If you visit only three cities in China, you should visit the three that make up China’s Golden Triangle – Beijing, Xi’an and Shanghai. Get a taste of old and new in Beijing, from the ancient Forbidden City palace and traditional hutong alleyways to jaw-dropping modern structures such as the Bird’s Nest Olympic Stadium. From here, head south and sample some delicious snacks in Xi’an’s Muslim Quarter. The third city in your Golden Triangle tour is China’s largest, Shanghai, symbolised by its famous promenade, the Bund. End your trip by checking out the gardens of Suzhou, close to Shanghai, and the beautiful city of Hangzhou, just south of Beijing.

Key information

Destinations Destinations Beijing, Xi'an, Shanghai, Hangzhou
Activity Activity Family, Nature & Wildlife, Culture
Physical Level Physical Level Easy
Season Season January - December

Suggested itinerary

Explore China’s complex capital

Explore China’s complex capital

Day 1–3 in Beijing

With a history dating back over three millennia, China’s mammoth capital is a proud celebration of old and new — showcasing shiny modern skyscrapers alongside the imposing Ming and Qing-era Forbidden Palace. Like China itself, the city has been transformed over the last century, from an ancient walled city to a stylish metropolis and seat of the ruling Communist Party. Politics are never far away in Beijing, and any trip would be amiss without a visit to the vast pedestrianised Tiananmen Square — site of Chairman Mao Zedong’s mausoleum and the National Museum of China.

Don't miss

Visit the hutongs of Beijing

Visit the hutongs of Beijing

Step into the hidden world of old Beijing and meander its maze of hutongs - hidden alleyways of ancient siheyuan courtyard houses. Go shopping, dining and experience an authentic Chinese way of life in these compact communities that pack in more than their fair share of culture and tradition.

Sample the food in Xi’an’s Muslim Quarter

Sample the food in Xi’an’s Muslim Quarter

Day 4–5 in Xi'an

The eastern end of the ancient Silk Road and one of China’s historical capitals, Xi’an is a fascinating fusion of culture, food, archaeology and history.

You’ll no doubt want to see its famous Terracotta Army, which is located just 50km from the city centre, and is serviced regularly by buses and tour companies, but include some time to see the rest of Xi’an too.

Once known as Chang’an (meaning Eternal Peace), the city’s 14th century walls have been carefully restored and maintained, and the Tang-dynasty-era Big Wild Goose Pagoda holds plenty of interest beyond its enjoyable name. The Muslim Quarter in the heart of the city is famous for its mosques and markets where you can sample delicious street food.

Don't miss

Cycle the old city wall of Xi’an

Cycle the old city wall of Xi’an

Xi’an is China’s original capital and home to the oldest and best-preserved city wall in China — and a great way to see it is by bike. Give yourself a few hours for regular stops so you can take in the wall’s amazing engineering.

See old and new China in Shanghai’s Bund

See old and new China in Shanghai’s Bund

Day 6–8 in Shanghai

Shanghai is China’s biggest city and a rising financial powerhouse. In the heart of the city is the Bund. This famous promenade symbolises Shanghai and from here you can see its enigmatic mix of architecture, from grandiose colonial buildings to modern skyscrapers.

Don't miss

Stroll the gardens of Suzhou

Stroll the gardens of Suzhou

Take a break from Shanghai’s buzzing metropolis and escape to the peaceful waterways of Suzhou. Just 1hr30 by train from Shanghai, a stroll through Suzhou’s classical gardens, pagodas and canals makes for a wonderful day trip.

Cycle around Hangzhou’s West Lake

Cycle around Hangzhou’s West Lake

Day 9–10 in Hangzhou

There aren’t many images of China more iconic than Hangzhou’s West Lake. Zhejiang Province’s capital and former seat of the Song Dynasty, Hangzhou’s rolling green hills, spotlessly clean lake and rich cultural heritage ensure this “heaven on earth” remains a must-visit for travellers touring the Middle Kingdom.

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