Traveling to China and looking for places to visit? Here are the most famous landmarks in China that you shouldn’t miss. From Chinese monuments to the natural wonders of China, these are the must-see places.
Officially the People’s Republic of China, it is the most populated country in the world, with around 1.3 billion citizens.
China is also one of the largest, at around 9.6 million square kilometers – yet, its sheer size is not the only thing to note about the country.
You’ll need a visa to visit and will likely have to work hard to overcome the language barrier once there, but once you’ve overcome these minor obstacles, you will experience some of the amazing Chinese landmarks that the country has to offer.
China is home to some of the world’s most famous sites, and while this article may not show all of them, you’ll be able to discover some of the famous Chinese landmarks plus the most beautiful places in China that every traveler should visit.
From the famous Great Wall of China which is the most visited landmark in China to Leshan Giant Buddha which is the tallest stone statue of Buddha in the world, here are the Chinese famous landmarks not to miss!
But before you go, be sure to get some of these China essentials.
Must have essentials as you plan a visit to the famous landmarks of China
– Book a private airport transfer from Beijing capital airport to any Beijing hotel around town
-Stay connected on the internet while in China. Book your 4G portable wifi device before you go
-You can’t go to China and miss the Great Wall. Opt for a self-guided tour of the Great wall of china by booking a ticket here or go for a guided tour with a bus transfer from Beijing.
– Taking a train in China is almost a must. Book all your train tickets around China before you reach.
– For an amazing trip in China, make sure that you book your tours with Klook
– Travel insurance is a must-have while traveling in China. The travel insurance I recommend that will protect is World Nomads.
Famous Landmarks in China
1. The Summer Palace, Beijing
Lying a few kilometers away from Beijing, rising gloriously in the Chinese sun, the Summer City sits atop 700 acres of beautiful landscape.
It consists of a palace built in the mid-12th century that sits beside a lake, which was added in the 14th century to enhance the vast imperial gardens. No wonder it is one of the most famous landmarks of China and also one of the most visited.
Visit the summer city and experience the hall of longevity and well-being, the throne, and the Great Theatre.
The imperial family has had a long love for theatre and Opera and the theatre’s structure is still used when performing various traditional Chinese dances and plays.
Other attractions here include the hall of happiness and various other beautiful, long pathways and trails.
History buffs might also be interested in the old summer palace ruins, once one of the most elaborate and well-built locations in the country (which was sadly destroyed in the 1800s).
So if you’re looking for historical sites in China, look no further than the summer palace.
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2. River Li, Guangxi Province
If you crave some peace of mind and relaxation then you should head to the River Li in Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region. It flows through Guilin town and it’s famous for its picturesque nature.
The backdrop of the surrounding karst mountains makes it not only one of the most beautiful natural landmarks in China but also one of the most unique sceneries in the world.
It has attracted poets and writers who have used it as an inspiration for hundreds of years. Tourists from all across the world travel to the town to experience tranquil boat rides along the river, particularly the region between Guilin and Yangshuo.
This is a stretch of about 80 kilometers where the river meanders peacefully within caves and different rock formations.
This beautiful and romantic place is enough to move anyone. What’s more, there are many different tour options to explore, from cruise ships to small authentic bamboo punts.
These trips can last anywhere from a few hours to several days so make sure to book your River Li cruise online for great discounts.
Related post: Most beautiful places to visit in Asia
3. The Terracotta Army, Linton District
It would be a shame to visit China without exploring its more combative tradition. The Terracotta Army is the perfect illustration of this: life-size sculptures built to guard the tomb of the first emperor.
The stone army consists of approximately 8,000 soldiers and more than 500 horses and chariots, along with a host of non-military characters.
While a significant part of the army was destroyed, many of the remaining soldiers have been restored and still stand to this day as a testament to the importance the Chinese put on the afterlife.
So if you’re interested in history or you just want to learn more about Chinese history, then the Terracotta Army is one of the famous monuments in China that you should visit.
4. Stone Forest (Shilin), Yunnan Province
The stone forest, a UNESCO world heritage site is a spectacular set of limestone formation located in the Shilin Yi county in southern China.
When seen from a distance, the limestone rocks rise as though they are petrified trees creating an illusion of a forest made of stones and hence the name “stone forest”.
The trees growing from underneath the stones add a greenery life to the rocks creating an amazing scenery making it one of the beautiful landmarks of China that receives a number of tourists from all around the world who want to take in the beauty of this great Chinese landmark.
Other than taking in the spectacular scenery of the tree rocks, there are a number of activities that can be done at the stone forest from hiking, looking at underground rivers and caves to enjoying the waterfalls.
