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The 15 Best Places to Visit in China in 2024

The 15 Best Places to Visit in China in 2024

As one of the most culturally immersive and exotic destinations in the world, China is at the top of many travel bucket lists. But its massive size and diverse terrain can overwhelm even the most seasoned traveler. That’s why it’s so important to discover the best places to visit in China and create a memorable itinerary for your trip!

From world-renowned modern metropolises with history spanning millennia, like Beijing, Shanghai, and Xi’an, to must-see landmarks and destinations like the Great Wall and ancient villages hiding in the mountains and along river banks, China is packed with places that will have you ready to pack your bags.

Get ready for the trip of a lifetime filled with flavorful food and vibrant culture, awe-inspiring cities, architecture dating back thousands of years, and unspoiled natural beauty when you head to the best places to visit in China.

15 of the Best Places to Visit in China in 2024

China’s best destinations offer a delightful mix of experiences, so you’ll find spots that pique your interest whether you’re up for a backpacker-style trek across this vast country or want a first-class visit with fine dining and upscale hotels. 

On this list of the best places to visit in China, you’ll find everything from ancient temples and shrines to bustling, modern cities for a well-rounded take on the wonders of China. 

1. Beijing

Giant M-shaped building towering over several other modern glass buildings with countless air conditioning units and modern gardens below in Beijing, one of the best places to visit in China

HelloRF Zcool/Shutterstock

As a 3,000 year-old city in North China, Beijing is one of the country’s most-visited destinations with a treasure trove of modern and ancient architecture, world-class cuisine and sightseeing, and Chinese culture and traditions. 

You can tour nearly 1,000 ancient buildings, including intricate palaces, sacred temples, and fantastically ornate carvings and statues in the red-walled Forbidden City. Just south of the gate is the entrance to the Mausoleum of Mao Zedung and the fascinating National Museum of China in Tiananmen Square.

The Summer Palace, surrounded by gardens and a tranquil lake, belongs on your list, while fueling up in the Dongcheng (Forbidden City) and Chaoyang (great shopping) districts will expose you to traditional and fusion Chinese cuisine and tasty street food. 

The suburbs of Beijing is where you’ll find 8 sections of the famous Great Wall of China, where you can walk through fortresses and watch towers in the most popular preserved or less-visited ruined sections of the wall.

2. Shanghai

Homes and buildings next to a dock on the water in Shanghai, one of the best places to visit in China, with its extremely sleek and modern skyline in the background


Sitting on China’s eastern coast, Shanghai makes an incredible place to visit in China as one of its most populous and buzzing cities. Its waterfront location on the East China Sea gives it a special allure and it has its own little “Venice” at Zhujiajiao Water Town

Wander along the Bund, a riverfront road with some of the city’s best views of the skyline across the river and Art Deco to Gothic architecture. Go through the illuminated Bund Sightseeing Tunnel and travel under the Huangpu River for a different experience. 

It takes 1 minute to ride the elevators to the top of Shanghai Tower, the tallest building in China at 2,073 feet. Take a double-decker elevator to the top of the pink-orbed Oriental Pearl Tower, standing over 1,500 feet tall with its own revolving restaurant and crystal-clear catwalks for scenic views over Shanghai. 

Meander through Yu Garden with a guided tour through the park’s traditional architecture and koi ponds to escape from the buzz of the city. The Yu Garden Bazaar sits just outside, a favorite spot to grab everything from street food (dumplings galore!) to crafts and souvenirs.

3. Xi’an

Giant Wild Goose Pagoda pictured in one of the best places to visit in China, Xian, with fountains in the foreground and a sunset in the background


Xi’an is one of China’s ancient imperial cities with vast history that makes it particularly interesting to visit. It offers a more diverse look at China’s culture and how it’s changing in the modern day, even featuring its own Muslim Quarter with beautiful mosques and street markets. 

The flavors of Xi’an are also amazingly diverse, from Middle Eastern fare along Hui Min Jie (Muslim Street) and Da Pi Court (Halal Flavor Street) to traditional Chinese regional food on Xiyangshi (street food) and Sajin Bridge (authentic Xi’an cuisine).

