The Top Attractions in Tianjin, China

Tianjin retains a well-preserved historic centre
Tianjin retains a well-preserved historic centre | © Kate Hockenhull / robertharding / Alamy Stock Photo
Photo of Alex Robinson
13 July 2021

A cosmopolitan commercial centre since medieval times, Tianjin has a character all of its own. The city has long been a key Chinese port and, as is so often the case, the constant flow of people and goods into Tianjin helped forge a distinct local culture. Rich in architectural, cultural and culinary heritage, the city is today a hotbed of development and one of the core financial epicenters of China. Here are the best things to see and do in this dynamic seaside metropolis.

Tianjin Eye

Architectural Landmark
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Tianjin City, Tianjin Eye
© Jose Fuste Raga / mauritius images GmbH / Alamy Stock Photo
Towering over a busy road bridge spanning the Hai river, the Tianjin observation wheel reveals giddying views of the city’s skyscraper-spiked skyline as its massive 120m (394ft) diameter gradually turns. Rotations take around 30 minutes, whilst capsules have space for up to eight passengers. The best time to step aboard is immediately after sunset when the city is bathed in a soft light and the neon signs blink on to cast their glittery reflections across the river.

Italian Style Street

Architectural Landmark
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Italian Style Street, Tianji
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In 1901 Italy was given 46ha (114 acres) of central Tianjin as a trading headquarters. The area is now known as Italian Style Street and remains a terrific place to mingle with the city’s after-work crowd. Stroll the streets, idle over a dinner of pasta or pizza; it’s also particularly pretty at night when the streets and fountains glow with coloured lights and the many restaurants buzz with diners.

Minyuan Stadium at the Five Great Avenues

Stadium
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This former stadium was designed in part by athlete Eric Liddell – of Chariots of Fire fame – who worked as a missionary in Tianjin in the 1920s. With its grand parade of stately colonnades, his design was inspired by Chelsea FC’s Stamford Bridge stadium. Minyuan Stadium served as the home of the Tianjin Tigers football team, which plays in the Chinese Super League, until the team moved into the plush new TEDA stadium in 2004. It has since been repurposed as a public park and boutique shopping centre.

Binhai Aircraft Carrier Theme Park

Park
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Binhai Aircraft Carrier Theme Park
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Housed in a 17-storey ex-Soviet aircraft carrier – The Kiev – this theme park, hotel and shopping centre draws people in their droves during the weekend when it teems with families and kids. The attractions – among them shops selling faux-Russian souvenirs and a selection of stunt and dance shows – will certainly catch your eye. But it is the ship itself, stretching out at 275m (902ft), that steals the limelight: one of only two Russian aircraft carriers on public display in the world, the other being The Minsk, which is located in Shenzen.

Nanshi Food Street

Architectural Landmark
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This is not so much a food street as a huge food mall built to look like an ancient Chinese walled citadel – complete with a modern musical fountain at the centre of proceedings. There are more than 100 different food stalls for you to wander, making this place ideal for sampling a range of dishes from all over China. The most popular sell local specialities: Goubuli steamed buns stuffed with meat, Jianbing (crepes) filled with coriander and spring onions and exceptionally fresh seafood.

Ancient Culture Street

Architectural Landmark
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Ancient culture street, Tianjin, China, Asia
© Kate Hockenhull / robertharding / Alamy Stock Photo
Guwenhua Jie, aka Ancient Culture Street, is a pedestrian alley on the banks of the Hai River. Hung with colourful Chinese lanterns, it bristles with boutiques, snack bars and beautifully restored historical buildings, mostly dating from the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644). These include the ornately gabled 14th Century Yuhuangge Taoist temple and Jade Emperor Pavilion and Tianhou Palace – a shrine to the Queen of Heaven, a local sea goddess. Stalls sell souvenirs including everything from coins to Buddhist effigies and jasmine tea.

Bei'an Bridge

Bridge
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Beian Bridge, Tianjin, China
© Keren Su / DanitaDelimont / / Alamy Stock Photo

Looking as if it was teleported from Rome, this elegant neoclassical bridge over the Hai river recalls an era when the city was run by European powers as their Chinese trade headquarters. The bridge is lined with gilt statues of the muses – look for the one playing a Guqin, an ancient Chinese seven-stringed lute. There are good views of the skyline at the halfway point, particularly after dusk, when Tianjin’s buildings are mirrored in the water.

Huangya Pass at The Great Wall

Architectural Landmark
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The Huangya, or Yellow Cliff, pass section of China’s Great Wall winds over steep, rippling ridges in the Ganlushan Natural Scenic Area, two hours’ drive north of Tianjin. The wall here was first constructed during the Northern Qi Dynasty in the 6th century CE and was faced with brick nearly 700 years later during the Ming Dynasty. It has been fully restored and is a huge attraction among local day-trippers, especially at weekends, when you will need to join long queues.

People's Park

Park
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Tianjin People's Park
© Imaginechina-Tuchong / Imaginechina Limited / Alamy Stock Photo
This stately park, shaded by billowing deciduous trees, was originally a private garden. It was constructed by a wealthy mineral trader, Li Chuncheng, during the reign of China’s last imperial dynasty, the Qing, which was dissolved in 1912. Donated to the city by the government in the 1950s, it remains a lively after-work place to stroll, with boating on the lake in summer. Chairman Mao inscribed the name of the park personally, in his own calligraphic hand.

Tianjin Fantawild Adventure

Amusement Park
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This theme park is Tianjin’s answer to Disneyworld – a mishmash of reproduction fantasy palaces, purpose-built pagodas, boating lakes, water rides and rollercoasters. It has an enormous fan base among families, especially at weekends, when you should be prepared to wait a while to board the rides. Many of the attractions rely on 3D technology and are based in huge cinema rooms. Even though the commentary is in Mandarin, they are easy enough to follow and you’ll find the staff super-obliging if you need assistance.

Jon Santangelo has contributed additional reporting to this article.

These recommendations were updated on July 13, 2021 to keep your travel plans fresh.

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