China is the most populated country in the world with over 1.3 billion people and it's truly a fascinating place to visit. There are endless cities and regions to explore and visit. We teamed up with some of our favorite travel bloggers to create a list of the top 18 best cities to visit in Japan. In no particular order, here is our list:
Macau, situated on the southwest coast of China, and only 40 miles from Hong Kong, is an autonomous territory known as the gambling capital of the world. It generates seven times more revenue than Las Vegas and is the only place in China where gambling is legal.
But what makes Macau an amazing travel destination is its unique cultural heritage. As a Portuguese territory from the 16th century to 1999, the Portuguese influence is omnipresent, from the use of ceramics on buildings to the bilingual street signs. You can even get that most traditional of Portuguese delicacies, pastel de nata (egg tart) there.
Only in Macau you can visit the façade of an old Catholic Church (Ruins of the Cathedral of St Paul’s) and Buddhist temples on the same day. Other attractions are Senado Square, with its neo-classical buildings, the 400-year old Mont Fort, A-Ma Temple and Hac Sa (Black Sand) beach.
Macau is also a duty-free zone, shopper’s paradise, home to the legendary Venetian Casino and the Macau Tower (the tenth tallest sightseeing tower and highest bungee jump in the world), but for me, it’s the fascinating blend of Latin and Eastern cultures that makes it truly special.
Guilin is one of the most amazing travel destination in China. It’s unique landscape make this picturesque village a pleasant and relaxing place to to visit. The magical limestone peaks jut out across the landscape, which is cut by the meandering Li Juang River. It is the perfect destination for landscape photographer and those who just want to enjoy the wonders nature has to offer.When visiting Guilin you need to take a cruise around the Shanhu and Ronghu Lakes and connected rivers. Definitely visit the Elephant Trunk hill, the seven star cave and the Longsheng rice terrace. As the sun goes down, head out to enjoy an open air night show.
Taking a trip to the rooftop of the world was the best decision I’ve ever made. Tibet has, without a doubt, the best view of the Mt Oomolongma aka Mount Everest. If the high altitudes of the Himalayas sounds too daunting, you can always relax in the calming city of Lhasa (also Tibet’s capital).
I recommend tourists to make arrangements and visit the grand Potola palace. And if time allows, swing by the Jokhang Temple and Ramoche Temple. Sip on some warm yak butter tea while listening to the soothing chants of Buddhist monks.
Wow, where to even begin describing a visit to Lhasa! I was travelling on an overland truck on my way to Kolkata and had spent already spent 3 weeks travelling through China.The drive into Lhasa was fairly unspectacular; yet more fairly bland Chinese concrete architecture. But then, as if by magic, old Lhasa is revealed to you and suddenly places I’d only ever seen in books were ahead of me. The Potala Palace, a notable symbol of Tibet was right there, in front of me. What a sight!
We spent our days wandering the Bakhor, an area of narrow streets as well as a public square that surround the Jokhang Temple. For many Tibetans, Jokhang Temple it is the most sacred and important temple in Tibet.You can watch pilgrims come to the end of their long journey; many having travelled by foot and laying prostate on the ground with each step. The smell of yak candles can be quite overwhelming when inside the temple, but oh so worth it.If you can, do catch a local bus and head towards the Sera Monastery to witness the debating monks. Or just wander Lhasa and soak up the atmosphere. You may hear singing and chanting from behind temple doors, pop your head in. You will find you are welcomed. It’s that kinda place.
Beijing is definitely my favourite city in China. I have a soft spot for big, crazy cities, but Beijing is a lot more than that - it's the kind of place that conceals lots of realities and worlds, some of which are hard to visit unless you have locals to guide you around. You can tour the hutong, Beijing's traditional neighbourhoods, some of which have been restored while in others you can still appreciate traditional architecture and see people going about their daily life.
Then you can hop on the metro and see the crazy architecture of the Bird's Nest stadium or visit the sprawling Forbidden City, one of the greatest things I have seen in my life. I also love the amazing food scene, but if you were to ask me why I like the city so much, I would say it's because of all the unusual things to do in Beijing - from visiting traditional bathhouses to hutong turned hipster hangouts, theaters in former printing factories and more!
