Top Ten Chinese Cities for your summer break!

Planning an adventure to China this summer? Here’s our Top Ten list of Chinese cities to visit during your summer break! Can you guess our top choice???

10. Shanghai

The financial hub of China, Shanghai is an incredibly international city and a fantastic location to base yourself if you’re planning a longer trip to China this summer. The city itself offers everything from boutique eateries to ancient temples, while you can also enjoy day trips to the nearby cities of Suzhou (traditional gardens), Hangzhou (lakeside scenery) or Nanjing (ancient architecture). 

Pros:

✅ International vibe

✅ Excellent transport

✅ Food and shopping 

Cons:

❌ Very hot

❌ Expensive 

❌ Fewer historical sights

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9. Xi'an

Home of the terracotta army, Xi’an is a must-visit for any first-time trip to China. Be sure to spend a couple of days exploring though, as the city also boast a whole host of other sights – as one of the ancient capitals of China, it also has one of the best-preserved city walls in the country (you can even cycle along the top!), traditional bell and drum towers, delicious street food markets and ancient temples!

Pros:

✅ Bucket-list sights

✅ Walkable within the city walls

✅ History and culture

Cons:

❌ Tour groups

❌ High ticket prices 

❌ Poor transport to outlying sights

8. Nanjing

Another ancient capital of China, yet surprisingly less well known outside of the country, Nanjing is jam-packed full of ancient and cultural sights – everything from Sun Yat Sen’s mausoleum to a Confucian temple and imperial palace. Enjoy a stroll along the old city wall, enjoying the original gates and features. If you need an escape from the city, the surrounding hills are within easy reach, as is a large lake park and nature reserve. 

Pros:

✅ Ancient culture

✅ Nature and hiking

✅ High speed train from Shanghai

Cons:

❌ Very hot

❌ Less modern city

❌ Too much to see!!!

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Changsha

7. Changsha

A real off-the-beaten-track treasure of a city, Changsha perfectly combines the modern and ancient. This comfortable city is packed full of historical and cultural sights – from local temples to a giant bust of Mao, as well as the nearby Fenghuang ancient town and famous Avatar mountains.

Pros:

✅ Off the beaten track

✅ Modern and ancient culture

✅ Nearby attractions in Hunan province

Cons:

❌ Less info online

❌ Fewer international hostels 

❌ Poor transport to outlying sights

6. Shijiazhuang

Less well known but only a short train ride from Beijing, Shijiazhuang has recently undergone a major restoration project to boost tourism in the area. In particular, Zhengding ancient town, on the outskirts of the city, is well worth a few days exploring – with plenty of ancient pagodas and traditional temples scattered along the cultural streets. Don’t forget to visit the fantastic Hebei provincial museum in the centre of town too, offering an amazing insight into the local history and traditions. If you’re spending longer in the area, enjoy a day trip to the beautiful Cangyan Mountain for spectacular scenery and ancient temples.

Pros:

✅ Historical sights

✅ Few tourists

✅ High speed train from Beijing

Cons:

❌ Less hostels

❌ Less modern city

❌ Unreliable local transport to outlying sights

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5. Beijing

You may be surprised that Beijing isn’t our number one, and indeed the capital city offers a huge range of sightseeing opportunities to keen you entertained for several weeks if you wanted! Beijing is the perfect base to visit the must-see highlights of China, including the Great Wall, Forbidden City, Temple of Heaven, Summer Palace and many more. As a more well-developed city, the public transport networks are fantastic, with convenient buses and metro lines between all the main sights. 

Pros:

✅ Bucket-list sights

✅ History and culture

✅ Convenient transport and hostels 

Cons:

❌ Lots of tourists

❌ Expensive

❌ Unreliable weather

4. Yangshuo

A popular backpacking hub, Yangshuo is the perfect base for those looking for an outdoor adventure trip. Located near the now over-touristified city of Guilin, Yangshuo has a more laid-back vibe, with many international youth hostels scattered among the incredible karst mountain scenery. You can spend your days enjoying relaxing strolls beside the river, cycling along the excellent bike paths, or even taking a bamboo boat to the nearby fishing village of Xingping. 

Pros:

✅ Nature and scenery

✅ International vibe

✅ Relaxed and laid-back atmosphere

Cons:

❌ Expensive sights and activities

❌ Less convenient transport links

❌ Less historical/ cultural sights

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3. Kunming

Known as the “spring city” of China, Kunming is extremely popular among local tourists in the hot summer months as an opportunity to enjoy cooler weather and fantastic cultural sightseeing opportunities. You could easily spend a week exploring the sights within Kunming itself, ranging from ancient Chinese temples to a stunning lake, as well as using it as a base to venture further into Yunnan province. For those getting “templed-out” after visiting too many more traditional Chinese cities, Yunnan province can offer a very different culture (heavily influenced by nearby Vietnam) while also allowing you to escape the city entirely through relaxed hiking trips.

Pros:

✅ South-East Asian vibe

✅ Culture and nature

✅ Cooler weather

Cons:

❌ Mosquitoes everywhere

❌ Lots of tourists

❌ Too much to see!!!

2. Chengde

Another fantastic location for history and culture buffs, Chengde is the location of the ancient imperial summer resort near Beijing. The emperor loved to escape the stress and busy-ness of city life by relaxing among the mountain scenery here, which is still very present to this day. However, he couldn’t avoid official visitors entirely, and even built a series of eight temples in different styles to surround his palace, providing opportunities for dignitaries from different regions of China to pay their respects. 

Pros:

✅ Nature, scenery, history and culture

✅ Small, well-contained city

✅ Relaxed and laid-back atmosphere

Cons:

❌ Expensive sights

❌ Fewer international hostels

❌ Sights close early

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1. Hangzhou

Just a short train journey from Shanghai, Hangzhou offers the perfect combination between a modern city and being surrounded by the peace and beauty of nature. It offers plenty of ancient sights to visit, from a 4th century temple to traditional pagodas, most spread around the famous West Lake. Enjoy relaxed afternoons boating or hike to small temples hidden in the surrounding hills. If you’re basing yourself here for a longer period of time, this is a fantastic opportunity to take day-trips to nearby tea villages or water towns. 

Pros:

✅ History, culture, nature and sights

✅ Cooler climate

✅ Excellent transport links

Cons:

❌ Sights a bit more spread out

❌ Tacky tour boats

❌ You’ll never want to leave!!!

Want to experience Chinese culture first-hand while teaching English?

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In return for teaching the child of your host family English, and occasionally assisting with light housework, you will receive all this for free, as well as a small monthly allowance or flight tickets!

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