15 Top Cities of China - Best travel and holiday destinations

15 Top Cities of China - Best travel and holiday destinations

Updated 8 Apr, 2020
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China, the third largest nation in the world offers a limitless scope for discovery making China a central attraction for every traveler.

China is well famous for its contrast of ancient customs and cultures with the ultramodern architecture and technology. From the ancient Buddhist temples to the picturesque cruise ports and the most renowned Great Wall of China, the colorful country has it all.

China has some of the world's best travel destinations and cities; read along to find the inspiration for your next trip.

Beijing - capital city of China

cityscape during night of Beijing, China
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Famous for a unique intersection of modernized society with an ancient world, Beijing is the sprawling capital city of China.

Top things to do in Beijing –

  • Discover the artworks and lavishly landscaped grounds of the lakeside famed ornate temples of the Summer Palace.
  • Travel over the Forbidden City, a palace complex in the city where you retreat yourself with stunning traditional Chinese architecture.
  • Take a round of the Tiananmen Square, one of largest squares in the world with the grand Tiananmen Palace in the north.
  • Head to the Nanluoguxiang street, visit its artsy boutiques and shop embroidered shoes, sugar animals and gift items.
  • Get delighted with a flavorful street food scene and fancy stores in the lively district of Wangfujing.
  • Explore the courtyard homes decorated with stone lions and scarlet gates with a ride on the Pedicab Hutong.
  • Watch painted actors giving a dramatic performance of folkloric operas in the Opera Theatres of Beijing.
  • Get acquainted with Chinese history and art through more than a million relics in Chinese National Museum.

Popular food to try in Beijing consists of Jiaozi, roast duck, Jing Jiang Rousi, noodles, Mongolian hotpot, Tudou Si, donkey burger and Tuckahoe pie.

Best time to visit Beijing is during March, April, May, September and October.

How to reach Beijing? Book a flight to Beijing Capital International Airport for getting access to the city.

Guangzhou - top trade destination in China

skyline of Guangzhou, China
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Guangzhou is a splendid port metropolis on the Pearl river, a city famous for spectacular avant garde architecture and annual Canton Fair.

Top things to do in Guangzhou –

  • Get a different perspective of the various upscale skyscrapers of the city with a river cruise during evening time.
  • Attend the annual Canton Fair, the largest trade fair of China where you get to shop and be part of international exhibits.
  • Be a part of the notable Dragon Boat Festival, see dragon boats racing along Pearl river and eat rice dumplings.
  • Go for an outdoor adventure in the Baiyun Mountain located north of the city with cable car, forests and hiking paths.
  • Enjoy thrilling rides and roller coasters in the Chimelong theme parks located in the southern part of the city.
  • Get jaw dropping views of the city from the observatory of Canton Tower, the second highest tower in the world.
  • Head to the Sun Yat Sen Memorial Hall to experience the traditional design of the old city.

Popular food to try in Guangzhou comprises Shuang Pi Nai, Dim Sum, Kao Ru Zhu, Long Hu Dou, Lam Cha and Wonton.

Best time to visit Guangzhou is during March, April, May, October, November and December.

How to reach Guangzhou? Book a flight to Guangzhou Baiyun International Airport to get access to the city.

Shangxiajiu - top shopping destination in China

alleyway in Shangxiajiu, Guangzhou, China
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Shangxiajiu is a bustling pedestrian street located in the Liwan district of Guangzhou City famous for its extraordinary shopping opportunities.

Top things to do in Shangxiajiu –

  • Hop the traditional Guangzhou folk residence style cheap stores and restaurants of this 1200 meter long street.
  • Shop souvenirs, postcards and pendants in stores around Liwan Plaza, largest crystal wholesale market in South East Asia.
  • Admire the mix of Southern European and northern Chinese Manchu style while roaming here.
  • Visit many departmental stores like Yongan Department Store, Guangzhou Clothing Store, Heming Shoes and Hat Shop and more.
  • Progress to the nearby Shamian Island where you can find plenty of colonial buildings.
  • Look at the ancient artworks exhibited in the large Chen Clan Ancestral Hall.

