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Must See in China: Golden Triangle Cities of Beijing, Shanghai & Xi’an

Beijing, Shanghai and Xi’an are the must see places in China, as well as the most sought-after tourist destinations throughout the country. Beijing in the north, Xi’an in the central-west, and Shanghai in the east right form a triangle, hence reputed as the golden triangle of China for sightseeing.
Must See Cities in China

How to Visit the Golden Triangle China

Recommended Route: Beijing → Xi’an → Shanghai

A classical China golden triangle tour usually starts off from Beijing, and then goes ahead to Xi’an and Shanghai successively. Beijing, the capital of China, has both the best historical attractions and modern things, making the city a must see in China. Xi’an is the most ancient must visit in China with the most and best-persevered historical sites and remains. And Shanghai is a developed megacity with the most modern attractions, such as the famous skyscrapers.

What’s more, the international flights to and from Beijing or Shanghai are much more than those to and from Xi’an, so it is more convenient for visitors to use Beijing and Shanghai as the arrival and departure cities.

How long does it need: 8-9 days

Overall Distance:

Beijing - Xi’an: 920 kilometers (572 miles) in a straight line, about 1,120 kilometers (700 miles) via highways or railways
Xi’an - Shanghai: about 1,200km (745 miles) for the air-line distance, about 1,380km (860 miles) via car or train

How to Travel:

a. Beijing to Xi’an by plane or high speed train:
Most planes from Beijing to Xi’an set off from Beijing Capital Airport, and a few fly from Beijing Daxing Airport. Taking 2-2.5 hours, the plane would arrive at Xi’an Xianyang Airport.

There are nearly a score of high speed trains running from Beijing West Railway Station to Xi’an North Railway Station every day, taking 4.5-6 hours usually.

b. Xi’an to Shanghai by plane or high speed train:
It takes 2-2.5 hours from Xi’an Xianyang Airport to Shanghai Pudong or Hongqiao Airport

More than a dozen of high speed trains set off from Xi’an North Railway Station to Shanghai Hongqiao Railway Station each day, taking 6-9 hours.

What to Do in Beijing

Location: in Circum-Bohai Sea Region in the north China
How many days to stay : 3-4 days
Highlights: the imperial cultural vibe of Ming (1368 - 1644 AD) & Qing (1644 - 1911 AD) Dynasties, ancient remains, modern streetscapes

Best Places to Visit

As the capital of China, Beijing houses many sites to visit. Forbidden City, together with Tiananmen Square to its south, are the unmissable ones in the very center of the downtown. Besides, the Great Wall in Beijing suburbs is another must see in China, out of which the most-visited sections are Badaling and Mutianyu. Temple of Heaven, Summer Palace, Hutongs with rickshaw tour, Ming Tombs, Guozijian, Prince Gong’s Mansion, Olympic Park, and other imperial gardens, mausoleums, temples, historical sites, natural sites, and modern scenic spots, are must go places in China, too. You may also taste the local cuisine and go shopping on noted shopping streets like Wangfujing.

See more: Top 10 Places to Visit in Beijing

What to Do in Xi’an

Location: in the central-western part of China
How many days to stay: 2-3 days
Highlights: the historical remains, the wonder of Terracotta Army, Tang (618 - 907 AD) Culture, old-timey atmosphere

Best Places to Visit

In Xi’an, the ancient super large-scaled Terracotta Army, City Wall, Bell Tower, Giant Wild Goose Pagoda, Qin Shi Huang Mausoleum, Stele Forest, etc., are all the treasured historical sites as well as must visit places in China. You may follow the trend to enjoy cycling on the best-protected City Wall, taste local halal food at Muslim Quarter, witness the treasured relics at Shaanxi History Museum, watch a Tang Dynasty music and dance performance at Tang Dynasty Palace or Shaanxi Grand Opera House, and climb precipitous Mount Huashan with the breathtaking plank walkway.

See more: 10 Best Places to Visit in Xi’an

What to Do in Shanghai

Location: the estuary of Yangtze River, east coastal China
How many days to stay: 2-3 days
Highlights: China’s highest skyscrapers and most modern cityscapes, fashionable & stylish things

Best Places to Visit

Shanghai, as a must see in China, holds many attractions to visit, such as the Bund on the west bank of Huangpu River, Oriental Pearl Tower, World Financial Center, and other skyscrapers in Pudong of east bank, Yu Garden, People’s Square with Shanghai Museum, Nanjing Road, Zhujiajiao Water Town, quarters of Xintiandi and Tianzifang. Apart from the classical China must goes, newly built Disneyland Park and other theme parks are interesting places to have fun in the city. Huangpu River Cruise is also an unforgettable tour in Shanghai, especially at night, during which you could enjoy brightly-lit Shanghai night views on board. Having more time, Suzhou, Hangzhou, or Huangshan are must visit cities in China in the surroundings, which can be reached by high speed train from Shanghai within 0.5-1.5h, 50min-2h, 2.5-3.5h respectively.

See more: Top 10 Things to Do in Shanghai

Where else to go during the China golden triangle tour?

After visiting the must see cities in China of Beijing and Xi’an, you could go further west to Chengdu for the lovely pandas and tasty Sichuan cuisine, or south to Guilin for the stunning landscapes along Li River. Zhangjiajie with the Avatar-like peaks and lush valleys, and the cruise of Yangtze Three Gorges from Chongqing to Yichang, are also convenient choices before getting to Shanghai. Time permitting, you may see more must see places in China in this way.

Further Reading
10 Places to Visit in China for a Trip of a Lifetime

Top 10 China Destinations for First Time Travelers

Travel in Depth: 10 Best Places to Visit in China for Return Visitors

10 Most Famous Landmarks in China

- Last updated on Jun. 07, 2021 -
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