Things to do in China – Must See Attractions and Places to Visit

Written By: The Planet D

China is a country filled with unexpected surprises. 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.

Note: This is a list of experiences in China that we have done. Not a Google searched generic list. We have tested them all and can confidently recommend these China Attractions. 

Best Things to do in China

things to do in china | temple of heaven
The Temple of Heaven in Beijing is a popular tourist attraction in China

When we visited China 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.

The Hong Kong and Shanghai Skylines blew us away, the culture was fascinating and the scenery was spectacular.

1. Visit the Great Wall

things to do in china | great wall
Visit the Great Wall of China

It may seem the obvious choice, but there is a reason that everyone who visits China goes to see the Great Wall. It is the number choice for things to do in China!

However, not all parts of the Great Wall are equal. There are good walls to visit and not so good walls to visit.

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.

Check out our travel video of our Great Wall Hike to Mutianyu

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

what to do in china | the forbidden city

It is a fascinating tour to walk through the Forbidden City in Beijing. It housed the Emperors and their families for 500 years before the fall of the Qing 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.

Beijing is a trip unto itself in China, See our post – 11 of the Very Best Things to do in Beijing

3. Terracotta Warriors

what to do in China | 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 Emperor’s tomb has yet to be excavated but there is plenty to see as you walk the grounds of this amazing archeological site.

4. Cycle the Xi’an Wall

deb cycling the xian city wall | things to do in china
Cycle the Xian City 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.

5. Bamboo Raft the Li River

things to do in China bamboo raft the li river
The Beautiful 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.

6. Cruise the Three Gorges – Yangtze River

things to do in China three gorges
Cruise the 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 Dam 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.

7. Shanghai Skyline from the Bund

what 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 methinks!

8. Have a Hot Pot in Sichuan Province

things to do in china 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.

9. Visit the Giant Pandas of Chengdu

things to do in china visit the pandas of chengdu
Happy Giant Panda

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.

They are working hard to keep the official face of China alive and well for years to come.

10. Spend Time in a Local Park

what to see in china parks
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, Hangzhou

what to see 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.

12. Visit the Gardens of Suzhou

things to do in china | Suzhou

Suzhou is located just west of Shanghai in the Jiangsu Province just an hour’s ride on the bullet train from Shanghai.

It is not only a city of gardens but also a city of rivers and canals. This is why it is also referred to as the “Venice of the Orient”.

The city has earned a worldwide reputation for its classical gardens, most of which were built for private use by aristocrats and wealthy businessmen as far back as the Sixth Century BC.

Many of these delicate classical gardens were built between the 14th and 20th centuries during the time of the Ming and Qing dynasties, and about 10 of them are still in good condition.

The largest of the gardens is the Humble Administrator’s Garden (Zhuo Zheng Yuan), which occupies four hectares.

It was built during the Ming Dynasty in 1522.

13. Nanjing Niushou Mountain

Nanjing China

This new cultural park is an impressive place to visit.

This sacred site houses a Buddhist palace spanning six floors underground built inside a mountain.

There a nine-story Pagoda, the futuristic Usnisa Temple, a monastery and a large meditation hall and a giant sleeping Buddha.

But the most astonishing is the hall of 1,000 Buddhas in the Usnisa Temple spanning three stories in the middle of the mountain.

14. Tiger Leaping Gorge

top things to do in china tiger leaping gorge

Tiger Leaping Gorge is located in Yunnan Province and is one of the deepest gorges on earth.

The path takes you high above the Yangtze River along the Jinsha River (A tributary of the Yangtze) where you can trek anywhere from a couple of hours to several days.

Visitors can choose to hike the low trail or the high trail for spectacular views.

15. Walk along the Longest City Wall

City wall of Nanjing China | longest city wall in the world

We all know of the Great Wall of China and we now have heard of the oldest city wall, but China also has the longest city wall in the world.

The Nanjing city wall is a 35 kilometers (22miles) long wall that is the most well-preserved in all of China. Take a walk along it and while you are at it, learn calligraphy or take part in a tea ceremony.

16. Explore Hong Kong

vacation in hong kong header
Hong Kong Skyline Reflection

Hong Kong is China’s most exciting city and we love spending time there.

There are so many things to do in the city as well as the surrounding islands and parks.

If you visit China, be sure to put a few days at the end of your trip to really explore it.

17. Tea Ceremony

things to do in china | tea ceremony

Tea is an important part of Chinese tradition and to learn how to drink tea properly is a must.

You can book a tea ceremony anywhere in China. Hotels and guest houses often offer them and many museums and cultural centres do too.

You will never look at tea the same way again.

