Top 16 sites to visit in China in 2024

China is a country of superlatives: the largest population, giant metropolises, a thousand-year-old history, the incredibly large Forbidden City, the Great Wall of China, thousands of terracotta warriors, or even a varied gastronomy, here is some of the most important impressions. With such historical and cultural wealth, China is above all a country where you never get bored.

What are the main places of interest in China?

China is a very large and ancient country , which is also reflected in the richness of its tourist sites. Among them, you will of course find classics like the Forbidden City, the Great Wall of China or the Terracotta Army.

There are also spectacular vistas like the Huang Shan, Hua Shan and Zhangjiajie mountains, as well as scenic spots brimming with traditional charm, for example Pingyao, Zhujiajiao Water Town or Luoyang Ancient Town.

China is also of particular interest as an ancient center of East Asian philosophy and religion. It was here that Confucianism and Taoism were born, and the country was also marked by Buddhism.

1. Forbidden City

The Forbidden City in Beijing is the largest palace in the world. In fact, there are no less than 980 buildings, 8,886 rooms and an area of ​​72 hectares. Additionally, during the Ming and Qing dynasties, 24 emperors lived here.

So, because of its impressive size and its art collection that houses nearly 2 million pieces, you will easily spend one or more days exploring the Forbidden City during your trip to China.

You will be able to discover new details about the country’s history every minute and also take the time to visit one of the pretty parks surrounding the site such as Jingshan Park for example.

People in front of the palace in the Forbidden City, Beijing, China.

2. Great Wall of China

The Great Wall of China is arguably the most famous landmark in China. Additionally, as one of the New Seven Wonders of the World, it is certainly one of the most famous tourist sites in the world.

The first sections of the wall were built in the 7th century BC as a protective wall. Over the centuries, the wall continued to expand until it reached the astonishing length of 21,196 kilometers.

The sections open to travelers are Badaling, Mutianyu, Simatai and Juyongguan, which extend close to Beijing, along magnificent landscapes. If you want to see more, don’t hesitate to go on a hike lasting several days or even several weeks.

View of the Great Wall of China at sunrise, China

Learn more about the GREAT WALL OF CHINA

3. Terracotta Army

It is a collection of thousands of terracotta sculptures, created around 2,200 years ago to protect Qin Shi Huang, the first emperor of unified China, in the afterlife.

Although excavations are still continuing, currently you can admire around 2,000 statues. Particularly impressive is this large number of terracotta warriors, all made in life size and with individual features.

Additionally, it is also a great destination thanks to its proximity to Xi’an, which has long been the cultural center and capital of China. It is also considered one of the most historically interesting cities in the country.

Golden Warrior of the Terracotta Army

4. New Summer Palace

The Forbidden City is certainly the most famous palace in China, however during a stay in Beijing, you absolutely must go to the New Summer Palace. Built in the 18th century, it served as a summer residence for emperors.

Moreover, in China, garden planning has been considered a major art since Antiquity. So don’t miss the vast gardens of the Summer Palace which particularly bear witness to this tradition.

Don’t wait any longer to admire the numerous palaces, halls, temples, pavilions and bridges that fit picturesquely into the landscape of sumptuous gardens and the magnificent Kunming Lake.

View of the colorful waterfront Summer Palace in Beijing, China

5. Huangshan

The “yellow mountains,” with their peaks rising through the clouds, have inspired artists for millennia. Indeed, more than 20,000 poems have been written about them, they are often considered the ideal of a mountain in Chinese painting, and even served as a model for the landscapes of James Cameron’s film « Avatar ».

Take the hiking trails with a total length of more than 50 kilometers to admire these 72 mountains, especially when they are immersed in the yellow light of sunrises and sunsets, and explore the surrounding areas, with their villages like Xidi or Hongcun, and the Maofeng tea growing region, which are also lovely.

Green mountainous landscape of Huangshan, China.

6. Zhangjiajie National Park

Zhangjiajie National Park offers a landscape reminiscent of Huangshan. He has also been a source of inspiration for many artists.

In fact, one of the mountains in Zhangjiajie was renamed in honor of the film “Avatar”. During your trip, take long hikes or a simple ride in the world’s longest cable car to discover the special charm of the mountain with its green forests and clear streams.

Finally, visit Tianmen, one of the many peaks located here. This is a real highlight not to be missed thanks to its 130 meter high cave, its temple and the magnificent view that you can contemplate from its plateau.

Mountain landscape in fog, Zhangjiajie National Park, China

7. Zhujiajiao

Shanghai is one of the most exciting cities in the world. However, in this futuristic metropolis there is also a stunning contrast with the idyllic water town of Zhujiajiao.

Fully absorb the traditional style of old China that dominates here, on a boat ride on the narrow canals between small wooden houses decorated with red lanterns.

Don’t also miss the Fangsheng Bridge, dating from 1571. In Zhujiajiao, also visit the Kezhi Garden and the Yuanjin Buddhist Temple.

Browse small souvenir shops and sample local cuisine, which often uses green soybeans or lotus roots.

