Beijing is China’s exuberant capital city. It has no fewer than six UNESCO World Heritage Sites, including the Summer Palace, the Thirteen Tombs of the Ming Dynasty, the Forbidden City, the Temple of Heaven, the Zhoukoudian cave system and archaeological site and, of course, the Great Wall of China. Visitors to Beijing will want to make each of these culturally significant sites a priority. Another must-see is Tiananmen Square, where visitors will see Tiananmen Tower, the Great Hall of the People, and other significant monuments. Modern Beijing offers world-class museums and galleries, impressive modern architecture, traditional Chinese performing arts like the Peking opera, and thousands of extraordinary restaurants.
Shanghai which translates to “city by the sea” is exactly that, situated along the west side of the Pacific Ocean with the East China Sea to the east. Nestled in the center of China’s coastline, it is a vital river and sea port that gives easy access to its backcountry. The city itself is divided into two areas due to the Huangpu River; Pudong, the more modern area, is on the east side of the river while Puxi is on the west side of the river. It boasts an abundant number of attractions with top highlights including the People’s Square, Yu Garden, Lujiazui, Century Park, and the Nanjing Road Pedestrian Street.
Shenzhen is a beautiful coastal city located just over 20 miles away from Hong Kong. It borders the mouth of the Pearl River to the west, Dapeng Bay to the east, and the New Territory of Hong Kong to the south. The city is one of the most popular destinations in China due to its amusement centers, magnificent architecture, pristine beaches, and gorgeous landscape. The city is alive with culture and an energetic spirit, boasting a multitude of entertainment performances, festivals, and celebrations. Among its attraction highlights is the Window of the World, a theme park that features recreations of more than 130 famous attractions from all over the globe.
Chengdu is a 3000-year-old cultural city in the western Sichuan Basin and the capital of Sichuan Province. This picturesque area is known for its local folk customs, traditional crafts, and rich culture. However, it’s the Chengdu Panda Breeding and Research Center that brings travelers to Chengdu from all over the world for a chance to see the giant pandas. The Giant Panda Museum focuses public awareness on the threats to wild animals and their environments. Jinsha Site Museum displays the archaeological artifacts of the Jinsha site, including ivory, gold, and jade pieces, as well as realistic stone statues of kneeling figures, tigers, and snakes.
The modern port city of Chongqing sits at the confluence of the Jailing and Yangtze rivers. Yangtze River cruises to the spectacular Three Gorges begin here. Visitors taking the river cruise can expect to see famous sites like Chalk Wall, the hanging coffins of Bellows Gorge, the giant Rhinoceros Looking at the Moon, the Meng Liang Stairway, and Hanging Monk Rock. Another can’t-miss attraction is the Dazu Rock Carvings, with over 50,000 well-preserved statues and 100,000 Chinese characters. Back in the city, visitors will want to see the People’s Assembly Hall and the Chongqing Three Gorges Museum across Renmin Square, among eight other cultural symbols in the city.
Dalian is perched at the tip of the Liáodong Peninsula along the Yellow Sea In China. This modern seaside city has beautiful beaches, urban green space, and an impressive downtown. Xinghai Square, the city’s largest square, is host to an annual international beer festival, and 19th-century Russian Zhongshan Square is the most famous square. Tiger Beach Ocean Park is a marine park featuring a polar museum, coralarium, marine animal hall, and underwater experience. Outside the city in the Jinshou District, the Golden Pebble Beach National Resort hosts Dalian Discovery Kingdom, a theme park referred to as “the Disneyland of China.” Visitors will also find a golf course, flower exhibition hall, wax museum, and other attractions there.
Guangzhou, also known as “Flower City” for its subtropical blooms, is China’s southern gateway to Guangdong Province. The ancient city with a 2,200-year-old history has the distinction of being the beginning of the Maritime Silk Road. Though it’s a thoroughly modern city, it has deep roots in Lingnan indigenous culture, which permeates all facets of the city, from architecture to music to food. Some must-see attractions include a night cruise along the Pearl River to take in views of the city’s lovely Chinese architecture, panoramic city views from the astonishing 2,000-foot Canton Tower, and Chen Clan Academy’s folk art-styled historical hall of ancestor worship.
Guilin is China’s dream destination for travelers from around the world. The Li River trip between Guilin and Yangshuo is an absolute must-do activity, with literally hundreds of hills on either side of the emerald green river, often cloaked in mist. If that isn’t otherworldly enough, visitors can take in the glorious Longji (Longsheng) rice terraces, which display a new kind of magic with each season. Other Guilin attractions include the Dreaming Li River acrobatic show, the famous Elephant Trunk Hill, and the magnificently colorful Reed Flute Cave. Jingjiang Prince City, the incredible 1,400-year-old banyan tree, and Impression Sister Liu Light Shows should also make every traveler’s must-do list.
Hangzhou is a land of temples, gardens, arched bridges, and pavilions that has been a popular travel destination since the 9th century. The central attraction here is West Lake, with the Su Causeway, Broken Bridge, Pavilion of the Autumn Moon, and more. Yue Fei Temple at the end of Su Causeway holds 86 stone tablets with texts of Confucius. The Pagoda of the Six Harmonies provides lovely views of the Qiantang River. Lingyin Temple, a famous Buddhist monastery, showcases 12th-century sculptures and a gilded Buddha statue 20 meters tall. Other highlights include the Chinese National Silk Museum, Qinghefang Ancient Street in the historic district, and Longjing, home to the world famous Longjing tea.
The best time to visit Harbin is January during the annual Ice Lantern Festival and the Harbin Ice and Snow Festival. This ice and snow art festival draws hundreds of thousands of visitors from across the globe. Visitors will be awestruck by the international cultural event as ice sculpting competitors from around the world communicate with sculptures, light, and music. Several winter sports competitions add to the excitement, and cultural entertainment is woven into the event. The three best venues are Sun Island, Ice and Snow World, and Zhaolin Park, the last of which hosts the Ice Lantern Garden Party. Nicknamed Ice City, Harbin is also the economic, political, educational, and cultural pearl of northeastern China.