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10 Most Popular Tourist Destinations in China

At a time of economic recession, we fully appreciate that you are mindful of the costs associated with your vacation this year, and we are confident that you would not wish to waste your precious vacation time on a marginal destination. We have therefore selected for your consideration some of China's most popular destinations as follows.

10 Most Popular Tourist Destinations in China

1. Beijing — Ancient and Modern Capital

beijing

Beijing, China's capital city for over 700 years, is rich in history, both ancient and modern.

Beijing is home to some of the finest remnants of China's imperial past, most famously the Great Wall of China, China's legendary line of defense; the Forbidden City, the largest and best-preserved ancient imperial palace complex in the world; the Temple of Heaven, fascinating site of imperial worship. There is also Tian'anmen Square where the People's Republic of China was inaugurated by Chairman Mao, whose body still resides there in its show casket.

Beijing has a glorious past, but is by no means stuck in the past. Standing side-by-side with old Beijing's crimson palace complexes are the city's modern buildings, the super-modern Olympic Village, with the Bird's Nest Stadium and Water Cube; the dazzling shopping malls in Wangfujing Street and the colorful entertainment center of Houhai.

Beijing roast duck or Peking Duck is the epitome of Beijing cuisine and if you had to choose just one dish to try whilst in the capital, this would be it.

2. Xi'an — A Window on China's Ancient Civilization

xian

As the second most famous of China's ancient national capitals (after Beijing), Xi'an was the first capital of a united China in 221 BC (the Qin Dynasty). It also served as the capital during the golden eras of the Han Dynasty (206 BC – 220 AD) and the Tang Dynasty (618–907).

Thus Xi'an is blessed with a great number of precious relics and historical sites, with the highlights being the Terracotta Army (a contender for the eighth wonder of the world), two historical Buddhist Pagodas (Big Wild Goose Pagoda and Small Wild Goose Pagoda), the Great Mosque, the Ancient City Wall, and the Banpo Site (a prehistoric civilization museum).

Xi'an was also the starting point of the Silk Road, an ancient trade route that extended from Asia to Europe and played an important role in economic and cultural exchange between the East and the West in ancient times.

3. Shanghai — China's Prosperous Largest City

shanghai

Shanghai, China's biggest city, oozes an atmosphere of vitality which can rival New York and Paris in terms of modernity. Shanghai is the second largest "city proper" in the world after Mumbai. As one of the world's leading economic and business cities, Shanghai's modernity is evidenced by the ambitious skyline.

Shanghai's colonial legacy combined with things Chinese has created a unique culture, which is a fusion of the East and the West. The Bund, the waterfront of the city gives a vivid illustration of the combination of East and West cultures through its large collection of colonial architecture.

Unlike Beijing, Shanghai does not brim with many great sights. Except for Yuyuan Garden, Jade Buddha Temple, and the Huangpu River Cruise, there are not many famous tourist attractions. However, the beauty of visiting Shanghai lies not in scurrying from sight to sight but in the feel of the city's modern atmosphere.

4. Guilin — China's Top Karst Landscape

guilin

Guilin, with its marvelous limestone scenery, is renowned as one of the most beautiful places on earth. During his visit, former US President Nixon was inspired by Guilin's picturesque natural scenery and remarked: "I have visited more than eighty countries and over a hundred cities. I have found that no city can surpass the beauty of Guilin."

The Li River is the essence of all Guilin tours, offering an easy and relaxing way to enjoy the picturesque scenery. Yangshuo is popular for foreign travelers with its idyllic karst countryside, its easy-going atmosphere, and its Western food and beer. Longji Terraced Fields is famous throughout China, if not throughout the world, for the scenic beauty of its terraced rice paddies, and for its Zhuang and Yao ethnic culture. 

Guilin is due west from Hong Kong, from which it can be reached by air in an hour. A tour of Hong Kong can be easily combined with a Guilin tour.

5. Hong Kong — Like Nowhere Else on the Earth

hong kong

Hong Kong is a fusion of cultures. Remnants of its colonial past, British culture, share space with Chinese tradition. Once known as an exotic port for Eastern trade, it is now famous for its movies.

Hong Kong is a world-renowned shopping paradise, known for its tourist-friendly atmosphere and numerous options. The huge shopping malls of Central, Admiralty and the street fashion factory in Causeway Bay are reasons for many travelers to make their Hong Kong trips.

Hong Kong also has some amazing beaches and natural sights for outdoor lovers. Lantau Island for example, provides a relaxing atmosphere for a holiday break.

Words fail to convey the essence of Hong Kong. If you want to appreciate this "Oriental London", visit Hong Kong ready for a fast-paced eye-opener.

