Things to Do in Eastern China
One of Shanghai’s most charming areas, the former French Concession is known for its tree-lined streets and interesting mix of Chinese and Western architectural styles. Popular with locals, expats, and visitors, the area is home to a number of top attractions, as well as hip cafés, restaurants, bars, clubs, boutiques, galleries, and museums.
Nanshi is the collection of narrow streets and alleys once enclosed within the walls of old Shanghai. During the city’s period of foreign concessions, it was the main Chinese district, rarely entered by foreigners. Today, the neighborhood captures the essence of old China, complete with several temples, food vendors, and a crowded bazaar.
West Lake (Xi Hu) is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and a top attraction in the heart of old Hangzhou. With mountains on three sides and plenty of charming gardens, bridges, pagodas, temples, and islands, it’s easy to see why this scenic man-made lake has inspired so many poets and painters through the ages.
Dating from the Ming Dynasty, Yuyuan Garden—or simply, Yu Garden—in the middle of the Old Town (Nanshi) Shanghai, is one of China’s best-preserved classical gardens. Covering an area of 5 acres (2 hectares), Yuyuan Garden is known for its beautiful scenery, elegant layout, and delightful pavilions, pagodas, pools, bridges, and rockeries.
The Bund (Waitan) refers to Shanghai’s iconic waterfront strip, which runs for 1 mile (1.5 kilometers) along the west shore of the Huangpu River. Renowned for its extensive collection of colonial-era buildings, there’s also pedestrian-friendly promenade perfect for strolling, which offers stunning views of both the Bund and Pudong.
The Tsingtao Beer Museum was built in 2003 and commemorates some 100 years of German brewing history and heritage in China. Visitors to this top attraction can wander the halls of the two-story structure and learn about the traditions developed and perfected here, thanks to photo galleries and exhibits where brewing tools from the trade are on display. And while an up close look at the nation’s deep roots in hop history makes this place worth a stop, it’s cold and crisp samples straight from the production line that make a tour of the oldest working brewery worth a visit.
Also known as the “Venice of Shanghai,” Zhujiajiao is the best preserved of the four ancient water towns in the Shanghai area. With a history dating back over 1,700 years, Zhujiajiao is full of lovely canals and waterways, small alleys, picturesque bridges, and ancient buildings, many from the Ming and Qing dynasties.
Located in Anhui, Mt. Huangshan (aka Yellow Mountain) is considered one of China’s most beautiful mountains and is renowned for its four wonders: a sea of clouds, jagged granite peaks, odd-shaped pine trees, and hot springs. A UNESCO World Heritage Site, the mountain is also one of the most visited scenic areas in the country.
Shanghai’s premier shopping street, Nanjing Road (Nanjing Lu) features businesses ranging from small shops and stalls to massive department stores and malls. It’s the world’s longest shopping district, stretching 3.4 miles (5.5 kilometers) from the Bund to Jing’an Temple, and attracts over a million visitors a day.
Stretching for over 71 miles (113 kilometers) and with an average width of 1,312 feet (400 meters), the Huangpu River flows through the middle of Shanghai and divides the city into two parts. Puxi, to the west, is the city’s historical, cultural, and entertainment center, while Pudong, to the east, is Shanghai’s business and financial center.
More Things to Do in Eastern China
Laoshan Scenic Area, one of China’s first national parks, has been a place of pilgrimage for centuries. The hills and slopes surrounding the 3,280-foot (1,000-meter) peak of Mount Lao were once hope to eight temples, nine palaces and six dozen convents.
While many of the park’s architectural treasures have been lost to time, it’s still possible to visit the Taoist Taiqing Palace, the park’s oldest, built in 140 BC. Natural wonders add to the appeal, including the majestic Chaoyin waterfall and numerous striking sea views.
The mineral waters originating within the scenic area are famous throughout China as well; they’re a main ingredient in China’s famous Tsingtao beer.
Lingyin Temple is one of the oldest and most famous Buddhist temples in China and a top attraction in Hangzhou. Situated at the foot of Lingyin Mountain and surrounded by forest, Lingyin Temple is known for its tranquil setting, spiritual atmosphere, and numerous pagodas, grottoes, and Buddhist relics.
Of all the Classical Gardens of Suzhou, the Humble Administrator’s Garden (Zhuo Zheng Yuan) is the largest, most famous, and best preserved. A UNESCO World Heritage Site, this uniquely-designed garden takes visitors through scenic pathways, quiet pavilions, ancient bridges, calm ponds, and small, forested areas dating back to the Ming dynasty. The Hall of Drifting Fragrance, a traditional Chinese residence at the garden's center, offers views of vast lawns, flowing water, and crape myrtle trees, while the nearby Small Flying Rainbow Bridge is the only bridge in the garden you can walk across.
A great family activity, you can visit the garden on an easy day trip from Shanghai. Combine your ticket with a visit to the famous Zhouzhuang water village nearby or opt for a private tour of Suzhou's classical gardens to visit Tiger Hill and Master of Nets, as well.
