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China bucket list: top 10 things to do in China before you die

As one of the largest countries in the world, China is home to countless attractions and experiences. Here is the ultimate China bucket list with ten things to do in China before you die.

A country that should be on everyone’s bucket list is the vast and beautiful country of China. Home to a population of over one billion people and spanning five time zones, this incredible country has much to be explored.

From ancient traditions, yummy food, and mesmerising architecture, the list of things to see and do while exploring the Red Dragon are endless.

We have made it easier for you by compiling the ultimate China bucket list with our ten things to do in China before you die!

10. See the Terracotta Army in Xi’an – marvel at history

The Terracotta Warriors in Xi'an were constructed by China's first emperor. and are incredible.

Constructed by China’s first emperor, this impressive collection of a life-sized terracotta army was to serve as his guardians in the afterlife.

Having remained undiscovered up until fifty years ago, this is amongst one of the most important archaeological finds of the 20th century.

With thousands of individual warriors, ranging from members of the infantry, crossbow team, cavalry, and chariots, this truly is a sight to behold.

As the site is still under excavation, you will have the opportunity to watch history come to life as archaeologists restore some of the infamous statues.

Be sure to add this spot to your Xian Itinerary if you are visiting.

9. Visit the infamous Tiananmen Square – home to the Forbidden City

The Forbidden City is a must-visit spot.

This famous landmark is a must-visit on anyone’s China bucket list. The square is a national symbol which represents a monumental gate of valour, dedicated to the martyrs who revolted against the country’s oppressors.

Tiananmen Square is one of the largest public squares in the world, holding up to a million people at once.

Head here in the morning to enjoy the daily flag-raising ceremony amidst a cheering crowd.

Within Tiananmen Square is the Forbidden City, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, which is a stunning palace complex home to historic art and precious artefacts.

8. Experience a Beijing opera performance – witness culture in person

Experience a Beijing Opera performance to witness culture in person.

Combining traditional Chinese performing art, traditional music, mime, dance, and acrobatics, these performances are extremely popular.

This cultural tradition keeps the history of China alive through intrinsic costumes and magical voices.

Created over 150 years ago to entertain the Qing emperors, this intriguing art form mesmerises people from across the world.

Admire the unique costumes and use of face painting that is used throughout the art form to depict characteristics. Beijing Opera performances happen daily across the capital.

7. Admire the Leshan Giant Buddha – the tallest of its kind

The Leshan Giant Buddha is the tallest of its kind.

As the tallest stone Buddha in the world, standing at an impressive 71 metres high, this remarkable monument is worth a visit!

Originally built to calm the turbulent waters that were common in the area, the Buddha sits on the bank of the Leshan River.

The Buddha can be admired by boat for beautiful panoramic views, or else you can explore the area on foot.

Admire the scenery of this statue that is carved into the cliff face; however, this attraction gets extremely busy with tourists, so the earlier in the day you visit, the better! 

6. Eat Peking duck in Beijing – taste the real China

Peking duck in Beijing is another of the top things on any China bucket list.

No trip to China would be complete without trying one of China’s national dishes, Peking duck.

Trust us when we say, no Peking duck from a Chinese restaurant will compare with the duck on offer in Beijing.

Served with thin, savoury pancakes, sweet bean sauce, and spring onion, this crispy duck dish is absolutely mouth-watering.

If duck isn’t quite your cup of tea, be sure to enjoy the wide variety of Chinese dumplings!

5. Hike the Zhangjiajie Mountains – the inspiration for alien planets

The Zhangjiajie Mountains are high on every China bucket list, believe us.

Said to be the inspiration for the movie Avatar, these scenic peaks are absolutely breathtaking. With 243 peaks and more than 3,000 pinnacles and spires, this really is like the Hallelujah Mountains from Avatar.

Situated amongst beautiful scenery, this national forest park is an escape from the hustle and bustle of city life.

Ascend the 999 steps to Heaven’s Door above the deep valley on the world’s longest cable car ride to get spectacular views of the surrounding area.

4. Visit the giant pandas in Chengdu – China’s cutest natives

Visiting giant pandas in Chengdu is another of the top China bucket list picks.

Regarded as being the national treasure of China, seeing some giant pandas should be on everyone’s bucket list.

Visit the Giant Panda Breeding Centre in Chengdu where you can see the pandas being cared for before being released into the wild.

Native to southwest China, these bamboo-consuming and extremely-sleepy creatures are increasingly under threat.

Therefore, the environment in which these pandas can be admired at the Giant Panda Breeding Centre is necessary for their survival.

3. Walk on the Great Wall of China – one of the top sights on any China bucket list

A walk on the Great Wall of China is one of the China bucket list top picks.

No China bucket list would be complete without walking on the Great Wall of China.

Spanning over 20,000 km, the most impressive man-made structure ever built will capture your heart and leave you awe-struck.

To walk the whole length of the Great Wall, it would take you about 18 months, luckily for those who haven’t 18 months to spare, there are various shorter routes and trails.

Clinging to high green peaks that border Mongolia, the views of the wall are absolutely jaw-dropping.

2. Watch a kung fu performance at the Shaolin Temple – see martial arts in action

Another of the top things to do on our China bucket list is watching kung fu at the Shaolin Temple.

As the birthplace of Shaolin kung fu, and the Zen Buddhism movement, this impressive landmark lies at the foot of the stunning Song Shan mountain range.

Become enthralled by the skill and concentration that is required by the young boys who practice kung fu in the performance hall.

While this UNESCO World Heritage Site dates back over 1,500 years, the temples have been destroyed and rebuilt over the years.

Admire temples which are dedicated to heavenly kings, a pagoda forest, and incredible hiking trails.

1. Raft down the Li River in Guilin – for spectacular views

Rafting down the Li River in Guilin is one of the top things on our China bucket list.

There is a Chinese saying that Guilin has the most beautiful landscapes under the heavens, and you would be hard pushed to find someone who disagrees with you.

The mystical landscape is covered in a haze of mist which winds its way up between the impressive limestone mountains.

Explore the breathtaking scenery by embarking on a bamboo river raft down the Li River, which passes by beautiful bamboo forests and striking waterfalls.

Meander your way between the limestone mountains, while also enjoying a once in a lifetime experience!

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Aoife O'Mara
Aoife O'Mara is a travel-hungry 21-year-old from East Clare. Having returned from a gap year in Melbourne, she discovered a newfound appreciation for the place she calls home. Now studying communications and media production in Griffith College Dublin, she is also writing for the university's magazine. When not dreaming about future trips and adventures, she can be found petting dogs, exploring Ireland's lakes and rivers, and taking photos.

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