Located in northern China, roughly 70 miles east of Beijing, Tianjin is a large and populous city sitting at the confluence of multiple rivers. It’s an industrious port city with origins dating back to the dawn of Chinese civilization.
While Tianjin has served as an active centre of commerce for nearly two millennia, it was the opening of the Grand Canal during the Sui Dynasty that truly secured Tianjin’s role in history as a key port city. In 1858, during the second Opium War, Tianjin opened up its doors to foreign traders, and European countries such as Great Britain and France established concessions here. While these communities sprung up as a result of prejudiced foreign trade concessions forced upon China after the Opium Wars, the unique architectural and cultural flairs each community brought have left an interesting mark on Tianjin, and visitors today are treated to a cacophony of cross-cultural exposures.
Just as in Shanghai further south, there is a plethora of beautiful architecture dotted throughout the city particular concentrated in former concession area. The French built flamboyant chateaus, the British built grand mansions, and the Germans built Bavarian townhouses. Many of these were left behind, and are today protected. The grand 19th and early 20th century architectural pieces create a wonderful juxtaposition with contemporary high-rises and more traditional Chinese shophouses.
No visit to Tianjin is complete without tasting the Tianjin “jian bing”. This is a mouthwatering savory pancake, often eaten for breakfast or as an afternoon snack, that you will find street vendors throughout the city cooking up. You may find this in other cities too, but it is often said that Tianjin produces the best. Just look for the long queues and you’ll know that you’ve found the right one.
Tianjin’s proximity to Beijing is helped by a highspeed railway connection meaning travel between the two cities only takes 35 minutes, and this is by far the most efficient way to travel to the city. If time is short, it is very possible to do as a day trip from Beijing, and with all its European architecture, makes an intriguing contrast to far more traditional Beijing.
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