikotsu-Toya National Park

Rishiri-Rebun-Sarobetsu National Park

* designated a World Heritage Site by UNESCO on 2005-07-14.


Map of Hokkaidō showing the subprefectures and the biggest cities.

Main article: Subprefectures in Hokkaidō

Hokkaidō is one of eight prefectures in Japan that have subprefectures or local offices (the others being Tokyo, Yamagata Prefecture, Nagasaki Prefecture, Okinawa Prefecture, Kagoshima Prefecture, Miyazaki Prefecture and Shimane Prefecture). However, it is the only one of the eight to have such offices covering the whole of its territory outside the main cities (rather than having them just for outlying islands or remote areas). This is mostly due to its great size: many parts of the prefecture are simply too far away to be effectively administered by Sapporo. Subprefectural offices in Hokkaidō carry out many of the duties that prefectural offices fulfill elsewhere in Japan.

Before the current political divisions and after 1869, Hokkaidō was divided into provinces. See Former Provinces of Hokkaidō.

Major cities and towns

See also: List of cities in Hokkaidō

Former Hokkaido Government Office in Chuo-ku, Sapporo

Hokkaidō's largest city is the capital, Sapporo. Other major cities include Hakodate in the south and Asahikawa in the central region. Other important population centers include Kushiro, Obihiro, Abashiri, Nemuro.

Hokkaidō has the highest rate of depopulation in Japan. In 2000, 152 (71.7%) of Hokkaidō's 212 municipalities were shrinking. Total shrinking municipalities in Japan in the same year number 1,171.[citation needed]


Hokkaidō is Japan's predominant agricultural area. It leads the country in the production of rice and fish, and shares the lead in vegetable farming.[citation needed]

Although there is some light industry (most notably paper milling, brewing (Sapporo beer), and food production), most of the population is employed by the service sector. Tourism is an important industry, especially during the cool summertime that attracts campers and hot spring-goers from across Japan. During the winter, skiing and other winter sports bring tourists, and increasingly international tourists, to Hokkaidō.[6]


Hokkaidō's only land link to the rest of Japan is the Seikan Tunnel. Most travelers to the island arrive by air: the main airport is New Chitose Airport at Chitose, just south of Sapporo. Tokyo-Chitose is in the top 10 of the world's busiest air routes, handling 45 widebody round trips on four airlines each day. One of the airlines, Air Do was named after Hokkai. Hokkaidō can also be reached by ferry from Sendai, Niigata and some other cities, with the ferries from Tokyo dealing only in cargo .

Within Hokkaidō, there is a fairly well-developed railway network (see Hokkaidō Railway Company), but many cities can only be accessed by road.

Hokkaidō is home to one of Japan's three Melody Roads, which is made from grooves cut into the ground, which when driven over causes a tactile vibration and audible rumbling transmitted through the wheels into the car body.[7][8]


The Hokkaidō Prefectural Board of Education oversees public schools in Hokkaidō. The board directly operates public high schools. [1] has a list of public high schools in Japanese.

Venice, Italy

clip_image004Venice (Italian: Venezia, Venetian: Venesia or Venexia) is a city in northern Italy, the capital of the region Veneto, and has a population of 271,251 (census estimate January 1, 2004). Together with Padua, the city is included in the Padua-Venice Metropolitan Area (population 1,600,000). Venice has been known as the "La Dominante", "Serenissima", "Queen of the Adriatic", "City of Water", "City of Bridges", and "The City of Light". It is considered by many to be one of the most beautiful cities in the world.

The city stretches across 118 small islands in the marshy Venetian Lagoon along the Adriatic Sea in northeast Italy. The saltwater lagoon stretches along the shoreline between the mouths of the Po (south) and the Piave (north) Rivers. The population estimate of 272,000 inhabitants includes the population of the whole Comune of Venezia; around 62,000 in the historic city of Venice (Centro storico); 176,000 in Terraferma (the Mainland), mostly in the large frazione of Mestre and Marghera; and 31,000 live on other islands in the lagoon.