But much of Xi’an’s allure is linked to its storied past as an imperial city, told through ancient architecture and museums. Here, you can walk along the historic Silk Road trade route. The city center is surrounded by the Xi’an City Wall, one of China’s best-preserved examples of these defensive structures. 

The country’s first emperor is buried at the Emperor Qinshihuang’s Mausoleum Site Museum, along with famous terracotta sculptures of his army and relics from his reign.

You can’t miss the Giant Wild Goose Pagoda, which stands 7 stories tall in its traditional Tang style architecture from the year 648. Make time to see the 118-foot tall Bell Tower (c. 1384) with massive, bronze bells that marked the city’s geographic center.

4. Guilin

Chinese man in a triangle hat pictured from behind fishing with several birds on his boat in Guanxi

Tutti Frutti/Shutterstock

South China’s Guilin is known for its unique limestone caves, mountains, and rounded pillars rising from the Li River. The scenery here is incredible, with lakes and rivers winding through its rugged terrain along with pagodas and parks to capture your interest. 

See some of those dazzling limestone mountains at the peaceful Seven Star Park (named for the 7 peaks resembling the Big Dipper) with trails winding through dense forests, past traditional pavilions, and into meticulously-maintained ancient gardens. 

You’ll find some of the best views of the scenery at Solitary Beauty Park or by taking a boat ride down the Li River. Elephant Trunk Hill and Reed Flute Cave are nearby, each offering a calming escape surrounded by natural beauty. Reed Flute Cave holds dazzling light shows and tours inside. 

Check out the perfectly-reconstructed twin Sun and Moon Pagodas by a serene lake in Guilin’s center, connected by an underwater tunnel and featuring a convenient elevator to reach the top of the Sun Pagoda. Just a few miles away, you can explore the thousand-year-old Jiangtouzhou Ancient Town.

5. Lijiang

Daytime view of the historic old town of Lijiang, a UNESCO heritage site and also one of the best places to visit in China

Lijiang, China – April 10,2017 : Scenic view of the Old Town of Lijiang in Yunnan, China. The Old Town of Lijiang is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and also a famous tourist destination of Asia/Gracethang2/Shutterstock

Picturesque Lijiang has a remarkably preserved ancient town center (Dayan) that still features its original cobblestone streets, old homes and buildings, and a network of canals that earned its UNESCO World Heritage Site status. 

Stroll those ancient streets with parasols strung overhead and greenery flowing from baskets and parks within the center, then stop by one of the many tea shops or restaurants in the Central Market Square for a bite and traditional tea. Take a boat ride through the canals to see it from a new perspective. 

North of the old town, visit Jade Spring Park to see the Black Dragon Pool (pond) with an oriental bridge leading to a traditional Taoist pavilion and the Deyue Tower as scenic views of Jade Dragon Stone Mountain frame the background.

There are two other old towns in Lijiang, Shuhe (a laid-back, sleepy area) and Baisha (near Yulong Mountain), with bustling little main streets and thriving cultures, that you can explore to get your fill of history and tradition while you’re here. 

6. Chengdu

Unique night scene in the town of Chengdu, a traditional Chinese village and also one of our top picks for must-visit places to see in China, as seen from the top of a classically-styled building

ESB Professional/Shutterstock

Love pandas, spicy food, performances, and pagodas? Then Chengdu is the perfect place to visit in China for you. Take a panda tour at the Chengdu Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding, where giant pandas, red pandas, and other animals native to China can be seen in exhibits that closely mimic their natural habitats.

The Chengdu Opera House (Shufengya Yun) hosts traditional Chinese “face-changer” operas that are a treat to witness. The 1,000 year-old Wenshu Monastery sits downtown and is free to tour, while Tianfu Square is a haven for shops, eateries, and museums like Sichuan Science and Technology Museum.

In southwestern Chengdu, you can visit a sacred site for Chinese Buddhists at Mt. Emei and the Leshan Giant Buddha, where a stone Buddha carving in a cliff has stood 232 feet tall since 803 AD and a huge Samantabhadra statue rises on the summit.

