Must see attractions in Hebei

  • Top ChoiceSights in Chengde

    Bìshǔ Shānzhuāng

    The imperial summer resort is composed of a main palace complex with vast, parklike gardens, all enclosed by a handsome 10km-long wall. The entrance price is steep (as it is with all the main sights in Chengde), and it gets packed with tourists here in summer, but the splendid gardens provide ample opportunity to take a quiet walk away from the crowds.

  • Top ChoiceSights in Chengde

    Puning Temple

    With its squeaking prayer wheels and devotional intonations of its monks, this is Chengde’s only active Buddhist temple. It was built in 1755 in anticipation of Qianlong’s victory over the western Mongol tribes in Xinjiang. Supposedly modelled on the earliest Tibetan Buddhist monastery (Samye), the first half of the temple is distinctly Chinese, with Tibetan buildings at the rear.

  • Top ChoiceSights in Zhengding

    Longxing Temple

    Considering its age – almost 1500 years old – we think this is one of the most impressive temples in northern China. It's certainly Zhengding’s star attraction. Popularly known as Dafo Temple (大佛寺, Dàfó Sì), or ‘Great Buddha Temple’, the complex contains an astonishing array of Buddhist statuary, housed in some stunning temple halls. Dating way back to AD 586, the temple has been much restored and stands divided from its spirit wall by Zhongshan Donglu.

  • Top ChoiceSights in Shanhaiguan

    Jiao Shan Great Wall

    Although a heavily restored section of the Great Wall, Jiao Shan (角山, Jiǎo Shān) nevertheless offers an excellent opportunity to hike up the Wall’s first high peak – a telling vantage point over the narrow tongue of land below and one-time invasion route for northern armies. It’s a steep 30-minute clamber from the base, or else use the old chairlift (索道; suǒdào, one way/return ¥15/20).

  • Top ChoiceSights in Chengde

    Putuozongcheng Temple

    Also known as Potala (布达拉, Bùdálā), Chengde’s largest temple is a not-so-small replica of Lhasa’s Potala Palace and houses the nebulous presence of Avalokiteshvara (Guanyin). A marvellous sight on a clear day, the temple’s red walls stand out against its mountain backdrop. Enter to a huge stele pavilion, followed by a large triple archway topped with five small stupas in red, green, yellow, white and black.

  • Sights in Jimingyi

    Jiming Mountain

    Dominating the skyline to the northwest of the town, Jimingyi's namesake mountain means Cock's Crow Mountain, and is topped by the largest and oldest temple in the area, the Temple of Eternal Tranquillity (永宁寺, Yǒngníng Sì). It's still an active monastery and a large and lively festival is held here on the 15th day of the fourth lunar month (usually April or May).

  • Sights in Shijiazhuang

    Zhaozhou Bridge

    China’s oldest bridge still standing, Zhaozhou Bridge has spanned the Jiao River (Jiǎo Hé) for 1400 years. As the world’s first segmental arch bridge (ie its arch is a segment of a circle, as opposed to a complete semicircle), it predates other bridges of its type throughout the world by 800 years. In fine condition, and part of a riverside, landscaped park, it is 50.82m long and 9.6m wide, with a span of 37m.

  • Sights in Shijiazhuang

    Cangyan Mountain

    This is the site of the transcendent, cliff-spanning Hanging Palace, a Sui-dynasty construction perched halfway up a precipitous gorge. If you think you’ve seen it before, you probably have – this was one of the locations for the hit film Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. Given the dramatic setting, it must have been an impressive temple complex at one time, though these days the best views after the main hall are of the surrounding canyons.

  • Sights in Shanhaiguan

    Jiumenkou Great Wall

    In a mountain valley 15km north of Shanhaiguan stretches the only section of the Great Wall ever built over water. Normally the Wall stopped at rivers, as they were considered natural defence barriers on their own. At Jiumenkou (九门口, Jiǔménkǒu), however, a 100m span supported by nine arches crosses the Jiujiang River, which we can only guess flowed at a much faster and deeper rate than it does today (or else the arches would function more like open gates).

  • Sights in Chengde

    Pule Temple

    This peaceful temple was built in 1776 for the visits of minority envoys from the west (Kazakhs and Uyghurs among them). At the rear of the temple is the unusual Round Pavilion, modelled on the Hall of Prayer for Good Harvests at Beijing’s Temple of Heaven Park. Inside is an enormous wooden mandala – a geometric representation of the Buddhist universe.

