China travel guides
Experience old Asian guests houses and indulgent Asian restaurants while surrounded by a modern cityscape. A Shanghai city break is a sensual feast, where skyscrapers tower over the remnants of the traditional city. Book a Shanghai hotel online, arrive, and tuck into dishes from China’s great regional traditions, or luxuriate with shopping and spas.View full guide
China travel guides
In spite of its upmarket image, visitors to Sanya can spend as much or as little on accommodation as suits their individual pockets. From five-star luxury to guest houses and inns, there’s something for everyone on this tropical island.
Chongqing's enclosure deep inland in the west of China hasn't stopped it becoming one of the country's largest and most vibrant cities. Jutting out onto the Yangzte River on a skyscraper-packed peninsula, Chongqing is home to over five million people and is the main tourist center for visits to the Three Gorges Dam.
The legendary Chinese hot pot was invented in Chongqing. Originally developed as a warming tool against the freezing Chongqing winters, steaming hot pots are now enjoyed all over the world but visitors to Chongqing may get a kick out of delving into a hot pot right here at the original source.
Chongqing is an easy city to visit. The main parts of downtown offer multi-lingual signage and the travel options are reliable and cheap. The city is modern and visitor-friendly despite being a center of history and containing large residential areas that have changed little for centuries. English is not widely spoken, but locating an English-speaker if necessary shouldn't be difficult.
Hangzhou is the capital of its province, and as such it's one of the most important regional shopping centers. Tourists will find a mix of modern shops and traditional markets with just enough atmosphere to keep everything interesting.
Chongqing represents new China at least as much as its more famous urban rivals like Shanghai and Beijing. Business meetings take place in skyscraper boardrooms, while dumpling shacks in back alleys dish out tasty snacks as they have done for centuries.
Hangzhou is less than an hour from Shanghai by high-speed rail, a fact that's partly responsible for the obvious modern edge to this traditional and historic city. Even better, visitors find that the city is highly accessible and easily explored. Tourists are in a great position to learn the local customs without fear that their own foreign customs will be misinterpreted.
The major sites in Hangzhou are situated around West Lake. There are several parks and gardens, some boasting pagodas, tea houses or temples. Tea is also grown in the area and depending on the season, visitors may see the tea being harvested or processed.
Hangzhou is a culinary hotspot in China. In fact, the cuisine of Zhejiang Province is praised as one of China's eight greatest culinary traditions, leaving plenty of incentive for restaurants to perfect age-old recipes.
There is plenty to keep visitors occupied in Hangzhou, from outdoor daytime activities like cycling and boating to more cosmopolitan pursuits after hours. The city has a well-established night scene with a mix of clubs, bars and restaurants that cater for a diverse crowd.
Chongqing is alive with activity but it is fairly low on the scale when it comes to nightlife and bar-hopping. Locals are shopping mad and will break up retail frenzies with stops at cinema multiplexes or outdoor performances of dance, music and theater.
The massive retail plaza of Jiefangbei is home to all the major Chinese department stores such as New Century and Commercial Mansion as well as over 6,000 other retailers so this part of town should be more than adequate for even the most die-hard shopper.
A mere 100 miles from Shanghai, it's something of a surprise that Hangzhou has been able to maintain its own distinct identity in the face of its neighbor's rapid success. But that's just what this city has done, adding just the right mix of modernity to balance 2,000 years of history and tradition.
Xi'an is more multicultural than many cities in China and the people here are used to dealing with tourists. This small city is very easy to get around, especially as the numerous buses stop at all the major attractions and there are plenty of maps available to help visitors find their way.
Sanya produces some of the world's finest pearls. Haggling and bargaining for pearls is welcomed, even in formal shops and stores. Tourists should be aware of taxi touts who ferry the unsuspecting straight to a relative or friend's shonky jewelry store. If a visitor has a trained eye and the merchandise is quality, then great bargains can be had.
Few people run into any kind of trouble in Sanya. The worst thing that can happen is gross disappointment in some of the main city beaches. Visitors may want to do a bit of quick research to find out how to get to some of the areas truly stunning and quiet pristine waterways.
Chengdu is a burgeoning hub of activity and connections in so many ways and on so many levels. The city is fast turning into a showcase for some of the finest aspects of China's thousands of years of history as well as a timely redeployment of cultural, geographical and technical strengths that have long made this crossroads metropolis a commercial, cultural and culinary magnet.
Sightseeing in Xiamen begins in the historic quarter with its fantastic colonial shop houses. Other sites are arranged on hillsides around the city, each with their own view over the sea and the city center.
Guilin lies in a unique region of mountains, rivers, lakes and monoliths and, consequently, most of the top sights are a bit out of town. There are several beautiful parks to take in, which come with established pathways, as well as the chance to go on a river cruise.
While Guilin doesn't excel in the eating stakes, there is good choice to be had in among the shops of the street markets and in the food courts. All types of Chinese cuisine can be had, including local Guilin and Sichuanese dishes, while Western fast food joints can also be enjoyed.