Located in the most western part of China, bordering Kyrgyzstan and 4,400km from Beijing, Kashgar is the second largest city in Xinjiang province and home to the largest population of Uyghurs in the world, an ethnic Central Asian Muslim group.
Whatever you think you know about China, it isn’t true in Kashgar. Uyghurs practice Islam, don’t have Chinese eyes and speak a Turkic language. In food markets they don’t serve steamed rice but plov, a Central Asian dish that consists of rice, carrots and raisins fried in lamb fat. You won’t find fried pork but plenty of mutton and, unlike the lactose intolerant cities of China, yogurt and milk products are a big deal.
From beautiful shrines and mosques to a world wide famous animal market where you can buy 2-humped camels, in Kashgar even the Han Chinese feel like complete strangers, as 90% of Uyghurs don’t speak Chinese. If you want to get off the beaten track in China, Kashgar, as well as the rest of Xinjiang province, won’t let you down.
I hadn’t heard of Datong until I started researching my trip to China and was fascinated by the look of the Yungang Grottoes so I just had to add it to my itinerary
The Grottoes are a UNESCO Heritage site in the province of Shanxi just outside the city of Datong. I flew from Beijing and spent a day exploring these Buddhist temples. They are over 1000 years old and the carvings in the rocks range from 4 cm to 7 metres but they are so impressive to see close up.
I was travelling solo and hired a driver and an English speaking guide who took me to some amazing sites in just one day. During the trip I visited the Nine-Dragon Wall, Huayan Monastery and the hanging temples. This is definitely a place that needs to be added to a trip to China as the landscape is beautiful and a total contrast to Beijing and Shanghai.
8. HONG KONG
Hong Kong is one of my favourite cities, an interesting mix of east meets west and where old meets new. Tourists mostly stay on one of two areas, the Kowloon side or on the island, referring to Hong Kong Island. I personally prefer Kowloon, particularly around Tsim Sha Tsui (TST), a great transport hub enabling you to get to anywhere you need to go, on one of the worlds best transport systems.
Hong Kong has it all, great shopping, high end boutiques right through to street markets, including Temple St Market and Ladies Market which is held nightly. Kids will love the theme parks with Hong Kong Disneyland and Ocean Park to choose from. Hong Kong has great food including the worlds best dumplings, my kids ate dumplings every day while we were there. Riding the Peak Tram is a must, where you will be able to take in the world famous view of Hong Kong Harbour from the 360 degree platform. On a good day you can see right across Victoria Harbour and Kowloon and nearly all the way to China. Hong Kong is a vibrant, electric city and it is a must if you are heading to China.
The capital of China's Sichuan Provence, Chengdu is most famous for its teahouse culture, great food and its world famous Research Base of Giant Panda breeding.
The non profit Giant Panda reserve draws visitors from all over China and the globe eager to watch some of the world's 3,000 giant pandas in action and, by recreating their natural habitat, is a sanctuary for rescued pandas. The new born pandas are instant heartbreakers from the moment they arrive in the panda nursery while the more grown up pandas win over the crowds with their playful rough and tumble as they roll around their enclosures. It’s impossible not to fall in love with the adorable panda population of Chengdu!
Chengdu is also a great base from which to visit the UNESCO World Heritage designated Leshan Giant Buddha, located an 80 minute train ride from Chengdu. At 71 meters tall, 8 metres high and overlooking three rivers, the Maitreya took over 90 years to carve into the hillside and is the largest carved stone Buddha in the world. It truly is a magnificent sight to behold.
Suzhou is located about an hour from Shanghai and because of all the canals and bridges it is often called the 'Venice of the East'. Suzhou has over 2500 years of history and some of the oldest gardens in China. The Master of the Nets Garden is a UNESCO World Heritage site and this is a garden of tranquility and beauty.
Situated at over 2.000m, the ancient town of Lijiang in Yunnan, South West China, is one of the country's favorite holiday spots, and for good reason: the city's old towns (Lijiang, Baisha and Shuhe) combine the charm of the old, and the beauty of its many minorities. Murals from the Naxi adorn colourful walls, market stalls are filled with elderly locals wearing their traditional costumes, it feels far removed from modern China, and a lot more akin to the China depicted in all those old historical movies. And there's a reason for that; many of them were filmed here.
