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China see + do

Most visitors enter China via its two main air gateways, Beijing and Shanghai, and most do the majority of their sightseeing in those two cities. There is certainly plenty to see and do: Beijing, the capital, is home to an array of imperial temples and palaces, plus Tiananmen Square, and affords easy access to the Great Wall. Overlaid on this historic setting is a portfolio of impressive new architecture commissioned to complement the 2008 Olympic Games. Shanghai is China's pulsing capital of entertainment, shopping, and nightlife, but it also has some of the nation's finest heritage and Art Deco architecture. Another must-see city is Xi'an, site of Emperor Shihuangdi's beguilingly lifelike terra-cotta warriors and handsome city walls. Other notable cities are Hangzhou, for its much-cherished West Lake and tea plantations, and Suzhou, for its UNESCO-listed Chinese gardens.

China's spectacular interior landscapes are worth exploring, particularly the less-visited alpine valleys of Guizhou province and, in normal circumstances, the soaring peaks of Sichuan province. However, following the earthquake that has ravaged the area, the U.S. State Department has advised visitors to avoid going to Sichuan. Yunnan province, with its verdant beauty and myriad ethnic minorities, is increasingly popular, particularly the attractive towns of Lijiang and Dali, and jungle hiking around Xishuangbanna.

Yangtse River cruises have long been popular, though increasingly less so as the famed Three Gorges is flooded to facilitate a controversial hydroelectric dam. More bucolic is the river cruise between Guilin and Yangshuo, which sails through picturesque countryside with limestone karst formations and pinnacles rising from the green pastures—a scene captured on China's 20 yuan currency note.

Beyond the mainland are two of China's principal attractions, the Special Administrative Regions of Hong Kong and Macau. The former British colony of Hong Kong struts its stuff as the self-styled "world city" of Asia, and offers the region's best shopping and finest hotels, as well as eclectic dining and nightlife. By contrast, the former Portuguese colony of Macau boasts fine Iberian plazas, cathedral ruins, and municipal buildings—and Asia's most dynamic casino scene.

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798 Dashanzi Gallery District, Beijing

Beijing's burgeoning modern art scene buzzes around this Bauhaus-inspired neighborhood. Once a factory district that produced electronics for the military,...more

see the Beijing guide
Editors' Pick
2010 World Expo Site

Hosting the 2010 World Expo left Shanghai a legacy of improved infrastructure, plus some visually striking Expo pavilions. The World Fair's centerpiece, the...more

see the Shanghai guide
Editors' Pick
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Information may have changed since date of publication. Please confirm details with individual establishments before planning your trip.



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