Top Attractions in China

China is a land of enchantment with such diverse landscapes and a fascinating culture. The country is huge and therefore impossible to see in one go but consider visiting one of these top attractions in China in order to get a deeper understanding and appreciation for the country that introduced paper and fireworks to the world.

Top Attractions in China

Top Attractions in China: The Forbidden City
The Forbidden City: Photo Andy Enero / CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Forbidden City, Beijing

Most tourists to China begin their visit in Beijing, the country’s capital. Their primary reason is to visit the Forbidden City, where there’s plenty of history and an extravagant display of traditional Chinese architecture. The huge complex was home to two-dozen Chinese emperors from the Ming and Qing dynasties that ruled China for over five centuries. Back in the day, in order to gain entry to the sprawling palace that contained over 8,000 rooms, you needed a personal invitation from the emperor himself, hence the name Forbidden City. These days however, anyone can gain entry to the Palace Museum and examine the extensive collection of Chinese artwork and artifacts. Also, don’t forget to stop by Tiananmen Square, the sight of the infamous and deadly protest in 1989 which sits just to the north of the Forbidden City.

Top Attractions in China: VIctoria Harbor
VIctoria Harbor: Photo Brian Sterling / CC BY-SA 2.0

Hong Kong

There’s no other place in the world like Hong Kong. The view of Victoria Harbor from Victoria Peak alone is worth the short plane ride from the mainland. It’s even more majestic at night during the Symphony of Lights wherein dozens of the city’s high-rise buildings project lasers and lights that dance to music. Hong Kong is also one of the best places to eat in China. Prepare to sample a range of cuisines from Cantonese specialties such as dim sum and egg custard to fresh seafood.

Top Attractions in China: Terracotta Army
Terracotta Army: Photo Paula Soler-MoyaCC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Terracotta Warriors & Qin Shi Huang Mausoleum, Xian

It lay hidden for more than 2,000 years so understandably, when the first of the many terracotta warriors were discovered by farmers in 1974, the world took notice. These incredible life-sized mouldings of Chinese soldiers and their horses were modeled after the army that protected Qin Shi Huang, China’s first emperor. The archeological pit’s sheer size, the impressive collection of artefacts at the Qin Shi Huang Mausoleum, and historical significance of the site’s discovery makes the city of Xi’an one of the top attractions in China.

Top Attractions in China: The Three Gorges
The Three Gorges: Photo Lane B / CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Three Gorges, Yangtze River

Not only is the Three Gorges the most scenic portion of the Yangtze River, it is also the site of the Three Gorges Dam, quite possibly the most ambitious engineering project thus far. Prepare to cruise the river for at least three days starting at either Qutang or Xiling. The latter is perhaps the most famous section with its crystal clear waters and dramatic mountain peaks. Take advantage of off-ship excursions to other noteworthy locations like that of Sanyou Cave where Chinese poets inspired by incredible sceneries often left inscriptions.

Top Attractions in China: Giant Panda in Chengdu
Giant Panda in Chengdu: Photo Alexis / CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Panda Reserve in Chengdu

Pandas are some of the most adorable creatures on this planet, which makes their “hometown” of Chengdu one of the top attractions in China. There are three locations, Chengdu Panda Breeding and Research Center, Bifengxia Panda Base, and Dujiangyan Panda Valley, in the region where you can visit and see these delightful animals in their natural habitat. There are also volunteer programs that provide visitors with ample information on panda conservation and care.

Top Attractions in China: The Great Wall of China
The Great Wall of China: Photo Sue WatersCC BY-SA 2.0

The Great Wall

You haven’t really been to China if you haven’t walked the path of the iconic Great Wall. Stretching over 13,000 miles (encompassing all the branches), this grand fortification that was built some 2,000 year previous aimed to protect the borders of the Chinese state from invasion. The most accessible and best-preserved sections lie close to Beijing, just an hour and a half away by car. In order to make the most out of your visit to the Great Wall, consider hiring a tour guide. These organised tours provide more in-depth information and make it easier for travellers to traverse from one section to another.

Top Attractions in China: West Lake in Hangzhou
West Lake in Hangzhou by Faungg’s Photos / CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Hangzhou National Park

Hangzhou National Park is a place in China that almost seems surreal. It is dubbed as “paradise on earth” for its breathtaking landscape filled with mountains, lakes, and classic Chinese-style architecture. Take one of the many cruises available on West Lake to see the scenic bridges, temples, and pagodas, many of which were built almost 2,000 years previous. Don’t miss Lingyin Temple, the most renowned of all the Buddhist temples, and ensure that you take a sip of Longjing tea, considered by experts as one of the best teas in the world.

About Iris A


Born in the Philippines, but grew up in Texas, Iris has been traveling and writing about her experiences for well over a decade. Her work has been published on well-known travel sites like Hipmunk (#hipmunkcitylove) and D Magazine Online Travel Club. She has been all over Europe, the US, and has recently started exploring Latin America. She loves trying local cuisine and visiting UNESCO deemed World Heritage sites. Her favourite city is New York, with London, following a close 2nd. You can follow her on Twitter @sundeeiris or through her travel blog, Traveling With Iris.

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2 Responses

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