China is a country filled with unexpected surprises. When we visited we were surprised by the warm welcome we received from the people, we were surprised by the beauty of the landscape and by the sheer size and scope of the cities. To truly visit China you would need a lifetime, but here’s a list of what we loved and what we think were the best things to do in China when we visited.

Best Things to do in China

1. Visit the Great Wall

things to do in China

It may seem the obvious choice, but there is a reason that everyone who visits China goes to see the Great Wall. We recommend going to the MuTianYu Great Wall section over the Badaling Section. Badaling may be the more popular section as it is closer to Beijing, but the MuTianYu section is far less crowded. As a matter a fact, when we were there we barely saw another tourist.

Tip: A great time to visit is in December, there aren’t many tourists and the sky is crisp and clear. You can get to the Great Wall via public transportation from Beijing. For more information on the Great Wall, visit our post The Great Wall of China

2. Forbidden City

Things to do in China, The Forbidden City

It is a fascinating tour to walk through the Forbidden City. It housed the Emperors and their families for 500 years before the fall of the Quing Dynasty. In the past, no commoner was ever allowed to step foot in the Forbidden City, but today it welcomes millions of tourists each year. Visiting the Forbidden City is one of the top things to do in China for everyone. Just tell your guide to speed things along. They tend to keep you there for hours.

While in Beijing, a visit to the Forbidden City is a must. You can see Tiananman Square, Chairman Mao’s Tomb all at the same time.

3. Terracotta Warriors

things to do in China, The Terracotta Warriors

After the Great Wall, the Terracotta Warriors is the most famous attraction in China and you can’t leave the country without seeing it. Located near the city of Xian, it is a spectacle that must be seen. Thousands of life size clay warriors stand guard at this site that was only discovered in 1974. The Emperors tomb has yet to be excavated but there is plenty to see as you walk the grounds of this amazing archeological site.

For more information on the Terracotta Warriors visit our post, Are They Real or Are They Memorex?

4. Cycle the Xi’an Wall

things to do in China, cycling the Xi'an Wall

While you are visiting the Terracotta Warriors, it’s worth sticking around the ancient city of Xi’an. It has the most intact wall in all of China and a great activity is to rent a bicycle to navigate around the top of the wall circling the entire old city. Once you are done your cycling, you can visit the Muslim Quarter and enjoy some delicious dumplings. A lot of people don’t think of hanging around Xi’an, but trust me, it will be one of your favourite things to do in China.

For more information on cycling the Xi’an Wall, visit our Good Day in Xi’an

5.Bamboo Raft Up the Li River

Things to do in China, Rafting the Li River

There isn’t a more traditional Chinese moment than taking a bamboo raft down the Li River. Surrounded by beautiful karst formations of Yangshuo, you drift through the mist and take in the scenery as fisherman fish as they have for thousands of years. Get up early to avoid the crowds and capture photos in the best light.

Read all about it at Bamboo Rafting Down the Li River

6. Cruise the Three Gorges

Things to do in China, three Gorges

The Yangzi River may have been flooded a few years ago, but the Three Gorges is still a trip worth taking. The Three Gorges damn was the largest hydro-electric project in the world and was meant to power 10% of China. Since China is growing so rapidly the project only ended up powering 3% of the population, but it is an amazing site to see. The cruise is relaxing and the scenery is gorgeous.

The Three Gorges, China’s Rapid Development

7. Take in the Shanghai Skyline from the Bund

Things to do in China, Shanghai skyline

China is filled with Spectacular cities like Beijing and Hong Kong. But no skyline on earth is quite as spectacular as Shanghai. Walking along the bund makes for a wonderful stroll and there is nothing like seeing the new city across the river. Can you believe it only took them 20 Years to build that skyline? Our guide told us that when she was growing up, all that was farmland and people used to dream of crossing the water to be a part of Beijing. Look at it now! No farmers anymore me thinks.

8. Have a Hot Pot in Sichuan Province

things to do in china, eat a hot pot

A Hot Pot in Sichuan Province is the most exciting meal you will ever have. Huajiao peppers from the region are so hot they make your tongue go numb. It’s not a hot that burns as much as a hot that excites the senses. Do yourself a favour, when you are in China, make sure to eat a hot pot in Sichuan Province.