And since the stone forest is near Kunming city, a day trip from there is possible by either taking a train or a bus that takes approximately 2 hours or 20 minutes if you use a high-speed train.
5. The Great Wall of China, Beijing
Commonly referred to as the symbol of China, the great wall of China is the most famous landmark in China.
Covering over 6,000 kilometers, it is a UNESCO World Heritage site that was built over the last 2,000 years.
Tourists that approximate to over 10 million every year flock to this place making it the most visited China landmark that almost every traveler has on his/her travel bucket list.
Since the Great wall covers an incredibly large area, it has different sections and different hiking trails. It’s paramount that you choose a hike that you can handle physically and according to what you would like to experience.
Some of the sections that you could explore include but not limited to; Mutianyu which is the most fully restored, Jiankou which is the steepest, Simatai which is the only section open for a night tour, Huanghuacheng which has a water view, Jinshanling which is the most common hiking route at the Great Wall, Shanhai the section where the wall meets the sea and many other sections.
Pro tip* If you want to experience China like a local, book your activities tickets and tours from Klook for unbelievable discounts.
6. Leshan Giant Buddha, Leshan
The Leshan Giant Buddha is the tallest stone statue of Buddha in the entire world at 71 meters (233 ft) tall and 24 meters (78 ft) wide.
The Buddha’s head is 14.7 meters (48 ft) long, 10 meters (33 ft) wide with 1021 buns in the coiled hair, the fingers are 8.3 meters (27 ft) long, and the shoulders 28 meters wide.
To put it into perspective, the in-step of the statute is so big that it can accommodate 100 people, the small toenail can seat one person and the shoulder is wide enough to fit a basketball court.
The impressive size of the Leshan Giant Buddha not only makes it one of the famous monuments of China but also one of the major landmarks in Asia.
The Buddha which is located inside the park on the East of Leshan city statue is carved out of the rock face and its face overlooks Mount Emei with rivers flowing below its feet.
The charm of the Leshan Buddha not only lies in its magnificent size but also in the architectural marvel it showcases to millions of travelers that visit it every year.
7. Jiuzhaigou, Sichuan Province
Jiuzhaigou is a nature reserve and national park in the southwest of China. With the most beautiful and amazing scenery in the world, it’s no wonder that some scenic spots are considered sacred by the local Tibetan and Qiang people.
Besides the beautiful scenery, the valley is home to over 100 lakes and waterfalls that led Jiuzhaigou to be named a UNESCO world heritage site. The lakes in the National park are all in different sizes and shapes and are called the spirit of Jiuzhaigou.
The beautiful lakes that change color almost every day all year round formed from a combination of algae and calcified rocks found at the bottom of the lake plus the reflection of the surrounding landscape present a natural beauty and wonder that cannot be found anywhere else.
There is also a saying in China that goes, ” After visiting Jiuzhaigou, you can never enjoy any other water”- which is absolutely true as there are no other lakes as beautiful as the ones at Jiuzhaigou.
With all that, it’s evident why this place is one of the most beautiful natural landmarks in China.
8. Forbidden City, Beijing
Sitting on a total area of 720,000 square meters (180 acres) in Beijing, the Forbidden City is the largest imperial palace in the world and one of the most famous buildings of China.
The palace complex whose name was given due to the fact that no one could enter or leave the palace without the authorization of the emperor was home to 24 emperors both from the Ming and Qing dynasties.
Apart from the historical significance it holds, the Forbidden City is an architectural wonder to marvel at.
From the grandiose outer court that depicts Chinese architecture and the huge wall that was used as a protective fence to the interior where you’ll be welcomed by a big block of marvel carved with dragon designs.
Every small detail was perfected! Whether it is the animal statues on the roof, the woodwork done throughout the city, or the perfection of the imperial colors, the Forbidden City is truly one of the beautiful China monuments.
The Forbidden city also houses a museum known as the Palace Museum which is one of the largest cultural museums in the world. The museum has a vast majority of the Chinese historical artifacts in the world that have been gathered over the years.
It is a true Chinese landmark that leaves all its 14 million annual visitors in awe because of its strong cultural importance and its impeccable beauty.
9. The Potala Palace, Tibet
Located in the city of Lhasa in Tibet, The Potala Palace is an ancient fortress constructed in 1645 at the top of the Red mountain.
Though it was initially constructed as a gift to the bride-to-be of King Songtsan Gampo, its reconstruction and enlargement turned it into one of the current famous China monuments.
The overall building stands at an altitude of 3,700 meters with 117 meters above the mountain making it the highest ancient palace in the world. And as a sign of respect, no other building in the region is allowed to be taller than the Potala Palace.
