Many people come to China to visit its more famous cities Shanghai and Beijing, but perhaps they are missing out on one of China’s most underrated cities. Located to the northwest of Shanghai is Changzhou, a hidden gem in China’s Jiangsu province.
Previously known as Yanling, Lanling, and Jinling, the city has now earned itself the nickname “Dragon Town” with its captivating reputation. What makes Changzhou so special is its 2500 years of history that offers its visitors traditional Chinese culture with a modern-twist.
Since Changzhou is only 55 minutes away from Shanghai by train, you can easily check both cities off your bucket list in one trip.
Aside from having the world’s tallest wooden pagoda and an amusement park that is nicknamed the “Eastern Jurassic Park,” here are 11 sights and activities you absolutely must experience while visiting Changzhou.
Hongmei Park: Also known as Red Plum Park, is a spacious, family-friendly park filled with gorgeous lakes and gardens. There is the option to pay for a small motorboat that will take you around the lake. If you’re hungry, you will find vendors in the park that sell delicious Chinese snacks such as candied hawthorn fruit on a stick.
Yancheng Garden: Filled with Chinese-style pagodas and houses along the glossy river, you will experience a part of China that has maintained its tradition over the years and has managed to dodge modernization. Nearby is also Yancheng Cultural Street where you can get a taste of traditional Chinese dishes. There are also cute little spas and a Seasons Boutique Hotel if you wish to stay in this gorgeous area.
Guanyin Pagoda: This pineapple-shaped pagoda is dedicated to Guanyin, a goddess of mercy. Guanyin is all over the pagoda with golden statues and exterior paintings depicting her showing mercy to people. What’s even more fascinating is the interior of the pagoda. There are both giant and small golden statues of Guanyin all around the inside.
Dinosaur Park: Also known as the “Eastern Jurassic Park,” is like taking a trip back in time. From entertainment for the kids to thrilling rides for adults, the park tailors for those of all ages. In the middle of the park is a dinosaur museum that features real dinosaur fossils and an entire section dedicated to dinosaur-themed arcade games.
Tianning Temple: This Buddhist temple is a must-see. Standing 13 stories high, it is the world’s tallest wooden pagoda. Atop the pagoda is an enormous bronze bell weighing over 66,000 pounds that can be heard from over three miles away. The beauty and size of this temple is a show-stopper.
Yancheng Amusement Land: This particular amusement park reproduces the political, military, economic and cultural situations in Changzhou’s Spring and Autumn Period. Besides this, it is a fun-packed amusement park filled with out-of-the-box roller coasters, a water park and a lengthy haunted house that will require you to wear rain boots (don’t worry these are provided). Making your way through the entire park can take up your whole day, so make sure to plan accordingly.
Eat Sesame Bing: This delicious gem is a Changzhou local specialty featuring a small round cake of flaky pastry studded with sesame seeds. The fillings between the pastry layers have two different flavors – sweet and salty. The sweet version is pleasantly filled with sugar syrup, while the salty version has a thin layer of preserved vegetables. Sesame Bings can be found at Xiao Chi Jie (Snack Street).
Drink a latte at Mahoo Cafe: Located in Wujin district is a dimly lit cafe with decorations that brightly and boldly juxtapose. If one were to try to decorate their living room the way Mahoo does, they would have a clashing disaster. The cafe features plaid pillows with bright pastel colored flowers in the background. There is also a running theme of teddy bears throughout the cafe. The spoon dish on the table consists of a teddy bear laying on its side, while the steamed milk art on top of your latte will be in the shape of a teddy bear’s face. Oh, and did I mention that there is a toy train that follows the train tracks around the entire top ceiling of the restaurant?
Stay at Salt Lake Resort: Located in Jintan, Changzhou is a resort that provides guests with both a comfortable and culturally immersive experience. The resort itself offers activities such as Chinese paper cutting and copying of Buddhist style text to introduce guests to Taoism. Surrounded by a relaxing lake and mountains, this resort is one of Changzhou’s most precious hidden gems.
Stroll the Ancient Canal + Create a Changzhou Comb: Running alongside the Grand Canal are little craft shops where you can make a Changzhou comb before or after walking the canal. The hand-painted combs have a history of 2000 years in Changzhou and were originally made for use by royalty. The Ancient Canal itself is a part of China’s famous Grand Canal and gives visitors the chance to walk alongside the river and view Changzhou ancient historical sights.
With a history of 2,500 years, it would be impossible to learn all of Changzhou’s history in one trip. However, these 11 Best Things To Do in Changzhou are an exceptional introduction. Whether it’s a visit to the Dinosaur Park or a sip from Mahoo Cafe’s finest latte, you will leave feeling a special connection to this often overlooked city.