Visiting China soon? Start here

Visiting China soon? Start here

Tianjin Travel Guide

Municipality

Tianjin

Location

North China

Population

14 million

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Language

Mandarin

Welcome to Tianjin!

If you’re in the north of China, or even if you’re not, then you should visit Tianjin. Located just 25 minutes from Beijing by bullet train, this city is visited by few tourists, so it’s ideal if you like to get away from major tourist cities when you travel.

This city of over 15 million people is the fourth largest city in China. It’s also a municipality, meaning it’s kind of like a mini province in its own right. It borders both Hebei province and the Beijing municipality.

Tianjin has been a transport hub for international commerce for centuries because it’s on the coast. Over the years, it has taken in and adapted influences from around the world, and you can see these influences in the architecture on certain streets.

It also has amazing food and a variety of historical and contemporary attractions. So, if you’re interested in traveling to Tianjin, then try to get there before the crowds do!

Tianjin European influence

Tianjin has a European influence. Image by Marcelideler on Pixabay.

Tianjin Haihe River

Tianjin’s Haihe River. Image by Bowen Li on Pixabay.

Best things do in Tianjin

Tianjin contains a great mix of the modern and the ancient.

And the surrounding landscape is just the cherry on the top of this amazing city.

1. Explore the Five Great Avenues (Wu Da Dao)

Horse and carriage Tianjin

Take a horse and carriage ride down Wu Da Dao. Image by Doypui on Shutterstock.

Over the years, Tianjin has absorbed the cultures and customs from many lands. And you can explore the physical signs of this in the Five Great Avenues.

The Five Great Avenues are five streets that run from east to west and are named after the cities of China. They’re often called the ‘World Building Exposition’ because they’re full of buildings from styles that come from all over the world.

When you walk through this area, you’ll see Italian, German, French, British, and Spanish architectural styles.

You can also take a horse-drawn carriage along the streets just to fully immerse yourself in the history of it.

2. Wander around Tianjin Haihe Cultural Square

Ice fishing Tianjin

Ice fishing on the Haihe in winter. Image supplied by Mike Cairnduff.

Located opposite Tianjin Railway Station, this is a relaxing area where you can shop, people-watch, and take in the views.

You’ll see weddings and fishermen, beautiful views of the city at night, and boats going by on river cruises. And in winter, the river freezes and you can ice skate across it.

Basically, if you have a free couple of hours, you can spend them well in this part of the city.

3. Go shopping on Tianjin Ancient Culture Street

Tianjin Ancient Culture Street

Shop for souvenirs in this recreated ancient street. Image by Andy Leung on Pixabay.

The Tianjin Ancient Culture Street is lined with little stalls and shops where you can buy unique Chinese goods.

If you want to buy souvenirs in China, this is a good place to do it. Look out for calligraphy, jade carvings, ceramics, and clay sculptures that will look great sitting on your shelves at home.

While you’re in the area, make sure you see the Tianhou Palace in the street’s center. It was once a place of prayer and now is Tianjin’s Folk-Custom Museum.

4. Ride the Tianjin Eye

Tianjin Eye

The Tianjin Eye gives great views over the city. Image by Terry on Unsplash.

If you’ve been to England, Singapore, or certain other countries, then you know what this Tianjin attraction is.

The Tianjin Eye is the only ferris wheel in the world to be on top of a bridge. The views from the Eye are spectacular as long as you take a ride on a clear day.

This is because Tianjin has a problem with air pollution. The city was recently listed as one of the top ten polluted cities in China with pollution markedly higher than the recommended level.

5. Relax and eat on Italian Style Street

European buildings in Tianjin

European style buildings. Image supplied by Mike Cairnduff.

Once the city’s Italian Concession, this area has recently received a facelift.

It’s filled with European-style restaurants and bars as well as stores that sell Venetian masks and other Italian goods. It might feel a bit strange to pick up an Italian souvenir while you’re in China, but the locals love it!

You can also take a sightseeing bus from Marco Polo Plaza to learn about the area from a tour guide.

6. Marvel at the exhibits at Porcelain House

Porcelain House

The curious Porcelain House. Image by Linlypu on Shutterstock.

This historic house turned museum is highly unusual. Among the busyness and metal of modern life, Porcelain House really stands out in downtown Tianjin.

Decorated by antique collector Zhang Lianzhi, most of the materials used in the house come from broken porcelain and antiques that were badly damaged.

As you approach the house, you’ll see that the outside is lined with porcelain vases. And on the inside, there is more porcelain art as well as wooden antiques.

It’s a busy popular tourist attraction, so good luck getting the perfect photograph!

7. Visit Shuishang Park

Shuishang Park

It’s nice walking around Shuishang Park. Image by Thatreec on Shutterstock.

Known in English as Tianjin Water Park, this recreational area isn’t actually a water amusement park.