Boat on the river, Zhujiajiao, China

8. Pingyao

By Chinese standards, Pingyao is a very small town. However, thanks to its age of almost 3,000 years, it can boast of having a long and rich history.

Most of Pingyao’s buildings date from the 17th to 19th centuries, when the city enjoyed its heyday as a financial center of the Qing dynasty.

You will still find old buildings like the bell tower built in the 14th century. Among the must-sees here are also the city wall, Shuangglin Temple and Zhenguo Temple.

Finally, enjoy a nice meal in the pedestrian zone of the main street which is lined with charming restaurants and cafes.

Temple lit with a lantern, in Pingyao, China.

9. Luoyang Old Town

Luoyang is among the most important historical places in the country that you should not miss during your trip.

Indeed, considered the cradle of Chinese culture, it is one of the oldest cities which was at one time the capital of the empire. Its past comes to life in the old town with the 1,400-year-old Lijing Gate, or the Wenfeng Pagoda dating from the Song Dynasty.

Generally speaking, the Luoyang region and its surroundings bear witness to the long history and culture of China, with important places of interest such as the city museum, the world-famous Shaolin Monastery or the White Horse Temple, the oldest Buddhist temple in the country.

People on the stairs leading towards the Buddha statue, Luoyang, China

10. Pandas in Chengdu

The city of Chengdu is mainly known for the different places where you can see pandas. These famous black and white animals are, in particular, at the top of travelers’ lists during a stay in China.

For this, do not forget to go to the Chengdu Panda Base, the Dujiangyan Panda Base, the Bifengxia Panda Base or the Wolong Panda Research Center which are located in the city or surrounding areas, in order to make your wish come true and see its animals in their habitat.

However, a trip to Chengdu is also worth it, especially to discover its delicious local cuisine and the relaxing atmosphere of the city which also makes it famous. 

Group of pandas eating, in Chendgu, China.

11. Longji Rice Terraces

The rice terraces of Longji, which in English means “dragon’s back” (or Longsheng, “victory” of the dragon), are located near Guilin, the green pearl of China.

They are considered the most incredible in the world. Indeed, its fields, which are around 650 years old, offer a magnificent setting which, depending on the season, is marked by different color contrasts.

During your stay in China, explore this majestic landscape by cable car. Take a cruise on the Li River which is located near the Longji rice terraces. Finally, the area is also home to natural hot springs, ideal for a relaxing soak.

Nobody in green rice terraces in Longsheng, China.

12. Lu Shan National Park

Lu Shan National Park is essentially made up of the mountain of the same name. Few places have so much to offer in terms of culture, history and landscape.

This breathtaking peak has been an important religious center since ancient times. Here you can visit Buddhist temples like the Dongling, Confucian academies like the « White Deer Cave » and important places of Taoism like the « God’s Cave », where the immortal Lü Dongbin is said to have found his divine path.

In total, discover around 200 historic buildings here, whose natural highlights include the botanical gardens and Lake Lulin.

Waterfall in autumn, Mt. Lu Shan, China

13. Rock carvings of Dazu

The Dazu rock carvings consist of around 50,000 statues, spread across five mountains in Chongqing. These were created between the 7th and 13th centuries and are a must-see place, especially for people who are passionate about history.

Indeed, you will find Buddhist, Taoist and Confucian representations there, as well as scenes from daily life. In addition to their immense historical value, the elaborate and colorful figures are particularly magnificent to look at.

Also be sure to combine your visit to the rock carvings with the pretty Dazu lotus farm, another highlight of the region.

Rock carvings in Dazu, China

14. Dawa Red Beach

Located near Panjin, this is another seasonal activity not to be missed for anyone traveling to China in late summer.

Indeed, it is at the end of this period that Dawa beach is covered with a particular species of kelp, a type of algae, which blooms in a unique red. Live an unforgettable experience during a walk on the wooden walkways of the beach.

Don’t hesitate to take lots of photos to immortalize this fascinating, bright red landscape. Finally, take advantage of your getaway to explore the nature reserve which includes Dawa beach, where more than 260 species of birds, including Manchurian cranes, live.

Red Beach in Panjin City, Liaoning, China

15. Mogao Caves

China is home to many exceptional caves and caverns, including those of Mogao. Their origin dates back to the period between the 4th and 12th centuries, when Buddhist monks carved around 1,000 caves into the sandstone.

These have been decorated with thousands of colorful murals on religious themes and sculptures of Buddha reaching up to 34.5 meters high.

Although of the 492 preserved caves, only 20 are open to visitors each day, this is still enough to get an idea of ​​the incredible technical and artistic prowess of the monks. So, don’t miss this other highlight during your stay in China.

Entrance to the Dunhuang Caves, Mogao, China.

16. Hua Shan

The Hua Shan is perfect for those who want a real hiking challenge amidst breathtaking scenery. On the plank path, swing over a 2,000 meter high slope, or take the cable cars which offer an easier way to get there.

The fact that climbing the mountain peak was once only possible for particularly determined people contributed to its mystical character and religious significance, particularly for Taoism. According to legend, Hua Shan is also the home of the god of the underworld.

This is why here you will pass numerous monasteries, pagodas and temples, including the Dongdao Taoist temple.


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