Popular food to try in Shangxiajiu consists of soy sauce chicken, fried crispy duck feet, almond cake, moon cake, Cantonese dim sum and Chinese tea.

Best time to visit Shangxiajiu is during the weekends

How to reach Shangxiajiu ? Take a taxi from the city of Guangzhou to access the shopping area.

Macau - top nightlife destination in China

skyscrapers during evening in Macau, China
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Macau or Macao, an auspicious region in the south coast of China is well famous for its huge casinos and malls, its Portuguese influence, and of course an epicentre for nightlife.

Top things to do in Macau –

  • Go for a night out with friends and meander between the extravagant casinos including the iconic Grand Lisboa.
  • Entertain yourself with singing and dancing performances, games in casinos, magic shows and operas in this ‘ Vegas of Asia’.
  • Experience a truly Venetian life in the Venetian Hotel & Casino with an outstanding model of Venice.
  • Visit Senado Square and take a glimpse of the city's important landmarks, shops and restaurants.
  • Jump up to the Macau Tower, get some dazzling views of the city and get an adrenaline rush with the world's highest bungee jumping.
  • Come across the Ruins of St. Paul and Conquer Mount Fortress, a UNESCO site.
  • Climb up to the Guia Hill and locate a chapel, an old military fort with the fabulous Guia Lighthouse.

Popular food to try in Macau includes egg tart, pork chop bun, mashed potatoes, egg rolls, prawn tartars, Portuguese seafood rice, Serradura and almond cookies.

Best time to visit Macau is from October till December during the post summer period.

How to reach Macau? Book a flight to Macau International Airport for getting access to the city.

Dali - best romantic destination in China

old town of Dali, China
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Dali is a peaceful romantic city on the shore of Lake Erhai backed by the amusing mountains home to traditional houses of the Ming dynasty.

Top things to do in Dali –

  • Live the traditional culture of Dali while strolling over the ancient walled town, a stop on Ancient Tea Horse Road.
  • Adore a boat trip with your partner in the crystal clear waters of the Erhai Lake and fall in love with the placid environment.
  • Visit the magnificent Three Pagodas of Chongsheng Temple, the central one being more than 1100 years old.
  • Go for hiking and mountaineering in the Cangshan Mountains and cherish the tranquil scenery of the town.
  • Day out to the cozy village of Xizhou and know more about the Bai minority people while looking at their houses.
  • Click some adorable photographs and do a romantic walk around the Butterfly Spring.
  • Tour to the Nanzhao Love Island, a tiny island with cultural villages and towns.

Popular food to try in Dali consists of fried cheese, Baba pancake, cold noodle, chicken feet, dumplings and many Chinese dishes.

Best time to visit Dali is from March until October.

How to reach Dali? Book a flight to Dali Airport from major cities of China to access the town.

Sanya - top beach destination in China

colorful boats in Sanya, China
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Sanya is a coastal resort town on the southern coast of Hainan Island of China known for beach activities, termed as the Hawaii of the East.

Top things to do in Sanya –

  • Start your trip from Tianya Haijiao, a scenic tourist destination with rock formations and unobstructed view of the sea.
  • Get lost in the forgotten Wuzhizhou Island, curated specially for lovers with a statue of the two lovers.
  • Go adventurous with water sports like scuba diving, swimming and surfing in coral reef rich waters.
  • Get sun-kissed in the powdery sandy beaches of the Asian Dragon Bay and spot precious species of butterflies in Butterfly Valley.
  • Marvel the great Tang dynasty architecture of Nanshan Temple with a grand statue of a Maitreya Buddha.
  • Get a healing spa treatment and pamper yourself with the amenities of its many luxurious resorts and hotels.
  • Feel amazed to see Phoenix Island’s huge modern buildings, dubbed the oriental Dubai forming a lavish resort.
  • Roam freely through and see more than 1800 endangered macaques in Monkey Island.