Read about our experience at Sichuan Hot Pot a Sizzling Night out.

9. Visit the Giant Pandas of Chengdu

things to do in China, visit the pandas

When you think of China, it’s nearly impossible not to picture the Giant Panda. Pandas are so cute, you would swear that there is a man inside a bear suit pretending to be a wild animal. Sadly, the Panda is gravely endangered, but the Panda Research Base in Chengdu is doing it’s best to raise them in this breeding facility and to keep the official face of China alive and well for years to come.

For more information visit the Giant Panda Research Base in Chengdu

10. Spend Time in a Local Park

Things to do in China

Dave Walking the Catwalk in a Park Fashion Show

The best way to get to know the locals in China is to hang out at a local park. The people of China know how to enjoy life and you will see that clearly when you visit a park on a Sunday. People sing Karaoke, dance, practice tai chi, strutt the runway and so much more. Believe us, you won’t be disappointed if you hang out at a local park.

11. Stroll the Romantic West Lake

things to do in china, West Lake

West Lake is the romance capital of China and most Chinese spend their honeymoons right here. There is a beautiful legend about ill fated love that takes place on the banks of West Lake. Read all about it at A Romantic Stroll on Hangzou West Lake

best things to do in China map

Have you been to China? What do you think are the best things to do in China? We’ve heard Tiger Leaping Gorges is amazing, but have yet to be there. That’s ok though, we loved China so much, we’ be sure to go back!

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21 Comments

  1. Tanya

    Lots of things to go see. Im sure it would be hard to get all that in, in just one visit. I would love to walk the Great Wall and see the panda’s though.

    1. debndave Post author

      It is tough to get it all in and it helps to be abel to fly to your destinations. But a must is walking on the great wall. we were pleasantly surprised with just how awesome it was! And yes, seeing the Pandas is a real treat.

  2. Pingback: This Week in Travel: Jan. 25 – Feb. 1, 2013 | The Traveling Type

  3. Najib

    Very good post with almost great places to visit in China, but one great-missed monument, it’s of cours the famous Taj Mahal which is a finest example of Mughal original architecture. Chears !

  4. Andlyn Sheeba

    Hi,
    Thanks for sharing an useful information. And i like your destination sequence according to your priority. Nice post especially image collections are really awesome. Here i like these things very much Great wall of China, Forbidden City and Cruise the Three Gorges. Thanks for your list…

    Regards,
    Sheeba

  5. Angela

    I was in China for two months but I haven’t done half of these things! I really loved Sichuan hotpot, it’s one of my favorite meals ever. And the panda’s ofcourse, the most peaceful and awesome animals ever.

    1. debndave Post author

      I love the hot pot! We couldn’t stop laughing while eating it because it was so spicy it made our tongues go numb. And yes, everyone must see the Pandas when they’re in China.

    1. debndave Post author

      Thanks Johnny, we really loved China when we were there and you are so right, it is very different from the rest of the world.

  6. Amelie

    Hi,
    We have been to Tiger Leaping Gorge and I do recommend it but we enjoyed even more hiking in the Meili Snow Mountain… a mountain range never climbed!

  7. Anchal

    Hi…I am from india ,visiting Hongkong in the month of October,planning to visit china then…u have given some lovely places to visit in china…how do u suggest one should do it….take a package from a travel company or is it possible to do it on your own…me and my husband would like to do it on our own

    1. debndave Post author

      It’s definitely easier with a tour. We do a lot of travel on our own but this one to China was with Intrepid Travel and we loved having a guide to help with the language barrier and directions. But it’s definitely a personal choice, depending on what you can handle and how long you have. If we went back to China, we’d definitely go on our own now that we got our feet wet with the tour.

    1. debndave Post author

      We did ours in about 21 days. Using trains, buses and a couple of flights to get around. Definitely take your time to enjoy and if you have less time, do less. We’re all about taking in the experience rather than checking off the list.

  8. Backpacking Panda

    China is such a beautiful country. After my journey to China I realized traveling is going to be a major part of my life. been in the Tiger Leaping Gorge and it was incredible. one of the best experiences I had in China is sleeping in a Kyrgyz Yurt in Karakul Lake (Xinjiang province).

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