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Best cities to visit in China

Top attractions

About China

Travelers to China should not miss highlights like the stunning Great Wall of China, the historic Forbidden City in Beijing, and the majestic Terracotta Army in Xi'an. Nature lovers will appreciate the unique landscapes of Guilin's Li River and the bamboo groves of the scenic Zhangjiajie National Forest Park, while urban explorers can revel in the modern marvels of Shanghai's skyline.
China is a wonderland for children, featuring attractions such as the magical Shanghai Disneyland, the Beijing Zoo with its giant pandas, and the interactive Shanghai Science and Technology Museum. Waterpark fun can be had at Chimelong Water Park in Guangzhou, and educational workshops can be found at the China Science and Technology Museum in Beijing.
Outdoor enthusiasts can embark on an adventure trekking the Great Wall or cruising through the dramatic gorges of the Yangtze River. Other activities include sandboarding in the Gobi Desert, bamboo rafting in Yangshuo, and taking scenic bicycle tours amidst the rice terraces of Longji. For the more adventurous, mountaineering in Tibet's Himalayas offers an unparalleled experience.
Indulge in a cultural feast with indoor activities such as attending a Peking Opera performance, participating in a traditional tea ceremony, or exploring the rich tapestry of history at institutions like the National Museum of China. China's museums offer in-depth insights into the country's past and present, ensuring an enriching experience regardless of the weather outside.
Some of the best tours in China provide comprehensive cultural experiences and include visits to ancient sites such as the Temple of Heaven and the Shaolin Temple, famous for its association with Kung Fu. Culinary tours, particularly in places like Chengdu and Guangzhou, can't be missed by gastronomy adventurers eager to taste authentic Chinese cuisine.
Among the most popular museums are the National Museum of China, the Shanghai Museum, known for its impressive collection of bronze artifacts, and the Shaanxi History Museum in Xi'an that offers a deep dive into China's ancient civilizations. Art aficionados will enjoy the contemporary works at the Beijing Ullens Center for Contemporary Art or the Power Station of Art in Shanghai.
Rainy days provide the perfect opportunity for museum tours—from the treasures within the Forbidden City to the futuristic spectacle at the Shanghai Science and Technology Museum. Other enriching experiences include exploring the underground city of Beijing or enjoying a hotpot meal in Chengdu, which can often be accompanied by a Sichuan opera performance.

Best Things to Do In China

Embark on an unforgettable journey through the vast and diverse landscapes of China, discovering a unique tapestry of cultural and historical treasures.

Kunming: Stone Forest

What is it?
A breathtaking complex of limestone formations resembling a petrified forest.
Why you should go?
Located in Kunming, the Stone Forest is a natural treasure, an assemblage of towering limestone pillars that create the illusion of a forest made of stone. This geological phenomenon has been sculpted over millions of years and is steeped in local myths and legends. Walking through the maze-like pathways, visitors are awed by the sheer scale and artistic shapes nature can carve, making the Stone Forest a must-visit for those captivated by the Earth's natural wonders.

Harbin: Ice and Snow Festival

What is it?
World's largest ice festival showcasing spectacular sculptures and illuminated ice buildings.
Why you should go?
Harbin's Ice and Snow Festival transforms the city into a fantastical winter wonderland. Featuring the work of ice artists from around the globe, it offers a spectacle of grand palaces, towering sculptures, and whimsical figures, all carved from ice and aglow with colored lights. Adventurous souls can also enjoy myriad winter sports, earning the festival a spot among the top China attractions for visitors seeking a magical and chilly fairytale experience.

Yangshuo: Moon Hill

What is it?
An archaic limestone hill with a moon-shaped cavern offering panoramic views.
Why you should go?
Yangshuo's Moon Hill is famous for its unique crescent-shaped cavern. After a vigorous climb, visitors are rewarded with awe-inspiring views of the surrounding karst landscape. The hill itself is not only a natural wonder but also a favored spot for rock climbers and photographers. It represents the harmony of human endeavor with nature, and for those seeking one of the best things to do in China, it promises an invigorating adventure.

Zhangjiajie: Zhangjiajie National Forest Park

What is it?
A UNESCO World Heritage site known for its pillar-like rock formations shrouded in mist.
Why you should go?
For an experience akin to walking through a traditional Chinese landscape painting, Zhangjiajie National Forest Park is the place to visit. Its dramatic, quartz-sandstone pillars are often enveloped in mist, creating ethereal scenery. The park is renowned for having inspired the floating mountains in the film "Avatar" and offers visitors a multitude of activities, from hiking to cable car rides, against a backdrop of breathtaking natural splendor.

Dunhuang: Mogao Caves

What is it?
A network of Buddhist cave temples rich with historical frescoes and statues.
Why you should go?
The Mogao Caves, also known as the Thousand Buddha Grottoes, embody the zenith of Buddhist art with their exquisite murals and carvings spanning a thousand years of history. As an essential stop along the ancient Silk Road, these caves have preserved a cultural legacy that speaks of trade, religious diversity, and artistic heritage, making it an enlightening destination for those exploring the rich tapestry of China's past.
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Shanghai: Yu Garden

What is it?
A historic garden that is a resplendent representation of traditional Chinese horticulture.
Why you should go?
Nestled in the bustling heart of Shanghai, Yu Garden offers an oasis of peace amongst exquisite pavilions, koi ponds, and dragon-lined walls. Beyond its beauty, Yu Garden is a sanctuary of history, dating back to the Ming Dynasty. Entering its gates is akin to stepping into a classical Chinese painting, making it a cultural immersion not to be missed by those seeking the quintessential China experience.

