By Dorothee Rembold
China, the most populous nation on earth and the second largest country in Asia, can’t be explored in one week, but if you’re teaching abroad in the region and have limited vacation time to explore, you can visit some of China’s most famous sights within a week.
Day 1 – Dive into the Forbidden City in Beijing
To begin your trip to China, walk across the world’s third largest square. Tiananmen Square was built in 1651 and is named after the Gate of Heavenly Peace. This will lead you to the gates of the Forbidden City. For almost 500 years, this palace was home to emperors and their families. Today it houses the palace museum and features collections of ceramics, paintings, bronzeware, jade and various palace artifacts. To round up your fist day in Beijing, wander around the Shichahai Lakes and enjoy some of the city’s diverse cuisine.
Day 2 – Appreciate greatness
No trip to China is complete without walking on the Great Wall of China. Head to Badaling and climb this famous landmark that once protected Beijing from unwelcome visitors. On your way back to the capital, stop by the Ming Tombs. Chosen based on Feng Shui principles, these tombs are the burial site for 13 emperors. The Sacred Way, leading to the largest and well preserved tomb, is lined with statues of sacred animals and guides visitors through ancient archways and gates.
Day 3 – Discover Beijing’s athletic side
In 2008, Beijing impressed people from all over the world with the unique architecture of its National Stadium, also referred to as the Bird’s Nest. Over 40 world records were broken during the games – test your athleticism and run on the same track as the world’s best athletes. The accompanying Water Cube, Beijing’s National Aquatics Center, was partially turned into a water park. So take the time for a little rest and enjoy the waterslides. At night, enjoy the incredible acrobatic show at the Chaoyang Theatre. Routines involving chairs, plates and bikes reveal extraordinary flexibility and human strength, and will leave you speechless.
Day 4 – Explore culture
Beijing’s narrow streets, called Hutongs, historically strengthened local communities as neighbors met in the street to share the latest gossip, enjoy local specialties and to stroll through the small shops. Major Hutongs have become a tourist attraction, but there are plenty of less frequented narrow alleys that are well worth exploring. To experience more of life in Beijing, head to the Lama temple. This Tibetan temple features an impressive statue of Buddha and allows you to see Buddism in practice.
Day 5 – Fly to Shanghai
Before flying to Shanghai, get up early and head to the Panjiayuan market. Whether you’re hoping for a small vase, a Buddha statue, furniture or any other kind of craft, you’re bound to find a unique souvenir at this market. Once you land in Shanghai, take the Maglev train to the city centre. You may feel a little shaky after getting off the world’s fastest commercial train, which reaches a speed of 268mph (430km/h) on the short trip! To round off the day, enjoy the gorgeous sight of Shanghai at night on a river cruise.
Day 6 – Find some peace
Shanghai may be the largest city in the world, but it nevertheless amazes visitors with gorgeous parks and temples. Take the time to explore the Yu Yuan Garden and allow yourself to be enchanted by pavilions, ponds, halls, ancient trees and mystical rocks. From here, head to the Jade Buddha Temple. Two Buddha statues, rare relics and great pieces of art, give the temple its name and establish a peaceful atmosphere. As the sun sets, visit the Oriental Pearl Tower for an incredible view of Shanghai. Don’t forget to visit the futuristic space city and sightseeing hall, which are also inside the “pearls” of this tower.
Day 7 – Mingle
Go people-watching and discover China’s culture through observation. The Bund, a mile long stretch featuring dozens of historical banks and trading houses from all over the world, is great for a slow walk. To complete your trip to China, head to Nanjing Lu, China’s best shopping street. Over 600 businesses offer high quality goods from all over the world. Flashing neon signs and street musicians make this a unique experience; it’s a must see in Shanghai.
Ancient buildings and temples, modern architecture, amazing parks, buzzing cities and beautiful natural scenes characterize China, but it’s impossible to see it all in a week. Visiting Beijing and Shanghai gives visitors an initial impression of this vast country. Check back in our second installment for another possible travel itinerary of China that will introduce you to China’s most beautiful landscapes and historic cities.