High water in Venice



Venice and surroundings in false color, from TERRA satellite. The picture is oriented with North at the top

The Venetian Republic was a major maritime power during the Middle Ages and Renaissance, and a staging area for the Crusades and the Battle of Lepanto, as well as a very important center of commerce (especially silk, grain and spice trade) and art in the 13th century up to the end of the 17th century.

Venice and its Lagoon* UNESCO World Heritage Site


Origins and history

While there are no historical records that deal directly with the origins of Venice, the available evidence has led several historians to agree that the original population of Venice comprised refugees from Roman cities such as Padua, Aquileia, Altino and Concordia (modern Portogruaro) who were fleeing successive waves of Germanic invasions and Huns.[2] Some late Roman sources reveal the existence of fishermen on the islands in the original marshy lagoons. They were referred to as incola lacunae (lagoon dwellers).

Beginning in 166-168, the Quadi and Marcomanni destroyed the main center in the area, the current Oderzo. The Roman defenses were again overthrown in the early 5th century by the Visigoths and, some 50 years later, by the Huns led by Attila. The last and most enduring inruption was that of the Lombards in 568. This left the Eastern Roman Empire a small strip of coast in current Veneto, and the main administrative and religious entities were therefore transferred to this remaining dominion. New ports were built, including those at Malamocco and Torcello in the Venetian lagoon.

The Byzantine domination of central and northern Italy was subsequently largely eliminated by the conquest of the Exarchate of Ravenna in 751 by Aistulf. During this period, the seat of the local Byzantine governor (the "duke/doux", later "doge") was situated in Malamocco. Settlement across the islands in the lagoon probably increased in correspondence with the Lombard conquest of the Byzantine territories.

In 775-776, the bishopric seat of Olivolo (Helipolis) was created. During the reign of duke Agnello Particiaco (811-827) the ducal seat was moved from Malamocco to the highly protected Rialto (Rivoalto, "High Shore") island, the current location of Venice. The monastery of St. Zachary and the first ducal palace and basilica of St. Mark, as well as a walled defense (civitatis murus) between Olivolo and Rialto were subsequently built here.

In 828, the new city's prestige was raised by the theft of the relics of St. Mark the Evangelist from Alexandria, which were placed in the new basilica. The patriarchal seat was also moved to Rialto. As the community continued to develop and as Byzantine power waned, it led to the growth of autonomy and eventual independence.



Piazza San Marco in Venice.



These Horses of Saint Mark are a replica of the Triumphal Quadriga captured in Constantinople in 1204 and carried to Venice as a trophy




The Ponte dei Sospiri, the Bridge of Sighs

Venice is world-famous for its canals. It is built on an archipelago of 118 islands formed by about 150 canals in a shallow lagoon. The islands on which the city is built are connected by about 400 bridges. In the old center, the canals serve the function of roads, and every form of transport is on water or on foot. In the 19th century a causeway to the mainland brought a railway station to Venice, and an automobile causeway and parking lot was added in the 20th century. Beyond these land entrances at the northern edge of the city, transportation within the city remains, as it was in centuries past, entirely on water or on foot. Venice is Europe's largest urban car free area, unique in Europe in remaining a sizable functioning city in the 21st century entirely without motorcars or trucks.


The classical Venetian boat is the gondola, although it is now mostly used for tourists, or for weddings, funerals, or other ceremonies. Most Venetians now travel by motorised waterbuses (vaporetti) which ply regular routes along the major canals and between the city's islands. The city also has many private boats. The only gondolas still in common use by Venetians are the traghetti, foot passenger ferries crossing the Grand Canal at certain points without bridges. Visitors can also take the watertaxis between areas of the city.

Public transportation

Azienda Consorzio Trasporti Veneziano (ACTV) is the name of the public transport system in Venice. It combines both land transportation, with buses, and canal travel, with water buses (vaporetti). In total, there are 25 routes which connect the city.