Popular food to try in Sanya comprises Hainan hotpot, Hainan lobster, turtle and snake soup, Wanquan carp, noodles, chicken rice, Dongshan mutton, Jiaji duck and Hele crab.

Best time to visit Sanya is from March till May or from October to November.

How to reach Sanya? The resort city is easily accessible by booking a flight to Sanya Phoenix International Airport.

Hong Kong - top family travel destination in China

Victoria Harbor in Hong Kong, China
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Hong Kong, China’s special administrative region on the eastern side of Pearl River known as a huge urban jungle with its skyscraper studded skyline.

Top things to do in Hong Kong –

  • Relish a family fun in the world famous Hong Kong Disneyland, the iconic amusement park of the city with themed lands.
  • Get on a peak tram that takes you to Victoria Peak, the highest mountain in Hong Kong with a sweeping skyline view.
  • Adore a ride of the Star Ferry to get around the city and take immersive photographs of the Victoria Harbor.
  • Attend the daily A Symphony of Lights multimedia show during 8 PM at the vibrant Avenue of Stars.
  • Come around the famed Lantau Island and step up to reach the renowned Tian Tan Buddha Statue.
  • Day out to the tiny island of Cheung Chau, walk along its coastal trails, visit its old temples and eat in seafood restaurants.
  • Experience an amazing dining and shopping outing in the colorful Stanley Market with many old temples around.
  • Head to the Ngong Ping 360, take a cable car ride and cherish the breathtaking views of the city.

Popular food to try in Hong Kong includes roast goose, Wonton, sweet and sour pork, chicken feet, fish balls, Har Gow, rice, snake soup and custard.

Best time to visit Hong Kong is during October, November, December, January and February.

How to reach Hong Kong? Book a flight to Hong Kong International Airport to get access to the city.

Xian - top solo travel destination in China

Terracotta warriors in Xian, China
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Xian is a large city in the central part of the country that is famous for its terracotta warriors making it worth visiting for a solo trip.

Top things to do in Xian –

  • Visit Emperor Qinshihuang’s Mausoleum Site Museum to see lifelike sculptures of terracotta warriors.
  • Travel over the Giant Wild Goose Pagoda, a 7th century five storied pagoda to house sacred sculptures.
  • Meander around, pass many ancient gates and do cycling atop the walled paths of Fortifications of Xian.
  • Take glimpse of the city’s many buildings from the wonderful Bell Tower of Xi'an dating from the Tang dynasty.
  • Admire the divine architecture and meander courtyards of the Great Mosque of Xian, the largest mosque of the country.
  • Watch fossils, murals, metals and pottery objects about the local history in the Shaanxi History Museum.

Popular food to try in Xian consists of Roujiamo, honey cakes, cold noodles, pork, soup dumplings, bread soaked in lamb soup, Lao Tong mutton and kebabs.

Best time to visit Xian is during June, July, August and September.

How to reach Xian? Book a flight to Xian Xianyang International Airport to get access to the city.

Hangzhou - Green Queen of China

A pagoda in Hangzhou, China
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Hangzhou is a marvelous terminus of the ancient Grand Canal waterway that is worth visiting for its culture, poets, painters, fertile rice fields and green tea.

Top things to do in Hangzhou –

  • Maunder amidst the famous West Lake Dragon Well Tea plantations that any tea lover will fall in love with.
  • Drink the delicious green tea in the city boasting an amusing tea house scene, also have a Drinking Tea Day.
  • Know more about the tea and silk culture of the town in China National Tea Museum and National Silk Museum.
  • Undertake a boat ride in the cool historic and serene waters of the West Lake and pass many temples, pavilions and arched bridges.
  • Jump to the Lingyin Temple containing numerous pagodas and Buddha grottoes dating from 328 CE.
  • Hike up the trails to the Tianmu Mountains and reach its north west peak where you can locate the Lingshun Temple.