Though the palace was transformed into a museum as its current state, it used to be the official residence of 10 Dalai Lamas for over 317 years until when the 14th Dalai Lama fled to India.
Since then, the palace has been a major place of pilgrimage and a popular Chinese monument among locals and foreigners alike.
From its mesmerizing beauty when seen from afar to the impressive details when seen up close, Potala Palace is truly one of the most beautiful Chinese historical places.
10. Mount Everest, Tibet
Located on the Nepal – China border, Mount Everest is the highest mountain in the world above sea level with a current elevation of 8,848 m (29,029 ft.).
But the most interesting thing about this mountain is that it keeps growing every century at a height of about 40 centimeters (16 inches) creating a whole new elevation every century.
The Mountain which provides challenging trails to climbers is not only a famous Chinese landmark but also one of the famous landmarks in Asia.
However many of the climbers end up not making it to the summit so many of them choose to stay at the base camp to be able to experience this natural wonder of China at least once in a lifetime.
11. Tiger Leaping Gorge, Yunnan
If you are an adventurous backpacker who loves nature and hiking, consider adding Tiger Leaping Gorge to your Asia bucket list.
Located in Southwest China, 60 km North of Lijiang City in Yunnan, this scenic canyon is one of the deepest gorges and most spectacular in the world.
With a depth of 3,790m from the river to the mountain peak and stretching 15km long, this picturesque canyon offers one of the best hikes in china.
The gorge is divided into three segments: the lower, middle, and upper one, and completing the hike will only take two days, and touring the area can take 2-3 hours.
So if you love hiking coupled with amazing views, Tiger Leaping Gorge is one of the natural wonders of China that has incredible hiking trails with breathtaking scenery and roaring river waters.
12. Giant Wild Goose Pagoda, Xian Shi
Also known as the Big Wild Goose Pagoda, Giant Wild Goose Pagoda is one of the most famous monuments of China. It is a well-preserved ancient holy place for Buddhists built in 648 – 652 during the Tang Dynasty.
Located 4 km from the downtown of Xi’an city in Southern China, this UNESCO world heritage site which was built by Emperor Gaozong to house Buddhist scripts, statues, and other relics now attracts history buffs and thousands of tourists every year.
Over the years, this simple construction with an alluring style has been extended, rebuilt, and renovated to what we see today. It is also surrounded by lush gardens and squares which are great areas to explore.
Don’t miss the north square as it has the largest musical fountain in Asia. Visitors can also climb to the top of Pagoda and enjoy the panorama of the city.
13. Mount Tai, Tai’an
Located in Shandong province north of Tai’an city in China, Mount Tai is one of the most famous sacred mountains in China, and also one of the important China landmarks worth visiting.
It is a mountain of cultural and historical significance and one of China’s most important ceremonial centers.
It is associated with birth, sunrise, and renewal and has been a place of worship for over 3,000 years. Its scenic landscape and sacred importance made it a UNESCO world heritage site in 1987.
Extending from 150 m-1,545 m above sea level, a trip to the peak of this sacred mountain is something not to miss on your visit to the country.
It also has a stairway to heaven with more than 6,000 steps leading to the temple and pavilion on top of the mountain.
Along the way, you will enjoy spectacular scenic views and historical sites, stone inscriptions, tablets, and ancient buildings.
14. Guang Zhou Da Ju Yuan, Guangzhou
Located on the banks of Pearl River at the heart of Guangzhou’s cultural development is an opera house known as Guang Zhou Da Ju Yuan.
It is the third biggest theater in China after the Shanghai Grand Theater and the National Theater in Beijing.
Built for 5 years, from January 2005 to May 2010, this beautiful piece of architecture will leave you in awe with its matchless design inspired by the principles of erosion, geology, and topography.
It is designed as two pebbles overlooking the Pearl River, and the interior design is a chemistry of architecture, nature, and landscape.
It also houses an 1800 seat theater, 400 seats multifunctional hall, rehearsal rooms, and an entrance hall.
If you’re an architecture fanatic, this Opera house will blow your mind and that’s why you should consider adding it to your list of Chinese famous buildings to visit.
15. Temple of Heaven, Beijing
Temple of heaven is one of the famous buildings in China and a must-visit site in Beijing.
Built during the Ming Dynasty to commemorate the 18th year of reign for emperor Yongle and completed in 1420, this religious building is a masterpiece of architecture.
It was a religious spot where emperors of the Ming and Qing dynasties communicated with the Gods between 1420 – 1900 to bring prosperity and a good harvest to the region.
It is also a famous monument in China that attracts thousands of tourists every year. The main attraction at the Temple of Heaven is its magnificent architecture and the Hall of Prayers for Good Harvest located in the lovely gardens.
