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Top 10 Things To Do In China


Modified: December 27, 2023

by Charla Prescott


Great Wall of China

The Great Wall of China is not only a feat of engineering marvel, but also a symbol of China’s rich history and culture. Stretching over 13,000 miles, this ancient masterpiece winds its way across mountains, valleys, and deserts, leaving visitors in awe of its grandeur.


Built over several centuries, the Great Wall was constructed to protect the Chinese empire from invasions and raids. Today, it stands as a testament to the perseverance and ingenuity of the ancient Chinese people. Walking along the wall, you can’t help but feel a profound sense of awe and admiration for the craftsmanship that went into its creation.


There are several sections of the Great Wall that are open to the public, each offering a unique experience. The most popular section is Badaling, known for its well-preserved condition and accessibility. Here, you can climb the steep steps and enjoy panoramic views of the surrounding landscape.


If you’re looking for a more adventurous experience, head to the Jinshanling or Simatai sections. These sections are less crowded and offer a more authentic and rugged look at the wall. Trekking along these sections will bring you closer to the historical significance of the structure and allow you to appreciate its true magnificence.


Visiting the Great Wall is a once-in-a-lifetime experience, and it’s important to be well-prepared. Make sure to wear comfortable shoes and bring plenty of water as the climb can be strenuous. It’s also advisable to visit during the spring or autumn months when the weather is mild and the crowds are smaller.


As you traverse the Great Wall, take a moment to imagine the ancient soldiers who once guarded this monumental structure. Reflect on the history that unfolded within these walls and soak in the breathtaking views of the Chinese countryside. Whether you’re a history enthusiast or simply seeking adventure, the Great Wall of China is a must-visit destination that will leave an indelible mark on your travel memories.


The Forbidden City

The Forbidden City, located in the heart of Beijing, is an awe-inspiring UNESCO World Heritage site that offers a glimpse into China’s imperial past. This grand palace complex, with its intricate architecture and rich history, is a must-visit destination for travelers seeking to immerse themselves in Chinese culture.


Once the imperial palace of the Ming and Qing dynasties, the Forbidden City is the largest ancient palace complex in the world. It served as the political and ceremonial center of China for over 500 years and was home to 24 emperors. Today, it stands as a symbol of power and prestige, showcasing the opulence and grandeur of Chinese royalty.


Stepping through the Meridian Gate, visitors are transported back in time as they enter the Forbidden City. The palatial courtyards, ornate halls, and meticulously manicured gardens take you on a journey through Chinese history. Each building within the complex is a masterpiece of traditional Chinese architecture, adorned with intricate carvings, vibrant colors, and exquisite detailing.


As you explore the Forbidden City, make sure to visit the Hall of Supreme Harmony, the largest and most important hall in the complex. It was here that the emperor held grand ceremonies and made important decisions. The Hall of Clocks and Watches is another fascinating spot, showcasing a collection of ancient timepieces that were once used by the imperial court.


While strolling through the vast courtyards and halls, you can also explore the Imperial Garden, a tranquil retreat within the Forbidden City. This meticulously landscaped garden features pavilions, rockeries, and vibrant flora, creating a serene ambiance that provides respite from the bustling city outside.


Visiting the Forbidden City is like stepping into a living museum. The artifacts, artworks, and relics housed within its walls offer invaluable insights into China’s imperial past. From priceless porcelain and jade treasures to intricate calligraphy and artworks, the collection within the palace complex is a testament to China’s rich cultural heritage.


As you wander through the corridors and chambers, take a moment to appreciate the profound history that surrounds you. Imagine the emperors, empresses, and eunuchs who once resided within these walls and played key roles in shaping China’s destiny. The Forbidden City is undoubtedly a landmark that encapsulates the essence of Chinese history, leaving visitors in awe of its grandeur and historical significance.


Terracotta Army

The Terracotta Army is one of China’s most staggering archaeological discoveries and a UNESCO World Heritage site. Located in the city of Xi’an, this ancient army of life-sized terracotta soldiers and horses has captivated the world with its sheer scale and intricate craftsmanship.