But those tiled roofs and narrow, labyrinth-like streets aren't the only things that attract people to the town; on a sunny day the Jade Dragon Snow mountains can be seen towering over the horizon and providing a dramatic backdrop to the antique timbered buildings of the town itself. Lijiang is the ideal entry in to the diverse and colorful province of Yunnan, and if you don't like crowds: worry not, Lijiang itself isn't the only Ancient town in the area, you could escape to Baisha which is literally next door or get to Shuhe, only a few minutes away, both of which offer the same historical and rustic appeal, but attract far fewer of the tourist hordes.
With its history stretching back as far as the 8th century, Dali is one of the most beautiful cities I’ve ever visited in China! As you enter the old walled-city, encased by towering mountains topped with fluffy clouds, you’ll venture through delightful traditional old homes and gaze up at towers from the Bai ethnic minority.
You’ll hear the sound of fresh coffee being brewed in the hipster hangouts, whilst old ladies weave their embroidered handicrafts and tourists munch on delicious noodles in the narrow alleyways. With the mountains behind you, keep venturing south and you’ll eventually hit Erhai Lake. It’s expansive, a beautiful blue and very tranquil. It can take a whole day to get around on a bike, so make sure to rent one and soak up the peaceful atmosphere.
What many visitors come here for is something unique: to study self defense. I learnt how to protect myself as a solo female traveller here by studying Jiu Jitsu intensively for 3 months. If you want the true Chinese experience, you can go and hang out with the monks in the mountains and learn defense skills there too. Enjoy!
Most people who visit China stick to well-known cities like Shanghai, Beijing, or Xian. There’s so much more in this huge country. One such little-known town is Tongli, around 2 hours from Shanghai. Like any river town, it’s quiet, serene, and doesn’t have many tourists. What it does have is China’s only sex museum.
The Ancient Chinese Sex Culture Museum (a.k.a., “The world famous exhibition of sex antiques”) was transferred to Tongli from Shanghai because of financial issues (the professor who founded it needed funds for its continued operations). Previously located in the Bund, it’s now in the sleepy river town around 80km from Shanghai.
If you want to see thousands of erotic artifacts — from paintings of people having sex to sculptures of sexual organs and manuals on how to do sexual intercourse — then the China Sex Museum is for you. A bonus? The small river town is picturesque. Walk along its canals and observe the locals go about in their daily lives. Tongli is highly recommended as a day trip from Shanghai.
Shenzhen is one of the wealthiest cities in China and a major Electronics trade hub with easy access to Hong Kong and Guangzhou. Though a majority of people visiting Shenzhen are likely to be businessmen, migrant workers or investors, the city which has one of the highest population densities in the world, has a few interesting things to offer to tourists. Though it lacks the tourist infrastructure and attractions of the other major Chinese cities and its illustrious neighbor, Hong Kong, it has created some very interesting theme parks for travelers to enjoy.
As a gateway to China, Splendid China - Folk Culture Villages offers insight into the history and culture of various regions in China. Window of the world is another amazing theme park which has recreated popular tourist attractions and world renowned monuments from around the world in a scaled down miniature form. Happy Valley, the largest theme park in Shenzhen is a must go if you're traveling with kids. If the above isn't enough, add to it the fact that it has mountains, hills and beaches, is a short roadtrip from Hong Kong and offers wonderful markets for chinese produced clothing and digital products shopping and you have a winner.
Guangzhou happened out of the blue for me. I was flying into Sanya, China and noticed there was a free stopover in Gz. After checking on traveler's Facebook groups, I heard Guangzhou is just a busy business hub and not really for traveling - Absolutely wrong. I loved Guangzhou and I would recommend it to anyone visiting China.The city has lovely landscapes, beautiful parks, fun hikes, so much architecture, culture and great food. As a solo female traveler, I didn't feel unsafe for a minute and even though language barrier was there, I enjoyed trying to play dumb charades with locals to explain myself.Visiting Baiyun mountain and Shamian island were sure shot highlights and then there are 38 other fun things to do when you are in this pretty city.