It’s a mecca for spicy Sichuan cuisine (one of the 8 Great Traditions  of Chinese Cuisine) centered around mouth-numbing Sichuan peppercorns and dishes like kung pao chicken, mapo tofu, and hot pot soup with chilies, spicy bean paste, and aromatics. 

You’ll find ample spots to try the cuisine, from street food stalls to fine restaurants and bars, along Kuanzhai Alley with lots of tea shops and Jinli Old Street in Chengdu. 

7. Hangzhou

Hangzhou temple and boats pictured on still water with little to nothing around it except trees


Hangzhou is comparable to Italy’s Venice, with its Jinghang Waterway, or Grand Canal, a network of ancient canals connecting the city and leading to sites only accessible by boat. Sightseeing is amazing here with traditional pavilions, scenic lakes, and views of the surrounding hills. 

Hangzhou is a green, waterfront city that features lots of lush gardens and flowers. You’ll see many grand, arched bridges leading over the canals to connect pavilions, narrow streets, and temples. Tea is a big deal here, so it’s fitting that the China National Tea Museum is located here in West Lake. 

West Lake is one of the most popular areas, where you can walk over a cool wooden bridge and tour the 5-story Leifeng Pagoda, take a night boat tour with an amazing light show on the water, ride a boat to Xiaoyingzhou Island, and explore shops and restaurants.

Visit the impressive Lingyin Temple and a series of smaller temples accessed by stairs, all surrounded by wooden, copper, and gilded Buddha statues, caves, limestone carvings, and a restaurant and gift shop.

Don’t miss the grotto at Fei Lai Feng, where Buddhist carvings have existed in caves at the peak since the 10th century. The legendary peak’s caves have hundreds of Buddhist stone statues dating from the 10th to the 14th centuries.

8. Zhangjiajie

Mist over and between the unique rock formations in Zhangjiajie, one of our favorite places to visit in China


If the otherworldly scenery of the movie Avatar astounded you, see the inspiration for the landscape in Zhangjiajie (Hunan province). Here, massive sandstone pillars jut out of the depth of mountain valleys, along with forests, caves, waterfalls, and natural bridges. 

Those pillars can be seen at Zhangjiajie National Forest Park, while taking a cable car through Tianmen Mountain National Forest Park can bring you to impressive caves and a solitary temple at the peak of Tianmen Mountain/

Walk the incredibly high and transparent glass bridge over the Grand Canyon of Zhangjiajie if you dare! Cable car rides to other scenic spots, like Tianzi Mountain are fun ideas.

You can walk through enchanted, forested areas like Golden Whip Brook (take 2,500+ steps up to the Yuanjiajie Scenic Spot) that are reminiscent of the Avatar movie’s fantastical setting. 

The regional Hunan cuisine, one of China’s most famous, features special dishes like Zhangjiajie mixed pot soup with tofu, veggies, and meat, sautéed pork with chili peppers, and red braised pork belly with savory, sour notes.

9. Suzhou

Zuzhou, dubbed "Venice of the East," pictured from above the canal looking down the water with boats making their way down the canal and bustling shops on either side


Another of China’s mesmerizing canal cities is Suzhou, just west of Shanghai with a grid of canals meandering through the city’s parks, gardens, and limestone rockeries topped with famous pagodas. It shares its “main artery,” the Jinghang Waterway or Grand Canal, with Beijing and Hangzhou. 

Take a canal cruise or walk through the stone-paved streets along the canals and across its charming arched bridges. You’ll find old pavilions, ornamental windows, and massive corridors framing your views of the surrounding hills and rock art in the Lingering Garden. 

The Xiyuan Temple is just west of the garden and offers a serene place to stop and take in the views. Classical gardens sprawl across the canals, like the Humble Administrator’s Garden, which features a series of manicured “islands” connected with angled bridges.

The octagonal, 7-story Cloud Rock Leaning Pagoda, an outdoor movie area, and bamboo forest waits for you at the top of Tiger Hill. You’ll want to wander along Shantang Street, part of the city’s historic district where you can tour the canal with houses so close you can touch them, dress up in Han Dynasty-era outfits for photos, eat at restaurants, and stop at small shops. 

