It's something of an understatement to say Dalian has had a turbulent past, and its strategic location on the sea passage towards Korea has seen many flash-points over the years. While its cosmopolitan reputation has leant it the nickname, the 'Hong Kong of the North', the Russians described it as the 'Paris of the East' when they ruled, following the bloodshed of the first First Sino-Japanese War. They would eventually surrender Dalian to Japan in 1905, before it was returned to the USSR, and ultimately, Chinese control in 1950.
Top Sights and Activities
The colossal concrete concourse of Xinghai Square is a giant focal point for this city. Look out at the twin arcs of the Xinghai Bay Bridge, as it stretches across the gaping bay, or up to the magical fairy-tale turrets of the glowing Castle Hotel, which offers the height of luxury from its hillside location. Opened to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the city's foundation, an astonishing 1,760,000 square metres of space makes it the world’s largest public square, exactly four times the size of Tiananmen Square. It's littered with idiosyncratic sculptures, and bathes in colour at night, when the bridge shines, and the surrounding skyscrapers flash like glow-sticks.
Wrinkled exercisers take advantage of the city's airy parks - visit Xinghai Park to watch daredevils bungee jumping, before taking a stroll down to its inviting, pebble-laden beach. Binhai Road, meanwhile, is renowned for its raw ocean views and crisp, fresh air. It features the world's longest wooden walkway, which stretches for 13 miles to Haizhiyn Park, and welcomes 300,000 people each year for the International Walking Festival.
The giant cannons that peer out from the fortifications at Lüshunkou District - formerly Port Arthur - hint at the turbulence that this war-haunted locale has faced over the years. The violence reached a nadir during the Port Arthur Massacre - when an estimated 20,000 inhabitants were slaughtered by the Japanese - 36 were spared to bury the dead. The uncensored horrors of war are also documented at the Russo-Japanese War Prison museum, where deeply unsettling torture devices, and the horrifying 'Hanging Room', shine a light on the atrocities committed here.
Hotels & Restaurants
Well established luxury hotels like the Shangri-La Dalian and Furama Hotel Dalian offer glass smooth indoor pools and cavernous lobbies, decorated with sparkling chandeliers and shimmering light installations. Wanbao Seafood Restaurant, meanwhile, is one of the city's biggest and best places to eat, serving flavours of the ocean like the Dalian speciality of sea cucumber and blooming red prawns grilled with ginger and spring onion. Restaurants offering Cantonese favourites like dim sum and Japanese foods are also widely available.
The city's respected fashion festival takes place every September, and as one of China's trendiest cities - you’re in the perfect place to give your wardrobe a freshening up. The shopping in Dalian centres around Tianjin Street and Qing Niwaqiao, where you'll find gleaming malls and on-the-pulse clothes on the shelves. Or, delve underground to pick up souvenirs, such as ships with sails painstakingly carved from brittle sea shells, at Victory Plaza, where you can hone your haggling skills.