It’s made up of small islands and lakes, surrounded by pagodas and gardens in Chinese and foreign style. It’s the largest recreational area in the city and a great place to chill on a hot day.

While you’re there, explore the gardens, take a water boat out, or get a bird’s eye view from the ferris wheel. There’s always something happening in the park, enough to keep any member of your travel group happy.

Or, you can just take a picnic basket and try to relax among the crowd. It’s close to the subway too.

Where to eat in Tianjin

There isn’t as much English in Tianjin as Beijing, so you might have trouble working out what to eat.

If you’re really stuck, just look at what the other diners are eating or you can use your phone to translate.

Italian restaurant in Tianjin

An Italian restaurant in the Italian Concession area. Image by Cowardlion on Shutterstock.

Gui Yuan Restaurant

Located in the Five Avenues area, this restaurant is popular among locals and tourists alike. It’s also located in a historic building, which will give a little more atmosphere to your meal.

The restaurant serves delicate, divinely spiced local dishes that are perfect for the hot climate.

Address: 101-103 Chengdu Road (near Guilin Road)

Fu Hui Xuan (Chengdu Dao)

This restaurant is another local favorite that offers delicious food for a good price. The dishes are mostly local specialities and it’s known for its amazing seafood dishes.

Address: 87 Chengdu Road

Ānhuī Bǎnmiàn Wáng

You won’t find any English at this restaurant, but you must try a bowl of its noodles. This local restaurant offers some of the best noodles in the city and the variety is overwhelming, so see what the locals are eating before you make your choice.

Address: Near Guilin Lu and Yueyang Dao 桂林路和岳阳道的拐角处

Gǒubùlǐ

This is one of the most famous restaurant branches in the city and for good reason. It’s a bit overpriced, but the menus have pictures, making it an easy way to try some local food without the stress of ordering in another language.

Address: 77 Shandong Lu 山东路77号

Shíjì Jiānbing Guǒzi

This is literally just a hole-in-the-wall place, but it offers some of the best savory pancakes in the city. If you’re looking for a quick, filling, but cheap meal, then line up behind the locals for a takeaway.

Address: Corner of Yueyang Lu and Changsha Lu 岳阳路和长沙路的拐角

The best food streets in Tianjin

Markets and food streets are without a doubt the best places to eat when you’re in China.

The Tianjin street food is always amazing and sometimes quirky, and the atmosphere in the city is unbeatable.

youtiao donuts

Local ‘youtiao’ or Chinese donuts. Image by Yu Xianda on Shutterstock.

Nanshi Food Street

This food street is more of a mall than a market, but it still needs to be on this list. The giant mall is the size of a city block and showcases food vendors from around the world.

Be prepared for almost every type of food you can think of and maybe don’t eat for 24 hours before your visit as well.

Heping District Food Street

You’ll find flavors and dishes from all over China in this food street. So, if you’ve ever wanted to try a specific Chinese dish, chances are that you’ll find it in this part of Tianjin.

Five Great Avenues Food Street

This famous set of streets offers some of the best restaurants and food stalls in the city. You can eat everything from Tibetan food to Western dishes in these streets and chances are that it will be amazing!

Where to stay in Tianjin

Your Tianjin accommodation can be exactly what you want it to be.

 If you want to stay in a modern, high-class hotel, then you’ll find lots of them. And if you’d prefer to stay somewhere a bit quirkier, then you’ll find lots of those hotels as well.

Budget

Located close to Metro stations, Zhaguo International Hostel Tianjin is a good choice when you’re trying to decide where to stay in Tianjin on a budget.

It has air-conditioned dorm rooms, a bar and restaurant, and a shared lounge for socializing. The hostel offers free Wi-Fi throughout and is within walking distance of attractions like Nanshi Cuisine Street.

Mid-range

Located within walking distance of Tianjin Ancient Culture Street, the Ibis Hotel is a great choice if you want to be in the middle of everything.

It has a restaurant and shared lounge as well as comfortable rooms with all the necessary amenities.

Luxury

The Ritz-Carlton is on the banks of the Haihe River and offers Metro access as well as upscale, luxurious amenities. It has an indoor pool, a wellness center, a library, and a restaurant offering international dishes.

The rooms are large and luxurious and have bathrooms with bathtubs and in-mirror TVs.

Transport in Tianjin

Fast, efficient, and always on time, transport in Tianjin is always reliable, but the lack of English can be a problem.

Just make sure that you always have your destination on your phone in Chinese characters so that you can ask someone to help you if you get lost or confused.

If you plan to use public transport, then you can pick up a Tianjin city card at bus or train stations. These are rechargeable cards that you can use on buses or on the Metro for small discounts every time you travel.

Air transport

Tianjin Airport

Tianjin Airport is relatively small but modern. Image by Yuangeng Zhang on Shutterstock.

