Weekend escape to Tianjin – Exploring China

So it has been almost a year and five months of my China expat life and, finally, I have decided to visit Tianjin. Waited until the day of being off together, and at last our little adventure in Tianjin happened. Just like always before any trip I have stressed out a little as Tripadvisor made me think that there is so much to see.

Planning, tickets and getting around Tianjin.

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I stressed out as I wanted to leave as early as possible. But as it was AH’s only weekend, he wanted to sleep in and then also be chilled. But I couldn’t… After waking up at 8, preparing sandwiches to go and getting ready really fast, but 9 we head out to the train station – Beijing South. The ticket lane was surprisingly short and we got two tickets to Tianjin. Quick Starbucks visit, security check and a run through the second floor of the train station, we were finally there in the train.

Coffee, ham and cheese sandwiches – 34 minutes and we were there, in Tianjin – the 4th largest city of China after Shanghai, Beijing and Guangzhou. Somehow, the city felt really deserted.

Checking the map, we realized that metro is available but maybe not too convenient. Taxi might be expensive and not very truth worthy. So the best would be to rent a bicycle. And there they were – a plenty of Mobikes, which made us extremely happy.

Italian street.

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We actually wanted to skip this place as the latest reviews were not great. But as we rode the bicycle we realized that it was the closest place. Surprisingly, I think this place still worth a visit if you are in Tianjin.

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The architecture is amazing, considering you are visiting China. I asked AH if he would be able to guess that it was China, if he found himself here in Tianjin without any signage and people around.

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I would suggest taking a bike around the area to explore the architecture but the Italian street itself surely worth a walk. You get a huge selection of souvenirs and tiny useless stuff but it is quite amusing to just walk around.

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In case you are getting hungry, but doubting if you should eat in this area or find another place, I suggest to dine here as it seemed like the culinary scene of Tianjin is not as advanced as Beijing’s and mostly centered here on the Italian street.

Ancient Chinese traditional street.

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The next destination of the trip was the Ancient Culture Street (Gu Wehua Jie). Honestly speaking, I just loved that place so much. Unlike Nanluguoxiang it is not that packed, nicely organized and has a lot to offer to see. Small shops with the calligraphy and paintings, cute and funny home decorations, traditional clothing shops, self-made perfume stores. Also, you can try some street food like a huge crab meat soup dumpling, caramel and fruits.

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Drum tower (similar to Beijing’s but smaller) Gulou, traditional courtyards, small streets – it is all there for you to enjoy a little bit of traditional China.

Central Park and Five Great Avenues.

We decided to head to the Central Park as it was closer than moving to the Five Great Avenues. Actually, I felt like we have just done that to explore and see the city a little. The Central park is nice, but not really something special, so you might not want to waste much time on that. However, the Five Great Avenues seemed to be a nice place. We went first for a lunch as I kind of felt a need for a break (my shoulders and neck burnt so badly) and also we were hungry. So we just decided to get to the closest place (Smoki and Co) for a burger (No. 3 on the Tripadvisor).

We walked around the Stadium, which for some reason really reminded me of the Coliseum in Rome. While watching people taking wedding photos, running and just enjoying the sun, we enjoyed the shade and a little break.

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After a lunch break we went back up on the Mobikes to check the surroundings with the Manchurians embassy and cultural sites. It is basically all outside, so do not expect any AC breaks.

Leaving Tianjin.

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The last impression was returning home. After cycling around, enjoying Tianjin and getting badly burnt, we decided to return to Beijing for a dinner and a movie marathon. HA HA HA!

We did not buy tickets to go get back as we did not know how long it was going to take us (we expected a longer trip but decided to skip the Tianjin eye as I am not a fan of heights). So  here is a tip – get a ticket to Beijing in advance otherwise you might be stuck.

The earliest available train was leaving two hours later. No battery, no desire to go outside again (as we were already in the train station) and a bit of tired and we just decided to be lazy around the Starbucks….

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Finally, an hour later we were in the train and half another after back to Beijing for movies and a nice Japanese dinner.

Cost of trip, tips and you’re ready to visit Tianjin!

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The return ticket will cost you RMB 118 for 34 minutes ride to Tianjin and return back to Beijing. Mobike rates are just the same as Beijing so for Beijingers there is no difficulty to get around. The food here was much less expensive than in Beijing (a Cheeseburger of a huge size and great quality – RMB 68, a dumpling – RMB 20, the traditional men wear is RMB 150-180 (vs. 600-800 in Beijing).

If you go in summer, make sure you put sunblock on and you have it with you, otherwise, you can burn pretty badly.

Plan, plan, plan! I used to plan all my trips carefully. As I bought a 1000-piece puzzle on Saturday, I did not plan, I was too busy, so we did everything last minute, it is still possible but next time, I will arrange everything in advance.

Tianjin surely worth a one day visit. I believe it is a really nice place, which gives you a feeling of a short getaway from China, not just Beijing. So take a day off and head to Tianjin!

As for us… We are heading to Jinan!