18. Calligraphy Class

what to do in china | calligraphy class

Haven’t you always wanted to feel the serenity of what it is like to sit and draw beautiful calligraphy symbols.

Take a class to get a real appreciation of calligraphy. It is a lot harder than it looks and truly makes you appreciate the art.

Great calligraphy in China can sell for tens of thousands of dollars.

19. Hot Cupping in Yangshou

what to do in china hot cupping

Sure, you’ve had hot cupping at your local spa, but you haven’t experienced it until you’ve been hot cupping in Yangshou. 

Don’t go for the new swanky spas of China, look for Dr Li and the traditional experience. It’s one you’ll be able to instagram to death and definitely write home about.

20. Explore the Canals of Tong Li Water City

china things to do tongli

Tong Li Water City is one of the most beautiful places to visit in China. Located just one hour from Suzhou, Tongli is one of six ancient towns south of the Yangtze River.

It can even be reached by Shanghai public transit. It makes for a great day trip from Shanghai and is a very picturesque village known as the Venice of the East due to its beautiful canals.

Map of things to do in China

where to go in china
our route

Enjoy this post on the very best things to do in China. Save it to Pinterest for Future reference.

Things to Do in China | Pinterest

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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About The Planet D

Dave Bouskill and Debra Corbeil are the owners and founders of The Planet D. After traveling to 115 countries, on all 7 continents over the past 13 years they have become one of the foremost experts in travel. Being recognized as top travel bloggers and influencers by the likes of Forbes Magazine, the Society of American Travel Writers and USA Today has allowed them to become leaders in their field.

Leave a Comment

29 thoughts on “Things to do in China – Must See Attractions and Places to Visit”

  1. I liked Silk Road, Guilin, and Yangshuo, these are really amazing and also went to the fishing village at Lingshui.
    I also liked the Sichuan hotspot and it was my most special meal.

    Reply
  2. Very helpful information about Great wall tour. All travellers should read this carefully; it will help you to travel the Great Wall of China. Due to the popularity of the Great Wall of China, the place is worth paying for a trip. A trip with friends or cousins to the great wall hiking tour will become a memorable trip for you. I had gone to China with my friends last month. Due to the first time in China, we travelled there by the help of a travel company namely Greatwall Trekclub.

    Reply
  3. Check out Hainan Island and hike the wooden bridge and glass stairway through Yalong Bay Rainforest. Unforgettable views. Then go to the fishing village at Lingshui where the families live on boats and store the fish in netted plots. You can eat freshly caught fish on a boat restaurant.

    Reply
  4. Travel to Yunnan. I know it seems to be very touristy, but that is the closest you’ll see from Tibet without having to do tour travel!
    I mean it is great to see. There is “old” cities, mountain, lake, clean country side, temple, natural park at 5000m altitude breathtaking landscape everywhere and loads of space.
    You won’t be feeling like an ant like if you were staying in Shanghai for instance. Shanghai is great too, you’ll be able to find food from all over China, and eating in China is definitely something you need to do: Shengjian, baozi, xiaolongbao, baicai, jianbing etc (some street food)

    Reply
  5. Thanks for these great ideas. We are headed to China in fall and I was doing a little research about the best places to visit. Great post!

    Reply
  6. I think the best things I did in China was trekking off path in the jungles in Xishuangbanna, visiting the nature reserves in Hong Kong (completely surprised about them) and staying with a mongol family in a homestay in Inner Mongolia. It all was really great. The inner mongolian place had a website here http://anthropolodgy.com/ but the two other things was activities we did on our own

    Reply
  7. When I was in China, what I liked best was Guilin and Yangshuo for its wonderful places to photograph. I was in Beijing, Xian Shanghai and Hong Kong in addition to Guilin scene area

    Reply
  8. For me, the southwest of China is a must-do. Yunnan,Guangxi and Guizhou provinces are crammed with both larger tourist sites, and off the beaten track treks into the hills to remote villages. Most of China’s ethnic minorities are located in these provinces too.

    Also, the northwest of China, AKA the Silk Road is also not to be missed. The Islamic culture, desert-scapes and ancient ruins are just amazing.

    Reply
  9. 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).

    Reply
    • 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.

      Reply
  10. 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

    Reply
    • 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.

      Reply
  11. 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!

    Reply
    • 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.

      Reply
  12. 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.

    Reply
    • 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.

      Reply
  13. 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

    Reply
  14. 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 !

    Reply
  15. Very Great itinerary of China.its gives so many important information about the china. I’d definitely visit to china in future.

    Reply
  16. 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.

    Reply
    • 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.

      Reply