So you want to visit China? That’s a bold decision, so congratulations! You made a good choice. I have lived in China for almost ten years (Beijing and Shanghai to be exact), and in my personal experience, not all cities are great places to visit. There are several reasons for it: some towns are touristy, others are polluted and chaotic. Some cities are not a great place to learn Mandarin from the locals, and others don’t have exciting nightlife, or delicious food to eat, among other things. To make sure you avoid these, I have compiled my favorite cities in China for students and young travelers.

But, by visiting any of these 5 cities, you can be sure:

  • There are not too many foreigners. 
  • The city is pollution-free and clean.
  • They have good Mandarin schools and good universities with study abroad programs to pursue.
  • And, they have excellent sights to see, exciting nightlife to experience, and delicious local food to eat, among other things.

1. Beijing


I am not sure why, but I keep on returning to Beijing. Perhaps it represents the huge urban city that most foreigners like me love. Although the capital’s pollution often makes international headlines, I still admire Beijing for several reasons.

Beijing is the capital city and the second-biggest city in China where there are plenty of cultural and social activities to keep students here for a long time. Not to mention, the traditional and historical culture of the city is apparent in its palaces, bell towers, and “hutons” (Beijing’s popular ancient alleyways).

I have noticed many students in Beijing go out in the market to try “Beijing duck” (or Peking duck) – a traditional and trendy (and, of course, delicious) dish made from the duck’s meat and sliced in front of the diners.

Besides, Beijing also has 6 UNESCO World Heritage sites.

The most important reason may be because the Mandarin language spoken here is usually considered to be of a high standard, besides the captivating architecture and design. And, although the distractions, cost, and size of Beijing might hinder your learning progress in Beijing if you are planning to study there, this is the place in China for students and young travelers who want to be where the action is.

2. Qingdao


Qingdao looks just like Germany, as it was a German colony during the late 19th century. There’s always some kind of fun happening just around the corner. And beer lovers, listen up! The city also holds the world’s largest and wildest annual beer festival, and is home to the famous “Tsingtao Beer.” The brewing history dates as far back as 1898 when Germany overtook the city. The European streets and beer culture will most likely tempt you to stay longer than you planned. 

Both the expats and visitors talk a lot about the city’s exotic seafood, accessible coastline, mild climate, and beautiful architecture.

The Mandarin schools and universities in Qingdao are world-class. The locals speak English to foreigners in an easily understandable way. The quality of life is also quite high, making the city a great place to visit in China for students and young professionals alike. 

3. Harbin


If you can’t stand winter, Harbin might not be the city for you. But, on the brightside, you’ll come to appreciate those warm April days after you’ve been through the cold! The winters bring an icy appeal to Harbin, driving hordes of tourists for the annual ice festival every January and February, while the summers are quite remarkable. Harbin is also popular for its beautiful Russian architectural influence. Just come prepared with a warm coat, that’s all I have to say to you.

Plus, the city boasts of having the most standard Chinese Mandarin of any other cities. They also have world-class universities, some of the best in China for students. And the town is isolated enough to help you focus on your language and study abroad goals. 

4. Xiamen


Xiamen is a modern and affluent city with a breathtaking colonial center, all set on a sub-tropical island. During one visit in 1985, President Richard Nixon referred to Xiamen as the “Hawaii of China.” To this day, you can find many expats and international students enjoying Xiamen’s relaxed and open-minded atmosphere. Every time I ask the locals which is their favorite city in China, Xiamen often comes as the number one choice for many. Young people will also agree it is a prime location to go abroad in China for students!

The local street vendors and the younger population are increasingly using standard Mandarin on a regular basis in Xiamen, which might dramatically help you with your language learning goals. For young travelers just looking to relax, I can’t think of a better place to visit in China!

5. Kunming


Kunming, also popularly known as the “City of Eternal Spring,” receives high ratings from all those who have spent their lives for its laid-back lifestyle and temperate weather. It’s also the gateway to South-east Asia, and I particularly like the “zen” vibe there.

Kunming Mandarin may not be as standard as most of the north-eastern Chinese cities, but you can easily find a tutor with a more standard Mandarin accent. You can also watch or listen to local news anchors to learn proper Mandarin language.

Well, there you have it. Five best cities to visit in China where you can start your adventure.


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