Qingdao: Laoshan Scenic Area

What is it?
Home to Laoshan Mountain, one of the most renowned Taoist sacred mountains.
Why you should go?
Famed for its crystal-clear springs and scenic mountainous landscapes, Laoshan Scenic Area caters to spiritual seekers and nature lovers alike. Hiking trails lead visitors through breathtaking vistas of the Eastern China Sea, ancient Taoist temples, and serene forests. It’s a refreshing retreat for those aiming to tap into the natural wonders and spiritual heritage that rank among the best things to do in China.

Lhasa: Potala Palace

What is it?
The former winter residence of the Dalai Lama and an architectural icon of Tibet.
Why you should go?
Potala Palace is not only a historical and architectural marvel but also the spiritual heart of Tibet. Perched atop Red Hill, its imposing structure and rich cultural significance offers a deeply profound sense of grandeur and sacredness. This UNESCO World Heritage site encapsulates Tibet's storied past and Buddhism's profound teachings, rendering it a magnetic draw for visitors globally.

Suzhou: The Humble Administrator's Garden

What is it?
A sublime example of classical Chinese garden design from the Ming Dynasty.
Why you should go?
Reflecting the refined art of landscape garden design, The Humble Administrator's Garden in Suzhou is a masterpiece of water features, rockeries, and elegant pavilions. It provides insight into the aesthetical principles that have shaped Chinese garden art, offering a tranquil space for contemplation and admiration. This paradigm of Chinese cultural expression is essential for those enthralled by the harmony and philosophy behind traditional landscaping practices.

Datong: Yungang Grottoes

What is it?
An impressive collection of ancient Buddhist temple grottoes carved out of sandstone cliffs.
Why you should go?
The Yungang Grottoes showcase the peak of Buddhist rock-cut architecture, with their intricate carvings and statues that date back to the 5th century. As one of the three most famous ancient sculptural sites of China, they provide an extraordinary glimpse into the religious art and history that has shaped not only China but also much of Asia. Exploring these grottoes is a journey through time, ideal for those interested in art history and early Buddhist culture.

Beijing: Temple of Heaven

What is it?
An architectural masterpiece and a UNESCO World Heritage site.
Why you should go?
In the heart of Beijing lies the Temple of Heaven, an awe-inspiring complex of religious buildings set within a serene park. A symbol of the Ming and Qing dynasties, it represents the connection between Earth and the divine. Visitors can delve into the spiritual aspects of ancient China, admire the Hall of Prayer for Good Harvests, and experience the tranquility that has captivated Tongzhi and emperors before.

Xi'an: Xi'an City Wall

What is it?
A symbol of Xi'an's military prowess, the most comprehensive city wall in China.
Why you should go?
The Xi'an City Wall stands as a monument to China's historical fortifications. It offers a unique vantage point to survey the bustling city below while you stroll its considerable length. Its vibrant history and the stunning panoramic views it provides make it a cornerstone in the list of places to visit in China, appealing to history buffs and casual tourists alike seeking to combine exercise with cultural exploration.

Guilin: Li River Cruise

What is it?
A scenic journey through one of China's most picturesque landscapes.
Why you should go?
Taking a Li River Cruise is undoubtedly one of the best things to do in China, as you traverse the tranquil waters that flow from Guilin to Yangshuo. The cruise offers unrivaled views of karst mountain peaks, lush terraces, and traditional fishing villages. It's a not-to-be-missed experience for nature enthusiasts and photographers yearning to capture the essence of China's natural beauty.

Chengdu: Chengdu Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding

What is it?
A conservation center devoted to the research and breeding of the Giant Panda.
Why you should go?
For animal lovers pondering what to do in China, visiting the Chengdu Panda Base is essential. The opportunity to see the endangered Giant Pandas in a setting that closely mimics their natural habitat is both educational and enchanting. Engage with interactive exhibits, stroll through bamboo groves, and observe these beloved creatures as they play and feed, providing a truly heartwarming experience.

Hangzhou: West Lake

What is it?
A stunning UNESCO-listed freshwater lake enveloped by historic pagodas and lush gardens.
Why you should go?
Historically famous and poetically celebrated, the West Lake in Hangzhou stands out as one of the top things to do in China. The lake's serene water, dotted with lotus flowers and bordered by ancient temples, offers a peaceful escape from the urban rush. The idyllic sceneries of West Lake have inspired poets and painters over the centuries and continue to enchant visitors with boat rides, cycling paths, and the celebrated Impression West Lake light show.

TOP-5 Free Tours in China

  • Explore the Great Wall: Traverse the ancient steps of one of the most iconic China attractions and delve into its storied past, all at your own pace.
  • Discover the Forbidden City: Uncover the secrets of emperors within the largest imperial palace in the world, a highlight among things to see in China.
  • Stroll through the Summer Palace: Immerse yourself in imperial gardens and pavilions, experiencing serenity and beauty central to what to do in China.
  • Wander Shanghai's Bund: Learn about Shanghai's colonial history while taking in the futuristic skyline, reflecting the dynamic China activities available.
  • Visit the Terracotta Army: Marvel at one of the top things to do in China—an army of sculptures that has watched over Emperor Qin Shi Huang for millennia.