Must see attractions in Liaoning

  • Top ChoiceSights in Shenyang

    Shenyang Imperial Palace

    This impressive palace complex resembles a small-scale Forbidden City. Constructed between 1625 and 1636 by Manchu emperor Nurhachi (1559–1626) and his son, Huang Taiji, the palace served as the residence of the Qing dynasty rulers until 1644. The central courtyard buildings include ornate ceremonial halls and imperial living quarters, including a royal baby cradle. In all, there are 114 buildings, not all of which are open to the public. Zhong Jie metro station (exit B) is a few minutes north.

  • Top ChoiceSights in Lushun

    Lushun Prison

    Most visitors to Lushun head straight for the notorious prison that, from 1902 to 1945, housed more than 450,000 war prisoners captured by the Russians, then the Japanese. Visitors are escorted on the half-hour by Chinese-speaking guides through a series of carefully preserved red-brick buildings. Sombre displays, including an unearthed wooden-barrel coffin containing an executed inmate, and torture devices accompanied by graphic descriptions, paint a picture of a working early-20th-century jail. English captions illuminate the plight of prisoners, surveillance strategies, work camps and more.

  • Top ChoiceSights in Dandong

    Tiger Mountain Great Wall

    The Tiger Mountain stretch of the Great Wall, about 20km northeast of Dandong, is an excellent location to get your wall fix, far from the madding crowds. Running up a steep embankment beside the Yalu River, this restored remnant of the Ming dynasty makes a perfect day trip combined with a speedboat ride along the North Korean border. The Wall ends at a small museum with a few weapons, vases and wartime dioramas (buy your ticket at the main entrance).

  • Sights in Liaoning

    Bingyu Valley

    If you can’t travel south to Guilin, Bingyu Valley offers a taste of what you’re missing. About 250km northeast of Dalian, the valley has tree-covered limestone cliffs set alongside a river. From the entrance, a boat takes you along a brief stretch of the river, where rock formations rise steeply along the banks, before depositing you at a dock. From there, hire a little boat or bamboo raft and paddle around the shallow waters.

  • Top ChoiceSights in Xingcheng

    Xingcheng Old City

    This walled city dates back to 1430 and is the principal reason to visit Xingcheng. Under renovation, it's nonetheless an atmospheric place to spend a few hours, perhaps between dips in the sea. In addition to the City Walls, the Drum Tower, which sits slap in the middle of the Old City with 360-degree views, and the watchtower, on the southeastern corner of the city, are all intact. You can do a complete circuit of the walls in around an hour.

  • Sights in Dalian

    Jinshi Tan

    The coast around Jinshi Tan, 50km northeast of the city, has been turned into a domestic tourism mecca with a number of theme parks and rock formations commanding inflated entrance fees. The long pebbly beach itself is free and quite pretty, set in a wide bay with distant headlands. For those who prefer their water chlorinated, there's a beautiful new public swimming pool (¥5, open 6am to 8pm) beside the sand.

  • Sights in Dandong

    Broken Bridge

    A pile of mangled steel is an unlikely tourist attraction, but this aftermath of the Korean War is a symbolic reminder of a conflict which has shaped the region. There were two bridges crossing the Yalu River near Dandong, but in 1950 American troops ‘accidentally’ bombed the original steel-span bridge between North Korea and China. The North Koreans dismantled the bridge less than halfway across the river, leaving a row of support columns.

  • Top ChoiceSights in Shenyang

    Tomb of Huang Taiji

    One of Shenyang's highlights is this extensive tomb complex, the burial place of Huang Taiji (1592–1643), founder of the Qing dynasty. The tomb’s animal statues lead up to the central mound known as the Luminous Tomb (Zhāo Líng). In many ways a better-preserved complex than Shenyang's Imperial Palace, the tomb site is worth a few hours examining the dozens of buildings with their traditional architecture and ornamentation. The Tomb of Huang Taiji sits a few kilometres north of town inside expansive Beiling Park.

  • Sights in Lushun

    Lushun Museum

    The history of Liaoning province is covered in this stylish old museum in two early 20th century buildings. Among the thousands of artefacts on display are ancient bronzes, coins and paintings, as well as several mummies and a quirky chopstick collection. The English captions are good. The area around the museum has a number of other old buildings from the Japanese colonial era and is a great spot for photographs, especially in spring.

