Set on the north-east coast of the Bohai Sea, Tianjin’s port opens up the city and serves as a gateway to Beijing - which lies approximately three-hours drive inland. Tianjin is a vast and impressive city in its own right, with oodles of character and charm – especially since it received a comprehensive facelift for China’s Olympic Games in 2008. There is deep international history here, as the area was conceded to foreign powers during the Opium Wars. As a result, it’s peppered with historical buildings, temples and palaces, and you'll encounter a dizzying swirl of cultures. There is a distinctive European flavour in places - notably the architecture of the Five Avenues, which features a blend of historical buildings from Europe's past empires.
The skyscrapers of modern China’s booming economy have also sprung up, along with ambitious structures like the flowing curves of the library. Unique creations like the Tianjin Eye span the river – a fusion between a ferris wheel and a bridge, it glows brightly over the river's water at night. The Ancient Culture Street is a traditional Qing Dynasty style stretch of bustling, living history.
For most, however, the allure of one of China and the world’s mega-cities, Beijing, will be too strong a draw. Visit immense cultural treasures like the extraordinary Forbidden City, an incredible central labyrinth of 800 palaces. The vast and iconic Tiananmen Square stretches out close by - watched over by a ginormous Chairman Mao portrait - where you can see the Chinese flag ceremonially hoisted high into the sky each day, and a venue where dramatic and iconic events of Chinese history have played out. You’re also within reach of one of the world’s most recognisable landmarks - the undulating expanse of the Great Wall of China, which snakes across the area's mountains.