Venice is served by the newly rebuilt Marco Polo International Airport, or Aeroporto di Venezia Marco Polo, named in honor of its famous citizen. The airport is on the mainland and was rebuilt away from the coast; however, the water taxis or Alilaguna waterbuses to Venice are only a seven-minute walk from the terminals.

Some airlines market Treviso Airport in Treviso, 20km from Venice, as a Venice gateway. Some simply advertise flights to "Venice" without naming the actual airport except in the small print.[10]


Venice is practically a no car zone, being built on the water. Cars can reach the car/bus terminal via the bridge (Ponte della Liberta) (SR11). It comes in from the West from Mestre. There are two parking lots which serve the city: Tronchetto and Piazzale Roma. Cars can be parked there 24hrs/7days a week for around 25 euros per day. From Tronchetto parking lot leaves a ferry to Lido. Tronchetto is served by vaporetti and buses of the public transportation. Currently, a people mover linking Tronchetto to Piazzale Roma is under construction. Expected time of opening is unknown.



View of Venice from St Mark's Campanile


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Grand Canal A small canal in Venice (Rio della Verona)



A winter sunset across the Grand Canal from the Rialto Bridge



Piazza San Marco and its famous pigeons


The sestieri are the primary traditional divisions of Venice. The city is divided into the six districts of Cannaregio, San Polo, Dorsoduro (including the Giudecca), Santa Croce, San Marco (including San Giorgio Maggiore), and Castello (including San Pietro di Castello and Sant'Elena). At the front of the Gondolas that work in the city there is a large piece of metal intended as a likeness of the Doge's hat. On this sit six notches pointing forwards and one pointing backwards. Each of these represent one of the Sestieri (the one which points backwards represents the Giudecca).


  • Biblioteca Nazionale Marciana
  • Casa Goldoni a Palazzo Centano
  • Galleria Giorgio Franchetti alla Ca' d'Oro
  • Galleria Internazionale d'Arte Moderna
  • Gallerie dell'Accademia
  • Galleria di Palazzo Cini
  • Museo Correr
  • Museo d'Arte Erotica
  • Museo d'Arte Orientale
  • Museo del Ghetto
  • Museo del Merletto di Burano
  • Museo del Settecento veneziano (Ca' Rezzonico)
  • Museo del Vetro di Murano
  • Museo dell'Istituto Ellenico
  • Museo della Fondazione Querini Stampalia
  • Museo della Scuola Dalmata dei SS. Giorgio e Trifone
  • Museo di Storia Naturale
  • Museo di Torcello
  • Museo Diocesano di Arte sacra
  • Museo Ebraico
  • Museo Marciano
  • Museo parrocchiale San Pietro Martire
  • Museo Storico Navale
  • Palazzo Fortuny
  • Palazzo Ducale
  • Palazzo Grassi
  • Peggy Guggenheim Collection
  • Pinacoteca e Museo di S. Lazzaro degli Armeni
  • Pinacoteca Manfrediniana
  • Scuola Grande dei Carmini
  • Scuola Grande di San Giovanni Evangelista
  • Scuola Grande di San Marco
  • Scuola Grande di San Rocco

Piazzas and campi

Palaces and palazzi



Venice, by Bolognino Zaltieri, 1565


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St Mark's Basilica Facade of St Mark's Basilica



Two gondolas in a narrow Venetian canal



Florians coffee bar in St. Mark's Square, a famous landmark in Venice

Other buildings



Venetian Villas

Main article: Palladian Villas of the Veneto

The villas of the Veneto, rural residences for nobles during the Republic, are one of the most interesting aspects of Venetian countryside. They are surrounded by elegant gardens, suitable for fashionable parties of high society. Most of these villas were designed by Palladio, and are now a UNESCO World Heritage Site. According to the architects, water around the villas was a very important architectural element because it added more brilliance to the façade.