Celebrating Chinese New Year, here are 16 of the best places to go during a visit to the country starting with the wondrous and deeply historic Forbidden City.
Updated – January 2021!
1. Forbidden City
Beijing’s Forbidden City is one of the best places to visit in all of China.
Made up of close to 1,000 historic buildings, this iconic temple is rightly UNESCO-listed.
Once exclusively used by only Emperors and their royal families, the Forbidden City is no longer off limits to visitors arriving from all over the world.
Since the last Emperor of China was evicted in the 1920s, the Forbidden City has been open to the public.
A symbol and reminder of the Ming Dynasty, the Forbidden City today houses a Palace Museum with a collection of over 1 million pieces of art.
2. The Great Wall of China
The landmark Great Wall of China is vast, stretching over 4,000 miles across the country.
Back in the 5th century, the first sections of the Wall were built to protect the country from invading forces.
Across China, huge portions of the wall have fallen into disrepair. Sections found in the Badaling Hills are amongst the best-preserved in the country.
An extremely popular tourist attraction, climbing up the wall following in the footsteps of ancient Chinese forces that once manned it, is an exceptional experience.
From this perfect vantage point, you can follow the winding wall through the hills as it seems to endlessly wind off into the distance.
3. Terracotta Warriors
Emperor Qinshihuang’s Mausoleum Site Museum, a UNESCO-listed World Heritage Site for over 30 years, is home to the vast Terracotta Army.
This huge collection of sculptures were carved to resemble the First Emperor of China’s armies.
Once hidden away from the world, the collection was first discovered only 40 years ago, and the full archaeological area is massive.
Constructed to protect the late Emperor in the afterlife, the army and tomb is a fascinating historic highlight in China.
4. Three Gorges
A mesmerising sight, the goliath Three Gorges resting on the banks of the famous Yangtze River is a stunning part of China.
Rising at points over 100 metres, the Three Gorges are huge, steep rock formations that hug the edges of the river.
Passing through the area on the water, the size of the boats here pale in comparison to the staggering sight of the Gorges.
Parts of the huge rocks are draped in greenery looking to take back the banks of this iconic river.
5. Li River
Arguably the most stunning part of the country, the Li River in Guangxi is a spectacular landmark.
Dominating the skyline, the Karst Mountains rest on the banks of this great river.
Local fisherman still practising traditional methods can be seen on the water, casting out their nets in search of a fruitful catch.
Locals practice the skilled art of Cormorant fishing, employing the help of trained birds to pluck fresh fish from the river.
Over 50 miles in length, the Li River is best experienced by cruise, during which you will be able to explore the full glory of the river and the surrounding landscape for yourself.
6. Ming Dynasty Tombs
The thirteen tombs, collectively known as the Ming Dynasty Tombs, are the final resting place of a number of former Imperial Emperors.
This ancient complex has certainly stood the test of time, and rightly hold UNESCO-listed World Heritage Status due to their historical importance.
Rulers for over 200 years, the Ming Dynasty carefully selected the location of their final resting place, choosing a protected location that was best protected away by evil spirits.
One of the tombs was excavated in the late 1950s and researchers found a series of treasures, including jewellery and a crown.
7. Temple of Heaven
Found in Beijing, the Temple of Heaven was used by Emperors to pray in the hope of a prosperous harvest.
Today, this circular building is one of the most important religious landmarks in the country.
Originally built in the 13th century, a small indicator of the landmark’s importance is the isolated position it finds itself in.
Despite being in the heart of one of the busiest cities in the world, the area around the Temple of Heaven provides a peaceful break from the bustling city streets.
Walled and gated, locals and tourists alike are drawn to the area in the pursuit of calm surroundings.
Commit to a journey up into the Temple and you will arrive at one of China’s great landmarks.
Once a crucial part of the old Silk Road trading route, the city of Xian is another of China’s former ancient capitals.
China’s capital for just over 1000 years, the city blends old with new. Ancient buildings rest amongst more modern parts of the city with ancient landmarks lighting up Xian’s skyline at night.
These landmarks include the Giant Wild Goose Pagoda (dating back to the 7th century) and memorable Drum Tower – a reminder of the once all-powerful Ming Dynasty.
9. The Bund
Part of Shanghai’s famous waterfront, The Bund charts the city’s evolving architecture, showcasing some of the city’s most historic buildings right through to the latest cutting edge skyscrapers.
Taking time to walk along this famous waterfront, a showcase of different architectural styles will let you gain a sense of the city’s long and notable history.
10. Summer Palace
One of the most picturesque landmarks, a man-made rival to the picturesque Li River, the Summer Palace found in Beijing, is actually a series of palaces, beautiful lakes and gardens, that are a great example of Imperial China.
11. Oriental Pearl TV Tower
Shanghai’s most famous landmark, the Oriental Pearl TV Tower is a striking piece of architecture.
With construction taking around three years, the Tower was completed in 1994. Close to 500 metres in height, the tower is tall, narrow and has two spheres at either end which gives it a spaceship vibe.
We recommend visiting the Tower both during the day and at night. During the day, a series of observation levels provide perfect views looking out across the city.
After taking the trip up the Tower, you might be feeling a little peckish. Conveniently, the Tower is also home to a restaurant where you can refuel before tackling the descent down.
12. Tiananmen Square
Found in the center of Beijing, Tiananmen Square, is a truly historic place.
Here you will find the Great Hall of the People, Monument to the People’s Heroes, the National Museum of China, and the final resting place of the country’s former leader Mao Zedong.
It is quickly approaching the 70th anniversary of the country known as the People’s Republic of China being founded by Chairman Mao.
Visit the different monuments and museums found around and close to the Square, as all go into detail about the country’s history.
A variety of different exhibitions take place at the National Museum of China that cover the country’s recent conflicts, transformation into a Communist country, and the social unrest that engulfed the country in the late 1980s.
The striking Monument of the People’s Heroes is a tribute to those that lost their lives during various revolutions that eventually led to the forming of the Communist Government that is still in place today.
Once the seat of the Zhou Dynasty that ruled the country over 2000 years ago, the ancient city of Jingzhou still has some remarkably well-preserved old features including old city walls and traditional buildings resting amongst carefully maintained greenery.
The city’s location on the banks of the Yangtze River ensured that it became a crucial trading point and a military outpost for hundreds of years.
Across the city, a number of looked after historical landmarks all catch the eye during any visit to this gloriously historical city.
Bit of Trivia – Jingzhou is home to one of the world’s largest statues – the statue of Guan Yu.
14. Small Wild Goose Pagoda
One of two important pagodas found within the city of Xi’an, the Small Wild Goose Pagoda is a memorable 7th-century landmark.
Holding an important place in the pages of history, the famous pagoda was once home to the former ruling house of Zhou, Tang and Qin.
Marking the end of the once vitally important trading route known as the Silk Road, the Pagoda is close to both the Bell Tower of Xi’an and the important Terracotta Warriors burial sites.
15. The Sacred Way
A road stretching just over 4 miles, the Sacred Way leads visitors on to the historically important Ming Dynasty Tombs.
Notable features along the road include archways, huge stone-carved creatures and a steel pavilion.
16. Yu Garden
One of Asia’s most famous Botanical Gardens, Shanghai’s Yu Garden is a vast garden dating back over 400 years.
Ideal for a wander, the Garden is one of the most relaxing spots in the entire city, offering a vast change of scenery away from the city’s modern, towering skyline.