Traveling to Tianjin? Here's our handy guide – for Tianjin expats and visitors alike – of things to do and eat, below.
Getting to Tianjin
Tianjin is easily reached from the capital via a 30-minute high-speed train ride:
• High-speed trains depart daily approximately every 15 minutes from Beijing South Railway Station to Tianjin Station
• Buy tickets at the station on the day or via an app in advance (WeChat, Ctrip); each ticket is RMB54.50 one way
• If you’ve already bought your ticket online, allow 30-45 minutes between arrival at the station and departure (to line up for your ticket at the booth)
• Remember your ID/passport
What to See & Do in Tianjin
Dabei Buddhist Monastery
The ‘Great Compassion Temple’ is the largest and oldest Buddhist monastery in Tianjin, covering 10,600sqm. First built in the Ming dynasty, the temple has since been rebuilt and renovated. It is comprised of the West Monastery from 1669 and the East Monastery from 1940. The property is home to many ancient statues and is the only temple in the city to provide vegetarian food.
Learn more about Tianjin’s history – and the world in general – by checking out the picturesque museum area in Hexi district. Start off at the Tianjin Science and Technology Museum on Longchang Lu and make your way around the area clockwise, passing by Tianjin Museum and Tianjin Natural History Museum. The area is full of greenery, water features and a mall.
The Former Concessions of Tianjin were territories yielded by the Chinese Qing dynasty from the 19th century. Altogether old Tianjin played host to nine concessions: British, French, American, Japanese, German, Russian, Italian, Austro-Hungarian and Belgian. Despite the last concession ceding back to China in 1946, traces of the areas can still be found in the city’s architecture today. Each area exudes history and culture, lending a certain charm to the city. Walk past old bank buildings along Jiefang Lu (formerly the Rue de France) and St. Joseph’s Cathedral in the former French concession. Or be transported to Italy in the Italian-Style Town’s Piazza Regina Elena, a national historical and cultural site replete with a statue and villas.
Towering over the Hai River and above Yongle Bridge is Tianjin’s all-seeing Eye. Completed in 2007, the 120-meter tall Ferris wheel claims to be the only such wheel to have been constructed over a bridge in the world. The wheel has 48 passenger capsules, and each complete rotation takes approximately half an hour. The eye is especially beautiful when lit up at night, however the best time of day to take a ride comes down to you: On a clear day, passengers can see within a radius of 40km from the top of the wheel, whereas evening riders can relish the city’s lights from above.
Shenyang Dao Antiques Market
Tianjin has lots of great malls – two Joy Cities for example – but it’s also home to a wealth of varied markets spanning food and antiques. A must-visit is Shenyang Dao antiques market – a veritable treasure trove of trinkets, revolutionary memorabilia, clocks and furniture. The alley is a great spot for picking up souvenirs. Plus, shopkeepers are friendly and willing to haggle.
Passing through Tianjin, the Hai River is nicknamed ‘Mother River’ by locals. Enjoy a casual stroll along its banks or check out nearby attractions such as Haihe Park, Haihe Cultural Square and Haihe Fountain Amusement Park. Pleasure boat cruises are also a popular choice for visitors.
What to Eat in Tianjin
Goubuli is a famous variety of steamed stuffed bun named after its creator Gouzhai. The story goes that Gouzhai was so busy selling baozi he didn’t have time to chat with customers, hence the name Goubuli (meaning ‘Gou doesn’t talk to people’). Each steamed bun has 18 wrinkles. The original Goubuli brand has a history of over 150 years and its main branch can be found at 77 Shandong Lu.
Beijing street corners are rife with the breakfast staple, but Tianjin is known for having its own special take on the pancake. Tianjin-style jianbing often include a youtiao (fried-dough stick) inside, instead of a fried wonton pastry. They are also traditionally made with green mung bean flour, which makes the pancake softer than other jianbing.
A dough twist blended with spices and fried in peanut oil, mahua is a dense treat best enjoyed with a cup of warm soybean milk or hot tea. The dough twist comes in a range of flavors such as sesame, corn and mixed nuts.
Nightlife in Tianjin
If you’re a champers-and-tequila-shots kinda person, check out Tianjin nightclub Muse. Expect a DJ spinning questionable tracks, bottles and bottles, and all of the city’s PYTs on the dance floor.
See a listing for Muse
A craft microbrewery started by Tianjin local Steve Wang (see opposite for his Tianjin food recommendations), WE Brewery offers seriously good brews in a cool and casual atmosphere. In addition to imaginative beers, the bar serves up tasty pub grub as well as weekly events like poetry nights and yoga. The original location is located down an alley in the bustling Wudadao district – the perfect pit stop after a busy day exploring Tianjin’s former concessions.
See a listing for WE Brewery
Since it opened to great fanfare earlier this year, Gin Lounge has been killin’ the Tianjin bar – or should we say, lounge – scene. The inventive cocktails are next level, as is Gin Lounge’s luxurious space (see the giant face sculpture that protrudes out of the wall). Perfect for those wanting something special and a little bit extra.
See a listing for Gin Lounge
One of Tianjin’s best – if not the best – cocktail lounges, Le Procope is all style and substance. Its delicious drinks are both excellently presented and, best of all, good value. Plus the parlor’s sleek decor ensures a classy atmosphere.
See a listing forLe Procope Lounge
Where to stay in Tianjin
Tianjin is blessed with a host of accommodation options. From 5-star hotels to relaxed hostels, there’s a place for every budget or mood. Check out our Listings for more details.