Which are the best cities to visit in China is a hard question to answer, even for people like us who travel the length and breadth of this vast, diverse, and exciting country to create China tours that make for beautiful travel memories.
So how do we narrow the list of best cities to visit in China when there’s so much to choose from?
Well, we like to keep things simple. We rely on the experience and wisdom of our travel consultants. We draw from the insights and first-hand knowledge of our local travel guides. And we’re big fans of the feedback we receive from our lovely customers who share their tour reviews while traveling on one of our small group, private or custom tours.
Of course the best places to visit in China is subjective, but our current list reflects what’s popular right now among our China travel adventurers. As we approach the busy Spring/Summer period for taking in China’s marvelous history, culture and contemporary expansion, here’s our ultimate China tour guide’s list.
Visit Beijing: it’s one of the best cities to visit in China
No best places to visit in China list would be complete without including the country’s modern capital Beijing.
A unique mix of history, culture, and China’s contemporary advancement, Beijing is a fascinating place. It’s sheer size alone – measured in its expanding population of over 21 million people and the endless view of cloud-topping highrise apartments – is enough to make the head of any China tour traveler spin.
While some may be satisfied with a single day tour, this simply does not do this immense city and surrounds justice.
Beijing offers so much. Its history alone – much of it fraught with tragedy and intrigue and spanning millennia – is captured in iconic structures like the Forbidden City, Summer Palace, and the Confucius Temple. For the uninitiated, the intelligence, diligence, and typical iron will exerted by previous generations of empirical rule, can be almost difficult to comprehend.
Modern Beijing is an altogether different experience. Competing easily with its Western contemporaries, new Beijing is bright lights, high-end hotels and restaurants, and a bustling center of commerce and politics. Balanced with heritage areas, such as the hutongs (Beijing’s most expensive real estate), a multi-day tour or even a Beijing layover can satisfy diverse interests of those hungry for culture, history, and what’s happening now.
And of course Beijing offers close proximity to multiple spots along the Great Wall of China – a marvel of human endurance, engineering, and willpower. Whether you spend just an hour – or walk kilometers along the wall itself – the wall is a marvel to behold and will make for a special China tour travel memories. With so much to offer, Beijing is number one on our list of best cities to visit in China.
Relax in Xian: one of China’s ancient capitals
Xian is to Beijing what LA is to New York: a world away.
Arrive in Xian and there’s more of China’s hustle and busy-ness, but without the more serious tone that pervades the modern capital. In fact, Xian is fun. It’s a bright, lively city, made all the more beautiful by red lantern-lined streets that sparkle at night, making the city seem like it never sleeps.
Xian is definitely one of the best cities to visit in China and a must-see inclusion in your Xian city exploration is a visit to the Xian City Wall, the best preserved of all China’s city walls. Marking the original outline of this ancient capital, the Xian City Wall provides refreshing vistas out across the city, in many ways giving a bird’s eye view not available from the cloistered comfort of hotel rooms. Bring some youthful to the adventure and cycle the full distance around the wall, stopping at each of the four corners along the way.
Other Xian highlights for a short stay visit are the Great Mosque and Muslim Street. The Great Mosque is a contemplative and peaceful location, reflecting the Islamic population which makes up a small percentage of the people, although their influence is broad, particularly in the food stakes. Make a trip (or two) down Muslim Street for fabulous and famous local street food.
Finally, be prepared for the incredible when you make the trek outside Xian’s city center to visit the world-renowned Terracotta Army. If you make it only once to this breathtaking display of construction and organization, be sure to savor it. The warriors, their horses, and the history behind them are truly remarkable and yet another testament to the endurance and vision of China’s empirical leaders.
Chengdu: create travel memories with pandas
China’s national treasure, the pandas make Chengdu one of the best cities to visit in China. Available for viewing at the Chengdu Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding or the Dujiangyan Panda Base, it’s essential to book ahead, so check in with a local travel consultant who can help make the ideal arrangements.
Apart from gorgeous pandas, Chengdu offers much more. For a start, Sichuan food is a culinary adventure. Consider at least one hot pot meal. It’s truly fun, a great way to share a meal with fellow travelers, and dine like a local. Not sure about your dining options? Talk to your local guide. They offer the best insider knowledge of where to eat.
Tea culture permeates the more relaxed Chengdu lifestyle. Take a walk down iconic Jinli Street and watch the tea merchants at work. Sample a cup or two and treat yourself to a take-home tin and tea set as a special travel memento. Tea is everywhere in China, but in Chengdu it’s part of life.
Shanghai: luxury, life and lots of fun:
Shanghai is a fabulous and fun city and fully reflects the legacy of its international heritage.
With a rich combination of Chinese, French, and English influence – and a long turbulent history to boot – Shanghai once the Paris of the East, is now more an example of Chinese commercial advancement.
A couple of days in Shanghai will allow you to enjoy a walk along The Bund, iconic and prestigious, one of the most well-preserved examples of old Shanghai glamour. You’ll also be able to walk Nanjing Road, the busiest shopping precinct in China.
A change in tempo is possible with a visit to peaceful Yuyuan Garden, where you can marvel at the stunning gardens; then stroll around the nearby Chenghuangmiao bazaars and make a worthwhile detour and visit the Shikumen Museum in New Spot (XinTianDi) for a true taste of old world Shanghai.
More recent history is available by wandering the quieter streets of Dongping Road or Sinan Road in the Former French Concession, where you will find the essence of classic Shanghai.
Any more best cities to visit in China?
Yes, there definitely are more best cities to visit in China!
With so many diverse destinations to visit, it’s simply not possible to include in just one blog post. Our blogger team will keep connecting with our local travel guides on the ground to bring you more blogs on popular places to visit in China.
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