The Terracotta Army was created over 2,000 years ago by Emperor Qin Shi Huang, the first emperor of China. It was intended to accompany him in the afterlife and protect him in his eternal reign. The army consists of thousands of warriors, each with distinct facial expressions, hairstyles, and uniforms, as well as chariots, weapons, and horses.


Visiting the Terracotta Army is like stepping into a time capsule. As you enter the vast underground pits, you’ll be awestruck by the sight of row upon row of warriors, standing in formation as if frozen in time. The level of detail and craftsmanship is remarkable, with each soldier being unique in its features and expressions.


One of the highlights of the Terracotta Army is Pit 1, the largest and most impressive of the three pits. This pit alone contains over 6,000 warriors, along with chariots and horses. Walking through the pit, you’ll get a sense of the scale and organization of the army, as well as the meticulous attention to detail paid by the ancient craftsmen.


Another noteworthy pit is Pit 2, which contains a command post and high-ranking officers. Here, you can witness the hierarchy and structure within the army, as well as marvel at the intricate armor and weaponry on display. Pit 3, although smaller in size, offers a more intimate viewing experience, providing a closer look at the individual soldiers and their unique features.


Aside from the pits, be sure to visit the Museum of the Terracotta Army, which houses a wealth of artifacts, including bronze weapons, jade ornaments, and other treasures unearthed from the site. It offers a deeper understanding of the historical context and cultural significance of the Terracotta Army.


Visiting the Terracotta Army is a humbling experience that transports you back to ancient China. It provides a glimpse into the incredible achievements of the Qin Dynasty and the meticulous craftsmanship of its artisans. The scale and craftsmanship of the army are a testament to China’s rich history and cultural heritage, leaving visitors in awe of its sheer magnificence.


Zhangjiajie National Forest Park

Zhangjiajie National Forest Park, located in the Hunan province of China, is a natural wonderland that will transport you to a surreal world. This breathtaking UNESCO World Heritage site is known for its towering sandstone pillars, mist-shrouded mountains, and lush foliage, inspiring visitors with its ethereal beauty.


The park gained international fame after serving as the inspiration for the floating mountains in the film “Avatar.” As you explore the park, you’ll understand why it was chosen as a backdrop for such a fantastical movie. Every step unveils a scene straight out of a fairytale, with misty peaks rising majestically from the forest floor.


One of the most iconic spots in Zhangjiajie National Forest Park is the aptly named Avatar Hallelujah Mountain. This towering pillar of rock stands as a symbol of the park’s otherworldly beauty and captivates visitors with its sheer verticality. Take a moment to gaze at its magnificence and let the serene surroundings engulf you.


For a truly unique perspective of the park, take a ride on the Bailong Elevator, also known as the Hundred Dragons Elevator. This glass elevator takes you on a thrilling ascent through a narrow crevice in the mountains, offering panoramic views of the surrounding landscape. The aerial views of the dense forest and the mesmerizing rock formations are truly unparalleled.


Exploring Zhangjiajie National Forest Park is a hiker’s dream come true. There are numerous trails that wind through the park, leading you to hidden valleys, stunning viewpoints, and enchanting waterfalls. The most famous trail is the Golden Whip Stream, a leisurely path that meanders along a crystal-clear stream while encompassed by towering pillars, magnificent trees, and vibrant flora.


Another must-visit area within the park is Tianzi Mountain. From its mountaintop viewpoint, you can witness breathtaking vistas of the sea of clouds, sunrise or sunset, and the unique rock formations that dot the landscape. It’s an awe-inspiring sight that will leave you speechless.


Visiting Zhangjiajie National Forest Park is an otherworldly experience that will immerse you in nature’s stunning beauty. Whether you’re an avid hiker, a nature lover, or simply seeking a serene escape from the bustling city, this enchanting park will leave an indelible mark on your soul. Prepare to be transported to a world of soaring peaks, misty valleys, and a sense of awe that can only be found in Zhangjiajie.


The Bund

The Bund, situated on the banks of the Huangpu River in Shanghai, is a captivating waterfront promenade that offers a glimpse into the city’s rich past and vibrant present. With its iconic skyline, historic buildings, and bustling atmosphere, the Bund is a must-visit destination for travelers seeking to immerse themselves in the energy and charm of Shanghai.


