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Top 17 Best Places to visit in China

Most Popular Tourist Attractions in China

Sunrise in Guilin China

Bucket List: 17 Beautiful Places to Visit in China

With its diverse culture and long history, impressive skylines, and historic landmarks, China is a Mount Rushmore of travel destination. It has the most number of World Heritage Sites along with Italy, one of the most famous cuisines in the world, 53 assorted ethnic groups, and around 300 spoken languages.

Dragon's Backbone Rice Terraces, or Longji Rice Terraces in northern Guilin photo via DepositPhotos
Dragon’s Backbone Rice Terraces, or Longji Rice Terraces in northern Guilin photo via DepositPhotos

Ever since the world first discovered China through the writings of adventurer Marco Polo more than 700 years ago, this large Asian country has come to be regarded as the embodiment of all that is mysterious and exotic. It’s a culture much celebrated by the Chinese themselves, as evidenced by the preservation of such important historic sites as the Forbidden City and the Summer Palace in Beijing, each recalling the days of China’s emperors.

There are too many things to do and see in China that, unless you stay there your entire life, it is impossible to do all or even scratch the surface.

Are you planning to visit china and wondering where to go? While it can be challenging to fit all the great places to visit and see in China, these 12 are to just help you get started and inspire you.

Walk along the glass-bottomed skywalk in Guangzhou.

Gulong Canyon Glass Bridge photo via highestbridges.com
Gulong Canyon Glass Bridge photo via highestbridges.com

Located about 70 kilometers from Guangzhou, the iconic Gulong Canyon Glass Bridge features more than 1,300 meters of glass sky walkway over the Gulong Canyon.

To fully enjoy this expedition, you should consider booking one of the tours.

The Mausoleum of Light

Zhao Mausoleum by Techyan via Wikimedia cc
Zhao Mausoleum by Techyan via Wikimedia cc

In China’s mountainous northeastern region is the old city of Shenyang. This important center for trade and culture is home to the Mausoleum of Light (Zhaoling), also known as the Northern Imperial Tomb.

Another important site is the imposing Imperial Palace dating from the early Qing era, the second largest completely preserved palace complex in China after the Imperial Palace in Beijing.

Hangzhou’s Historic West Lake

West Lake Pagoda Hangzhou
West Lake Pagoda Hangzhou

Few cities in China can boast quite the same concentration of splendid historic sites and ancient temples as the city of Hangzhou (Hangchow). Capital of Zhejiang province and located at the southernmost end of China’s famous Grand Canal, much of this rich collection is gathered around lovely West Lake, a six-kilometer-square stretch of water in the heart of the old city, which is surrounded by numerous hills, pagodas, and temples.

Part of the fun is lingering on the lake’s many fine old bridges, one of the best being the Broken Bridge (Duanqiao) linking the Baidi Causeway with the shore, and exploring Little Paradise Island with its four mini-lakes linked by the zigzagging Bridge of the Nine Arches.

Shanghai’s Promenade: The Bund

Shanghai Bund At Night Oriental Pearl Tower
Shanghai Bund At Night Oriental Pearl Tower
Beautiful Shanghai Yuyuan Garden at night photo via DepositPhotos
Beautiful Shanghai Yuyuan Garden at night photo via DepositPhotos

A remarkable act of smart city planning and preservation can be seen in Shanghai’s splendid riverside promenade, the Zhongshan Lu, perhaps better known as the Bund (Wàitan).

Famous for its European feel, a fact owed to the district’s past as the location of the city’s International Settlement, the Bund is popular for its 52 preserved English- and French-influenced buildings, many now restaurants, cafés, stores, and art galleries.

As the largest city in China and one of the major global cities, Shanghai is known for its perfect blend of modern structures and ancient architecture. With more than 24 million inhabitants, the city’s major attractions include the City God Temple, the China Pavilion, Yu Garden, and the structures along the Bund.

Other centerpieces you can glee on are the Shanghai Science and Technology Museum, Oriental Pearl Radio and TV Tower, and Shanghai Disney.