Xi’an is the home to the famous Terracotta Army! In the 1970s, this underground treasure trove was discovered completely by accident. It dates back to the very first emperor of China, who had this army built to surround his tomb and protect him in the afterlife. They continue to uncover soldiers to this day, estimating that there are over 8,000 soldiers underground! It is an incredible sight to see and an absolute can’t miss experience in China.
Besides being home to the terracotta army, Xi’an is the best city in China to visit for noodles! My travels in China began in Beijing and our local friends asked me what I wanted to eat. When I said noodles, they informed me that Beijing is not the place for noodles, Xi’an is the place for noodles! I ventured down Fenxiang Alley, otherwise known as Snack Street, and discovered every type of noodle you could dream up. I stuffed my face full of amazing noodles at about half a dozen little restaurants along the street. If you are a foodie like me, Xi’an is the place to be!
Despite the past difficulties and tragic history, Nanjing is a must see city in China. It served as the capital city for six different dynasties and is one of the four great ancient capitals of China (eastern Jiangsu province).
Nanjing has done an excellent job in preserving and protecting its beautiful, picturesque landscapes. There are also many peaceful and spiritual locations within the city. For example, Xuanwu Lake Park, a magical place, is quite serene. You can simply explore the lake park by walking around and enjoying the views, beautiful flowers and, if you visit in spring and summer, enjoy the locals dancing, practicing tai chi or other activities around the park. Hint: There’s a small boat to ride around the lake.
In addition, you must explore their many historic monuments and landmarks. The Ming Great Wall of Nanjing (a 600-year-old city fortification) is a great example of ancient architecture. The Zhonghua Gate (Gate of China) is a preserved 14th-century section of the massive wall that was part of old city’s southern entrance.
For hiking, Niushou Mountain is recommended (southern Nanjing). The 242-meter Buddhist hill has beautiful forests, monasteries, and the tomb of the sea-faring Ming General Zheng He. Basically, Nanjing is a very interesting city, with great spots to eat, and even though most do not speak English, everyone is very friendly and helpful. NOTE: It's only a 2 1/2 hour ride from Suzhou, another city I strongly recommend you visit.
Wenzhou (pronounced “When-Joe”) is located in the southeastern part of China’s Zhejiang Province, where itenjoys year-round mild weather. Its name makes sense, since the word “wen” in Chinese means “warm.” The area is not cold in winter and not hot in summer, though in fall it can be foggy and humid--seemingly always covered in a mist. Located south of Shanghai--1 hour by plane, 3 to 4 hours by high-speed train--it is a big city with a population of more than 6 million. Still, chances are slim that anyone you know has been here.
Though Wenzhou has a rich history that dates back more than 2,200 years, it is also a modern city the feels young with vitality and is home to luxury hotels, good restaurants and bars, and varied shopping. The area is populated with many famous poets, writers, dignitaries, and mathematicians, and it is also renowned for its handicrafts--including ceramics, paper, silk textiles, and embroidery. It also produces shoes and eye-glass frames galore. My experience was that the locals are friendly and often treated Westerners like rock stars--young girls and children would giggle and sometimes ask for selfies with us
The beautiful walled city of Pingyao is a little known hidden gem to visitors from outside of China. It is affectionately known as the turtle city as its surrounding walls form the shape of a turtle when seen from above.
The beauty is that it is nestled halfway between Beijing and Xi’an so it makes the perfect stopover on the way to the Terracotta Warriors. Pingyao walled city is over 2,700 years old and it preserves this antiquity in its idyllic cobbled streets. Chinese lanterns hang low over the street food vendors peddling all manner of cakes and cooked meats.
The ancient walled city is easily walkable to the point that its main streets are pedestrian only, which helps to preserve its charm. As a visitor, you are able to buy a combo pass that allows you to visit all of the museums and temples for only RMB130 for three days. It is worth it, if only to be able to walk along the city walls and see the tiled roof tops disappear into the distance. After a days touring, there are plenty unique courtyard guesthouses to lay your weary head.