Stretching for 1.5 miles, the Bund is home to a collection of architecturally stunning buildings that showcase a blend of Western and Chinese design influences. Strolling along the promenade, you’ll be treated to a visual feast of grand colonial-era structures, such as the Peace Hotel, the Customs House, and the Shanghai Pudong Development Bank. These buildings reflect Shanghai’s history as a vibrant international trading hub in the early 20th century.


From the Bund, you’ll also be able to marvel at the futuristic skyline of Pudong across the river. Dominated by towering skyscrapers and iconic landmarks like the Oriental Pearl Tower and Shanghai Tower, this view is a testament to Shanghai’s transformation into a global financial and commercial powerhouse.


For the best experience, visit the Bund in the evening when the lights of the buildings and the colorful LED displays illuminate the skyline. The Bund takes on a magical ambiance, and the sight is simply breathtaking. Be sure to bring your camera to capture this iconic moment.


While the architecture is a major draw, the Bund is also a bustling hub of activity. The promenade is always abuzz with locals and tourists alike, offering a vibrant atmosphere filled with street performers, artists, and market stalls. It’s a perfect place to immerse yourself in the local culture, sample street food, and interact with the locals.


Exploring the Bund shouldn’t be limited to the riverside. Venture inward and explore the surrounding streets to discover hidden gems, quaint cafes, and boutique shops. Nanjing Road, one of China’s premier shopping streets, is just a stone’s throw away and offers a plethora of high-end retail stores, department stores, and restaurants.


The Bund is more than just a picturesque promenade. It’s a symbol of Shanghai’s heritage, a vibrant hub of activity, and a testament to China’s rise on the global stage. Whether you’re gazing at the historic buildings, marveling at the modern skyline, or immersing yourself in the lively atmosphere, a visit to the Bund will leave you with lasting memories of the beauty and dynamism of Shanghai.


Li River

The Li River, located in Guilin, Guangxi province, is renowned for its breathtaking landscapes and tranquil beauty. With its iconic karst mountains, meandering river, and picturesque villages, a cruise along the Li River is a must-do experience for nature lovers and photographers alike.


Embarking on a Li River cruise is like entering a painting. As you drift along the river, you’ll be greeted with mesmerizing scenes of lush green hills towering over the crystal-clear water. The karst formations, with their unique shapes and lush vegetation, create a surreal and ethereal atmosphere that will leave you awe-inspired.


One of the most iconic landmarks along the Li River is the Elephant Trunk Hill, which resembles an elephant drinking from the river. This natural limestone formation is a symbol of Guilin and is a popular spot for photo opportunities. The hill’s reflection in the water creates a mirror-like effect, adding to its enchanting allure.


As you cruise further down the river, you’ll pass through the captivating landscape of Yangshuo. This charming town is surrounded by towering karst peaks, verdant rice paddies, and quaint villages. It’s a great place to disembark and explore the local markets, sample delicious street food, or rent a bike and cycle through the countryside.


Another highlight of the Li River cruise is the chance to witness local fishermen practicing their ancient fishing techniques. The spectacle of the fishermen using cormorants to catch fish is a sight to behold. The birds dive into the water to catch the fish, and the fishermen skillfully retrieve them, maintaining a deep harmony with nature.


The best time to cruise the Li River is during the spring and autumn months when the weather is mild and the landscape is at its most vibrant. However, each season offers its own unique beauty. From the lush green of summer to the golden hues of autumn, the Li River’s beauty knows no bounds.


As you soak in the mesmerizing scenery, it’s important to remember the famous saying, “Guilin’s scenery is the best under heaven.” The Li River is a living testament to this. Its serene beauty and majestic karst peaks encapsulate the essence of natural harmony, leaving a lasting imprint on anyone fortunate enough to experience it.


Potala Palace

The Potala Palace, located in Lhasa, Tibet, is a captivating architectural masterpiece and a symbol of Tibetan Buddhism. Perched atop Marpo Ri Hill, the palace complex rises majestically above the city, offering panoramic views of the surrounding Himalayan mountains. A visit to the Potala Palace is a spiritual and cultural journey, immersing you in the rich heritage of Tibet.