10. Wuyishan

Simple walkway with stairs leading down the valley to a scenic overlook in one of the best places to go to in China, the Wuyishan Province


Wuyishan is a destination for both outdoor recreation and historic tours in the Fujian province. It encompasses the Wuyi Mountains, winding rivers, a range of popular resorts, and abundant tea farms that make the area particularly scenic to explore. 

Head to Wuyi Mountain Scenic Resort for postcard-worthy views of mountain peaks, ruined temples, and the majestic river meandering beneath you. Ride the river on a traditional bamboo raft to discover waterfalls, massive hidden caves, and ruins. 

The 8th-century Wuyi Mountain Palace sits on one of the peaks, featuring 800+ year old cherry trees, a museum where you can learn about the Song Dynasty, and a period-accurate street with shops and eateries to check out. 

History buffs can’t miss the ancient ruins of a 2,000-year old Han Dynasty city, where relics and artifacts can be seen at the area’s Minyue King City Museum, and you can tour the Ancient Yue Folk Village as well as the the Palace Ruins of Minyue King City. 

Hiking, rafting, and visiting the landmarks and ruins around Wuyishan all make it well worth a visit. Don’t forget to try Da Hong Pao, a famous (and expensive) tea that’s grown primarily in this region. 

11. Zhangye

Aerial view of the rainbow-colored hills in the desert of Zhangye, a top pick for must-visit places in China

M. Scheja/Shutterstock

Zhangye, located on the historic Silk Road route, features some of China’s coolest rock formations and scenery with major Buddhist sacred sites and Han Dynasty history in its bounds. Parks, pagodas, and natural beauty are its prime draws for tourists. 

Come to visit some of its incredible parks, like Zhangye National Geopark, to see amazing geologic formations. The scenery here is awe-inspiring, from the unique red-orange rainbow rock formations of the Danxia Landform to the Pingshan Grand Canyon with its colorful layered rock plunging deep into a valley.

Dafo Temple is home to China’s largest reclining Buddha and splendidly ornate carvings and rooms surrounded by a garden-like courtyard. The wooden 9-story Muta Temple is just steps away and makes for an awesome morning excursion.

The cliffside Matisi Temple sits amid neat caves and natural formations, including Linsong Waterfall and Qianfo Grottoes. See the North and South temples along with the old King Gesar Palace while you’re here. 

You can tour mausoleums of the Han Dynasty in the Heishuiguo Site, once part of the renowned Silk Road trading route, see the octahedron Ganzhou Ancient Tower complex with 9 levels showcasing its well-preserved architecture.

12. Shangri-La

For a piece on the best places to visit in China, pictured is the mystic town of Shangri-La pictured with people walking down the historic streets in the winter

street and architecture building at Dukezong old town, located in Zhongdian city ( Shangri-La). landmark and popular spot for tourists attractions. Yunnan, China, 8 December 2019/Jo Panuwat D/Shutterstock

It’s not just a fictional paradise — Shangri-La exists in China’s Yunnan province and is a very real place you can visit for its Tibetan temples and ancient architecture, picturesque mountains and valleys carved by mighty rivers, and less-traveled, serene atmosphere.

The sleepy, 1,300-year old “Moonlight City” of Shangri-La’s Dukezong Ancient City features old white Tibetan houses, narrow streets lined with ornate buildings, temples, and prayer halls, and rows of lanterns and prayer flags strung up all over the city. 

You’ll find the Songzanlin Monastery high up in the mountains. It’s the largest Tibetan Buddhist temples in the province and features finery like gilded lamps and silver incense burners. Some call it the “Little Potala Palace” because it was built in the style of the Potala Palace in Lhasa, Tibet.

Check out the incredible Tiger Leaping Gorge on the Jinsha River, a vast canyon yawning in the mountains as Haba Snow Mountain overlooks it. It’s a popular hiking spot for beginner mountaineers and offers great views over the Jinsha River and the Yulong Mountain.

