China has so many awesome places to see… it’s one of the biggest countries in the world and with also the biggest population, so it’s no strange that the alternatives are almost infinite. But… of course… we know you just can’t see it all even if you can. Given that, we ask some of our favorite travel bloggers what their favorite cities in China are, and what do they like about them. That way, in this post, you can find the cities that will make you fall in love with China.
The Ancient City of Pingyao
by Two Stay Wild
The Ancient City of Pingyao is one of China’s best-preserved walled cities. It is recognized by UNESCO as a world heritage site and offers a real insight into China’s history.
With lantern-lit streets, traditional architecture, courtyard guesthouses and a wealth of temples to explore you will feel like you have stepped back in time.
Located only 4 hours west of Beijing by train, it’s a perfect weekend break or side trip from the capital.
The best way to spend a couple of days here is to buy the Pingyao two day tourist pass that includes access to the city wall and temple sites within it.
Evenings can be spent wandering the bustling streets and admiring the traditional wooden shop fronts and red lanterns hanging. The food is also fantastic – from mountain noodles (a local delicacy) to Pingyao beef. The local Soy sauce is also a specialty – fountains of it can be found on nearly every street!
We stayed in Pingyao Laochenggen Inn, that comes complete with a king style bed! It was great value for China, but still maintained a traditional style that you can find in more expensive accommodation.
by Mum on the Move
The Chinese claim that Guilin has “the finest landscape under heaven”, and the staggering scenery here has inspired centuries of Chinese landscape paintings and poems.
The best way to immerse yourself in this natural beauty is to take a cruise down the Li River to Yangshuo. The whole trip takes around 4 – 5 hours, but the views are so spectacular as you gently glide past the endless backdrop of awe-inspiring scenery, that you won’t notice it take that long.
100km northwest of Guilin you will find the staggering Longji rice terraces. Longji means ‘dragon’s backbone’ as the rice terraces resemble a dragon’s scales as they cascade down the hillside. An hour’s hike uphill brings you to a lookout where you see the rice terraces twist around the contours of the mountainside like ribbons for as far as you can see.
We stayed at the Shangri-La hotel in Guilin, which is known as one of the top luxury hotels here. However, we would also recommend the Yangshuo Mountain Retreat, which combines the ethos of a simple eco-lodge with some added touches of luxury and comfort, and has a relaxing riverside restaurant.
by Sling Adventures
Macau is a fusion of Chinese and Portuguese cultures. Portugal only gave up their 400-year leasehold on Macau in 1999. Since then it has become the undisputed gambling capital of the world, four times bigger in terms of revenue than Las Vegas. It has often garish glitz and glamour with a unique history. Culturally, it allows visitors to understand, for better or for worse, the Chinese obsession with gambling
Outside the casino’s, sampling an iconic Portuguese Egg Tart at Margaret’s is a must do. So too is walking the historical center including the Hollywood style façade of the Ruins of St Pauls along with taking in spectacular city views from the top of Jesuit built Monte do Forte.
With all the flash casino’s in Macau you can often get a room for cheap in a 5-star resort. The Wynn Macau is one such option which is a luxury hotel which is well placed to access all that Macau has to offer.
Shanghai is like a city out of a movie. It is glamorous, bizarre, fashionable, and fast-paced. It’s basically an amazing fun ride that never stops. You can find all kinds of crazy Mao Zedong memorabilia all over the place. And the nightlife? Please! You will want to stay out all night!
Two activities you must try while here are community karaoke and the street dances. Now for the latter, we don’t mean b-boys and b-girls spinning on cardboard boxes like in the 80’s. We mean people coming out all weekend and dancing ballroom-style to their boom-boxes.
Yes, you will get pulled in, so brush up on your waltz! The former is just a blast. Chinese parks are super fun, and that includes the kite-flyers all the way to the retirees gathering in the park for karaoke.
If you can swing it, stay at the PuLi Hotel and Spa. It is 5-star, luxury, and oh-so-pampering. Book yourself a stay and enjoy a facial!
by Live Less Ordinary
I almost expected Xian China to be a sleepy cultural backwater in China, only to find a new and dynamic city which I could never have expected.
It is also fascinating culturally, not so much for the Terracotta Warriors which are found through a day tour on in the city’s outskirts, but the central attractions of this ancient city, including tours of the Bell Tower and Drum Tower, found inside the towering city walls.
It’s just a fascinating city to explore, and I became almost obsessed with finding new noodle shops and just getting lost down the misty backstreets in winter. However, the biggest surprise for me is the Muslim Quarter, which connects to the back of Drum Tower, and is just a maze of unique and amazing street food and restaurants. And I’d definitely say it is one of the best street food streets in Asia.
A great place to stay is the Bell Tower Hotel Xian which overlooks the central Bell Tower in Xian.
by Walk my World
Hong Kong is one of the world’s great cities. It’s a melting pot of east and west, having been under British rule for a hundred years until 1991. It is a city of bright lights, delicious food, and bustling streets. But it is also spread across several islands, some which are barely developed, allowing you to easily escape into nature.
The best place to start is Hong Kong Island, where you can get a taste of both the modern and traditional. Check out the iconic city skyline from one of the many rooftop bars or the beautiful Man Mo Temple, where the air is thick with incense.
If you want to see a completely different side of Hong Kong, then head to the lush, green Lantau Island. Hike to Lantau Peak for some of the most incredible views we’ve ever seen on a city trail.
If you’re looking to treat yourself to a luxury hotel then the best place to go is undoubtedly the Ritz Carlton. The views from almost everywhere in this hotel are incredible and it has both the cities highest bar and the highest infinity pool in the world.
by Bristolian Backpacker
Hangzhou is a fantastic city to visit as it boasts stunning natural beauty with lots of things to do. Any accommodation near the city center is the best place to stay as you have a lot of local attractions nearby, as well as endless restaurants and shops. Most Chinese hostels are of excellent standard and value, Hofang International Youth Hostel ticks both these boxes and is in an excellent location near the lake and public transport.
The main draw of the city is the huge West Lake. Popular with tourists and locals alike, you can take a boat trip, do a spot of shopping and indulge in some snacks and food. You’ll need a whole day (if not more) to walk around the whole lake.
If you fancy getting out of the central area, hop on the boat from West Lake Cultural Square up the Grand Canal and visit Gongchen Bridge. This historic bridge is in the north of the city and nearby you’ll find the fan museum, as well as a selection of excellent restaurants along the river. Lights adorn the bridge at night and live music draws the locals to their evening of dancing outside.
By Ketki Sharangpani of Dotted Globe
China’s capital, Beijing, is a sprawling city with a great mix of historical attractions and modern architecture. Home to 7 UNESCO World Heritage Sites, the city is great for cultural and culinary travelers. Visiting the Great Wall of China Mutianyu section was the highlight of my 2 days Beijing layover. This section of the Great Wall is very well-preserved, has many fortified watchtowers, and can be easily accessed via cable car. Other musts in Beijing include the majestic Forbidden City Palace complex with its many gates and museums, the architecturally splendid Temple of Heaven, and Tiananmen Square – the sight of the student protests of 1989. While I visited Beijing on a long layover and saw the highlights, it is easily possible to spend anywhere from a long weekend to a week in the city. If you have more time, do a tour of the hutongs in Beijing, eat dumplings and Peking Duck, visit the Ming Tombs and see the impressive gardens of the Summer Palace. If you prefer to stay close to the airport as I did, stay at the Yuanhang International Hotel which has great rooms at budget-friendly prices.