The end all and be all of life in Chengdu is the teahouse so, for entertainment, you can do what the locals do and drink tea. However, should you be seeking something a little different for a change, Chengdu is happy to oblige with an amusement park, nightclubs and golf courses.
Food lovers are in for a treat when visiting Xi'an as the city boasts one of the best selections of restaurants in China. The city has a wide range of specialty dishes, with the most popular being shredded pancakes in a mutton or beef broth known as pao mo and filling dumpling buffets.
Fujian cuisine prevails in Xiamen, but a few decades of heavy colonial influence left their mark. As a result, everything seems authentic, from the local soups to the foreign steaks.
Sanya has plenty to offer outdoor activities in the day, happening bars and restaurants in the night, and enough pearls to sink several pirate ships. While Sanya is not yet an established party island along the lines of Phuket or Bali, the entertainment on offer here is increasing at a very sharp rate.
Xi'an is one of the most prosperous cities in China and shoppers will find a large number of market stalls. Bargain hunters will be able to save large sums of cash on low priced gear and copies of designer goods.
As with any international tourist resort island, the food options in Sanya are diverse and crowd-pleasing but vary quite dramatically from high quality to terrible glug. The best bet is the street food, which can be purchased from virtually any part of the city. At dusk hawkers and their carts set up shop all over town and serve treats like tofu skewers and a million different things made from coconuts.
Bursting with ancient temples, museums and monuments, Xi'an is a fascinating place to explore for those with an interest in history and culture. Many of the attractions here are world famous and visitors can spend several days temple-hopping.
Being the capital city of Szechuan province, of course the main cuisine in Chengdu is Sichuan. Sichuan dishes are famous for being hot and spicy but they also offer sophisticated, many-layered tastes. Famous dishes include ma po tofu (bean curd with minced pork and chilli oil) and gong bao ji ding (a spicy chicken dish with peanuts).
Guilin isn't really one for huge, standout, manmade sights or museums; it's better known for its natural scenery and its crafts shopping. The former is particularly impressive and several river tours take in the city from its best side. Li River cruises are all the rage and can be done during the day or at night.
Known over several centuries as the ‘City of Hibiscus', the ‘City of Brocade' and the ‘Gateway to Western China', the capital of Sichuan Province is fast becoming known as an affluent and industrious but fun and laid-back regional hub of travel, commerce and industry.
In the old days, the Chinese island of Xiamen was known as Amoy, and it carved out a healthy reputation as a foreign concession in the early 20th century. It later became one of China's first Special Economic Zones to give capitalism a try in the 1990s. All this has given Xiamen a healthy dose of modern success.
Sanya is an odd place that veers from the beautiful to the bizarre. Purpose built holy temples that function more as amusement parks are popular tourist attractions and natural attractions like the Monkey Island nature reserve are reached via Disneyland-style cable car rides.
Guilin is a safe city, with low levels of crime and a fine blend of cultures from many areas of China. You need to be wary of pickpockets and menace children selling flowers, as with elsewhere in China, although most people have a hassle-free time. Getting around Guilin is chiefly by bus or taxi.
Xiamen may very well be the most Westernized city in China, at least when it comes to public sensibilities and general atmosphere. It doesn't come near rivaling Shanghai in terms of modern success, but it's still a delightful destination for Western tourists. With all-around pleasant weather and a solid transportation network, Xiamen is suitable for visitors in every season.
Seemingly overshadowed for years by bigger, brasher economic centers like Beijing and Shanghai, Chengdu seems to have shrugged its shoulders like a wise old master who has seen so many young pretenders come and go, and just gotten on with the job of building an oasis in the west.
Visitors to Xi'an are often surprised by the wide range of entertainment options available in the city. Although most people come to see the world-famous attractions, they often end up staying longer than planned to spend time shopping, clubbing, trekking and watching cultural performances.
Xiamen was one of the first Chinese cities where tightly-controlled capitalism was given a chance. Early investment from Taiwan paved the way for modern infrastructure and shopping malls that rival those in any major city.
Guilin is good for souvenirs and gems, and if you're on a China-wide tour be sure to wait until you get here if you're into southern Chinese goods. Best buys include Guilin Stone, which is a special type of bright and unique stone that was formed in this region of China.
Two thousand-year-old Guilin is one of southern China's prettiest towns, lying as it does on the banks of two rivers surrounded by amazing scenery. The city was named after the osmanthus fragrance due to the area's profusion of these trees and its oddly-shaped hills and karsts are the star attractions.
Dating back 6,000 years, Xi'an is the capital city of Shaanxi Province in China. Originally named Chang'an, this thriving city is an interesting place for tourists to visit as it features a large number of interesting attractions.
Sanya is located in the very south of China, on the edge of the island of Hainan. With its long white sandy beaches, hordes of sun lovers enjoying snorkeling and jet-skiing and a growing number of high-rise five-star hotels, it's little wonder that Sanya has been nicknamed ‘Hawaii in China'.
