The North-Eastern region of China locally known as “Dongbei” is quite diverse. While the region itself isn’t much of a tourist hotspot it’s magnificently built cities fill in the gap. Most of these cities are in the Liaoning province. Among them is Dalian. It seems as if the city of Dalian was placed supernaturally on the rugged landscape that goes on to join the ocean. But, in reality, that’s just the brilliance of Chinese architecture. If you look at it using Google maps you’ll find out that Dalian is not confined to one area, rather, it is divided into numerous clusters due to the inhospitable terrain. So, if you want to go from one part of the city to the other it could take you a few hours. Now, the most important thing to remember about Dalian is that during the winter the temperatures go well below zero, so, a lot of the touristy areas might not be operational or may have a new look to them during that time. Dalian has an international airport and is also connected to the rest of China by the national railway system, so, it’s not hard to get in.
The city of Dalian is a major tourist hotspot for both local and international travellers. Here are 10 reasons why you shouldn’t miss Dalian if you’re planning to travel to China.
1)The presence of a large international community
Apart from the thousands of foreign tourists that visit Dalian annually, there’s a pretty noticeable community of international students, foreign teachers, foreign businessmen, international delegates and other foreigners that have made Dalian their home base. So, in order to cater to the needs of this community, there’s been a lot of changes made to the very basics of the city of Dalian. For example; the local metro which is one of the main modes of public transportation within the city is run with the authorities having multilingual commuters in mind.
The announcements on the stations are made in English, Japanese, and Russian. Even the ticket machine has a multilingual OS. Similarly, road signs and street markings are also multilingual. Moreover, the locals of Dalian are quite friendly to the sight of foreigners. So, if you’re a foreigner with little to no knowledge of Chinese language you don’t have to worry about getting lost because like I said the city is tourist-friendly, therefore, you won’t have much trouble finding your way around.
2) The presence of the world’s largest public square
Xinghai Square, located in Dalian is the largest city square in the world covering an area of 270 acres. You won’t need to do an extra effort to find Xinghai Square since it’s probably the most famous attraction in the city. The Square has its own Metro station named after it but if you’re taking a taxi then all you have to do is say ‘Xinghai Guangchang’ to the driver.
Xinghai square, Dalian by Kilian Evan:Flickr
The square is surrounded by tall skyscrapers, there’s the Grand Hyatt building on one side of the skyline which is probably the most prominent among the numerous skyscrapers of Dalian, across the river you can enjoy the view of a castle styled hotel which looks like something straight out of a fairytale and there’s even a dancing fountain within the square. The only issue tourists have is that because the Square is the largest in the world so it means that you’ll have to spend a lot of time walking in order to cover all the attractions around it. If you get hungry from all the walking then you can try some of the local delicacies from the various restaurants nearby. There is plenty to choose from and if you’re not into the local stuff then there are western restaurants in the vicinity as well
3) Little Japan in China
In cities throughout China, there are certain areas that are dedicated to a certain country or ethnicity. For Example; you have the Russian Street in Harbin (locally known as Zhongyang Dajie). Here in Dalian, you have the famous Japanese street. Some believe that the street is the remnant of the occupation era when the Japanese invaded and occupied this part of China. But, I think the street has more to do with Dalian’s close proximity to Japan. Remember, Dalian is a coastal city and lies very close to Japan and the Korean peninsula, therefore, it’s a famous trading and tourism destination for the people of these countries, and to make their Japanese visitors feel at home, Dalian has created a specific area for them (just like little Italy in New York City).
So what’s the deal about the Japanese Street? For tourists, there are a bunch of high-class Japanese restaurants where you can enjoy Japanese culinary culture. They also serve this Japanese tea there; the belief is that the herb that the tea is made of makes you healthier. But, if you’re already full and do not wish to visit a dining place then you could give one of the street’s nightclubs a try. You’ll get the opportunity to interact with people of different nationalities in these night clubs. However, if you’re not a fan of nightclubs and want to shop instead then there’s also a bunch of Japanese owned businesses that can fulfil your shopping needs. If you’re planning to visit then just tell the Taxi driver that you want to go to Jinhua Street which is the official name of the Japanese Cultural Street.
4) The only major city with stunning beaches
Dalian is mostly scattered across different areas so there’s more than one beach that you could go to. Here are the names of some of the most famous beaches in Dalian: Golden Pebble, Beach Fujiazhuang, Beach Dalian Tiger, Beach Donghai Beach Xinghai Square Beach.
