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.
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 China's fourth municipality after Beijing, Shanghai and Tianjin. It is a cultural and historical city with many unique traits. Apart from being blessed with water on three sides, buildings here have also been constructed against the mountains. Therefore, different layers are built to the city's appearance that has become a hallmark of Chongqing, giving it the nickname “Mountain city”.
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.
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.
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.
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 of 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.