Located on the tip of the Liaodong Peninsula, Dalian markets itself as China’s greenest and most livable city. During my two-day visit, the weather wasn’t entirely cooperative, as it was a bit too cloudy to properly enjoy the city’s beaches. But the scenery was beautiful, and the clean air was a welcome reprieve from a summer in Beijing. The city’s seafood restaurants were worth the trip on their own.
Dalian is approximately a ten-hour train ride from Beijing, and overnight trains (K681/K682) run daily to and from Beijing’s main railway station. A one-way hard sleeper ticket is approximately 250-300RMB. The bus ride from Beijing to Dalian takes about 9 hours.
Places to See | Eateries | Transportation | Accommodations
Places to See
Xinghai Square (星海广场)
Xinghai Square is the biggest public square in Asia. Outside of the observation that it is, in fact, huge, the square itself doesn’t have much to offer. But if you walk from the square out to the sea, there are carnival rides, shops and food stalls set up in the urban equivalent of an American boardwalk. (See photo above.)
Xinghai GuangChang (星海广场) is located in the southern part of the city. [July 2008]
Bangchui Island (棒槌岛)
This was by far the most beautiful beach we visited in Dalian. Because it is somewhat removed from the city itself, the beach is far less crowded. On a warm day, the sand would be comfortable for sunbathing, and swimming is permitted. For 1RMB, you can use bathroom and changing facilities at the far end of the beach. We were also able to climb up to a small pagoda for a fantastic view of the ocean (and a fantastic place to play cards).
Bangchuidao Jingqu (棒槌岛) is located about 5 kilometers outside of Dalian on the grounds of Bangchuidao Binguan and is not accessible by public transportation. A taxi will cost approximately 20RMB. [July 2008]
Tiger Beach (老虎滩) and Binhai Road (摈海路)
Tiger Beach is located in the southeastern section of Dalian and borders a small bay. Like Xinghai Square, the area is heavily-touristed, with plenty of amusement-park activities and snack foods. (Be wary of the cotton candy: the humidity caused mine to melt all over my camera.) For about 60RMB, you can claim a place on a motorboat and get a ride around the bay. If you’re in search of a present for your younger brother, be on the lookout for little clay figurines that pee when you pour boiling water over them.
The real reason to come to Tiger Beach is the easy access to Binhai Road, which runs along the coast. It’s a great place to stretch your legs and almost forget that you’re in a city at all. If you happen to be traveling with a loved one, one pamphlet promises that “The Binhai Road is a romantic road along scenic coastline area especially for young couples in love.”
Laohutan (老虎滩) is located in the southeastern section of Dalian. Take bus 30 or bus 712 from Zhongshan Square (downtown) to Tiger Beach. You can then walk from Tiger Beach to Binhai Road. [July 2008]
Russian Culture Street (俄罗斯风请街)
The so-called Russian Culture Street is a remnant of Dalian’s past role as a Russian treaty port. The restored nineteenth-century buildings are examples of European architectural styles. (Get off the main street to see the buildings in their unrestored state.) But like many former ethnic neighborhoods in the United States, the present-day authenticity of the Russian Culture Street is up for debate. Stores, manned by Chinese workers, sell matryoshka dolls alongside cigarettes and handbags. The food stalls at the end of the road sell Chinese food, with nary a blini in sight.
We wandered off the “culture street” into a residential neighborhood, where we stumbled on a covered food market. It’s a good place to stop for a jidanbing (egg pancake) and to get a glimpse of ordinary life in Dalian.
Eluosi Fengqing Jie (俄罗斯风请街) is located near Shanghai Street and the train station, in the western part of Dalian. [July 2008]
Eating in Dalian
Xiao Jiu Zhou (小九洲)
Dalian’s seafood — haixian — was one of the major attractions of a visit to the city. We were lucky enough to meet up with a Dalian native who brought us to this seafood joint. Based on the clientele the night we were there, it’s a ways off the tourist map. We ordered about 10 dishes, ranging from shrimp (delicious, if not especially novel) to raw sea urchin (exceptional), and were impressed by everything.
Dinner for eight people averaged out to 104RMB per head, including beer and juice. It was one of the most expensive meals I’ve eaten in China, and certainly one of the best. Seafood is a worthwhile splurge, and this is the place to do it. But if you need to save some money, don’t order the sea urchin, since each serving cost 38RMB.
One challenge for non-Mandarin speakers is that you order from the tanks of live seafood rather than a menu. If you’re reasonably willing to eat anything, throw yourself on the goodwill of the waitress — I think you’ll be pleased.
Xiao Jiu Zhou (小九洲 ) is located off of Sanba Guangchang (三八广场). (Google suggests that there are a few other locations as well.) You should be able to see the square on the map; otherwise, a cab driver should be able to take you there. [July 2008]
Tian Tian Yu Gang (天天鱼港)
Branches of this seafood chain are all over Dalian, and it caters to the tourist crowd. Accordingly, the prices are significantly higher than those at Xiao Jiu Zhou. We went for a light meal before heading back to Beijing, and one whole fish, a vegetable dish, rice and tea set us back more than 150RMB. That being said, the fish was fresh and tasty, and the waitstaff was accustomed to helping Westerners figure out what to order.
We went to the branch of Tian Tian Yu Gang (天天鱼港) at 10 Ren2min2 Lu (人民路), Zhongshan District. It’s a famous restaurant chain, so your hotel or hostel may be able to help you find the nearest branch. [July 2008]
Dalian’s relatively compact downtown is navigable by foot, although prepare to be careful when crossing the streets. Taxis start at 8RMB during the day, and 10RMB at night.
For information about Dalian’s bus routes, see this guide to transportation in the city.
We were fairly disappointed by this hotel, which was selected by our tour operator. My own room had a filthy couch, a serious mildew problem and questionably clean linens; my friend’s room had no window. They seem to be in the midst of a renovation project, but I would not take my chances here again. Because it was provided as part of a tour package, I don’t know how much it ordinarily costs.
The hotel is located at 21 Renmin Lu (人民路), Zhongshan District. [July 2008]