Dalian is known as China’s Riviera, thanks to its resort-like atmosphere and stunning scenery
No visit to Dalian would be complete without a trip along the coast to enjoy some spectacular panoramas
While the heart of Dalian is a huge public square, its soul is the sea. The city is a popular destination, particularly in the summer, because of its beaches and stunning coastline.
Located on the southern tip of the Liaodong Peninsula in Liaoning Province, and bordered by both the Bohai and Yellow seas, Dalian basks in a generally warm, temperate climate that promotes a vibrant outdoor atmosphere. Typically, locals and tourists like to promenade along the sea walls and shorelines, sunbathe and swim at the beaches, or take full advantage of the city’s famous scenic areas and the wide variety of seafood available throughout the city.
Shangri-La Hotel, Dalian, which over the past few years has repeatedly been voted one of the best hotels in China for business travellers, has an enviable reputation for outstanding service, and whether you are in town for business or pleasure, it makes the ideal base from which to explore the delights of Dalian.
Fun in the sun
This culture of fun erupts in August when the annual China International Beer Festival takes place and the imposing Xinghai Square, one of Asia’s largest public squares, is overrun with stalls and exhibitions celebrating the brew. It attracts both a domestic and international audience of up to 2 million people and opens with a colourful parade.
Meanwhile, the city also hosts the International Fashion Festival in September, food and firework festivals, shopping and sports such as skiing, mountain climbing and horse racing, during the winter months. Dalian is also famed for the cherry blossoms that carpet the city in spring. The 500,000-square-metre park of Lushun has more than 3,000 cherry trees of over 100 varieties.
The city’s environmental approach to planning means that despite its recent remarkable growth, it has numerous parks and gardens, and is known as China’s “garden city”. Though a relatively new city by China’s unique standards, dating from 1898 and controlled by both Russia and Japan in the first half of the 20th century, it was Russian planners and engineers who originally laid out the blueprint for Dalian as an “Oriental Paris”. Today, the almost Disney-esque Russia Street provides a glimpse of that past, with its iconic Orthodox Church and European-style colonial architecture, while also providing duty-free shopping, antique stores and galleries.
The best place to start your Dalian tour is in Xinghai Park, where there’s always something going on. A relaxed walk through its verdant grounds will bring you to nearby Xinghai Bay Beach, which offers a resort atmosphere and cliffs at either end that provide excellent views across the bay. And, of course, the city’s famed seashells are on sale by the seashore. On the way, you may come across Shengya Aquarium, which is always worth a look as it has a 118-metre undersea glass tunnel and about 10,000 species of fish.
Meanwhile, Renmin Square gives an overview of the imposing government offices, four pristine gardens, and a “dancing water” fountain that is a popular spot for locals to gather in the evening. It is the place to start if you want to explore the bustling, modern downtown area.
No visit to Dalian would be complete without a trip along the coast to enjoy some spectacular panoramas, and one of the best ways to enjoy the wonderful coastline around Dalian is to take a car along Binhai Road, a 35-kilometre trip through an area that is often called “China’s Riviera.” It has pristine and densely forested hills on one side and wonderful sea vistas on the other. For those keen to explore on foot, it also offers plenty of hikes, some of them quite challenging.
Meanwhile, Bangchuidao is just 9 kilometres from the city centre, offering a natural lido and the facilities of an upmarket seashore resort; while the most popular choice for a day at the beach is Fujiazhuang Beach’s 500-metre stretch of golden sands. Finally, Jinshitan Scenic Area, 50 kilometres northeast of downtown, offers sprawling beaches, numerous water activities and “grotesque rocks” that are said to look like animals, which were formed nearly 600,000 years ago.
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I have stayed at the Dalian Shangrila countless times during the last 4 years. Indeed a very nice and friendly atmosphere with outstanding staff. When you return you feel like coming home.