Jade Buddha Temple (Yufo Si) is a working Buddhist monastery—one of the few in China. The star attractions of the Jade Buddha Temple are two figures brought to Shanghai from Singapore by a monk from Burma in the 19th century: a 6.5-foot (2-meter) seated jade Buddha encrusted with semiprecious stones and a smaller white jade reclining Buddha.
One of the tallest buildings in the world, the Shanghai Tower (Shanghai Zhongxin Dasha) has a twisting silhouette that dominates the skyline. Standing 137 stories and 2,073 feet (632 meters) high, the building features some of the world’s fastest elevators, which race to a viewing platform 1,841 feet (561 meters) above the city. On a clear day, the views are spectacular.
A vibrant mix of old and new, Xin Tian Di is a fashionable and upscale area full of modern and trendy shops, galleries, cafes, restaurants, bars, and clubs, many housed within traditional Shikumen buildings that have been restored. It’s a place to see and be seen, and a popular destination for locals and tourists alike.
Pudong, which lies east of the Huangpu River, is Shanghai’s modern business and financial center. Formerly an agricultural area, Pudong is now home to an international airport, the biggest park in Shanghai, luxury shopping, a lively culinary scene, and the tallest and most distinctive skyscrapers in the city.
Considered one of the finest museums in China, the Shanghai Museum has a vast collection of Chinese artifacts from the Neolithic period onward. The museum’s 11 state-of-the-art galleries display ancient bronze, jade, and ceramics; painting, calligraphy, and ancient sculptures; and Ming and Qing dynasty furniture.
Built in 1891, Zhanqiao Pier has become a symbol of the city of Qingdao and one of its most iconic attractions. The 33-foot-wide (10-m) pier extends 1,444 feet (440 m) into Qingdao Bay, with the octagonal Huilan Pavilion (the structure pictured on the Tsingtao beer label) at its terminus. The traditional Chinese pavilion, which sometimes hosts art exhibitions, juxtaposes the European architecture prevalent in the rest of the city.
While originally a naval pier, the earliest known dock in Qingdao now serves pedestrians coming to enjoy the sea breezes and harbor views of the city.
Tiger Hill, a large hill-rock known as Hu Qiu or Huqiu in Chinese, is a must-see when visiting Suzhou, both for its beauty and its history. Traditional architecture, tranquil landscapes, and numerous historical sites dating back more than 2,500 years distinguish the hill as a top destination among the city's UNESCO-listed attractions. Highlights include the Tomb of King He Lu, the Sword-Testing Stone—a rock split cleanly in two pieces, supposedly by a legendary sword—and the famously lopsided Yunyan Pagoda, or 'Leaning Tower of China.' Also not to miss is the garden architecture at Wanjing Villa, where potted landscapes and bonsai shrubs create miniature classical gardens.
Tiger Hill, which gets its name from resembling the shape of a crouching tiger, is relatively small and compact, making it an easy stop on any day or half-day tour of Suzhou. Go with a guide to get the most out of the site's rich history, and consider combining your visit with entry to nearby attractions, like the Humble Administrator's Garden or Master of Nets Garden.
Stroll through Badaguan Scenic Area, and you might forget you're in China. This breathtaking neighborhood on the Qingdao coast has a colonial past, and is now home to the architectural styles of more than 20 countries, including Great Britain, France, Germany, Spain, and Denmark.The stunning effect of European mansions and villas peeking out from the neighborhood's verdant, waterfront land puts Badaguan at the top of the list for photographers, nature-lovers, and first-time visitors to Qingdao.
Tour the former German protectorate (1897-1914) on a day trip away from the city's busy Central Business District to experience the tranquility of Badaguan. Gardens and courtyards boast varied greenery and flowering plants, so there's always something blooming no matter the season. Don't miss No. 2 Bathing Beach, the stretch of sand that fronts the neighborhood, which was once a favored swimming spot of Chairman Mao.
Nicknamed the “Bottle Opener” due to its distinctive shape, the Shanghai World Financial Center (SWFC) is the second tallest building in Shanghai, reaching a dizzying 1,614 feet (492 meters). Its three observatories—in particular, the glass-bottomed observatory on the 100th floor—are the main draw of the building, located in the Lujiazui area of Pudong. There’s also a hotel and a mall.
The massive People’s Square (Renmin Guangchang) is in the heart of Shanghai. Surrounded by the city’s municipal government headquarters, a park, and several top museums, the major landmark makes for a popular meeting spot, as well as being at the center of politics, culture, transportation, and tourism in Shanghai.
Get a glimpse into the life of Dr. Sun Yat-sen, founder of the Chinese Republic and the Great Forerunner of the Chinese Democratic Revolution, at his former residence in Shanghai. See where he carried out a large number of revolutionary activities, wrote treatises, and met with members of the Communist Party from 1918 until 1924.
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- Things to do in Shanghai
- Things to do in Huangshan
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- Things to do in Nanchang
- Things to do in Suzhou
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- Things to do in Northern China