Hike on the Huangshan

Yellow Mountain Huangshan via Depositphotos
Yellow Mountain Huangshan via Depositphotos

Huangshan means Yellow Mountain and is one of the most visited attractions in China. Because of its breathtaking landscapes and peaceful scenes, the Huangshan Scenic Area was listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Climbing the Yellow Mountain and watching the clouds drift above the crests during rainy days is one of the best experiences you will ever have.

The Potala Palace, Tibet

Potala Palace in Lhasa, Tibet, former home of the Dalai Lama via Deposit Photos
Potala Palace in Lhasa, Tibet, former home of the Dalai Lama via Deposit Photos

Another of China’s most recognizable historic structures is the magnificent Potala Palace in Lhasa, Tibet. Constructed as a fortress and residence for the Dalai Lama, it was for centuries a center of political and religious power and contains many of the religion’s most important treasures.

The first of the two Potala Palaces, the Red Palace, was built in the 17th century and contains the complex’s most important shrines. These are found in the Enthronement Hall, the walls of which are covered with murals depicting scenes from the lives of the Dalai Lamas and the Tibetan kings.

The Classical Gardens of Suzhou, Jiangsu

Classical Gardens of Suzhou by Gisling via Wikimedia cc
Classical Gardens of Suzhou by Gisling via Wikimedia cc

Considered one of the world’s most important historic gardens – hence their designation as a UNESCO World Heritage Site – the Classical Gardens of Suzhou should rank highly on your China travel itinerary.

One of the most famous garden complexes in China, the garden boasts a pool, several attractive buildings, a man-made hill, a grove of peach trees, and a lovely covered pathway on the walls, which hang more than three hundred stone tablets engraved with old Chinese characters.

The Yangtze River and the Three Gorges

Yangtze River
Yangtze River

Known in China as Chang Jiang (“Long River”), the mighty Yangtze River extends more than 6,000 kilometers, making it the longest and most important river in China and the third longest in the world after the Amazon and the Nile.

While its immense length ensures the river can be visited at numerous points in China, the most popular for tourists is the beautiful Three Gorges – Qutang, Wu, and Xiling. In places, a mix of raging torrents and dangerous shallows, here the river winds its way through the gorges and their rugged cliffs and high mountain.

Chengdu Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding, Sichuan

Chengdu Panda photo via DepositPhotos
Chengdu Panda photo via DepositPhotos

No visit to China would be complete without at least one panda experience. While the country’s top zoos boast many fine specimens of these fascinating creatures, the best place to see them in a close approximation to their natural habitat is at the excellent Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding in Chengdu in the province of Sichuan.

If possible, try to time your visit for the morning feeding sessions when the pandas are most active.

China is also known for its devised species of pandas, and the best place to watch them is the city of Chengdu in Sichuan Province.

In Chengdu, precisely at the Chengdu Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding, you will come across over 80 species of giant pandas and even feed them if you time your visit. The facility also features a museum with displays that focus on panda conservation.

Cruising the Li River, Guilin

Sunrise in Guilin China
Sunrise in Guilin, China

Guilin’s northeast corner of Guangxi boasts some of China’s most beautiful countryside and is famous for the Li River, which meanders through the town and surrounding karst mountains. While this unique scenery has attracted poets and artists for hundreds of years and has been the subject of countless fairy tales and legends, it’s popular with tourists worldwide wanting to see this natural splendor up close.

The best way to enjoy the area is to take a cruise along the Li River. The most popular stretch is from Guilin to Yangshuo. The river meanders peacefully through some 80 kilometers of remarkable rock formations and caves with romantic names such as the Mount of Unique Beauty, Elephant Trunk Hill, and Reed Flute Cave.

From Beijing, head to the northeastern parts of China, where you will find Guilin in the Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region, located high on the banks of the Li River.

While there are infinite things to do in China, no trip is complete without trying out the bamboo cruise down River Li. This river also happened to connect two major cities of Yangshuo and Guilin.

