Traveling through China: the city of Tianjin

Tianjin

Tianjin is a North Chinese port metropolis, located 130 km south-east of Beijing. Its peculiarity is its long streets, preserved from colonial times, as well as its craft traditions.

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Tianjin Attractions

Dabeyuan Temple.

The Temple of Great Compassion northeast of the Old City is the busiest Buddha shrine in the city. It dates from the 17th century and its sculptural decorations, destroyed during the Cultural Revolution, were restored in 1980. The structure follows the usual pattern. The main figure in the main hall is Shakyamuni Buddha. In the next hall the 24-armed Guanyin is venerated. Tianwei Lu 26. Opening hours: Tue-Sun. 9.00-16.30.

Ancient Culture Street (Gu Wenhua Jie)

On the bank of the Huaihe River, adjacent to the east of the Old City, Ancient Culture Street has been developed as a pedestrian area with arts and crafts stores. The buildings are new, but built in the traditional architectural style. In the center is a square on the west side of which stands the Palace of the Heavenly Empress (Tianhongun), a temple founded in 1326 and rebuilt after the Cultural Revolution, dedicated to the patroness of sailors. The temple is built in 1326 and was restored after the Cultural Revolution to be dedicated to the Patroness of Sailors. 9.00-16.45.

Old Town

Temple of Confucius

Founded in the 15th century, this complex of the Confucius Temple extends over an area of one hectare and brings with it a serene ambience. In the main hall you can see the vaulted zithers that were once played at the festivities in honor of the great Teacher; the side halls are used for exhibitions. Hours of operation: Tues-Sun. 9.00-16.00.

Old Town Museum

The building was built in the Republic by a wealthy Tianjin citizen and is now the site of the Old City Museum, and is a fascinating exhibit in its own right. Its rooms display everything from kitchen utensils to wedding dresses, offering a glimpse into life in the city in earlier decades. Dongmennei Dajie 202. Opening hours: Daily. 9.00-17.00.

Theater Museum

When the Guild of Tianjin Merchants built the grand Tianjin meeting house and temporary apartments in 1907 in the traditional architectural style, they installed a theater hall at the same time. Sometimes plays are staged there to this day; the adjoining rooms are full of photographs, programs and other testimonies to the history of the theater. Nanmennei Dajie 31. Opening hours: Tue-Sun. 9.00-16.00.

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Hepinqu District

The area around Hepinqu has the most surviving evidence of the colonial era. The area extends from the southeastern edge of the Old City to Machang Dao Street in the south, and from the Huaihe River in the east to Nanmenwai Dajie Street and Weijin Lu Street in the west. From north to south there are former concession areas of Japan (up to Jinzhou Dao Street and Nanjing Lu Street), France (up to Yingkou Dao Street) and Britain. Heping Lu Street, once called Asahi Road in the north and Rue de Chaylard in the south, is now Tianjin’s main business street.

Jiefang Beiiu

In what was once the Rue de France in the north and Victoria Road in the south, the century-old bank buildings on Jiefang Beilu Street still retain a sense of the old days. It is also home to Tianjin’s symbol of hotel business, the tradition-rich Astor Lishunde.

French Church

If you go west from Jiefang Beilu, at the end of Binjiang Dao Street you can see a French church (Lao Xikai Tianzhu Jiaotang) built and painted in 1913-1916 in the neo-romantic style; it is the largest church in the city.

Wuda Dao

The five large streets in the British Concession Area, just south of the French church, are not very wide or particularly imposing, but they retain an almost unspoiled colonial atmosphere. Six streets are under monument protection: Chengdu Dao (London Road) , Chongqing Dao (Edinburgh Road) , Changde Dao (Colombo Road) , Dali Dao (Singapore Road) , Munan Dao (Hong Kong Road) and Machang Dao (Race Course Road) between Kunming Lu in the west and Hebei Lu in the east. Two hundred and thirty villas can be seen here, belonging to the British, the French, and the Germans, among others. You can learn more about the history of the concessions at the Tianjin Museum of Modern History, Hebei Lu 314. Opening hours: Mon-Fri. 9.00-17.00.

