The change that has been seen in China over recent years as it opens up to the world has been dramatic to say the least, and the burgeoning tourism industry in the country is really starting to welcome visitors to the once Communist states. As you would expect with the largest country in the world, some of the cities are absolutely huge, but they can also be fascinating places to visit.
The capital city of China has a population that is estimated to be slightly over 20 million people, but it is also one of the oldest and most important sites in Chinese history, the seat of government for so many emperors over the centuries. One of the most important attractions in Beijing is the ‘Forbidden City’ which was home to emperors for over five centuries, and is now one of the most important museums in the country. The wooden buildings are a part of a huge palace complex that is designated as an UNESCO world heritage site.
Beijing is also home to other historic structures such as the SummerPalace and the Great Wall of China is also only a short journey away. For those looking for more modern examples of amazing architecture, the 2008 Olympics saw a number of sensational buildings constructed as sports venues, none more so than the spectacular Bird’s Nest Stadium.
While Beijing may be the capital of China, Shanghai has the accolade of being the largest city in China, and based at the mouth of the Yangtze River has always been one of the most important business hubs in the country. For those in the ultra modern Pudong district it seems difficult even to imagine that Shanghai is anything but a historic city, but the European architecture of the Bund area, and a number of tall Pagoda towers in the city tell a very different story.
For those looking to relax after a tough day’s sightseeing or shopping, the FuxingPark is a charming area of French gardens surrounded by upmarket cafes and bars. A short train ride from the city centre is the ShanghaiBotanical Garden, and this provides a great contrast to the bustling metropolis of the city centre.
Although it is not one of the largest cities in China, Xi’an should be on the itinerary of any visitor to China because of the amazing history of the city. One of the greatest sights in the whole of China is the spectacular Terracotta Army featuring over eight thousand sculptures of life sized horses and soldiers that were created for the death of the first emperor Qin Shi Huang.
As you would expect with one of the oldest cities in China, Xi’an also boasts a number of historic buildings, including some of the most important examples of Pagoda architecture such as the Giant Wild Goose Pagoda and the Famen Pagoda. The city walls themselves are also very impressive and open to the public, while the Great Mosque of Xi’an is one of the most important Muslim sites in the country.
Nanjing is another city that lies on the YangtseRiver, and is also one of the most important cities in China. Having served as the capital of China for many years, Nanjing holds many of the features that you would expect in a fortified city, and the city walls built in the fourteenth century are the longest in the world.
Visitors to the city will certainly want to visit the impressive Sun Yat-sen Mausoleum, and after a long day walking the traditional evening pastime of boating on the QinhuaiRiver is a great way to relax. The city also hosts an annual Plum Blossom festival, where the plum trees are all in bloom giving a wonderful colorful aspect to the city.
Guangzhou is the third largest of the cities of China, and lying near the south coast of China has a sub-tropical climate that makes it different from some of the northern cities. The city was formerly known as Canton, and has seen significant modernization over recent decades, with the business centre in Zhujiang New Town and the CantonTower both being impressive sights. The city also shows many signs of the English missionaries that were sent to the city in the nineteenth century, with the beautiful Shishi Sacred Heart Cathedral being one of the best examples.