  • Sights in Dalian

    Fisherman’s Wharf

    One of the wonders of modern China is its ability to rework certain western aesthetics into a recognisable, and eerily satisfying, contemporary kitsch. Fishermen's Wharf is a seaside community built in the style of an American east-coast village from the early 20th century. An afternoon in a wine shop, snapping photos of your surreal pan-cultural existence, can make your holiday. Take time to check out the perfect replica of the 1853 German Bremen Port Lighthouse, built with bricks from razed local villages.

  • Sights in Dandong

    Jinjiang Pagoda

    The highest point for kilometres, this pagoda sits atop Jǐnjiāng Shān in the park of the same name. The views across to North Korea are unparalleled and the park itself (a former military zone) is a well-tended expanse of forested slopes, with a pretty pond and walking paths. You can take a taxi to the entrance or easily walk there in 20 minutes from the train station, though it’s another steep 1km uphill to the pagoda.

  • Sights in Shenyang

    Beiling Park

    With its pine trees and large lake, this park is an excellent place to escape Shenyang’s hubbub. Locals come here to promenade, sing or just kick back with their families. Beiling Gongyuan metro station is directly outside the park.

  • Sights in Xingcheng

    Xingcheng Beach

    Xingcheng’s beach is clean and calm and provides a welcome respite for travellers on the history trail. Manicured, sandy paths lead from a stack of seafood vendors to a boardwalk and pagoda hanging over the gently swirling sea. Bus 1 (¥1) travels from the bus station through Xinghai Lu to the beach (9km from the city centre) in about 30 minutes. A taxi to the area costs ¥15 to ¥20.

  • Sights in Lushun

    Hill 203

    During the Russo-Japanese War, troops fought like wildcats for control of this strategic hill (when you get up the steep path to the top you’ll see why). More than 5000 Russian and 10,000 Japanese soldiers lost their lives in the battle, which eventually went to the Japanese. Afterwards, the victors erected a 10m-high bullet-shaped memorial (constructed from shell casings) which, remarkably, still stands to this day. The area is popular during cherry-blossom season.

  • Sights in Dandong

    Korea Street

    Dandong may sell Korean culture at the river, but this street is the epicentre of South and North Korean daily life in the city. Local Koreans visit the hairdressers and grocery stores here, and visitors and locals alike eat at the Korean restaurants, which range from quick eats to seafood barbecue restaurants for large groups. Korea Street is actually Erjing Jie (二经街) and runs parallel to the river a few blocks north.

  • Sights in Dalian

    Zhongshan Square

    This is Dalian’s hub, a 223m-wide square with 10 lanes radiating out from a central roundabout designed by the Russians in 1889. With the exception of the Dalian Financial Building, all the other grand structures hail from the early 20th century when Dalian was under the control of the Japanese. Styles range from art deco to French Renaissance.

  • Sights in Dalian

    Fujiazhuang Beach

    At the height of summer, you'll see bathers 20 deep at this pretty pebble beach, which often features in crazy crowds in China photos. It's not always like that though – even in spring you can enjoy clean, clear water and plenty of space in the adjacent park. Junks float just offshore in a deep bay, small broken islands dot the horizon, and loads of families come here for no other reason than to have fun.

  • Sights in Lushun

    Soviet Martyrs Cemetery

    The largest cemetery in China for foreign-born nationals honours Soviet soldiers who died in the liberation of northeast China at the end of WWII, as well as pilots killed during the Korean War. Designed by Soviet advisers, the cemetery is heavy with communist-era iconography. A giant rifle-holding soldier guards the front, while inside are memorials to the sacrifice of Soviet soldiers and rows of neatly tended gravestones. Bus 11 (¥1, about 25 minutes) passes here from outside the bus terminal.

  • Sights in Dandong

    Museum to Commemorate US Aggression

    With everything from statistics to shells, this comprehensive museum offers Chinese and North Korean perspectives on the war with the US-led UN forces (1950–53) – they take the view that they won it. There are good English captions here, which offer a thought-provoking alternative view to the west's. The adjacent North Korean War Memorial Column was built 53m high, symbolising the year the Korean War ended. A taxi to the museum costs ¥12 from downtown.

  • Sights in Dalian

    Xinghai Square

    This square, which sports some gaudy architecture, is the site of Dalian’s popular beer festival, and is a good place to people-watch, fly a kite or just stroll about. Nearby is a small beach and amusement park. From the train station, take tram 201 (¥2; to its west terminus) or faster metro Line 2 (¥1; stop Xi'an, 西安路), then tram 202 (¥2) three stops. Last return tram is at 11pm. A taxi is about ¥20.