Tianjin Museum

For its 600th anniversary in 2004 the city received a stunning new-build museum. It merges the collections of the former art museum and the city’s history museum. An exhibit on the history of the city is located on the second floor: ancient bronze vessels, porcelain, calligraphy, ink painting and chiseled stones. Above, photographs, large dioramas and other exhibits vividly illustrate the city’s history. Youyi Lu, corner of Pinjiang Dao. Opening Hours: Everyday. Opening hours: 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. (Entry by 4 p.m.) .

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How to get there

Tianjin is a major transportation hub with connections to all important Chinese cities and foreign countries. From Tianjin Airport (southeast of the city), planes fly to all major Chinese cities as well as Japan, Korea, Malaysia, and Singapore.

Shopping

Tianjin is known for its New Year’s Eve “yanluqing” cheapo pictures, made in the traditional manner, which are replicated in large quantities; you can buy them in front of the Tianhougong Temple on Culture Street, for example. Another popular product is caricature clay figures of people engaged in daily activities: Zhang Caisu Clay Figure Workshop, Machang Dao 202.

Tianjin: the city of the future and China’s most European metropolis

If I moved to China, I would live in Tianjin. This city is just really cool. There are skyscrapers, some small neighborhoods with Italian buildings, futuristic architecture, and a beautiful promenade in the center… When I came here, I often heard that Tianjin is the most European city in China. In some places it really is… But personally, it reminded me more of southern US cities (at least, as I imagine them to be).

tjanczin-neboskreby

I liked it in Tianjin. So I can wholeheartedly recommend it. It only takes half an hour to get here from Beijing. Tickets are inexpensive. In general it is an excellent option for a day trip.

Well, in order to make sure you (like me) don’t have to collect information about Tianjin by bits and pieces, let me give you a small excursion. What is there to see in the city? How to get there? And how do you get 37 euros for booking accommodation in a couple of mouse clicks if you suddenly want to stay here longer? Read the article to the end. There’s more to come.

How to get to Tianjin?

poezd-v-tjanczin

In brief – high-speed trains that depart daily from Peking South Station. The fare is 54.5 yuan. Travel time is 30 minutes. You can read about all the features of the journey at the link below. I have described everything in that article in great detail.

A few tips before your trip

Despite the fact that Tianjin has a population of 14 million people and the area of the city is quite impressive, almost all local attractions are located within the boundaries of several central districts. There is also a train station next to the tourist center, so it’s quite comfortable to walk around the city. We only took the subway a few times during the day.

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Ancient-Culture-Street

To navigate in the city, download MAPS.ME offline navigator and download a map of Tianjin in advance. I also recommend you to have the Metro Man mobile app at hand. It will help you navigate better in the Chinese subway (even though the Tianjin subway is much smaller than the Beijing subway). Overall, these two apps will be enough to help you get your bearings, find your way from point A to point B, and find the nearest subway station.

A little bit of history (really, just a little)

Tianjin-city

The formation of the modern look of Tianjin began after the Opium Wars, in which the Chinese government was forced to make serious concessions to the European powers. Until the XIX century, the Chinese authorities allowed European companies to trade only in certain areas (and even then under serious pressure). But after the war, the balance of power changed. After the British and French bombing of Tianjin, the Chinese government agreed to grant greater rights to European traders, travelers, and missionaries. As a result, the areas of their compact residence (usually centered around diplomatic missions) actually acquired the rights of municipal autonomies.

ulicy-tianczin

This is how the “Tianjin Concessions” were formed, dividing the city into European and Chinese parts. The European settlements stretched for eight kilometers along the mouth of the Haihe River. Each had its own schools, hospitals, courts, barracks and even prisons.

evropeyskij-tianczin

In spite of the fact that two centuries have passed since then, modern Tianjin still looks like a patchwork. On one side are the European neighborhoods; and literally across the bridge, a few hundred meters away, is the Chinese old town. Add modern skyscrapers and futuristic 21st century architecture, and you have three main reasons to visit Tianjin.