16. Potala Palace, Lhasa
Initially built as a present to the King’s bride-to-be in 637AD, the Potala Palace has increasingly become one of the China famous landmarks that receives thousands of visitors.
It was later destroyed by a fire in the 9th century and was rebuilt by the 5th Dalai Lama (Greatest leader of Tibetan Buddhism) in 1645- 1649 as his winter palace. It was later used as a residence place for 10 Dalai Lama for over 317 years until 1959.
This magnificent fortress has two parts, the white palace, and the red place, and has been a museum since 1959.
It is considered the highest ancient palace in the world and the holiest site of Buddhist religion in Tibet making it one of the Chinese historical sites worth visiting.
It also features 13 storeys with over 1,000 rooms, 10,000 shrines, and about 200,000 statues of Buddhist gods and past Dalai Lamas.
Impressive zigzag steps will lead you to the palace that has a lot to offer. However, only 2,300 visitors are allowed in the palace per day, so booking in advance will help you access the palace stress-free.
17. Longmen Grottoes, Luolong
If you want to see the finest, largest, and most impressive examples of Chinese Buddhist art, head 12km south of Luoyang, and you will arrive at Longmen Grottoes.
Sited on both sides of Yi River, this UNESCO world heritage site is a must-see attraction.
It is home to more than 2,300 caves that are nicely carved into the steep limestone cliffs that stretch over 1 km.
The caves house 60 stupas, 2,800 inscriptions, and 110,000 Buddhist statues carved by hand that vary in size, some being 17m high. Seeing the collection is a mind-blowing experience that you should not miss.
There is also a collection of statues, stupas, and inscriptions made during the Tang Dynasty in 316 – 907 making it a famous monument of China with cultural importance.
18. Tianmen Mountain, Zhangjiajie
Did you know that there is a stairway to heaven in China? Head to Tianmen Mountain and see it for yourself.
Located in the south of Zhangjiajie city in central China in Hunan Province is one of the most beautiful mountains worldwide and a Chinese landmark that everyone should visit.
Rising 1,519m above sea level, Tianmen Mountain is great for hiking, photography and offers incredible views with deep valleys.
The heaven’s door, 99 beds of the snaking road, vertical cliffs, thrilling cliff-hanging walkway, and glass skywalks are some of the attractions that make it a popular tourist spot offering jaw-dropping views from different peaks.
You will also find the world’s longest cable car ride here covering 7km and taking over 30 minutes to get to the heavens door.
999 steps will lead you to Tianmen cave, the gateway to heaven, which is the highest naturally formed arch.
Tianmen Mountain is definitely a place to add to your China bucket list with so much to see and experience.
19. Yangtze River, Qinghai Province
Covering a total length of 6,300 km, Yangtze is the longest river in Asia and the 3rd longest in the world. It is also the longest river to flow entirely within one country, making it one of the prominent and unique natural landmarks in China.
Yangtze River flows Eastwards from the snowy heights of Tibet to the East of China sea, passing through 9 provinces of the country.
Its drainage basin covers 1/5 of China’s land area and plays a significant role in the economy, culture, history, and religion in China. The river basin is densely populated and is home to 1/3 of the country’s population.
The river meets the Three Great Gorges in western Wa Shan, a touristic spot known for the dramatic beauty of the gorges and the Three Gorges Dam, which is the largest hydroelectric power station globally.
Cruising along the Yangtze river at this spot is a must-do activity that you shouldn’t miss. The stunning scenery and the wonderful experience will also be memorable forever.
20. Lama Temple, Beijing
If you love culture, history, and architecture, then don’t miss visiting Lama Temple on your trip to China.
Also known as the harmony or peace palace or Yonghe temple, it is a popular worship place for locals and also a popular tourist spot.
Located on Yonghegong street in North East of Beijing, it is one of the largest Tibetan Buddhist monasteries and also one of the famous monuments of China.
Built in 1694 during the Qing Dynasty as a royal court of prince Yongzhong, the temple has a history series for over 300 years.
It has been used for many things, including being the official Tibetan Buddhist temple, a national monument, and today, it serves as a worship center for locals.
It consists of 5 main buildings, which are speared by courtyards and a series of beautiful pavilions. The buildings and artwork are a combination of Han Chinese and Tibetan styles.
The temple is also home to the largest wooden Buddha, an impressive 54 ft high masterpiece carved from Tibetan sandalwood.
Final Thoughts on the Famous Landmarks in China
There you have it, those are some of the China famous monuments that you should check out before you leave the country.
Have you been to any of these Chinese landmarks? Which one of them was your favorite? And if reading this post has inspired you to visit China, which one of these Chinese monuments are you most excited to see? Let me know in the comments below.
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