13. Jiuzhaigou

Autumn view of one of the best places to visit in China, Jiuzhaigou, pictured with golden trees on either side of the radioactive-blue lake


Jiuzhai Valley National Park, or Jiuzhaigou, is a wildlife-rich, verdant Y-shaped valley in the beautiful Minshan Mountains of China’s Sichuan province. The name means “Ravine of Nine Villages” and it’s the former site of ancient Tibetan villages that once populated its craggy ravines. 

The park is part of the Jiuzhaigou Nature Reserve, a UNESCO World Heritage Site because of its abundant wildlife, unique landforms, and ecosystems. Waterfalls, lakes, mountains, forests, and a huge number of bird and mammal species like giant pandas and golden monkeys live within the region. 

That makes it an ideal place to visit in China if you’re a bit of an explorer! Get out and enjoy the many hiking trails that wind through bamboo forests, wildflowers, and enchanted spots like the rainbow-hued Five Flower Lake, Pearl Shoal Waterfall, or Nuorilang Waterfall in a grove of dancing willow trees. 

Visit an ancient Tibetan watermill that turns a prayer wheel just across a trestle bridge near Shu Zheng lakes and the tiny Tibetan village there, where souvenirs and snacks are sold (try the yak butter) as well as in the Jiuzhai Valley Folk Culture Village. 

14. Huangshan

Absolutely breathtaking view of the mountains of Huangshan, a top pick for places to visit in China, with its enormous and steep rock formations towering high into the sky


Huangshan, or the Yellow Mountain, holds a special significance for Chinese culture as the site of Emperor Xuanyuan’s legendary alchemic practice in eastern China. This mountain range offers stunning scenery and views with modern conveniences that make it easy to explore.

Take a Huangshan Taiping cable car to reach the top of the mountain, where you’ll be able to see the multi-tiered courtyard of the Benevolent-Light Temple, the beautiful Verdant Temple, and the now-Buddhist temple Pine-Valley Nunnery dating back to the Song Dynasty.

Keep an eye out for the Four Wonders of Huangshan Mountain, including its unique pine trees, majestic peaks like Lotus Flower Peak, the ever-present mist, or “sea of clouds,” and Huangshan hot springs that flow warm and inviting year-round. 

Pines at the peaks twist and turn to reach sunlight in shallow soil on the rocks, creating gnarled shapes with many upside down or bending at odd angles.The 1,000 year-old Guest-Greeting and Farewell Pine by the Jade Screen Pavilion is one of the oldest and most famous. 

Take a dip in the hot springs or enjoy a drink from its pure, almost-sweet waters by visiting the tourist center at Purple Cloud Peak. You’ll find pools and baths indoors supplied by the warm water, the perfect place to go after a rejuvenating hike. 

15. The Great Buddha of Leshan

The giant Buddha of Leshan pictured carved into a rock formation towering over the brown and murky river far below


The Leshan Giant Buddha, or Great Buddha of Leshan, is the world’s largest stone Buddha and serenely overlooks the Min, Qingyi, and Dadu rivers from its impressive height of 233 feet. The Buddha is carved into a craggy cliff and has remained here since its construction in the 8th century.

The amazingly-detailed carving includes Buddha’s entire body, head to toe, and is considered a UNESCO World Heritage site. That makes it an incredible place to visit for those interested in history or world religions.

Reaching it can be difficult, as long lines are common and the site is located up a steep stone staircase, but it’s well worth the view and sensing its enormity. River cruises offer a way to see the carving’s full impact, but if you can, take time to explore it on foot as well. 

Its location is about 2 hours from Chengdu, and it’s easily reached by car, a bus, or high-speed train from Chengdu to Leshan. Plan on spending 3-4 hours once you arrive to fully explore, plus time to visit one of the nearby restaurants for lunch. 

Things to Consider

Train in Beijing Zhangzhou, China, in the spring with the cherry blossoms


Traveling to China can be overwhelming with so many options and great places to see, but you’ll have it under control when you keep the following travel tips in mind. 