As you approach the palace, its grandeur and exquisite details become apparent. The Potala Palace is an architectural marvel, with its towering white walls, gilded roofs, and intricate Tibetan-style artwork. Built in the 7th century, it served as the winter residence of the Dalai Lama and the seat of Tibetan government for centuries.


Stepping inside the palace, you’ll be transported to a world of reverence and spirituality. The interior is adorned with stunning murals, intricate carvings, and precious Buddhist artifacts. The highlight of the visit is the breathtaking Red Palace, which houses sacred chapels, prayer halls, and the lavish tombs of past Dalai Lamas. The smell of incense fills the air, adding to the serene and reverent atmosphere.


As you climb the steep steps of the palace, you’ll pass through numerous chambers, each with its own unique beauty and significance. The Great West Hall, with its towering pillars and golden statues, is a sight to behold. The Qing Dynasty-era murals of the East Chapel will transport you to another era, depicting scenes from Buddhist scriptures in vivid colors.


A visit to the Potala Palace is not just about the architecture and artwork; it’s also a chance to witness the devoutness and spirituality of Tibetan Buddhism. Tibetan pilgrims and monks can be seen throughout the complex, prostrating and chanting prayers, creating a palpable sense of devotion and holiness.


Outside the palace, take a moment to explore the surrounding gardens that are meticulously manicured and adorned with colorful flowers. The view from the palace grounds offers sweeping vistas of Lhasa and the distant snow-capped mountains, providing a sense of tranquility and serenity.


Visiting the Potala Palace is an immersive experience that connects you with Tibetan history, spirituality, and culture. It’s a pilgrimage destination that will leave a lasting impression on your soul. As you admire the grandeur and absorb the energy of this sacred site, you’ll gain a deeper appreciation for the profound beliefs and traditions that shape Tibetan Buddhism and its enduring influence on the region.


Kung Fu Show in Beijing

Immerse yourself in the ancient martial art of Kung Fu with a thrilling Kung Fu show in Beijing. This captivating performance showcases the incredible skill, precision, and discipline of Kung Fu masters, leaving audiences in awe of their physical prowess and cultural heritage.


Beijing is renowned for its rich history and cultural traditions, and Kung Fu plays a significant role in Chinese culture. The Kung Fu show in Beijing offers a unique opportunity to witness this ancient art form come alive on stage. The performers, often trained in prestigious Kung Fu schools, demonstrate their agility, strength, and mastery of martial arts techniques, captivating the audience with their dynamic moves and impressive acrobatics.


The show not only highlights the physical aspect of Kung Fu but also tells a captivating story, often drawing inspiration from Chinese legends and folklore. Through dramatic fight sequences and intricate choreography, the performers take the audience on a journey filled with emotion, suspense, and cultural symbolism.


The production values of the Kung Fu show are exceptional, with elaborate set designs, stunning costumes, and captivating stage effects. From traditional Chinese music and powerful drumbeats to dynamic lighting and visual effects, every aspect of the performance is meticulously crafted to enhance the audience’s experience.


A visit to a Kung Fu show in Beijing is not only entertaining but also educates audiences about the cultural significance of this ancient art form. It offers a window into the philosophy and values that underpin Kung Fu, such as discipline, respect, and perseverance. Witnessing the dedication and commitment of the performers is inspiring, reminding us of the importance of hard work and dedication in achieving mastery.


Attending a Kung Fu show in Beijing is a memorable experience that appeals to people of all ages and backgrounds. Whether you’re a martial arts enthusiast, cultural explorer, or simply looking for an unforgettable evening of entertainment, the Kung Fu show will leave you with a deep appreciation for the artistry, athleticism, and cultural heritage of this iconic Chinese tradition.


The Ancient City of Pingyao

Journey back in time with a visit to the ancient city of Pingyao, a UNESCO World Heritage site located in Shanxi province, China. This well-preserved ancient city offers a glimpse into China’s rich history, taking visitors on a captivating journey through its grand city walls, traditional architecture, and rich cultural heritage.


The Ancient City of Pingyao dates back over 2,700 years and served as a thriving financial center during the Ming and Qing dynasties. As you step through its imposing city gates, you’ll be transported to a bygone era, surrounded by magnificent courtyards, narrow cobbled streets, and ancient buildings that bear witness to Pingyao’s prosperous past.


