China is a populous nation in East Asia whose vast landscape encompasses grassland, desert, mountains, lakes, rivers and more than 14,000km of coastline.

Capital Beijing mixes modern architecture with historic sites such as the Forbidden City palace complex and Tiananmen Square.

Shanghai is a skyscraper-studded global financial center. The iconic Great Wall of China runs east-west across the country’s north.

1. Beijing


Beijing, China’s massive capital, has history stretching back 3 millennia.

Yet it’s known as much for its modern architecture as its ancient sites such as the grand Forbidden City complex, the imperial palace during the Ming and Qing dynasties.

Tiananmen Square

Nearby, the massive Tiananmen Square pedestrian plaza is the site of Mao Zedong’s mausoleum and the National Museum of China, displaying a vast collection of cultural relics.

Other major attractions include the Summer Palace, the retreat of emperors with pavilions and gardens along Kunming Lake.

Beijing Olympic Park, built for the 2008 games, encompasses a long promenade and Beijing National Stadium, dubbed The Bird’s Nest for its interlocking steel grids.

The Back Lakes district offers narrow old streets (hutongs) lined with boutiques and cafes.

The 798 Art District hosts cutting-edge galleries.

A popular side trip is an excursion to a nearby section of the Great Wall of China.

2. Shanghai


Shanghai, on China’s central coast, is the country’s biggest city and a global financial hub.

Its heart is the Bund, a famed waterfront promenade lined with colonial-era buildings.

Across the Huangpu River rises the Pudong district’s futuristic skyline, including 632m Shanghai Tower and the Oriental Pearl TV Tower, with distinctive pink spheres.

Nanjing Road

Sprawling Yu Garden has traditional pavilions, towers and ponds.

Nanjing Road is the city’s longtime shopping thoroughfare, with a range of stores that are brightly lit at night.

It leads to expansive People’s Square, where the Shanghai Museum displays carved jade, calligraphy and other traditional Chinese arts.

Longhua Temple is a large complex known for its ornate Song dynasty pagoda.

The French Concession, home of the city’s French population from 1849 to 1943, offers tree-lined streets, art deco buildings and hip boutiques, cafes and bars.

Shanghai’s native cuisine features specialties such as xiaolongbao (steamed dumplings), hairy crabs and drunken chicken.

3. Zhangjiajie


Zhangjiajie, a city in the northwest of China’s Hunan province, is home to the famed Wulingyuan Scenic Area.

This protected zone encompasses thousands of jagged quartzite sandstone columns, many of which rise over 200m, as well as caves filled with stalactites and stalagmites.


Wulingyuan also encompasses forests, rivers, waterfalls and 2 large natural land bridges, as well as endangered plant and animal species.

Wulingyuan includes Zhangjiajie National Forest Park, Suoxi Valley Nature Reserve and Tianzi Mountain Reserve.

Each park offers cable cars, hiking trails and rivers for rafting. Zhangjiajie National Forest Park is home to scenic Golden Whip Stream.

The park’s Yuanjiajie area contains the naturally formed Tianqiashengkong (Bridge Across the Sky), more than 350m above the valley, and the glass-and-steel Bailong Elevator, which ascends roughly 330m straight up a cliffside.

Tianmen Mountain features a natural archway with 999 carved steps leading to its entrance.

The cliff-hanging walkway and glass skywalk are hundreds of meters high.

4. Chongqing


Chongqing is a sprawling municipality at the confluence of the Yangtze and Jialing rivers in southwestern China.

In the city center, the large, domed Great Hall of the People complex stands above pedestrianized People’s Square.

On the other side of the square, the Three Gorges Museum features artifacts from the construction of the Three Gorges Dam as well as ancient art.

Chongqing is known for its hot springs and spas, some more than a century old.


Ciqikou village, a center for porcelain production during the Ming and Qing dynasties, now offers teahouses and souvenir shops.

Chongqing’s zoo is home to rare giant and red pandas.

Glitzy Jiefangbei is a busy shopping area with a large number of malls.

Huangjueping Graffiti Street has galleries and vibrant street art.

Hot pot with spicy Sichuan pepper is a local favorite, served at stalls and restaurants throughout the city.

Dazu, a popular side trip about 100 kilometers west, features ancient Buddhist and Taoist rock carvings.

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