  • Get familiar with the rails. China is about 2% bigger than the United States and one of the biggest countries in the world, so high-speed rail is the best way to get around. China is widely connecting by rail and you can get just about anywhere — or close enough — by taking a train or two. Research rail maps and stations to determine potential routes and develop an itinerary for your trip. 
  • Learn some Mandarin. Most people (over 70%) in China speak the Mandarin dialect of the Chinese language, so menus, road signs, and transportation signage can be challenging for tourists who don’t speak the language. Google Translate is a huge help, but it’s smart to learn some basic Mandarin to aid you on your trip. 
  • Know the tourism difficulties. Tourists report having challenges booking hotels in rural areas, using credit cards or payment apps, accessing the internet or specific social media sites (like Facebook), and using cell phones due to China’s rules and limitations for international travelers. VPNs, using international payment apps accepted here (like Alipay), and special SIM cards are a must, but be sure to do your research. We love forums for specific, up-to-date advice! 
  • Somebody’s watching you. China’s use of mass surveillance with camera, internet, and AI-assisted monitoring of citizens and travelers around the country, so if you feel like someone’s watching you while you’re here, you’re not wrong. Law enforcement may wear smart glasses equipped with facial recognition software, be able to read your private messages (even deleted ones), or remotely take temperatures and biometric data from passerby to alert possible illnesses. 

Frequently Asked Questions

Great Wall of China pictured snaking up the lush green hillside with various observation towers along the route


With the best places to visit in China fresh on your mind, you’ll learn even more by reading through some of the most commonly asked questions from travelers who are interested in making their way to the historic and unspoiled natural regions of China. 

Which part of China is the most beautiful?

Many people consider Guilin, a city surrounded by dramatic limestone pillars, deep forests, rivers and lakes, mountains, ancient temples and gardens, and mysterious grottoes, to be one of the most beautiful parts of China.

Others say it’s Zhangjiajie National Forest Park, which was the inspiration for the scenery and cloud cities in the movie Avatar with its towering sandstone pillars topped with greenery amid the mountainous forests in the Hunan province.

Which part of China should I visit?

Eastern China is one of the top parts of the country to visit because many of the best places to visit in China are located in and around this region. Shanghai, with its canals and temples, is about an hour from the canal city of Suzhou and 2 hours away from Hangzhou, all located on the same Grand Canal that connects further up with Beijing.

Heading to Beijing (North China), then venturing around for day trips an hour or two away, like Gubei Water Town and the Shilinxia Scenic Area, is another great part of China to visit for a well-rounded trip with plenty of history, exploring, and sightseeing.

What is a very famous place in China?

Very famous places in China include the Great Wall of China (with popular sections accessed through Beijing), the ornate walled Forbidden City palace complex, the prolific Grand Canal that runs from Beijing to Hangzhou, the Mausoleum of Mao Zedung in Tiananmen Square, and Shanghai’s Bund river promenade.

What is the best city for Americans to visit in China?

Beijing is the best city for Americans to visit in China because it packs so many attractions, landmarks, and historic sites into one city with chances to check off major bucket-list entries all in one place.

Consider stops like the sections of the Great Wall just outside the city, wandering through the imperial Forbidden City’s temples and palaces, seeing Mao Zedung’s crystal coffin, and dining on authentic Chinese cuisine and street food in local restaurants and “snack streets.”

Is China friendly to the US?

China and the United States enjoy a prosperous trade relationship, but also manage frequent disputes and diplomatic issues that are common for two large countries with so much world influence.

American travelers are encouraged by the U.S. Department of State to reconsider travel at this time (Level 3 travel advisory) due to the potential for wrongful detention or arbitrary enforcement of laws in the mainland and Hong Kong.

So, What’s the Best Place to Visit in China?

From the big-name cities like Beijing and Shanghai to relatively hidden gems like Wuyishan and the Huangshan mountains, China is a diverse and vast place with so much to explore and no shortage of experiences for interested world travelers. 

While it’s hard to pinpoint a single best place to visit in China, it’s easy to build a memorable itinerary from a list of the 15 must-see places in the country.

Our favorite way to explore China is starting with an iconic and historic city, like Shanghai, then making stops along the way into more rural and natural areas (like Hangzhou and Suzhou) to see the other, less-busy side of China. 

Your trip to China promises adventure, learning, and awe-inspiring scenery when you check out the best places to visit in China on your journey. It might turn out to be your first trip to China of many, with so much to see and do while you’re here!