  • Sights in Zhengding

    Kaiyuan Temple

    This temple dates from AD 540 but was destroyed in 1966, the first year of the Cultural Revolution. Little remains apart from a bell tower and the dirt-brown Xumí Pagoda (须弥塔; Xūmí Tǎ), a well-preserved, nine-eaved structure (dating from AD 636) topped with a spire. Its arched doors and carved stone doorway are particularly attractive, as are the carved figures on the base. You can enter a shrine at the bottom of the pagoda, but you can't climb up.

  • Sights in Shanhaiguan

    Old Dragon Head

    Famous across China (although a little overhyped if we're being honest), Old Dragon Head, 4km south of Shanhaiguan, is where the Great Wall meets the sea. It's photogenic for sure, but bear in mind that what you see now was reconstructed in the late 1980s – the original wall crumbled away long ago. Bus 25 (¥2) goes here from Shanhaiguan’s South Gate.

  • Sights in Shanhaiguan

    First Pass Under Heaven

    The Great Wall's main gate as it snaked down the mountains towards the sea, the First Pass served as Shanhaiguan's east gate and principal watchtower. Two storeys tall, with double eaves and 68 arrow-slit windows, it's a towering 13.7m high, with an enceinte extending east.

  • Sights in Zhengding

    Zhengding City Wall (South Gate)

    Up until about five years ago, all that remained of Zhengding's 24km-long, 6th-century city wall were sporadic stretches of tall earthen mounds, but now it seems the plan is to rebuild the whole thing. At the southern end of Yanzhao Nandajie, the enormous Chang Le Gate (长乐门, Cháng Lè Mén), commonly called South Gate (南门, Nán Mén), has been completely rebuilt and you can climb up onto it and walk along for a while in either direction.

  • Sights in Chengde

    Anyuan Temple

    A copy of the former Gurza Temple on Xinjiang's western border, this rarely visited complex dates back to 1764, built to commemorate the Qianlong emperor's annexation of the region around Tiān Shān. Only the three-storey main hall remains, which contains 200-year-old murals and a large, dust-covered statue of Green Tara. Entrance includes admission to the Pule Temple and Hammer Rock (磬锤峰; Qìngchuí Fēng). Bus 10 (¥1) from the Mountain Villa Hotel will drop you at Anyuan Miao bus stop, near the approach road to Hammer Rock.

  • Sights in Yujiacun

    Qingliang Pavilion

    Completed in 1581, this three-storey pavilion was supposedly the work of one thoroughly crazed individual – Yu Xichun, who wanted to be able to see Beijing from the top. It was, according to legend, built entirely at night, over a 16-year period, without the help of any other villagers.

  • Sights in Shijiazhuang

    Hebei Museum

    Wandering the cavernous halls of this museum's two buildings will take you deep into the multilayered realms of Chinese history, with most exhibits focusing on archaeological excavations that date as far back as the Shang dynasty (1600–1046 BC). As fascinating as the trove of funeral figurines, jade burial suits and bronze vessels is, however, the real star is the Quyang Stone Carvings collection, which features masterful ancient statuary – mostly Buddhist – carved from Hebei's Quyuan marble. Bring your passport for entry.

  • Sights in Chengde

    Temple of Sumeru, Happiness & Longevity

    This huge temple was built in honour of the sixth Panchen Lama, who stayed here in 1781. Incorporating Tibetan and Chinese architectural elements, it’s an imitation of the Panchen’s home monastery Tashilhunpo in Shigatse, Tibet. Note the eight huge, glinting dragons (each said to weigh over 1000kg) that adorn the roof of the main hall. The admission price includes entry to the neighbouring Putuozongcheng Temple. Bus 118 (¥1) goes here from in front of Mountain Villa Hotel.

  • Sights in Zhengding

    Linji Temple

    This active monastery is notable for its tall, elegant, carved-brick Chengling Pagoda (澄灵塔, Chénglíng Tǎ; also called the Green Pagoda), topped with an elaborate lotus plinth plus ball and spire. In the Tang dynasty, the temple was home to one of Chan (Zen) Buddhism’s most eccentric and important teachers, Linji Yixuan, who penned the now-famous words, ‘If you meet the Buddha on the road, kill him!’

  • Sights in Zhengding

    Guanghui Temple

    Nothing remains of this temple except Hua Pagoda (华塔; Huá Tā), dating from around AD 800. It's an unusual, Indian-style pagoda decorated with lions, elephants, sea creatures and púsà (Bodhisattvas, who are those worthy of nirvana who remain on earth to help others attain enlightenment). This is also the only one of Zhengding's four famous pagodas that you're allowed to climb (¥15).