"A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step” - Laozi

Whether it’s because of the history, nature, or architecture, the People's Republic of China is a popular destination for European tourists who want to learn more about this millennia-old civilisation. Foreign tourists can experience all of this in one of China’s many huge cities, with over one hundred of them exceeding 1 million inhabitants. However, it’s not just the number of residents that’s interesting, but rather the many great things for tourists to do.

So which are the most beautiful cities in China? How can you get ready for your trip? Which ones do you have to see?

In this article, we'll be looking at what you can do in Beijing, China's capital city, Shanghai, the most touristy city, Xi'an, home to China's history, and Hangzhou!

Beijing, China’s Historic Capital

As the capital, it’s unsurprising that Beijing is one of the country’s most popular cities. In the past, it was home to the Jin Dynasty and today is the country’s political centre and home to the Great Hall of the People and Tienanmen Square.

Why should you visit Beijing?
Visiting the capital is a good place to start if you're visiting China. (Source: PublicDomainPictures)

With 21.5 million inhabitants, this is one of the biggest cities in northern China and the world.

Walking about Beijing is enjoyable, especially given the variety of different districts:

  • Wangfujing and Xidan streets are great places to shop
  • The Zhongguancun District is the Chinese equivalent of Silicon Valley
  • Guomao is home to the business district.

In terms of monuments, you have to see the Great Wall of China. There are also other great sites such as:

  • The Temple of Heaven, a UNESCO World Heritage Site
  • The Forbidden City
  • The National Museum of China
  • Jingshan Park, a great place to relax after a day in the heat of the city

Make sure you book your hotels ahead of time as international hotels can be booked months in advance in Beijing.

Maybe you’d prefer a holiday rent?

Did you know that the capital city will host the Winter Olympic Games in 2022?

Another good reason to go to China!

Shanghai, China’s Tourist City

Shanghai, which literally means “Upon-the-Sea” in Chinese, is one of the biggest cities in China and the world with 24.2 million inhabitants. It’s a financial hub, which is helped by its location at the mouth of the Yangtze River. There are several interesting districts:

  • The Xuhui District, home to colonial architecture.
  • The Jing’an District, both commercial and residential.
  • The Huangpu District, which is very touristy.
Why should you visit Shanghai?
Shanghai is a fine example of China's modernity. (Source: Atlantios)

However, that’s not all. Shanghai is a city where you can discover both the West and the East. When you go there, you can visit:

  • The Bund, a pedestrian area on the banks of the Huangpu River.
  • The Jade Buddha Temple
  • People’s Square
  • The Shanghai Grand Theatre, where you can see many beautiful local shows
  • The Yu Garden, a great place to relax after a long day
  • The Pearl Tower, a television tower

You should also head to the Old Town in the west of the city. It was completely rebuilt and is the most populated part of the city. Get a guided tour and you can travel back in time.

Shanghai is a beautiful city at the crossroads of authenticity and modernity.

Find out more about the best things to see in China.

Xi’an, the Heart of China’s Epic History

China isn’t just a country of technology. When you visit China, don’t miss Xi’an in the Shaanxi Province. It’s at the end of the Silk Road and is very touristy, which doesn’t detract from just how beautiful the city is.

Did you know that the name “Xi’an” means “Western Peace”?

Why should you visit Xi'an?
If you want to get away from the bigger cities in China, consider visiting Xi'an! (Source: XNHZ_681008)

Xi’an in the heart of Chinese territory and is a great place to head on a trip to the Louguantai Temple or Mount Huashan from. If you want to discover Chinese culture, there are plenty of monuments worth visiting:

  • The Terracotta Army, ancient sculptures.
  • The Giant Wild Goose Pagoda, a 7th-century Buddhist monument.
  • The Mausoleum of the First Qin Emperor.
  • The Xi’an City Walls.
  • The Steles Forest, a history museum.
  • The Huaqing Pool, a famous hot spring.