Popular food to try in Hangzhou includes Dongpo pork, Beggar’s chicken, Longjing tea, fried shrimps, stewed bamboo shoots and stewed fish head with tofu.

Best time to visit Hangzhou is from late March to May or from September till mid November.

How to reach Hangzhou? The city is easily accessible by booking a flight to Hangzhou International Airport.

Jiuzhaigou National Park - top nature’s lover destination in China

lake in Jiuzhaigou National Park, China
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A natural fairyland in China, Jiuzhaigou National Park is a system of valleys and lakes in Shuzheng Valley, a dream paradise for any nature’s lover.

Top things to do in Jiuzhaigou National Park –

  • Feel refreshed while breathing the fresh air of the beautiful, natural and peaceful environment.
  • Get lost in the colorful forest of orange sumac, yellow birch trees, red maple leaves and dark red wild fruits.
  • Unearth a number of silk resembling waterfalls hidden in the scenery including Shuzheng Waterfall and Pearl Shoal Waterfall.
  • Take photographs of this lake world where lakes take on different hues and tones due to sunlight and algae.
  • Spot rare wild animals including giant panda, golden monkeys in their natural habitat.
  • Go for walking through the trials leading to the misty mountains of the national park.

Best time to visit Jiuzhaigou National Park is during September, October and November during autumn season.

How to reach Jiuzhaigou National Park? Book a flight from the city of Chengdu to Jiuzhaigou Huanglong Airport to access the park.

Guilin - top backpacker friendly destination in China

bamboo rafting in Guilin, China
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Known for its dramatic limestone landscape, Guilin is a perfect backpacking destination with a mix of natural beauty and historical richness.

Top things to do in Guilin –

  • Go on a boating or rafting adventure through the winding Li river painted with unique cliffs and rolling hills.
  • Wander inside the Reed Flute Cave over 180 million years old famed for the multicolored lighting with flute like structures.
  • Maunder between the lush green rice terraces of Longji often called Dragon Backbones by the locals.
  • Walk around the banks of Rong Lake and Shan Lake and dive into the natural beauty with old South Gate.
  • Get sporty with rock climbing and hiking to reach the Moon Hill, so called for a wide semicircular hole through the hill.
  • Make your way to the outlandish Elephant Trunk Hill having resemblance with elephant trunk in the water.
  • Reach Jingjiang Princess’s Palace where Ming princess once used to live.

Popular food to try in Guilin comprises rice noodles, beefsteak, Zongzi, chicken, fish soup, Luohanguo, Lipu Taro Looped meat and beer.

Best time to visit Guilin is from April to October.

How to reach Guilin ? Book a flight to Guilin Liangjiang International Airport to get access to the city.

Shangri-La - top mountain destination in China

Bita Lake in Shangri-La, China
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Situated at the intersection of Sichuan, Yunnan and Tibet provinces, Shangri-La is a heavenly mountain town having a gorgeous countryside.

Top things to do in Shangri-La –

  • Shop at the endless shop houses and see the dance performance by the minority costumed dancers.
  • Come upon the quaint hilltop Baji Temple covered in Tibetan prayer flags.
  • Step up to the Golden Temple consisting of three temple buildings with the world's largest prayer drum and Buddhist statue.
  • Head for a challenging hiking adventure through the trails of the Tiger Leaping Gorge offering views of Yangtze river.
  • Visit the Ganden Sumtseling Monastery, a grand Buddhist temple, the largest in Shangri-La area.
  • Get a thrilling experience of climbing up to the Haba Snow Mountain, visit the small villages to relish sunrises.
  • Ramble a boat ride on the Bita Lake and get mesmerizing views of the surrounding mountains.

Popular food to try in Shangri-La consists of Zanba, pickled vegetable soup, wine and classic Tibetan delicacies.

