Tianjin Uncovered

Read CD Traveller’s feature on the Tianjin Wine and Food Festival and decided to travel to Tianjin? Congratulations! Only now that you have booked your flight, you’re wondering exactly where to go and what to do. Fret not as CD Traveller had done the legwork for you. Follow our itineraries – which have been tailored according to taste and time – and you can suss out the best of the city in no time.

Tianjin for foodies

Foodies will fall in love with Tianjin at first bite. It’s a foodie’s paradise of corner cafés, street-side stalls, world-class restaurants, swanky bars and trendy bistros so no matter where you travel a satisfying meal is right around the corner.

Begin by breakfasting on pastries at Kissling – a Tianjin landmark that started out as a German bakery in the early 1900s. Today Kissling is famous not just for its culinary excellence but also for its elegant ambiance – the restaurants sit in an original art deco building. For lunch go to Goubuli: no gastronomic tour of Tianjin is complete without a pilgrimage to this institution which is perpetually packed with people tucking into Tianjin’s most celebrated treat. In the afternoon stop for a snack at Nanshi Food Street and enjoy the camaraderie and coterie of locals. You’ll find a cornucopia of footstalls selling every kind of Chinese cuisine imaginable but don’t miss the mahua.
When night falls, seek out Sou – a hotspot for spirits and stylish dining. The world cuisine here is delicious but it’s the schmoozing and stunning views from the 49th floor that really adds spice to this eating experience.

Tianjin for families

Tianjin is tailor-made for families – there’s plenty to keep kids occupied and entertained. While the weather is still balmy why not pack a picnic and head to a park, get close to a wide range of animals at one of China’s top zoos or mess about on a boat at Tianjin Waterpark?

For more watery fun, sign up for a river cruise – a fun way for kids to get to grips with Tianjin and ‘tick off’ the city’s main sights. All tours depart from the yacht dock opposite the Holiday Inn Tianjin Riverside Hotel. Close by lies the Tianjin Eye – the only wheel to be built over a bridge. It’s no roller coaster but the 30-minute wheel provides you with a stunning view of a city in the thrall of development. If however, you want to introduce your kids to the Tianjin of old, a horse-drawn carriage ride around Wudadao is a wonderful way to experience the beauty of the former British Concession.

When the weather turns make for the Museum of Science and Technology – little ones will love its exciting interactive exhibits – or take a spin a la Torvill and Dean at Isetan ice rink.

Tianjin for culture vultures

Tianjin is something of a cultural treasure. There’s a myriad of museums to explore but if your time poor don’t miss the Memorial of Zhou Enlai and Deng Yingchao – which pays tribute to the Tianjin born former Chinese premier –and the impressive Tianjin Museum. Shaped like a swan, the latter is the second largest building in the whole of China and houses an enormous collection of 150,000 treasures. Classical sightseeing should continue at Jiefang North Road – the varied and elegant architectural styles showcased on this street serve as a legacy of the city’s history as a concession port in the early part of the last century.
From the old to the new…Tianjin was a co-host of the Olympic football events something the vast sports stadium in the western Nankai district bears testimony to. The sheer size, shape (it looks like a giant flying saucer) and scale of the venue will not only transport you back to the games of 2008 but will remind you that this is a city constantly reinventing itself. In the evening, catch a performance at the gorgeous 650 seaters Tianjin Concert Hall which reopened in 2009 following a four-year, 160 million Renminbi reconstruction.

Tianjin for luxury lovers

When it comes to top-notch accommodation, Tianjin doesn’t disappoint. Beautiful accommodation abounds but for a relaxed stay with some old-world charm, Raffles is where it’s at. Checked in? Have a quick lunch at Opera Café before hitting the shops – retail therapy is big business in Tianjin. Ambling along Ancient Culture Street is always fun but for a more sophisticated shopping experience go to Golden Street which is chock full of shiny stores and mega malls for you to drop some Yuan in. Shopped till you’ve dropped? Relieve your body’s aches and pains at a star spa-like Heavenly at The Westin or Raffles. Regardless of which one you visit, you’ll leave relaxed, rebalanced and ready for the evening’s entertainment.

When night falls, head to Yue Wei Xian for a taste of tradition. Here you can indulge in authentic flavours of China (the Cantonese culinary sensations will have you keeling over in bliss) as well as a little culture. Round off the evening with a nightcap at CitySpace – a plush place to suck on cigars, savour a glass of the fizzy stuff, strut your stuff on the dance floor to the sounds of Dee and Jab and start planning your return…

Tianjin for the cash-conscious

New in town? Offload your bags at the Hanting Hotel and then start your sojourn with a stroll by the Haihe River. The waterfront was revamped during the Beijing Olympics and a walk along it not only costs nothing but will give you an insight into the transformation Tianjin is undergoing. When hunger pangs kick in to make for Nanshi Food Street where you can get stuck into truckloads of tasty Chinese dishes. Cheap and filling, the food is usually cooked in front of you and so is perfectly safe.

Stamina restored wander around the Wudadoa area which was home to warlords, bankers, and concubines in the chaotic pre-communist era. The plaques that appear on the side of the buildings provide further (free) information on this fascinating period. Round off your afternoon with a spot of shopping on Ancient Culture Street or at the Antique Market where prices are typically a fraction of what they are in Beijing. In the evening gorge on goubuli (you can’t travel to Tianjin and not eat goubuli) just off Golden Street before knocking back a few beers with the expatriate crowd over at the always affordable Alibaba.