Don’t forget to stop off in local restaurants to enjoy traditional Chinese food! You can try things like dim sum, Peking duck, or Szechuan sauce.

The best thing about all this is that the province is famous for its pandas! There are several panda reserves within 2 hours!

So are you tempted?

Find out more about how long you should spend in China.


The Zhejiang Province is home to West Lake in Hangzhou which inspired many poets and artists. Many great emperors lived there in the 9th and 10th centuries. It’s considered to be one of China’s most beautiful cities and was the capital under the Song Dynasty.

Check Superprof if you want to take Mandarin courses London.

Why should you visit Hangzhou?
Hangzhou is a beautiful part of China. (Source: Vined)

The West Lake is nearly 10 miles in circumference and you can walk around all of it. When night falls, the lake is the perfect destination for a romantic evening. It’s perfect for an authentic Chinese experience.

You should also add the following destinations to your list:

  • Lingyin Temple, a 4th-century Buddhist temple.
  • Leifeng Pagoda.
  • Qinghe Lane, a great place to shop.
  • Dreaming of the Tiger Spring, where you can walk.
  • Tianmushan Nature Reserve
  • The botanical gardens.

As you can see, there’s more nature here than China’s other megacities and it’s a great way to see another side to China. If you love nature, you should go for a walk along Longjing Road. Hello Kitty lovers can also enjoy a park dedicated to the character! Hangzhou is the most popular site for expats in China.

Find out more about planning a trip to China.

Other Chinese Cities to Discover

When you travel to China, there’s more than just four cities to discover. In fact, there are tonnes of places with skyscrapers, ancient temples, and wonderful sights to see. Some of the most popular include:

  • Hong Kong, a Chinese autonomous territory and financial centre.
  • Shenzhen, a commercial metropolis for shopaholics.
  • Yangshuo, famous for its beautiful rice fields.
  • Zhangjiajie, in a region of natural beauty.
  • Suzhou, with its canals.
  • Chengdu, a beautiful city in the centre of China with many historic remains.
  • Guilin, home to limestone hills and colourful grottos.
  • Lijiang (Yunnan Province) where you can see the Tiger Leaping Gorge, a great place for a trek.

In the Sichuan Province in the south of China, which has the Yangtze River running through it, you can see pandas in the Bifengxia Panda Base.

If you can’t choose just one destination, why not travel around China?

Make the most of the Chinese New Year and organise a trip to all these different places and see just how diverse Chinese culture is! Before you go, you should learn some Mandarin Chinese. Once you’re there, you’ll notice how few signs are translated into English!

So do you prefer skyscrapers, natural parks, or ancient temples?

So which Chinese city would you like to visit?

If you'd like to learn some Chinese before you go to Shanghai, you could consider enlisting the help of one of the many talented tutors on Superprof! The tutors on the site offer three types of private tutorials to help you learn the lingo: face-to-face tutorials, online tutorials, and group tutorials.

Face-to-face tutorials are taught with one student and one tutor and tend to be the most costly per hour because you're paying for both bespoke lessons and a bespoke course. Face-to-face tutorials are usually the most cost-effective type of tutorial since every minute in the lesson is spent focusing on you as the student. Additionally, the tutor will also be spending time outside of the lessons finding resources and planning the time they'll spend with you.

Online tutorials are similar to the face-to-face tutorials but take place either on a call or over webcam. Thanks to the internet, you can now video conference tutors from all over the world and be taught for less per hour since the tutor won't have the travel costs to worry about and can fit more students into their schedule as a result.

Finally, group tutorials are more like the classes you'll have had in school with one teacher and multiple students. However, with group tutorials, you and a group of friends (perhaps the people you'll be travelling with) can get in touch with a private tutor to plan lessons that you'll all attend together.

Each different type of tutorial has its pros and cons and it's really up to you and your budget to decide how much you'll need to learn, how you want to learn, and what your budget is going to be for Chinese language lessons before you go.

Need a Chinese teacher?

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