European city

Usually all guidebooks advise to focus on the so-called “Five Great Avenues” (Wudadao), where more than 200 buildings in German, French, British, Italian and Spanish style are perfectly preserved. However, we chose a slightly different route for ourselves. And right from the station we went to Marco Polo Square, which is the center of the Italian quarter of Tianjin.

ploshad-marko-polo

You can get to this part of town on foot or by subway (the closest station is Jianguodao).

italjanskij-kvartal-tjanczindostoprimechatelnosti-tjanczin

The neighborhood itself is relatively small, so the “Italian” houses very soon will be replaced by Chinese skyscrapers.

v-tjanczin-iz-pekina

When you get to the river – walk down to the local Ferris wheel. And on the way look out for the remnants of “European concessions”. This part of Tianjin has many Christian churches, old mansions, and beautiful bridges (which for some reason reminded me a lot of Budapest bridges).

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However, see for yourself…

tianczin-reka tianczin-chto-posmotrettianczin-chto-posmotret-dostoprimechatelnosti

So, what do you think: does it look like Europe?

Chinese city

And now for some contrasts… After crossing the river you find yourself in the traditional Chinese quarters, built in the stylistics of the architecture of the Qing dynasty.

kitajskaja-ulica

At first I wanted to call them “Old Town,” but in fact that name doesn’t fit them at all. There’s only one street from the “City” here. And it can only be called “old” with a certain degree of convention. Local “Ancient Culture Street” is older than me by only 3 years. Its grand opening took place in 1986. In fact it is just a beautiful imitation, so in some places it seems more like a tourist attraction than a real street.

The palace is the only surviving Ming dynasty building in the city, the Queen of Heaven Palace, and the Yuhuang Hall.

zal-Yuhuang

In addition, in relative proximity to this street is another Tianjin landmark, the Drum Tower . It is about 1.5 kilometers away from the Palace of the Queen of Heaven. Whether it is worth going there is up to you to decide. But in the meantime, I will tell you about the modern attractions of Tianjin.

City of the Future

Tianjin is a city of skyscrapers. So if you like modern cities, here you will experience architectural orgasm. Look at this…

Isn’t it beautiful? I wish the Svisloch embankment in Minsk looked like that. Or the Neman embankment in Grodno. It’s not “Dom u Troitskogo”, of course. Greetings to our captured architects.

If we talk about new symbols of the city, there are at least three of them. The Tianjin Eye is a huge Ferris wheel located on the Haihe River, about 1.5 kilometers from Ancient Culture Street.

Tianjin-Eye

The local TV Tower is 415 meters high with a rotating restaurant at the base of the spire.

telebashnja-tianczin

And also super modern library Tianjin-Binhai, which immediately after the building broke into all sorts of lists of the most beautiful buildings in the world.

Tianjin-Binhai-biblioteka

Photo from azuremagazine.com

To see at least two sights of the “Big Three” is quite realistic. You can walk to the Ferris wheel. The TV Tower can be reached by subway (Tianta Station is right across the street). The library is the only place you’ll have to get really steamed up. To get to it you first need to take a subway for about an hour to the station Taida (on some maps it is marked as Teda). Then you have to walk 2 more kilometers. Whether you need it – think for yourself. For me the library is of course very cool. But I would recommend to go there only for those who are ready to spend more than one day in Tianjin.

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Money exchange, rental housing and the very 37 euros as a gift

Regardless of where you are going to spend the night – in Beijing or Tianjin – be sure to read this block to the end. Just want to share with you all my most useful cases on China.

Tianjin: the city of the future and China's most European metropolis

On how to exchange money in China, which cards it is better to go to China, as well as all that is connected with money – you can read in this review. It’s not the most interesting, but it will help you avoid unpleasant surprises during the trip.

I recommend looking for accommodation with the help of this website. It compares offers from different systems, and then shows where a particular room is the cheapest. A little spoiler: Booking.com does not always rent out hotel rooms at the best prices. There are dozens of other hotel sites out there. And very often the best deals can be found on sites such as Agoda, Hotels.com, or Ostrovok. It all depends on the individual case.

otel-v-pekine

I myself often rent apartments on AIRBNB instead of hotels. In my opinion, they are not only more comfortable, but also cheaper than regular hotels. If you have never used the site, just use this link to register. When you do so the AIRBNB will give you an immediate €37 discount which can be spent on apartments and excursions all over the world (*not relevant).

As for the insurance, I usually buy it on this website. It has good prices, and it also allows you to compare different policies with each other, quickly showing how one differs from the other. Seriously: don’t grab a pig in a poke. And prepare for all travel very carefully. China is a different world. It will surprise you right from the start. Let all the surprises be pleasant.

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