Top Six Must-Sees in Tianjin

As one of China’s four municipalities directly under the Central Government, Tianjin is the largest port city in Northern China, as well as a good example of a mixture of Chinese and Western features. Its historic European-style architecture, ancient Chinese cultural streets, beautiful coastline and picturesque mountain views attract millions of visitors every year.

Here is Annie’s guide to the top six must-sees in Tianjin.

1. Haihe River
As the mother river and symbol of Tianjin, the Haihe River, 72 kilometers long, runs through the city and out to the Bohai Sea.

A total of 21 bridges stand over the Haihe River and each constitutes scenic attraction, forming a distinctive bridge culture throughout the region. Rising over the Yongle Bridge is the spectacular Tianjin Eye, an iconic ferris wheel which lights up the city every night. It is the only such wheel to have been constructed over a bridge in the world.

Cruising on Haihe River gives you a chance to enjoy the views on both sides of the river. Compared with daytime cruises, night cruises are more attractive.

2. Five Great Avenues: A hub of international architecture
Wudadao, known as the Five Great Avenues, refers to a rectangle region of five roads in Heping District in the southern reaches of the city.

With about 2,000 villas in various Western styles, built in the 1920s and 1930s, Wudadao is an international architecture exposition in Tianjin. More than 300 late residences of historical figures are located in the area, including former Olympic champion Li Airui, late president of the United States Herbert Clark Hoover, and former US Secretary of State George Marshall.

It is a wonderful experience when seating in a horse-drawn carriage to see a truly unique cityscape; a real feast for the eyes! For history lovers, dropping in a visit to the Historical Museum of the Five Great Avenues helps to get an overall understanding of the history of the area, and also a closer look at about 1,000 items used by the prominent residents who lived in the buildings.

3. Ancient Cultural Street
The Ancient Cultural Street is a pedestrian business street on the western bank of the Haihe River in Nankai District, Tianjin.

The 680-meter-long street features buildings of traditional Chinese styles in the Ming and Qing Dynasties (1368-1911). There are also nearly a hundred stores lined up along the street, among which the Yangliuqing Painting Gallery and the painted clay sculptures of Clay Figure Zhang are the most renowned ones. Other objects for sale include calligraphy and paint brushes, double-sided embroidery, jade carvings and art ceramics.

In the center of the street, you will find Tianhou Palace. Built in 1326, during the Yuan Dynasty (1271-1368), the palace was a haven for people to pray for navigation safety, but now it has been converted into a folk museum.

4. Huangyaguan Great Wall
Huangyaguan or Huangya Pass, a World Cultural Heritage and a national 4A level scenic spot, is a small section of the Great Wall of China located 28km north of Ji County, Tianjin.

Stretching 42 kilometers (26 miles), Huangyaguan was originally built in the Beiqi Dynasty (550-577), and rebuilt and expanded in large scale in the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644). The entire section of the wall is built on an abrupt yellow cliff, so it was named. The most spectacular time to visit the wall is near sunset as the sun plays a role in turning the entire area a beautiful golden yellow color.

The annual international marathon race is held at Huangyaguan during the last ten days in May.

5. Yangliuqing New Year Painting Museum
The Yangliuqing New Year Painting Museum showcases traditional Chinese New Year paintings as well as its history and masterpiece artworks, and demonstrates procedures to create the traditional way of painting.

The famous folk wood carving painting first began in the old town of Yangliuqing during the mid-Ming Dynasty (1368-1644), when locals portrayed their hopes for a better life with knives and paint brushes, using wood plates as canvases. A typical Yangliuqing New Year painting portrays a chubby child holding a big fish, wishing for an affluent New Year. The paintings are usually hung on walls and doors to seek blessings during the lunar New Year.

6. Churches

St. Joseph Cathedral (Tianjin)
St. Joseph Cathedral, also known as the Xikai Church or French Church, lies at the southern end of Binjiang Avenue in Heping District.

The church, 45 meters high, is comprised of two parts – a catholic chief church built in 1914 and a cathedral built in 1917. The church really stands out as architectural masterpiece. It features three massive green domes and they are visible from all over the city especially at night when the lights of this religious building are set ablaze. The brick exterior is made of two-tone design of horizontal lines that alternate with orange and brown bricks, giving it a look of distinction. The grounds are wonderfully serene and the interior is filled with arches, carvings and murals. The long main hall is lined by 14 large columns (two rows of seven), leading to a gallery-style tee. The nave has a stacked composite side portico, supported by semi-circular tops.

Xikai Church is the largest church in Tianjin. Now it is still the local center of Catholic activities. Services are in Chinese except some Sunday English services.

Wanghailou Church
Built as Cathédrale Notre-Dame-des-Victoires in the French concession in 1869. the Wanghailou Church sits along the north bank of the Hai River, next to the Shizilin Bridge (Lion Grove Bridge). The church’s three tall towers face south and measure 22 meters high. It was the first church to be built after Catholicism was introduced to Tianjin, and it is the only well-preserved Gothic building in Tianjin now. The church once suffered during the Church Incident of 1870 and also during the 1900 Boxer Rebellion. It has been under state protection as a major national relic since 1988.

Wanghailou Church is open to the public only on Sundays, when a morning service is held.

Travel Tips:

1.Tianjin has historically been an important port and doorway to Beijing, being 120 kilometers away from the capital. By boarding on a bullet train at the Beijing Southern Railway Station, it now only takes around 40 minutes to get there.

2.Tianjin is well known for its food – make sure you don’t leave without sampling some of its speciality cakes and pasteries (read more: Four Unique Delicacies of Tianjin).

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