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From the Tianjin International Ferry Port, most cruisers make their way to Beijing and to the Great Wall of China. This leaves Tianjin as a quieter place to savour the sights and enjoy the attractions. Though it’s still a large city, it’s much less crowded and is clearly split into older and newer districts, which makes it easy to navigate. Public buses, and the metro, provide easy travel around the city. Otherwise, you can use a licensed taxi to tour the city and visit the attractions of your choice.
Tianjin is a city of variety, best viewed from the Tianjin Eye observation wheel - especially if you’d like a bird’s-eye view. Certain districts are filled with beautiful historic buildings, and others feature towering skyscrapers that dazzle at night with brightly coloured lights. Various cultures have had an impact, leading to the inclusion of an Italian Town and of beautifully intricate mosques alongside dramatic temples and well-designed churches. Visitors can savour the delights of peaceful gardens, enjoying boating at the Tianjin Water Park and viewing the carved murals at Beining Park, or can view animals at the well-designed Tianjin Zoo. Walking tours are a fantastic way to see the city with the on-hand knowledge of a local guide, though you might prefer to explore on your own and to enjoy the city at your pace:
Tianjin Polar Ocean World
This is an aquarium that’s home to polar bears and penguins, as well as a whole host of water-dwelling creatures. It’s a place to see whales and turtles, along with fish of all shapes, sizes and colours. Try and stick around if there’s an organised dolphin show, as these are very popular.
Garden of Serenity
Despite its name, this isn’t just a garden. The Garden of Serenity is a former emperors’ residence, and is open to the public. You’ll see that the architecture is heavily influenced by Spanish design, and that the surrounding courtyards include trees and water features.
China House Museum
A cruise ship might be extravagant, but it’s nothing compared to China House. Antique porcelain, jade stones and more than 20 tons of crystal have been used to decorate this incredibly impressive museum. Plates and vases are mounted on the walls, and on display in cabinets, whilst marble, stone and lacquered wood ornaments and statues adorn the floors. This five-storey building also features mosaics of famous paintings, including the Mona Lisa.
The streets of Tianjin are lined with independent shops. Each district has its own style, with the Ancient Culture Street being the place to go to buy antiques, calligraphy, paintings, ceramics and carvings. You’ll also find musical instruments and high-quality gold and silver jewellery, all of which represent great value for money if you’re looking for high-quality souvenirs and gifts. Shops in this area also sell chopstick sets and porcelain dolls. The city’s tea houses are great places to buy authentic teas in many varieties, whilst ornaments, ceramic figurines and paintings can also be sourced at the Shenyang Dao Antique Market.
Meanwhile, for department stores and shopping centres, make your way to Heping Lu Business Street or Binjiang Dao Business Street. Here you’ll find chain stores from the big names you recognise, and from Chinese chains that you might not have heard of before. As most tourists make their way to Beijing, prices there are inflated. Shopping in Tianjin, you’ll find many of the same items at much lower prices.
Being so close to the sea, Tianjin has more than a few authentic seafood restaurants. As well as fish, you’ll find options including chicken, duck, beef, lamb and mutton which are often served with rice or noodles, or available in stews. Fried dough and fried rice cakes, as well as steamed bread buns, are traditional foods that are served as side orders or available as snacks.
As well as traditional Chinese foods, you’ll find international cuisine ranging from bakeries selling French breads to Spanish eateries that serve very convincing paella. Take a walk to Italian Town for the taste of real Italian pizza and pasta, where your dinner will be set to the soundtrack of live Italian music. End by visiting nearby shops for Italian clothes and crafts, before making your way back to your cruise ship or returning to the heart of Tianjin.
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