It used to take a couple of hours to get from Beijing to Tianjin, China’s third largest city. Thanks to a new high speed rail connection, the trip can now be made in 30 minutes.
Located in the country’s northeast, Tianjin lies between the Yan Mountains to north and the Bohai Sea to the east. A section of the Great Wall of China runs through the city’s mountainous suburbs. Tianjin is an important commercial and manufacturing hub. Industries include auto and mechanical engineering, petrochemicals, and textiles. The city has an international airport with flights to number of foreign countries.
What to See in Tianjin
Tianjin Eye, in the city’s North, and Tianjin TV and Radio Tower, in the South, can provide a quick overview of the city. If you’ve got the time, you can start your journey at one and work your way either north or south to the other, taking in the city’s key attractions along the way. Another option is to take a cruise on the Haihe River, which bisects the city.
Tianjin TV & Radio Tower
Located near Nankai University, the Tianjin TV and Radio Tower will give you a bird’s eye view of the city. The fourth highest TV tower in the world, it looms over the landscape, and – thanks for tasteful lighting – is especially attractive at night. There is an observation hall and a rotating restaurant.
Located nearby are Water Park, Tianjin Zoo, the Tianjin Amusement Park, and Tianjin Olympic Stadium.
1 Jinzi Road, Hexi District, Tianjin Hours: 8:30 am to 10 pm (daily)
The only giant ferris wheel in the world built atop a bridge, the Tianjin Eye straddles the Haihe River, soaring 35 stories into the air. With 48 cabins, it accommodates 384 passengers. On clear days, it affords views extending for a radius of 40 kilometres. At 100 yuan, a VIP ticket allows you to jump the queue.
Yongle Bridge, Hebei District, Tianjin Hours: 9:30 am to 9:30 pm (daily)
Temple of Great Compassion
Located a short walk from the main Tianjin train station, the Temple of Great Compassion is a Zen Buddhist temple, which dates back to the Shunzhi period of the Qing Dynasty (1643 to 1661). It used to house of the skull of the legendary Chinese monk, Xuanzang. The skull was donated to Patna Museum in India during the 1950s.
40 Tianwei Road, Hebei District, Tianjin Hours: 9:00 am to 4:30 pm (daily)
In the same neighborhood, you will find Little Italy. Officially it’s known as Italian Style Street so I was expecting Italian fashion boutiques, a Ferrari dealership, a Casa Armani – stuff like that.
In Chinese, the word “style” often serves as an adjective marker, and in this case, it has nothing to do with elegance, sophistication, or design. It should therefore not have been translated into English.
As it turns out, this part of town was the Italian Concession during the first half of the last century. Many of the surviving villas and commercial buildings were designed by Italian architects, and they have been turned into restaurants, bars, clubs, and boutiques in recent years. Interestingly, few of the F&B outlets serve Italian food.
Having said that, the buildings have been beautifully restored, and the district is definitely worth a visit.
Hebei District, Tianjin
Dating back to the 15th Century, the Confucian Temple of Tianjin, otherwise known as Wenmiao, is the largest shrine of its kind in the city.
Shuishang Park Road, Nankai District, Tianjin Hours: 9:00 am to 5:00 pm (Tuesday to Sunday)
Ancient Culture Street
A hodgepodge of renovated commercial buildings housing shops selling souvenirs, art, kites, calligraphy brushes, scrolls, pottery, furniture, and clothing, Ancient Culture Street is a bit tacky, but – let’s face it – most tourists don’t leave the zone empty-handed. Several temples are located nearby.
Beima Road, Nankai District, Tianjin Hours: 9:00 am to 11:00 pm (daily)