6. Hangzhou — Next Best to Heaven

hangzhou

When Marco Polo came to Hangzhou in the 13th century, he declared it "the most beautiful and elegant city in the world". There is a popular Chinese saying: "Above there is heaven, below there are Hangzhou and Suzhou.

Hangzhou's "heavenly" beauty attracts hundreds of thousands of tourists to its exquisite West Lake area each year to enjoy the placid lake, beautiful gardens, reflecting pools, lavish temples, and lakeside tea houses. There are many well-known historical and cultural sites around West Lake, such as Lingyin Temple and Six Harmonies Pagoda.

The most famous products of Hangzhou are silk and tea. No wonder China's National Silk Museum and National Tea Museum are all located in Hangzhou. At the tea plantation located in the hills near West Lake, visitors can learn about the processing procedures for tea and watch a traditional tea ceremony.

7. Chengdu — Hometown of Giant Pandas

chengdu

Chengdu is the hometown of Giant Pandas. Although there are giant pandas in zoos in various places around China, the best place to see pandas is in Chengdu. Visitors can see Giant Pandas at Chengdu Giant Panda Breeding and Research Center, or take part in volunteer program at Dujiangyan Panda Valley

Besides, there are many historical sites, such as Sanxingdui Ruins Museum, Qingyang Palace. To experience the leisurely local life, visit the Wide and Narrow Alleys and Jinli Old Street, or sip tea while watching the magical face changing of Sichuan Opera.

Chengdu is also famous for delicious Sichuan food like kung pao chicken and hotpot. You can experience cooking the most authentic Sichuan cuisine with a local chef.

8. Huangshan — Majestic Beauty

huangshan

Huangshan is steeped in picturesque natural landscapes and history. Marvel at the peculiarly-shaped rocks and pines on the Yellow Mountains, appreciate the ancient-styled dwellings in Xidi and Hongcun villages

The Yellow Mountains is surely the most famous and most photographed and painted mountainous region in China. Outstanding natural beauty is its number one feature. Austere and majestic clean rock faces rise sheer among the mists, clung to by the hardiest of pines. There are hundreds of peaks and thousands of ravines, many made accessible by well-worn steps. Lotus Peak, Bright Summit, and Heavenly Capital Peak are the three major peaks, all rising more than 1,800 meters (5,900 feet) above sea level.

Nearby attractions not to be missed: Xidi Village and Hongcun Village present ancient China's elegance and tranquility with well-preserved ancient folk houses and flowing rivers. Xin'an River is a recent popular hiking destination, while Tachuan Village's autumn scenes are among the best in China.

9. Lhasa — Gateway to Transcendent Tibet

lhasa

Lhasa, capital of Tibet, is the gateway to explore Tibet. Tibet, the highest land o the earth is a world away, a traveler's dream.

Lhasa is the center of Tibetan cultural and religious life. "Lhasa" is Tibetan for "place of the gods", and is revered as such. There are many sites and religious sites in the city proper and its suburbs, among which the Potala Palace, Jokhang Temple, Drepung Monastery, Sera Monastery, and Norbulingka are world famous. At Barkhor Street, visitors can go souvenir hunting, rub shoulders with locals, and experience the sacred "one step one bow" way to religion.

Most tourists enter Tibet via Lhasa. Outside the city is Tibet's wealth of natural wonders and holy sites, from Lake Namtso to Mt. Everest, to Mount Kailash.

10. Suzhou — Elegant Water Towns and Gardens

suzhou

Suzhou is famous for the water towns around it and its traditional Chinese gardens, like Humble Administrator's Garden.

Suzhou's gardens harmoniously mix man-made landscapes with natural scenery: architecture, painting, calligraphy, and horticulture are combined, and enclosed like pearls by walls.

China's water towns hold the quintessential image of traditional Chinese villages. Centuries-old wooden houses lining crisscrossing canals, arched stone bridges, and people in bamboo hats punting sampans, form the unique charm of the ten or so water towns around Suzhou. The most popular ones are Zhouzhuang (very commercial), Xitang, and Tongli.

30 minutes by high-speed train from Shanghai, 5 hours from Beijing, it is very convenient to combine Beijing, Shanghai, and Suzhou in a tour.

Visit China with China Highlights

the great wall

It is not easy to organize an itinerary to all these attractions on your own. For a first trip to China, most choose to visit the Great Wall and Forbidden City in Beijing, view the Terracotta Army in Xi'an, and see the Shanghai skyline and enjoy stunning scenery in Guilin

These are our bestsellers, featuring the best cities to visit in China:

There are many options for return trips to China, you can get inspirations from these top places provided on this page, or tell your interests to our travel advisor, and they will help you tailor make a China trip!

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