27 July 2014


Dalian is a coastal city in the province of Liaoning in north-east China with a population of around 3 million. It is a popular tourist destination for domestic Chinese tourists and is known as the "square city" in China, with several beautiful squares.

1. Witnessing the fast-flowing traffic amid lit colonial architecture at the lively Zhongshan Sq in the evening.
2. Admiring the green and hilly surroundings in the large, calm Heng Shan Temple.
3. Roam around aimlessly the tiny inner lanes of the central district.
4. Travelling on Binhai Rd and stopping at the various viewpoints
4. Walking up to the TV Tower.

For the tourist, most places of interest lie in three districts, namely Zhongshan district, Xigang district and Shahekou district. The airport is located north-west of the center.

The Harbour area at the eastern end of Zhongshan district is a wide open area, nice to take a walk around in and feel the cool sea breeze. It is a popular area particularly in the evenings, but with absolutely nothing, it is a wide empty area and is popular with cycling as well. The entrance is on Ren Min Dong Lu, and is close to the Dalian International Convention Center.

Dalian Harbour area
From the harbour, walk west on Ren Min Dong Lu until you reach the first square, Gangwan Square which has a few pieces of colonial architecture.

Gangwan Sq
Continue walking straight on Renmin Rd and you will enter one of the city's downtowns, with many hotels, commercial buildings, restaurants and shopping centers. Keep on walking straight until you reach Zhongshan Sq, one of the city's main squares in the heart of the financial district.

Dalian was a colony of both the Japanese and the Russians and colonial architecture can be seen here, amongst other places. Most of the colonial buildings now serve as banks or other financial institutions. 

Zhongshan Sq
The center of the roundabout is a popular place for locals, especially in the evenings. Dances and other performances often take place here. Some of the buildings are lit at night and it's worth coming for great photos at night. 

Continue straight from Zhongshan Sq, and Renmin Rd becomes Zhongshan Rd. A little further is Friendship Sq (Youhao Sq), at whose center is a crystal ball. 

Friendship Sq
Further continuing on Zhongshan Rd, in Xigang district is People's Sq (Renmin Sq), flanked by major government buildings on all sides. The square is quite large, and there are nice shady places to sit in where the din of the traffic disappears.

People's Sq
Among the important buildings located at the square are the City Hall and a court.

Located in Dalian is Asia's largest square called Xinghai Sq. Around the area are major tourist attractions such as the Shell Museum and the aquarium. The Dalian International Beer Festival, which occurs every year in July-end, takes place here.

Around Xinghai Sq
The area is very popular with domestic tourists. If you can put up with the crowds, the cool sea breeze is rewarding!

Colonial architecture
See Zhongshan Sq and Gangwan Sq above.

Besides, some colonial architecture is located around Russian Street. With the development of Dalian, much colonial architecture has been destroyed and replaced by modern facsimiles of Russian architecture, however some truly old architecture does exist. Also around are many tourist shops selling Russian dolls among other items.

Part of Russian St
With respect to city parks, Dalian is well served by Labor Park (Laodong Park), a large well-maintained city park. It's a great place to meander along, and serves as an access point to visit the TV Tower for views.

Labor Park with the TV Tower in the background

The park has amusement park-like rides for children, particularly on the eastern edge of the park. Access to the TV Tower is also from the eastern edge- one of the ways to get there is a 1.5 km uphill walk, along a green tranquil path. On the way there will be a barrier and a ticket booth (Y50) and from there it's only a little bit more to the entrance of the tower. You then get in the tower and take a lift to the viewing platform. The weather is often smoggy which can hinder views. 

Labor Park and beyond as seen from the base of TV Tower
On the outskirts of town is Heng Shan Temple, among the largest temples in north-east China. Set in green and calm surroundings, the only sound you can hear is the traditional Buddhist music if you come on a good day. It is said to be popular with domestic visitors but I got lucky: there were only a few other visitors. 

Heng Shan Temple
Other Sights
Often called the French Riviera of Dalian, Binhai Road is Dalian's seaside road with the twists and turns, and the rocky surfaces which did remind me of the French Riviera or the Amalfi Coast. There are several viewpoints and tourist attractions, such as Tiger Beach, on the way. 

Binhai Rd
Very close to Friendship Sq, around one or two traffic lights west on Zhongshan Rd, is the underground Victory Sq shopping center. You will see many entrances to it but strangely there are few exits when you are underground. The layout is confusing and signs are only in Chinese so enter only if you have enough time. There are lots of different types of shops, from hairdressers to restaurants.

Nearby is a large area with modern malls such as New Mart as well as outdoor shops and stalls. Has some global brands and food courts as well as Starbuck's, McDonalds and Haagen Dazs. 

Wen Cho shopping centre is a fine place to shop for souvenirs.

We stayed at the Conrad Dalian, a new property at the eastern edge of Zhongshan district, close to the International Convention Centre, Harbour and Gangwan Sq.

Rooms- 9/10 Spacious and beautifully designed very clean rooms. The bathroom has a powerful rainshower and an automatic toilet.
Staff- 9/10 Very helpful staff, particularly the concierge.
Location- 8/10 Close to Gangwan Sq and the Harbour. Next to the International Convention Center.
Breakfast- 7/10 Fine breakfast, no special comment here.
Overall- 35/40 Recommended. 

Taxis can be hailed off the streets, just stick out your arm. Flag fall is Y10 and a journey within the tourist areas shouldn't cost more than Y25. Drivers should use their meters- and they generally do. Even occupied taxis look for more passengers going in the same direction, don't be surprised if your taxi picks up somebody else or the taxi you hailed has another occupant. Taxi drivers do not speak English so have your accommodation write down addresses of places you'd like to visit, many will give a card with the hotel address and a list of important places.

Walking within the tourist district is a good way to explore some of the inner lanes and distances are not large. Pavements may be large but are always used for parking so you may end up walking on the road. Be careful while crossing, even a green pedestrian light may have vehicles turning right from the road or vehicles coming into that road. As for crossings not protected by lights, do NOT expect traffic to stop for you, cross with caution. Take particular care at squares such as Gangwan Sq, which have neither crossings nor lights, and traffic comes from multiple directions at once. No matter how beautiful the square is, watch out! For utmost care, walk around rather than through the square. As for other junctions, use underpasses whenever available. 

The main form of public transport is bus, although trams, both modern and historic, operate a few lines. 

Dalian is by large a safe city, with traffic being a concern you need to watch out for (see above). Take usual precautions you would in any large city, including being watchful of your bags and pockets.

Language is a major barrier with effectively no one speaking a word of English. Bring along a Mandarin phrasebook. However, people are generally helpful and waiters etc may wait patiently as you point out specific words in your phrasebook. Even a few words of Chinese will be appreciated.

Last visit- Jul 2014
No of visits- 1

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