Wedged between the Yellow and Bohai Seas on the southern cusp of the Liaodong Peninsula, Dalian enjoys five-star status as one of China's premiere cities. The "Hong Kong of the North," became one of China's few "open door cities" in 1984, allowing foreign investment long before other areas of China were accessible. As a result, Dalian glows with a cosmopolitan swagger full of vacation-happy charisma. Trendy dance clubs, ultramodern shopping centers, refurbished four-star hotels and internationally acclaimed restaurants are the norm rather than the exception. The surrounding geography is a wealth of beaches and mountains, all with just-minutes-from-downtown-accessibility, lending this cosmopolitan center plenty of outdoor attractions. Since the 1980s, Dalian's cultivation of its tourism industry has helped elevate it to "Must Visit" status, ranking it with Shanghai and Beijing on travel destination itineraries.
As China's lone northern ice-free harbor, Dalian has been a perpetual source of foreign government envy. From 1895 to 1955, Russia and Japan alternated as Dalian's landlord four separate times. During this flux, both nations used it as a major shipping port to other parts of the world. Consequently, by the time China finally reclaimed it back into the fold, the city, much like Hong Kong, was infused with Russian, Japanese, and European architectural influences. These former "symbols" of foreign repression are now fully embraced as part of Dalian's worldly charm.
Dalian is comprised of six districts. Though diverse in both economic and geographic identity, all are linked by the common bond of progress and development.
Xigang District Ranked as one of China's "Top 50 Districts," Xigang serves as Dalian's centerpiece. Its central, downtown location makes it the main muscle of the area for both business and government. As a result, it is a hot spot for foreign investors and tourists. Within its streets lie Rennin Square (People's Square) and Olympic Square , which features a large screen TV for watching soccer games. The Dalian Art Exhibition Hall also resides here. Shopping is internationally diverse. And there are also numerous dining options ranging from traditional regional Chinese fare to Western ventures along Russian Street . The imported architectural styles make this district unique.
Zhongshan District Located in the southeast part of town, Zhongshan houses many of Dalian's financial institutions in colonial era Gothic structures, slightly reminiscent of Shanghai's Bund. It also harbors some of the area's most popular attractions, including Shengli Square . Tiger Beach is immensely popular. Besides beaches, it also offers enough attractions to satisfy no less than three rolls of film. Underwater World , China's largest aquarium, the Naval Ships Exhibition Center , and a kid-happy amusement park all add to its appeal.
Lushun District Blessed with geographic wonder, this district serves as Dalian's outdoor recreation hub. Boats taken from here provide convenient access to some of the 705 islands that sprinkle the peninsula's coast, including She Dao (Isle of the Snake) , the remote island home of more than 13,000 snakes. Baiyu Hill , with its pine jammed slopes, is perfect for hiking and camping. During Russian colonial times, this area was the militarized Port Aurthur. Now, museums, gardens and university extension campuses replace army barracks. The spectacular views remain.
Ganjingzi District Located on the Liadong Peninsula's southern tip, over the last 20 years this district has experienced a major growth boom. The Dalian Xijiao Resort enjoys major attraction status. Highlighting 13 ethnic minority traditions, this resort glows with culture. Recreation options abound too, including the hiking-happy Jinlongsi Forest Park and the championship caliber Xiali Golf Course .
Shanhekou District Brimming with 600,000 people on Dalian's western edge, this district bustles with industry, yet still has enough shopping centers and outdoor parks to satisfy a vacationer's itinerary. The He Ping Commercial Plaza bursts with dining and shopping options including clothing and electronics. Jinshi Yuan Park and the Dalian Stone Collection Hall are the kind of geological awe areas that make visitors openly mutter "stupendous" and "astounding" in the same sentence. China's largest public square, Xinghai Square is the central location for Dalian's major events, including Fashion Week and the International Beer Festival and well as the fireworks display at Spring Festival.
Jinzhou District The most foreign of Dalian's six districts, it is best known as the area's main economic site. Yet, despite its briefcase-toting image, it still blossoms with places worth visiting. The Dalian Yingchengzi Folk Customs Museum and the Xiang Shui Temple are rich in Chinese history. Moreover, the Daheishan Mountain Forestry Park , which features the peninsula's highest peak at 633 meters above sea level, is ideal for outdoor enthusiasts. Golden Pebble Beach , provides swimming, boating, fishing and more just outside of town.
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