However, if you’re a first-timer then I would recommend going to the one that’s near the Xinghai Square due to its close proximity to a number of touristy areas. Unlike the Xinghai Square Beach, Other beaches such as the Golden Pebble Beach are located on what I would call the outskirts of the city. Now, the question that a lot of people ask is that what is so special about Dalian’s beaches? Well, a lot of tourists don’t know that Dalian is the only major destination with a coastline in the entire Northeastern region of China.
Dalian, China by Alexander Hatley:Flickr
So, it is indeed a big deal for those who have spent some time travelling across the Northeastern region of China. Now, the problem with China is that most of the beaches there are overcrowded therefore you might not get many relaxing vibes, the same is the issue with Dalian. Don’t worry though, there’s a lot of other stuff you could do since Dalian’s beaches are quite touristy. You can rent a speedboat if you’re with your family or if you’re a couple that’s travelling on a budget a jet ski might be perfect for you. Probably the best thing about the beach is that it is surrounded by great views on all sides. You have the Grand Hyatt on one side and the Xinghai Bay Bridge on the other. The Xinghai Bay Bridge crosses the sea, connecting two parts of the city. It’s somewhat like the Chinese version of the Golden Gate Bridge. So, I guarantee you that whatever you do in the water you’ll enjoy the views of the area that’s for sure.
5) The magnificent Xinghai Square Amusement park
At one edge of Xinghai Square, you’ll see a lot of rides and hear music blasting at full volume. That….That is the Xinghai Square amusement park (it’s literally named after the Square). There are big and small rides for both adults and children and the view of the sea and the surrounding area (XInghai Square) is an added bonus to the park. One of the issues that you might face is the cold weather. Remember, winters in the Northeastern region of China are very harsh, so, if you’re travelling in the winter then I wouldn’t recommend going to the amusement park.
6) Venice in China
In 2014, a number of media outlets reported that China has constructed a replica of Venice within one of its cities. The “Fake” Venice as the world initially called it has European styled buildings and even their very own local Gondoliers. This replica of Venice is located within the Donggang district of Dalian. While it’s obvious that the fake Venice isn’t as unique as the original one but it’s still a marvel of Chinese architecture and one must admire the fact that it must’ve taken a lot of planning to recreate a life-sized version of the world’s most famous tourist destination on a very different landscape. So, it’s worth a visit
7) The famous Russian Customs Street
This particular street of Dalian has a lot of history. It was once known as Engineer’s street and it is a part of the Russian Empire’s legacy in Dalian. The Russian rule in Dalian was quite brief, they soon got involved in a power struggle with the Japanese which ultimately forced them to retreat. However, even today remnants of the past are still preserved in what is now called the “Russian Customs Street”. There are a bunch of old Russian buildings including a library and a Townhall but the best thing about the area is that you can get original Russian goodies from the dozens of shops and stalls that line up the street. Stuff like Russian chocolates, Russian dolls, different kinds of cutlery, snacks and food items can be bought.
8) Picturesque Zhongshan Square
Zhongshan Square is located in the heart of the Zhongshan Financial district. For locals, the square is an important meetup spot where people enjoy their evenings doing different activities. For, Tourists the square is the place where you can find many high-end cafes and restaurants. But, the most important thing about the Square is that it is surrounded by many picturesque colonial-era buildings. So, if you’re into photography, this place is perfect for you.
Pano of the entire square by Indu Khosla:Flickr
9) The amazing Labor Park
Labor park (or Ladong Park as the locals call it) is the largest park in the city of Dalian. Labor Park is to Dalian what Central Park is to New York. The park is literally huge, you have to take a chairlift if you want to reach the top of the mountain but once you arrive at the top you’ll see that this isn’t the highest point here and that there’s a tower with an observation deck here. By the way, keep in mind the Ferris wheel, you don’t want to miss the Ferris wheel, it gives you panoramic views of Dalian’s skyline. Unlike other places in Dalian, Labor Park can be enjoyed in winter as well especially during the snowy weather because there are lots of activities organized here such as skiing and ice skating.
10) performance of the animal at Dalian Forest Zoo
Located in Xigang District, the Dalian Forest Zoo is probably the best deal for your money. The zoo is built on a mountainous area away from the general population therefore, there’s a lot of natural scenery and a comfortable environment for the animals there. The zoo organizes animal performances where trained zoo animals entertain the guests. There’s also a huge forest enclosed within a dome. You’ll find a lot of different animals such as Lamas, different species of Pandas, Snakes and Raccoons. So, it’s definitely worth a visit.