Tianjin’s airport is only 8 miles (12 km) from the center of town. Tianjin Binhai International Airport is a busy, modern airport that offers flights all over China and to international cities.

You can reach the airport by shuttle bus, taxi, or by city bus.

Metro

The Metro is an easy way to travel around Tianjin because it’s fast, regular, and budget-friendly. There are six lines in the city with more under construction and they can get you to all of Tianjin’s main districts.

High speed rail

Tianjin Train Station

The city’s main train station is big. Image by Cowardlion on Shutterstock.

Tianjin’s high speed rail links Beijing and Harbin as well as Beijing and Shanghai, which is why it’s a vital link between south and northeast China. This is why there are several major railway lines in the city and six important train stations.

You can take bullet train from Tianjin to more than 40 major cities in China. This is the ideal way to get around when you’re traveling in China, because it’s fast, clean, efficient, and a lot of fun!

Long distance bus

If you’re traveling solo in China on a budget, then you can explore using the long-distance bus system. Buses are slower than trains and not as reliable, but they’re also much cheaper.

There are lots of long-distance bus stations in Tianjin offering transport to major cities and other provinces in China.

City bus

Buses are the easiest and most convenient way to get around Tianjin because they go everywhere. Bus fares can range from 2 RMB to 4 RMB, though you will pay 1 RMB more for air-conditioned buses.

The only problem with the bus system is that everything is in Chinese, which can make the system difficult for foreign travelers. However, if you use technology, you can work out which buses you need to take using apps.

Taxis and rideshare

Tianjin taxis

Taxi drivers waiting for customers. Image by Cowardlion on Shutterstock.

Taxis are plentiful in Tianjin. Just make sure that your driver uses the meter, or you may get overcharged. You should also have your destination in Chinese on your phone, as your driver probably won’t speak much English.

You can also use the local rideshare, Didi, to get around the city. You can check out all the best travel apps for China here.

Traveling outside Tianjin

Once you’re done exploring Tianjin, you may want to get outside of the city for a while.

By exploring these areas during day trips from Tianjin, you can get a more complete idea of just how much this part of China has to offer.

The Great Wall at Huangya Pass

Huangya Pass

See The Great Wall from Tianjin rather than Beijing. Image by Igor Grochev on Shutterstock.

Huangya Pass is one of the best places to see the Great Wall and it makes for a good Tianjin day trip. This is a quiet part of the Wall located on the East Mountain.

If you wanted to see the Great Wall near Beijing but were put off by the crowds, this is a good alternative and it’s only 2.5 hours from the city center.

The views are beautiful from this part of the Wall, which was once an important military stronghold, complete with towers to explore. There’s also a part of the wall that makes musical sounds when you step on it, gaining the name of the Music Wall.

Panshan Mountain Scenic Area

Mt Panshan

The view from the top of Mt Panshan. Image by Eros Attilio on Shutterstock.

Located an hour and a half from Tianjin, Panshan Mountain Scenic area is called one of the top 15 mountains in China.

It’s covered in temples, pagodas, and towers from the Ming and Qing dynasties and its natural beauty attracts locals and travelers from all over.

To get there, you can take a train from the Tianjin Railway Station or Tianjin North Railway Station. Once it arrives at Jixian County, you can take tourist bus 12 to the mountain.

Alternatively, at 8 am a bus travels directly from the Tianjin Tour Bus Center to the mountain and returns at 4pm.

Historical Chengde

Buddhist temple Chengde

Buddhist temple in Chengde. Image by Lei Fang on Pixabay.

This small city is about three hours from Tianjin, so you probably won’t want to see it on a one-day Tianjin day trip. But if you can take a couple of days away, it’s well worth the trouble.

Chengde is a beautiful historical city that few tourists ever see. It’s filled with attractions like the Temple of Universal Peace and the Imperial Summer Palace of Mountain Resort.

You can also see the Eight Outer Temples in Bishu Village, a historical site that’s reminiscent of places in Tibet.

Videos about Tianjin

Get a visual taste of Tianjin before you visit!

This video gives a good overview of the city with some stunning footage.

And, see what you can do in the city in just 24 hours.

Don’t forget…

 

It’s easy to forget a thing or two before you head to China.

So, here are a few reminders for you:

  • The right visa – if you’re only staying for a quick trip, you could be eligible for visa-free travel.
  • Cash or Alipay – your credit card may not be accepted, so bring yuan or use Alipay (instructions here).
  • VPN app – to access all your favorite websites and apps in China, you’ll need to download a VPN before you leave your country. Get a VPN that works in China.

Have a wonderful time in Tianjin. And don’t forget your VPN!

Questions and comments

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Page last updated 17 May 2022. Main image credit: 周冲 on Pixabay. Commercial relationship disclosure: The Helpful Panda has commercial arrangements with organizations that may appear on this page, such as affiliate links. See our terms for more info.

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