For thousands of years Chengdu was the famous home of skilled artisans producing exotic and luxurious wares for sale in China and export around the world. Chengdu is now more famous for high-tech and agricultural industry as well as mass-produced textiles.
Xiamen puts on a good show for residents and visitors alike. A pleasing range of activities is supported throughout the year, with something to suit everyone. Beyond a sprinkling of Western-style nightclubs, most of the entertainment options have a distinct Chinese air.
When the Shenzhen experiment was first launched, developers and investors scrambled to establish an economy that could capitalize on the success of its neighbor, Hong Kong. Today it is one of the country's most popular shopping destinations, with an astonishing selection of goods.
One of modern China's most striking success stories, Shenzhen was little more than a loose array of rice paddies before the 1980s. Then in 1979, Chairman Deng Xiaoping decided to give capitalism a tightly-controlled chance. The Shenzhen Special Economic Zone was launched, and China's economic future was all but written.
Options for diners in Shenzhen rival those for shoppers. In fact, anywhere there are shopping centers, department stores and marketplaces you're sure to find restaurants, food courts and fast-food establishments.
Travel to Shanghai, formerly known as the ‘Paris of the East', Shanghai has blossomed into a world-class city that others aspire to be named after. Early in the 20th century it was home to a thriving collection of colonial businesses and banks that has left a unique cultural mark on this city of fusion.
Shanghai had a reputation as a shopper's oasis long before the city set out to redefine its image in the 1990s. The greatest contingent of shoppers is Chinese, visiting from all corners of the country to indulge in the commerce.
As it sits directly across the causeway from Hong Kong, Shenzhen is used to international exposure. In its earliest days it was strategically placed here to capitalize on the international business community in Hong Kong. So it's no surprise that locals are accepting and tolerant of Western culture.
While Shenzhen doesn't receive large numbers of international tourists, its annual contingent of domestic visitors is massive. Facilities prosper as a result, and there are more grand-scale entertainment venues here than in most Chinese cities.
While the modern city is only three decades old, the region boasts a few worthwhile historical sites that date to the days of the Ming Dynasty. Visitors are often surprised to find more than theme parks and skyscrapers.
A trip to Shanghai and experience an art of cosmopolitan living, with most of the Shanghai’s entertainment options in the vein of shopping, dining and going out.
Shanghai has undergone a culinary renaissance in the last decade, and many food critics now insist it's the best place to dine out in China. As a result, the dining scene has really taken off and there are more restaurants in Shanghai than ever before.
On a Shanghai city tour you may not find the grand-scale historic attractions of Beijing, but it is still one of the most architecturally stunning holiday destinations in China. With a heavy infusion of nostalgic colonial neighborhoods and an even stronger dose of cosmopolitan energy, this is a place to linger.
Shanghai is a booming metropolis on par with New York City. It is home to millions and exudes plenty of cosmopolitan energy. Visitors will find that services and merchandise may be refreshingly affordable or alarmingly expensive, depending on where they spend most of their time. But wherever they venture, they enjoy world-class facilities.
Shopping in Beijing is mainly about hitting the street markets or mega shopping malls. Virtually without exception, bargaining is the norm here and you should not even feel awkward when asking for a discount in a swanky, fixed-price store. Wangfujing and Xidan are the main shopping areas in the city and are near the center.
The capital of the People's Republic of China is the political and economic heart of this vast country and boasts its most outstanding landmarks and monuments including the likes of the expansive Tiananmen Square, the labyrinthine Forbidden City, and part of the iconic nearby Great Wall of China.
Tiananmen Square and the associated Forbidden City are the main sights in Beijing and attractions that every visitor should check out. The sheer dimensions and feelings these landmarks evoke are worthy of a trip to the Chinese capital alone.
Beijing has all types of entertainment options that range from buzzing markets and parks to the popular drinking area of Sanlitun, with its expat-centric pubs. Many people simply enjoy ambling around Tiananmen Square as a form of entertainment and checking out the array of monuments.
Beijing is safe, yet visitors occasionally get caught out by scammers and touts, with Tiananmen Square and dodgy buses to the Great Wall being particularly noteworthy. Fake money is a problem in Beijing while the traffic on the major roads in the city is horrendous. It is best to avoid the big festivals holidays when traveling to Beijing.
Beijing has thousands of eateries of every description in all areas of the city, ranging from typical, traditional Chinese holes in the wall to market stalls and food courts to full-blown Western restaurants. Chinese noodles and rice dishes are ubiquitous while the very best local places offer expensive yet delicious Beijing roast duck and shark fin soup.
A China travel guide – an eastern odyssey of ancient culture, frenetic shopping and sizzling stir- frys
Holidays in China come in a million flavours. Book hotels in China and range over thousands of miles from dynamic coastal cities to the raw natural beauty of the western interior.
A Beijing city break can mean travelling back in time to the city’s historical sites or a glimpse of the future at a gallery or fashion show. Book a Beijing hotel to find out where China has been and where it’s going.