The Best Cities to Travel to For a Student in China

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It can be a pleasant experience traveling in China as a student. The country is diverse in its culture, people, and landscapes. And although historical sites in China such as the Great Wall, Emie Shan, Yangshuo are incredibly popular sites for travelers, Chinese cities are where the real magic happens.

China has 14 different cities with a population over 5 million - the largest city being Shanghai with a population of 34.0 million people and Hebei being the smallest city.

But one thing is common in all of these great cities in China: they are all large, chaotic, yet beautiful and bewildering at the same time.

You can see skyscrapers being constructed at a blazing speed just right next to a quiet street serving the best noodles you can have in China. You can find cities where merchants gather to sell everything you can imagine. You can wander around for hours and meet over a million different kinds of neighborhoods. Not only that, but you can also discover places where you can spend years at end and still not see everything.

So if you're a student traveling in China, for study or just for travel, where shall you begin? There are many challenges students face when they study abroad, and finding the best place to travel in China is definitely on top of any student's list.

To make your life easier in China, I decided to make a list of the best cities for study abroad college program, culture, food, and more, in this all-encompassing guide.

This list includes overlooked places, must-see attractions, and pretty much everything else you need to know about China's best cities.

So just grab a cup of coffee or your favorite drink, sit back, and enjoy!

Top 5 best cities to travel to for a student in China:

1. Xi'an

You probably got surprised not to see Beijing at the top of my list, didn't you? Yes, of course, you did. But there's a reason for it. Yes, of course, Beijing has the National Museum of China, Tiananmen Square, and the Forbidden City, and all the accolades that a capital city often seems to receive.

But, in my opinion, Xi'an (China's first ancient capital) offers more attractive tourist destinations and cultural sights for students than Beijing.

First of all, Xi'an has the Terracotta Army Museum, one of the most significant archaeological sites one will not get to see anywhere else in the world. The museum consists of a collection of life-size terracotta sculptures of the army of Qin Shi Huang, who was also the first monarch of China.

Can you imagine local farmers discovered this massive historical site in 1974? Yes, that's true, and you can easily spend an entire day here.

But, Xi'an offers more than just museums.

One of the favorite ways for travelers to discover and experience the Xi'an city and its history is to go for a bike ride on top of the ancient city wall. These fortifications were built during the Ming Dynasty and are over 600 years old. This major tourist attraction for foreigners is also the only unscathed ancient city wall in China.

And Xi'an also has Muslim Quarter, located just behind the Drum Tower. The site is the unique and lively neighborhoods in all of China. Here, you can taste delicious food (cold noodles for example) and soak up all the culture. 

2. Shanghai

Shanghai is the commercial heart of China. They have the best hotels, shopping malls, and restaurants in all of China. But these are not the must-see attractions to visit for students in China.

You can take a short stroll and head towards the river Bund, or walk around the cafes and boutiques of cobbled Xintiandi, or explore the ancient colonial neighborhoods.

The Park Hyatt, the Langham Yangtze, the old Astor House, and the PuLi Hotel and Spa are one of the best hotels in Shanghai. However, what I love the most is the French Concession zone, mainly because of its leafy backstreets. Fuxing Park is also excellent, a favorite place for the locals to get-together and do activities like ballroom dancing, martial arts, among other things.

While you're in this zone, don't skip Radisson Blu Plaza Xing Guo, which lies just around manicured gardens and offers you a much-needed relief from the hustle-bustle of the city.

From Shanghai, you can visit two beautiful destinations - Suzhou and Hangzhou's -through city's high-speed trains. Suzhou offers classical Chinese gardens, while Hangzhou has ancient tea plantations.

Shanghai also has West Lake, which has inspired much of the country's art, religion, and literature. Although you can easily explore the lake by rowing a boat, there's an equally epic view from Guo's Villa with its beautiful teahouse and garden.

Another trip you can make from Shanghai is Huangshan, which is the mountain peak, as often depicted in classical Chinese paintings. You can reach the summit two ways: either hike up to the height of 60,000 steps (some of which are older than 1,500 years old) or take a trip using a cable car. 

3. Guangzhou

China also has Guangzhou, considered as one of the most developed cities in the nation. It was an essential part of the old Maritime Silk Road and the nation's south gate since the 3rd century.

The continuous development of manufacturing industries and growth on trading markets have made Guangzhou a top city for international traders. Every year, the city also hosts the largest trade fair in China, called the "Canton Fair."

Besides a business trip, the city also has its 2,200-year-old history. For students in China, there are many historical sites for sightseeing. You can visit the Ancestral Temple and Bright Filial Piety Temple here.

Walking along the banks of the Pearl River can be an unforgettable experience for students. And, when it gets dark in the night, the brilliant Canton Tower, which is on the south bank of the river, will sway you. 

4. Chengdu

Yes, I had to include Chengdu. As one of the largest cities in China, the city life here is relaxed and laid back compared against Beijing and Shanghai.

Of course, you'll notice the construction and development, just like you'll in Beijing and Shanghai and numerous of its cities, but the local people here are often the most chilled out people you'll ever meet anywhere else in China.

You just have to visit a park, and you'll notice people exercising, socializing with others, and participating in numerous activities - from sipping hot green tea to playing Mahjong to practicing Tai Chi.

Chengdu also has a Panda Base, which is a non-profit facility for breeding and protecting giant pandas and other rare species.

But to truly experience the local lives, you'll have to visit the parks. One park I'd like to recommend is the People's Park, which is quite big and famous. You'll discover people relaxing by the lake and practicing calligraphy on the park's pavements. Others may be enjoying dance classes that are offered in the park.

5. Shaxi

If you're a student in China looking for a town that is more than a city, and somewhere you can experience the beauty and culture in abundance, I highly recommend that you head towards Shaxi.

Shaxi is a small town deep into the countryside on the ancient Tea Horse Trail (old trade route) which is unlike any others.

The town has been restored, not rebuilt, which is what makes it truly unique.

Another reason why it's unique is that there live a tribe of people called Bai people, one of the ethnic people in China who still maintain their traditions.

When you're here, go check out the town's walled original city, then head towards the Old Town Market Square, and then go for a short trek in the mountains nearby.

One more thing: sometimes, in Shaxi, you can get to stay a night or two in guest-house run by a family, eat delicious local foods, and socialize with hospitable locals.

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