The cruise is around 80 kilometers and takes you through some of the best East Asia landscapes, including the famous karstic rocks.

The Forbidden City and The Imperial Palace, Beijing

Bronze lion in the forbidden city Beijing photo via Depositphotos
Bronze lion in the forbidden city Beijing photo via Depositphotos

China’s largest and most important building, the Forbidden City – also known as the Imperial Palace – is situated in the heart of Beijing and is a must-see when visiting the country.

Most of China’s impressive attractions are located in major cities, and you will encounter some of them in Beijing. Beijing is the second-largest city in China after Shanghai and has been the main center of Chinese politics, economy, culture, and academy for over 800 years.

Most of Beijing’s attractions are pristine, including the Beijing Ancient Observatory from 1442, Beihai Park, Tian’anmen Square (the largest public square in the world), and the Heavenly Temple.

While it can take many hours to see everything, highlights include the five white marble Golden River Bridges; the Hall of Supreme Harmony, a 35-meter-tall building housing the imperial throne; and the exquisite emperor’s banquet hall; and the Palace Museum with its large collection of art and artifacts from the Ming and Qing dynasties.

An easy 15-kilometer commute from Beijing, the sumptuous Imperial Summer Palace (Yíhé Yuán) is set amid more than 700 acres of beautiful parkland and is one of China’s most visited attractions.

Highlights include the magnificent Hall of Benevolence and Longevity (Renshou Dian), with its throne, and the beautiful Great Theatre, a private three-story structure built in 1891 to satisfy the imperial family’s love of opera. This historic venue is still used for performances of traditional Chinese plays and musical events and is worth a visit for a performance or show.

The Great Wall of China

Sunrise at Great Wall of China photo via Depositphotos
Sunrise at Great Wall of China photo via Depositphotos

“Nobody can be a true hero unless he has been on the Great Wall,” goes the popular Chinese saying, one that clearly demonstrates the importance placed upon this unique ancient monument.

The magnificent Great Wall of China – known in Chinese as ‘Changcheng’, or the ‘Long Wall’ – stretches more than 6,000 kilometers from the fortresses of Shanhaiguan in the east all the way to Jiayuguan in the west, passing through Hebei, Tientsin, Beijing – where the best-preserved sections of the wall can be visited – Inner Mongolia, Ningxia, and Gansu.

As one of the greatest landmarks in the history of mankind, there is just no way you can visit China without checking out this majestic wall. Locally known as “Changcheng” (Long Wall), this ancient fortification stretches over 6,000 kilometers, starting from Shanhaiguan in the east to Jiayuguan in the West.

Positioned along its walls are many watchtowers and battlements. The Great Wall of China was initially built in the 7th century BC, but most of what remains today was built around 600 years ago during the Ming Dynasty.

Enjoy a cold beer in Qingdao.

Laoshan overlooks the scenery of Qingdao photo via DepositPhotos
Laoshan overlooks the scenery of Qingdao photo via DepositPhotos
Tsingtao beer photo via DepositPhotos
Tsingtao beer photo via DepositPhotos

The city of Qingdao is famous for its Tsingtao beer, which is influenced by the Germans. The city’s famous brewery was set up by the Germans during the 20th century when they had occupied the region.

Today, you can enjoy this tasty beer anywhere in China or tour the factory in Qingdao.

Walk along the glass-bottomed skywalk in Guangzhou

Located about 70 kilometers from Guangzhou, the iconic Gulong Canyon Glass Bridge features more than 1,300 meters of glass sky walkway over the Gulong Canyon.

To fully enjoy this expedition, you should consider booking one of the tours.

Tour Hangzhou

A pavilion bridge in west lake, hangzhou, china via Depositphotos
A pavilion bridge in west lake, Hangzhou, china via Depositphotos

Hangzhou is one of China’s most visited metropolitan areas, and it is not hard to see why. Its main attraction is the 1,776 kilometers Grand Canal, which joins the city to Beijing.

