What a surprise Tianjin is! In just 20mins train ride from Beijing, you cross continents and find yourself in a mini-Europe.
“Strange!” – you may think.
Here’s the story:
After the win of Britain and France over China in the Second Opium War, the Tianjin Treaty was signed opening up the largest port city of northern China to foreign trade. Quickly the British and French concessions were established and soon after that, other countries like Germany, Japan, Russia, Italy, Belgium and more established their own concessions in Tianjin. They settled comfortably and built their home away from home in the like of what they knew and loved. This is how the architectural landscape of this city was formed.
Nowadays, the British, the French, the Italians, etc. are gone but the heritage they left behind still stands. It is so fascinating and strangely familiar to walk along the Five Avenues and feel like you are walking on the streets of a European city. Walled English mansions, charming townhouses and beautiful gardens now house elegant French bistros, bakeries, and fancy restaurants.
The Italian concession is no less wonderful. Charming and welcoming Italian houses are now turned into restaurants of authentic Italian cuisine. Little shops and cafes stand by the pedestrian streets and large beer patios and wine gardens sprawl along.
Another fascinating part of Tianjin is the River Walk, lined up by gorgeous French buildings and beautiful bridges with wonderful statues. At night, it is a colorful lights show as all structures are creatively lit up. What a great escape with a breath of Europe for all of you homesick and nostalgic expats!
As you keep on walking, you can see the traditional European style transition into modern architecture and even enjoy the entire area from the Tianjin Eye, the only giant Ferris wheel built over a bridge.
Of course, that is not all that Tianjin is!
It does have its authentic touch as well. Just stop by the house of Puyi, the last emperor, and see his private quarters, way of life and even the place where he was approached by the Japanese to head the puppet state of Manchukuo. Then visit the beautiful Shi Family Courtyard, belonging in the past to one of the 8 richest families of Tianjin in the late Qing dynasty. For the hutong experience, take a walk along the culture street. It is very similar to the hutongs of Beijing (strongly reminding of a smaller version of Qianmen). It is worth going there to enjoy the arts and crafts of the area. Especially fascinating is the original sculpture art of happy babies.
Don’t miss out on the cuisine either!
There are 3 things you absolutely must try:
- Goubuli’s Stuffed Buns – it is no accident that they are the pride and joy of Tianjin and were the absolute favorites of the Emperor’s Mother
- Ear-Hole Fried Cake
- Guifaxiang Fried Dough Twists – the perfect tea snack – get the variety pack to enjoy the mild yet different flavors
To make your life even easier, here are Tianjin’s Top 10 Places to Visit from our Travel section of GloberWeb.com