The city’s most prominent feature is its remarkably intact city walls, which stretch for over six kilometers and stand at an impressive height. Walking along these fortified walls offers panoramic views of the city below and its traditional architecture, blending seamlessly with the modern world.


Exploring the labyrinthine streets of Pingyao is like stepping into a living museum. The city is home to over 4,000 well-preserved Ming and Qing-era buildings, including temples, ancestral halls, and courtyard residences. These architectural treasures feature intricate woodcarvings, colorful murals, and traditional architectural styles that reflect the elegance and charm of ancient China.


While in Pingyao, make sure to visit Rishengchang Exchange House, considered the first money exchange establishment in China. This historical site provides insight into the city’s banking heritage and its significance in China’s economic history.


Immerse yourself in the local culture by visiting the bustling marketplaces, where vendors sell traditional goods and local delicacies. Sample the famous Pingyao beef, stroll through the bustling street of Ming-Qing Street, and admire the beautifully preserved storefronts that harken back to Pingyao’s prosperous commercial past.


A visit to the ancient city of Pingyao is not just about sightseeing; it’s an opportunity to experience the preservation of a living heritage. The city’s commitment to preserving its cultural and historical legacy is evident in its vibrant festivals, such as the Pingyao International Photography Festival, which showcases the beauty of photography against the backdrop of ancient architecture.


Visiting the Ancient City of Pingyao is a step back in time, allowing you to immerse yourself in the rich history, exquisite architecture, and unique charm of this remarkable UNESCO site. Prepare to be transported to ancient China, where the past comes alive and captures the imagination of every visitor.


Giant Panda Sanctuaries

The Giant Panda Sanctuaries, scattered throughout the mountainous regions of Sichuan, Shaanxi, and Gansu provinces in China, are dedicated to the conservation and protection of one of the world’s most beloved and endangered species, the giant panda. These sanctuaries provide a sanctuary for these charismatic creatures, allowing visitors to witness their natural behavior and contribute to their continued survival.


Home to more than 80% of the world’s wild giant panda population, the sanctuaries offer a unique opportunity to observe these gentle giants in their natural habitat. With their distinct black and white markings and adorable round faces, pandas enchant visitors of all ages.


Chengdu Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding is one of the most popular sanctuaries, located just outside Chengdu, the capital of Sichuan province. Here, you can witness pandas frolicking in spacious enclosures, munching on bamboo, and even see adorable panda cubs at the nursery. The research base is dedicated to the breeding and conservation of pandas, making it an excellent place to learn about ongoing efforts to protect this endangered species.


Bifengxia Panda Base, situated in Ya’an, Sichuan province, offers a more immersive experience. Visitors can participate in the “Panda Keeper Program,” where you can get a glimpse into the daily life of a panda keeper, assisting with feeding, cleaning enclosures, and learning about panda behavior. It’s a unique opportunity to get up close and personal with these incredible animals.


For those seeking a more remote and wild experience, head to Wolong National Nature Reserve. This vast and pristine reserve is a protected area where pandas roam freely in their natural habitat. Guided tours give visitors the opportunity to trek through lush bamboo forests, using the help of trackers to spot pandas in the wild. It’s a magical experience to observe pandas engaging in their natural behaviors, such as foraging, playing, and interacting with one another.


Visiting the Giant Panda Sanctuaries is not only an unforgettable experience but also a chance to support the conservation efforts that are critical for the survival of these endangered animals. By visiting the sanctuaries and learning about the challenges they face, visitors can contribute to ongoing conservation efforts.


It’s important to remember that pandas are protected animals, and their well-being should always be the top priority. When visiting the sanctuaries, follow the guidelines, maintain a respectful distance, and avoid any behaviors that could disturb or harm the pandas.


The sanctuaries go beyond providing a tourist attraction; they represent a commitment to preserving one of the world’s most cherished species. Whether you’re a wildlife enthusiast, nature lover, or simply looking to witness the beauty of these adorable creatures, a visit to the Giant Panda Sanctuaries is a journey into the heart of conservation and an opportunity to connect with the natural world.