The sprawling and chaotic city of Beijing has been constantly evolving for the last three thousand years. This capital of six ancient Chinese dynasties is where visitors can see the Great Wall, the Forbidden City, the Ming Tombs and Tiananmen Square - but there’s also a plethora of Chinese culture on offer, from traditional performing arts to dining in the 60,000 restaurants which fill the streets. Whether riding tandem bikes around Houhai Lake, snacking on insects in Donghuamen Night Market, or sipping drinks in a rooftop bar above the city lights, you’re sure to fall in love with this enchanting city.
The city of Xi’an is most famous for its Terracotta Army: thousands of handmade, life-size warrior figures created to stand guard over Emperor Qin Shi Huang’s tomb in the third century BC. But Xi’an also has much more to offer, including dozens of pagodas and museums, the world’s largest city wall, and the Great Mosque, built in the Chinese style more than 1300 years ago and where Chinese Muslims still worship today.
Set on the country’s central coast and the home of over 20 million residents, Shanghai is China’s biggest tourist draw. The massive city boasts a soaring skyline which acts as a global financial hub, but the heart of Shanghai is the Bund, a riverfront of colonial art-deco buildings which hark back to Chinese extravagance in the 1920s. Culture fans will adore the traditional Chinese art in the Shanghai Museum, while those in need of a quiet oasis amid the city chaos can relax amongst the fish ponds and towering trees of the Yuyuan (‘happiness’) Gardens.
Three Gorges Dam
This dramatic area of China is where the world’s largest hydroelectric dam was built in 2009, after seventeen years of construction work. Although it’s impossible to walk across the 2.3km long structure, the tourist viewing area provides a jaw-dropping sight of the dam spanning the Yangtze river and holding back a huge reservoir of water to prevent flooding. The surrounding landscapes are just as gorgeous, too - Wu Gorge is famous for forest-covered mountains and constantly curling mists, while the Huangling Temple, built over 2500 years ago, is one of the oldest buildings in the area.
A rough and ready city which is growing at a rapid rate, Chongqing is known as the Mountain City and draws visitors to its hot springs and gorges. Nearby there are beautiful Buddhist rock carvings at Dazu and natural limestone caves at Wulong, while Chongqing’s proximity to the city of Chengdu, one of the major habitats for giant pandas, means Chongqing’s city zoo has a panda house offering great opportunities to observe both red and giant varieties up-close!
Shibaozhai is a small yet extremely steep hill along the Yangtze riverbank. Its most famous attraction is its nineteenth-century nine-floored red pavilion, which provides a walkway to the hill-top temple behind.