Visit Shenyang, China
Why Visit Shenyang?
When people think of China, they perhaps think of the narrow alleyways, or hutongs, of Beijing, the terracotta warriors in Xian, or the skyscrapers of Shanghai. While that's understandable, China is a huge country with many other large and exciting cities to explore. Shenyang is one such place. Tourists don't typically make a beeline for the northeast of China, but Shenyang, the capital city of Liaoning province, still has many things to do and see.
In this article, you will find information about some of the main tourist attractions in Shenyang, as well as some of my favorite places to visit.
Popular Tourist Destinations in Shenyang
Mukden Palace, also known as the Shenyang Imperial Palace, once housed Chinese emperors. It is the second largest imperial palace in China, second only to the Forbidden City in Beijing, however, as the crowds are not as big and the architecture style is very similar, it is well worth a visit.
Nowadays, the palace serves as a museum and gardens. The buildings show an array of different artifacts from the days when the palace was in use, think warrior weaponry and preserved bedroom interiors.
In summer, there are traditional-styled shows throughout the day. Actors and actresses dressed in brightly colored clothing perform dances and march around the square. The 'emperor' walks regally to his throne in the Dazheng Hall, the oldest building in the palace.
The temple closes for winter, so check online if it is open before you visit. Also, make sure you have enough cash as there is no option to buy a ticket using a card.
Beiling park is a favorite place of mine to visit. It's the largest park in Shenyang and is well-kept, with lily ponds, lakes and lots of different paths to explore.
In the summer, when the weather is hot, it is easy to spend hours here. Hire small buggies to cycle around the park if you don't feel like walking, explore the lakes on pedal boats, or feed the fish in the fish ponds. Refreshments such as ice cream and chilled coconuts are readily available along the main paths.
During the winter, when weather hits sub-zero temperatures, visitors to the park can ice skate on the frozen lakes and go on the snowy tube-slides.
It costs money to enter the park during the day, but after 5 pm entry is free and in my opinion, its the best time to visit because it's when the park is at it's most lively and it's a great opportunity to experience Chinese culture.
Outside the entrance, big crowds gather for skipping or rollerskating classes and large competing 'speed walking groups' meet up ready to march around the park with flags and blaring music. Older generations fly kites with strings that seem to stretch a mile long and activities from long-boarding to practicing the diabolo are commonplace.
Zhaoling Tomb, also known as the North Tomb, is situated at the end of the main path in Beiling Park. It is the resting place of the second Qing dynasty emperor, Huang Taiji, and his wife. Entry to the tomb is not free and is only open during daytime hours. Buy a ticket before entering the park. This ticket grants to access into the walled area, where it is possible to walk around the different pavilions, see the tomb and stroll along the walls to see views of Beiling Park. Zhaoling Tomb has been really well preserved, so is an important and popular historical site of Shenyang.
The 918 is a fascinating (albeit sad) place, telling the story of the of the invasion of Shenyang by Japanese forces on the 18th September 1931, the mark of the first day of the war.
I feel Chinese history isn't a topic commonly taught in a Western curriculum so it's really interesting to see these events from a different perspective. The museum is very large and contains lots of artifacts and well put-together, informative displays. The most chilling of which is a display showing a disturbing number of skeletons of Chinese war victims.
Each room has a summary of the main events shown written in English so it's easy enough to get a gist of the general events, however, most of the photographs and displays only have Chinese captions so it can be a little hard to fully comprehend everything shown. A quick search on the internet before or afterward could be useful to completely understand the exhibitions.
The Paleontological Museum of Liaoning
The Paleontological Museum of Liaoning is easy to access. It's situated in The Shenyang Normal University on Line 2 of the subway and is easy to spot, as the building itself has been built to represent the rib cage of a large dinosaur.
Some of the oldest known fossils in the world were discovered in Liaoning China, so this museum has a large number of fossils and dinosaur remains on show. Again, the exhibits contain an English overview in each section so it's easy to understand and enjoy the museum as a foreigner.
Climate in Shenyang
The seasons in Shenyang hit extremes in a way that I never really experienced in the UK. The summers seem very hot. Initially in an 'I-cant-wait-to-go-outside' kind of way that fast becomes an 'I-didn't-know-knees-could-sweat' kind of heat, right in the middle of summer.
The winters in Shenyang are subzero cold. The kind of cold that makes you want to scurry underneath a duvet.
My favorite seasons in Shenyang are the brief-seeming Spring and Autumn. The weather is pretty warm and often more breezy than the summer, so it's possible to go outside with just a t-shirt and a light jacket.
- Qi Pan Mountain.
- Bird Island.
- International Horticultural Exhibition.
- Fushun Water Park.
- Fanta Fun Land.
- Shenyang Tiger Park.
Fun Winter Activities
- Skiing or Snowboarding: Ski slopes are located just outside of the city
- Tube slides: at Beiling Park or nearby to the ski slopes.
- Ice skating: both inside or out. The big Mix C mall on QingNian DaJie has a large indoor rink, but in winter, ice-skating is common anywhere the ice is thick enough.
A Few Fun Summer Activities
- Kayaking: Pay a one-off fee of 150 yuan (just over £15) to hire a kayak for as long as you want it and explore the HunHe river.
- Hire a jet ski: Located just past the kayak-hire on the southern banks of the HunHe river.
- Boat Rides on the River: Walk along the northern bank of the HunHe river to find the tourist boats.
- Tourist Bus: The classic open-topped bus with tour guide and route around the city. There is a main bus stop conveniently located a short walk to the west of Beiling Park's main entrance (on TaiShan Road).
Shopping in Shenyang
The two main shopping streets in Shenyang are called Tie Yuan Jie and Zhong Jie. Saying either of these to a cab driver will get you where you need to go.
Both Zhong Jie and Tie Yuan Jie have many different shops and large malls. Also, underneath the streets is a mind-boggling underground shopping mall - these tunnels are full of small shops and market stalls that run underneath the main shopping streets. Usually, popular brand stores are above ground whilst cheaper, (sometimes fake) items can be bought at a cheaper price in the underground.
Food and Restaurants
Northeastern China, (or dongbei, in Mandarin) is well known for its particular type of cuisine. Northeastern food tends to be saltier in flavour then the rest of China. Most Chinese meals are eaten 'family-style'; instead of ordering one dish per person, you order a large number of different dishes and share. My personal favorite dongbei dish is Goubarou—a deep-fried pork dish covered in sweet and sour sauce.
Another Chinese food I love to eat is the food from the street barbecues, known as 'chuan'er' (pronounced chew-arrrr). You can sit outside on the street and buy delicious spiced meat and vegetables barbecued on sticks.
If Chinese food isn't your thing, you can also find plenty of different restaurants in the city, such as Italian, American, German, Thai, Indian and North and South Korean dishes.
Artsy Things to Do and See
1905 is a converted Japanese factory in Tiexi district, now used an artistic venue. Food, art, and film festivals are held here every few months. You can come here for a quiet coffee or a painting class or to browse shops where artists sell their creations. I think I've come across multiple photo-shoots every time I've visited 1905 just because the building decor and architecture is pretty cool.
Lu Xun Academy of Fine Arts
Lu Xun is a large art school close to the city center. Here, there is a gallery housing a variety of sculpture and painting works with regular new exhibitions. Every year, the graduates hold a show allowing the public to come and look at their work.