Known affectionately as the “Shanghai of the North,” Tianjin has much in common with its more famous east coast cousin: similar historic architecture, a trading and shipping history, and an urban layout curved around a broad river. One of China’s largest ports, the city is bisected by the Hai river, and tour boats glide along its waters offering fine views of the skyline.
Tianjin’s main attraction, however, is the varied architectural legacy of its 19th-century construction boom. Its Italian concession is graced by Tuscan-style villas, while Jiefang Bei Lu, the avenue which linked the French and British concessions, is lined with an impressive array of grand former banking headquarters and municipal buildings.
There are also some fine churches, notably Xi Kai Cathedral, based on the church of Notre-Dame de la Garde in Marseille, France. At weekends, an antiques street market on Shenyang Lu parades an eclectic assortment of paintings, clocks, Chinese musical instruments, and Mao-era memorabilia. Tianjin is also revered for its steamed dumplings, and no trip here would be complete without a visit to the Goubuli Dumpling Restaurant.
Getting There and Around The CRH bullet train travels to/from Beijing South Station in 27 minutes, making Tianjin an easy day trip from the capital.
Tianjin Binhai Airport (8 miles/13 km from the city center) is well served by domestic airlines. The city has an excellent public transportation system, including a subway, light railway, and city buses.
Where to Eat The Goubuli Dumpling Restaurant has been serving Tianjin’s popular steamed buns since 1848.
Where to Stay Built in 1863, the colonial New World Astor Hotel is one of the city’s oldest hotels.
When to Go Spring (Apr–May) and fall (Sep–Oct) have the most pleasant temperatures.
Budget per Day for Two US$110–130