Best time to visit Shangri-La is from March to October.

How to reach Shangri-La? Book a flight to Diqing Shangri-La Airport to get access to the town.

Shanghai - most developed city in China

Panoramic view of Shanghai China
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Nicknamed as the Oriental Paris, Shanghai is the largest city of China that is famous for its intensive ultramodern skyscrapers with cultural heritage.

Top things to do in Shanghai –

  • Test your shopping tactics at luxuriantly appealing Nanjing road and Huaihai road or in outdoor markets.
  • Forego your sleep in sparkling nightclubs, bars and cinemas showing operas, puppets, acrobatics and
  • Go for leisurely walks across the small alleyways of Old Street to see the authentic lifestyle of the local residents.
  • Forget the concrete jungle vibe and discover the many water towns with traditional South Chinese houses with a boat tour.
  • Get amazed to see the 360° view of the city while having food in the revolving restaurant of Oriental Pearl TV Tower.
  • Have an astonishing view of the modern skyline of Shanghai while roaming over the 1500 meter long promenade of Bund.
  • Get surprised from the freakish bird’s-eye view of the whole city from Shanghai Tower with the highest observatory in the world.
  • Praise the ornate, giant jade Buddha sculptures in the ancient yet active Jade Buddha Temple.

Popular food to try in Shanghai includes steamed crab, smoked fish slices, beggar’s chicken, duck, pork, soup dumplings and Shanghai snacks.

Best time to visit Shanghai is during the months of October and November.

How to reach Shanghai? Book a flight to Shanghai Pudong Airport for getting access to the city.

Zhouzhuang - Venice of China

waterway during evening in Zhouzhuang, China
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Zhouzhuang is the most popular water town of China, divided and surrounded by lakes and rivers with well preserved architectural buildings.

Top things to do in Zhouzhuang –

  • Take a sculling boat to explore the ancient charm of the water town with willow dancing in the wind.
  • Pass through the iconic Double bridge of Shide bridge and Yongan bridge linking together like a key.
  • Feel the life and history of the wealthy people of Wu kingdom while travelling to Shen's House.
  • Drop in on Zhang's House and stroll over its little garden with dancing bamboo and Chinese roses.
  • Spend some morning time in Jizhui Harbor and appreciate the scene of more than 100 boats competing on water.
  • Listen to the traditional stringed and woodwind instruments from Fuan bridge during night while looking at reflection of bridges.

Popular food to try in Zhouzhuang comprises Wansan's elbow, Wansan cake, sesame cake, steamed mandarin fish, steamed eel stew, tofu and Venetian meat package.

Best time to visit Zhouzhuang is between the period of May and October.

How to reach Zhouzhuang? Take a bus or taxi from the city of Shanghai to access the water town.

Great Wall of China - most popular destination in China

landscape in Great Wall of China
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A series of world famous iconic fortifications that was erected in ancient China around 500 years ago, spread over the northern parts of the country.

Top things to do in Great Wall of China –

  • Get out of the world feeling while hiking over this majestic creation in its many labyrinthine sections.
  • Walk during the nighttime along the Simatai section of the wall, the only section that lit up between 5th and 6th watchtower.
  • Feel the magical views of the distant Gubei water town and other Chinese villages especially during colorful seasons.
  • Camp on the wild section of the wall, around the Jiankou section and imagine how sentries felt centuries before.
  • Savor an unorthodox picnic day in the outdoors of the lovely wall in any of the watchtowers during hiking trips.
  • Take part in the annual Huangyaguan Great Wall Marathon held during the month of May in Huangyaguan.
  • Sit on the roller coaster carts and run down to the vast valley at Mutianyu section of the wall.

There are not many restaurants available around the wall and it is advised to bring your own snacks and water.

Best time to visit the Great Wall of China is during April, May, September and October.

How to reach the Great Wall of China? Take a train to the town of Badaling from Beijing to access the wall.