Besides that, the city is also located in a photogenic spot – at the foot of a mountainous range overlooking the famous West Lake and is littered with hundreds of ancient temples and shrines.

The city has a lot to offer and was once declared the most beautiful city in the world by Marco Polo.

Explore the City of Wuhan

Yellow Crane Tower in Wuhan via Depositphotos
Yellow Crane Tower in Wuhan via Depositphotos

Wuhan is one of the oldest cities in the world and has been around for more than 3,000 years. It is located at the mouth of central China’s Hanshui and Yangtze rivers and features numerous top-of-the-line tourist attractions. One of the city’s highlights is East Lake, known for its wide range of beautiful gardens.

For those looking to learn about Wuhan’s Chinese culture and history, you can visit the Hubei Provincial Museum, which displays artifacts from the 5th century, including the tomb of Marquis Yi.

Check out Buddhas in Foshan

Guanyin of Mount Xiqiao in Foshan China via DepositPhotos
Guanyin of Mount Xiqiao in Foshan, China via DepositPhotos

Located some 20 kilometers from Guangzhou in Canton, Foshan is a popular tourist destination in China thanks to its three 628 AD bronze Buddha statues. The city was also an important hub for the porcelain industry.

There are many things to see in Foshan, including the ancient Ancestral Temple and Shi Wan.

Ride a bike along the walls of Xi’an

Xi’an Terracotta Army photo via Depositphotos
Xi’an Terracotta Army photo via DepositphotosTaken 24 Mar 2014

Though Xi’an is known for many things, the best thing to do there is ride a bike atop the old city’s walls. One of Xi’an’s most popular tourist attractions is Emperor Qinshihuang’s Mausoleum Site Museum, where you can find terracotta sculptures.

The Terracotta Army is a collection of terracotta sculptures depicting the armies of Qin Shi Huang, the first Emperor of China. It is a form of funerary art buried with the emperor in 210–209 BCE to protect the emperor in his afterlife.

Xi’an is one of the oldest cities in China, the oldest prefecture capital, and one of the Four Great Ancient Capitals, having held the position under several of the most important dynasties in Chinese history. Xi’an is the starting point of the Silk Road and home to the Terracotta Army of Emperor Qin Shi Huang.

The number of tourists is often greater during Summer (May-August), although Autumn is the most pleasant season for visiting Xi’an.

It was while digging wells on the outskirts of Xi’an in the 1970s that farmers stumbled across what was to be China’s most important archeological find: the Terracotta Army.

Although some were severely damaged due to the passing of time, many of the statues unearthed have been painstakingly re-assembled and stand as a testament to the importance bestowed upon the emperor and the afterlife. The site – part of Emperor Qin Shi Huang’s Mausoleum Site Park – is one of China’s most important tourist destinations and offers the unforgettable experience of standing in front of this assembly of soldiers and horses as if inspecting a centuries-old parade.

Have you been to any of these places in china? Which of these beautiful places in china will you explore first? Let us know in the comment section below.

China Travel and Tour Packages

To help you plan out your visit to China, we listed places to visit and other amazing places to visit in China. We also listed some of the best China travel and tour packages, excellent flight deals, and accommodation.

Searching for the best hotels, resorts, and affordable flights in the nearby Cities? Check out our list of affordable China hotels and resorts via Agoda, or you may also see available Airbnb properties in the city.

Want more updates about other beautiful tourist attractions in China? Follow #TeamOutofTown, on Facebook, TwitterInstagram, and Pinterest for more travel ideas.

Also read: China Tourist Guide : 5 Awesome Places To Visit While In China.

Written by Melo Villareal

Melo Villareal is the Online Publisher of Outoftownblog.com. He is an Accountant by profession who left the corporate world at the age of 23 to explore his beautiful country and the rest of the world. Today, Melo works as a part-time Social Media Manager for local and international clients. His full-time work focuses on discovering interesting culture, explore different cuisines and take memorable photos from local and international destinations he's visiting.

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