Best of the Golden Triangle – Beijing, Xian, Shanghai

If you’re interested in the life-changing experience that is traveling to China, we couldn’t encourage you more than to check out the golden triangle. Coming to this eastern part of the world is a truly unique experience that really opens your eyes, particularly if you’re a westerner who’s unfamiliar with the way in which cultures in this part of the world tend to operate. Everything is different, from the food to the social interaction, to the people’s values.

Peach blossom

While you could admittedly wander the streets of any town and learn a lot about this culture, isn’t it always best to have the optimal experience? We certainly think so. So, we’ve gathered here some of the most interesting things for you to do and see while in China’s famous golden triangle.

What is the Golden Triangle?

The first thing to note, this guide is specific to the China’s Golden Triangle, which is made up of its three major cities: Beijing, Xian, and Shanghai. Fun fact – these cities have been termed specifically the ‘golden triangle’ because if you map them out, you can see that, if you were to draw a line between each, they form an equilateral triangle in the very center of China. In any case, we figured if you’re heading to China for the first time and you’re looking for the very best of the best, these are the hubs you’ll want to ensure you explore. So, read on!


Interestingly, these three cities are said to be a special representative of China, that is China at different stages—past, present, and future. When it comes to Beijing, it stands for China’s present. So it should come as no surprise that some of our top recommendations for really absorbing this city include activities that immerse you in what the people of China are currently into and looking to share with their visitors.


People watch in Tian’anmen Square

If you want to observe the Chinese people in action, there is no better place than here: one of the top ten largest city squares in the world. It has a rich history too. This is where Mao Zedong announced the founding of the People’s Republic of China in 1949. You can also find here the National Museum of China, the Great Hall of the People, and the Mausoleum of Mao.

Feast on duck at Quanjude

This now world-famous restaurant offers the most delectable duck in, quite possibly, all of China. And if you know anything about Chinese food, you know that it’s practically mandatory to order duck at least once while here. It’s that good. Quanjude specializes in gourmet roast duck and offers a completely unique experience for you to try it: an all duck banquet, featuring four hundred different roast duck dishes. You have to attend the opera, a kungfu show, or an acrobatics show. These are all extremely prevalent to today’s Chinese culture and will leave you feeling better connected to this unique land you find yourself in.


While Beijing stood for China’s present, Xian is unquestionably the picture of China’s past. As such, the best way to spend your time here is by exploring all the history it has to offer.


Bike the City Wall

Like being active and love to learn? Consider this your ideal method for incorporating both at the same time. As you get your blood pumping, you’ll get to explore this crucial part of Chinese history: the ancient city wall.

Terracotta Warriors

It was erected in the 14th century Ming Dynasty after a hermit advised the emperor, correctly predicting it would be necessary for the future.

Shop for souvenirs in the Muslim Quarter

What better way is there to see, first-hand, what old-world China was made up of than by examining the very relics that were part of its past generations’ everyday lives? Plus, if you’re attracted to anything, in particular, you’re likely to get it for a steal.

Get lost in the Shaanxi Provincial Museum

This is among the top two largest museums of history in all of China. It spans 70 000 square meters and is home to over 37 000 historical relics, which have been gathered from all over the Shaanxi province.


Representing China’s future, Shanghai is a really interesting experience. There are so many things to see here that you will not find in the rest of the world for, well, likely decades. So, what to prioritize?

Shanghai's skyline

Ride the magnetic levitation train

Yes, this is a real thing. The fastest train in the world is found right here in Shanghai. It covers thirty kilometers, or nineteen miles, in only eight minutes. What’s even crazier- passengers don’t feel like they’re moving because of the incredibly advanced technology. If this sort of thing fascinates you, you can also check out the Maglev Museum to learn about the engineering.

Dine at the Oriental Pearl Tower

This tower is not only exciting to see because of its eccentric architecture, but also for its revolving restaurant that has one of the most incredible panoramic views of Shanghai. It’s especially magical if you go at night and can really appreciate the city’s innumerable, glittering lights. And if you have a desire, you can even stay in one of their hotel rooms for a true one-of-a-kind experience.

Dim Sum

Explore The Bund by boat

The best way to take in the famed Shanghai skyline is via The Bund—Shanghai’s mile long water-front along the Huangpu River. You’ll see the varied architecture that makes up the city’s “museum of buildings,” as it’s often called. Our favorite way to enjoy this part of the city though? By boat. Why walk along the sidewalk or cycle when you could be in the water, drifting down this majestic river.

Bike in China

If you’re wondering how much time you should spend in each city, we suggest at least two full days and a half day for travel. So book off about 8 days for the entire trip, and that’s at a bare minimum. Some people, like us, spend weeks here, which is very easily done with so much to cover. But if you only have a certain amount of time, don’t worry, just hit up some of these spots mentioned above in your couple of days in each city and you’ll leave feeling culturally enriched, and undoubtedly with a handful of funny, interesting adventures to share with your friends back home.

Have you been to China yourself? If so, what are your top recommendations? We’d love to hear them!

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Cez Krol

Travel blogger at eTramping
Cez lives in China like a local for the past 4 years. Apart from speaking the language, he loves to discover more about this unique country of extreme contrasts. He shares his China experiences here at Sublime China and on his blog eTramping, so go and check out what's out there for you in China.
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