Beijing's famous Tiananmen Square is big enough to hold one million people, while the historic Forbidden City is home to thousands of imperial rooms – and Beijing is still growing. The capital has witnessed the emergence of ever-higher rising towers, new restaurants and see-and-be-seen nightclubs. But at the same time, the city has managed to retain its very individual charm. The small tea houses in the backyards, the traditional fabric shops, the old temples and the noisy street restaurants make this city special.
ChinaChina is a vast land, with a climate ranging from tropical to subarctic. It is a demographic behemoth, with the world’s largest population and a staggering diversity of cultures and languages. It is the world’s oldest continuous civilization, with a rich history spanning millennia and endless potential for the future. It is one of the most fascinating countries in the world, and a traveler’s dream with some of humanity’s most recognisable and beloved landmarks (the Great Wall of China, of course, topping the list). With short-term visa-free stays available in a growing number of cities (for up to 144 hours in some cases), there has never been a better time to visit and try to tame the indomitable Red Dragon.
Welcome to Chengdu, the provincial capital of Sichuan, where giant pandas delight tourists at the Chengdu Breeding Research Base. Though a modern city, Chengdu is where life happens in the back streets, with crowds waiting outside hot-pot restaurants, and tea houses abuzz with mahjong players and their noisy tile-shuffling game.
Chongqing is one of China's major municipalities; a cultural and historical city with many unique traits. Besides its unique geographical conditions – is is surrounded by rivers and mountains – it has been filled with skyscrapers, making for a mesmerising landscape, both during the day and at nighttime.
Also known as Canton, Guangzhou is the third largest city in China. It has long been one of China's main commercial and trading centres and is one of the first cities that opened to the world. As one of the fastest growing cities in Asia, Guangzhou has also seen fast growth in tourism, attracting visitors with its cosmopolitan atmosphere, world-renowned Cantonese cuisine and its vibrant nightlife.
Guilin has long been a favourite among travellers to China. This compact city is most famous for the green mountains, crystal clear waters, unique caves and the beautiful cliffs in its outskirts. The karst peaks and the surrounding areas are world renowned for its beautiful scenery. Yet it is not only this stunning landscape that draws visitors to Guilin, but its unique folk customs, that make for unforgettable experiences in themselves.
Like Yin and Yang, Hangzhou, the capital city of the Zhejiang Province, has two sides that complete each other. This historic city is a showcase for traditional medicine, religion and art as well as a shining example of China’s rapid economic development. Combining idyllic natural beauty, a grand heritage through the ages and an air of affluence, Hangzhou is one of the country’s most livable and pleasant cities to linger in.
Known as the City of Spring, Kunming, the provincial capital of Yunnan, is blessed with a mild climate especially favourable to plant cultivation, which becomes instantly evident at the city's vibrant flower markets. The pace of life here is slow: hardly anyone is seen in a hurry. The best thing to do is smell the roses, wind down gently while exploring this very pleasing city and the breathtaking nature getaways in the environs.
The provincial capital of Jiangsu, Nanjing, has served as the country’s capital for six dynasties and has long occupied a prominent place in Chinese history and culture. The overwhelming neon lights along Qinhuai River, the abundance of greenery in Zhongshan Mountain Tourist Resort, and the remnant architecture from the time of the fledgeling republic are all facets of the richness of various stages in Nanjing’s development.
One of the oldest cities in China, Ningbo is the birthplace of the Hemudu culture, which dates back over seven thousand years. Translated from Mandarin as ''the Serene Waves'', Ningbo is located at the shores of Hangzhou Bay and is a long-established international port and trading post. With the Hangzhou Bridge, the longest trans-oceanic link in the world, Ningbo is now directly connected to Shanghai and has emerged as an important international hub in its own right.
Qingdao is possibly the most beautiful coastal city of China, famous for comfortable weather, a large number of beaches and delicious seafood. Being a former German concession has also provided it with attractive European-style buildings and one of the best brews in Asia, the famous Qingdao Beer. It has long been a favourite escape for Chinese holidaymakers and after having its profile raised when hosting the 29th Sailing Regatta during the 2008 Beijing Olympics, it has been steadily coming under the radar of foreign visitors as well.
Shanghai is the shiniest gem in modern China’s jewel box. It’s a hip, contemporary city that’s charging into the future with all the energy of its famous Maglev train. Yet if you veer away from the sleek highways and glitzy shopping streets you can still stumble upon a more traditional Shanghai, with all its character and flavour. In the tiny back streets, wet-market vendors peddle their wares - buckets of bright green vegetables, fish flapping in shallow plastic bowls and heaps of crayfish crawling over each other.
It only took Shenzhen 30 years to go from a little-known fishing village to an international metropolis. The expanding economy and countless opportunities attract people from all over the country to this young and dynamic city. With people flooding in, this tech hub has become a melting pot of various local cultures and the showcase of a younger China. Although Shenzhen doesn't have much historic heritage to speak of, it is certainly one of the most modern Chinese cities with great infrastructure.
Xiamen ranks among China's most appealing tourist destinations, with a fine mix of urban and natural attractions. Located on the southern coast of the Fujian Province, Xiamen is, in large part, set on a separate island. With origins dating back 5,000 years, trade has been the lifeblood of Xiamen and the city has grown on commerce generated by merchants, both Chinese and European, who used Xiamen as their gateway to China.
Xi'an was once called Chang'an, the City of Long-lasting Peace. The city was the capital of the legendary Tang Dynasty, as well as 13 other dynasties, and the legendary ancient Silk Road started here. The variety of folk handicrafts that greets the visitor is bewildering. With all this heritage behind it, Xi'an stands proud even in the face of its modernisation, a spectacular testament to the magnificent legacy the Chinese are so proud of.