What are the Best Cities to Visit in China?

Great Wall of China

7. Shanghai

No journey to China is complete without a trip to Shanghai. This beautiful city is one of China's largest and based around one of its oldest and most important ports. The Pudong area shown above is recognisable to many due to it's appearance in cinema over the years and is one of the most visited tourist hotspots in the country. There are many bars and restaurants where you can sit outside and enjoy this famous view.

Just down the road from Pudong you will find the French Concession, an area previously dedicated to Shanghai's French immigrants. Here you can walk beautiful tree lined streets and take in views of antique, European style buildings. Many walking tours are available and we recommend you take one if you have time to learn about the fascinating history of this area. Find our more
here.

Shanghai's nightlife and food culture are both vibrant and international. As China's most multicultural city, you can find food from all corners of the globe. There is also a famous bar street playfully names 'Laowai Jie' or 'Foreigner Street', where many expats and locals like to hang out and get drinks. When visiting Shanghai be sure to try some of the local foods - Soup dumplings or 'xiaolongbao' are an absolute must! You wont regret it.

6. Harbin

Harbin is located in the very North West of China. It borders Russia and is often referred to as China's Ice City. This nickname is earned in more ways than one. Firstly, it is very cold! In winter it can reach temperatures of 38 degrees below zero and the surrounding Heilongjiang Province will play host to the Winter Olympics in 2022. The second reason for this nickname is that every winter from the 5th of January, Harbin becomes a literal Ice City. Buildings and sculptures made entirely of Ice litter the streets, creating beautiful scenes wherever you look. The uniqueness of this experience, coupled with the joyful atmosphere of a place which is, let's be honest too cold, is why Harbin makes our list of the best cities to visit in China.

The ice sculptures are usually removed around March, so if you plan to go then we recommend aiming for early in the year. However, if you do manage to miss peak season, there are still plenty of things to do. Its Russian border makes Harbin a fascinating place for anyone interested in Russian culture and architecture. In fact Harbin remains the hub of Russian-Sino trade to this day and there are plenty of Museums where you can learn all about this. 

Furthermore, Harbin has a reputation for being the home of the most beautiful women in China, at least from a traditional perspective. We will leave this up to you to decide!

5. Guilin

Guilin has been officially listed as a Nation Famous Historical and Cultural City by the Chinese government. It's one of the most popular tourist destinations in China and a place of outstanding natural beauty. To be honest, words can only do so much in describing such a place and I'm sure you can see from the pictures what we mean.

Guilin is reachable by train from many major cities, but unlike many of the other cities in this list, visitors to Guilin are not advised to go there for the bars, restaurant or shopping centres but for the sheer joy of looking at the landscapes formed by the rivers, mountains and rice paddy fields. If you speak some Mandarin, it would also be a great experience to interact with the locals, some of whom will have lived such a different life to you it's almost difficult to comprehend. 

To get the true experience of Guilin, go to as many parts of it and try as many things as possible. Speak with everyone you see and try to learn as much as you can about this beautiful place.

4. Xi'an

Xi'an was the ancient capital of China during the Zhou dynasty. It is the very beginning of the silk road trade route and home to the famous terracotta army, built to protect the Emperor's tomb. It is therefore accurate to say that Xi'an is hugely significant to China's history and anyone interested in learning about this should definitely pay it a visit. Museums and ancient buildings are abundant and you will not run out of places to explore quickly. In addition to the terracotta warriors, history buffs will likely enjoy a trip around Xi'an's ancient walls, a journey which can be taken on foot or by bike.

This being said, there is also a modern side to Xi'an. Their central streets all host incredible markets and shopping centres, many of which are decorated with large, impressive statues. Street performers are not uncommon and a nigh time stroll around Xi'an will guarantee you find something interesting and fun to watch!

Furthermore, Xi'an is famous for it's food. Any foodies visiting will want to check out the celebrated Muslim Quarter, where there is a huge street food market serving everything from durian fondue to fried squid. Two local delicacies you must try - Roujiamo, a snack resembling a burger but with a lot of Chinese flavour and biang biang mian, thick flat noodles with a spicy sauce.

Much smaller than cities like Beijing or Shanghai, Xi'an has a casual, friendly atmosphere that can be enjoyed at a slow pace. The perfect city for anyone who wants to get a flavour of what China has to offer.

3. Chengdu

Chengdu is located in Sichuan Province and is perhaps most famous for being home to the Giant Panda, an animal often associated with China. Upon visiting Chengdu you can make your way to the Giant Panda Breeding Centre, where researchers are trying to help these rare animals come back from the brink of extinction. In addition to being a fascinating journey into ecology and consvervation, they are also VERY cute!

Aside from pandas, Chegdu is also steeped in a beautiful history that can be seen when exploring the streets of the old city at Kuanzhai Alley or by vising one of the many monasteries or temples such as Wuhou or Wenshu Yuan. Visitors can also take advantage of more modern facilities such as the sprawling metro network and the Chunxi Road shopping area.

As the capital of Sichuan, Chengdu also boasts a range of spicy delicacies that are unique to the area. Mouth numbing peppers are available in a range of foods from simple noodle dishes to giant hot pots. If you love spicy food and trying new things then Chengdu is definitely the city for you!

2. Guangzhou

Guangzhou is one of China's most Southernmost cities. It's built around a port on the Pearl River and is full of interesting architecture. To get the best view of the city you have 2 options. The first is to visit the Canton Tower, Guangzhou's tallest building by far. From here you can see the city stretch out in every direction. The building is also lit up at night, creating a beautiful skyline and a great picture opportunity. The other option is to visit Baiyun Mountain, from which you can look over the entire city, while exploring some of Guangzhou's more natural elements.

Guangzhou is the birthplace of dim sum so make sure you try as much as you can while you're there! Guangzhou's inhabitants are famous for loving food so there are hundreds of varieties of dim sum to choose from. We recommend trying as many as possible while you're there! Guangzhou is also home to many Cantonese speakers, so if you're interesting in learning this branch of Chinese language, you can rest assured this is a great city to visit. If not, there are also plenty of Mandarin and English speakers for you to talk to!

Guangzhou is also very close to Hong Kong so anyone wanting to travel to both can do so conveniently and relatively cheaply. Fast trains are available every day and you can even book car services that will drive you from one city to the other. For it's amazing culture, food and history, Guangzhou has earned its place as one of China's most interesting cities. 

1. Beijing