One of the centers of the Qing Dynasty, Shenyang's glorious history is a major attraction, but there's more to Liaoning's capital than tombs and palaces. From shopping to sports, Shenyang is a dynamic place that travelers will adore.
Built in the 17th century, the Mukden Palace is one of China's historical jewels, with gorgeous carvings, elegant architecture, and dazzling golden decorations.
Along with the Palace, Shenyang is also the resting place for several Qing emperors, and the Fuling and Zhaoling tombs are a must-see.
The sights are backed up by a number of great museums, including the 9.18 Memorial Museum (dealing with the Japanese invasion of Manchuria) and the Liaoning Province Museum, with a wonderful Chinese art collection.
Liaoning is China's winter sports hub, and you can rent skis, buy cable car tickets, and access the slopes at massive resorts like Northeast Asia Ski Resort for just ¥135 - so it's cheap, too.
Shenyang is a gourmet destination, with its delicious dumplings, chicken dishes, and delectable cakes - which you can wash down with a bottle of the local Baiju wine.
In the 17th century, the rulers of Shenyang conquered all of China. Well, conquered is a bit of a stretch, but the Manchus (or Qing) of the region did take over in Beijing from the Ming. This beautiful palace in central Shenyang became the imperial court for 20 years in the early 17th century, and has the feel of an empire-straddling power center. That may be because the Qing built it to resemble Beijing's Forbidden City. In any case, touring this important historical complex is a must for all visitors.
Also known as the Zhao Mausoleum, this is the final resting place of the second Qing emperor: Huang Taji. Situated in Beiling Park in Huanggu, north of central Shenyang, the tomb was built in a 3 million square meter park, with a mile long avenue leading up to the tomb itself. So they didn't spare any expense when honoring the emperor. Highlights include the row of mythical animal statues that line the tomb's approach, the altar and its portraits of poor old Huang Taji, and Lóng'ēn Hall, with its ornate flower carvings.
South of the Hunhe River, you'll come across this excellent provincial museum, which is dedicated to Liáoníng's turbulent, and historically pivotal past. Obviously, much of the space is devoted to the rise and era of the Manchus between 1600 and 1900, but there's much more to northeastern China than one dynasty. Ancient galleries cast valuable light on the Hongshan and Xinie peoples, complete with excavated weapons and tools. A good counterpart is the 18th September Museum, which commemorates the "Mukden Incident" when Japan launched it's invasion of China.
For some pure tranquility and a chance to explore the pleasures of nature, Shenyang's Botanical Garden makes a great place to spend the afternoon. With more than 1,700 lovingly tended species on display, it provides a good showcase of the region's native plants, covering 467 acres. Even better, it's all been landscaped in consummate Chinese fashion, with lakes, artfully positioned groves of trees, waterfalls, and decorative bridges, so keep your camera handy at all times. You'll find the gardens around 6 miles east of the city center.
Or, to give its proper name, "the Qipanshan Scenic Area." Gathered around the Qipanshan Reservoir around 12 miles east of central Shenyang, this recreational reserve offers varied scenery and great hiking opportunities in the summer. However, it's winter when Qipanshan really comes into its own, when it hosts Shenyang's world-famous International Ice and Snow Festival. Expect ice skating on the frozen reservoir, lavish ice sculptures such as reconstructed palaces, and even activities like ice golf, along with skiing in the park's Alpine Area.
For sightseers, April through October is a great time to go. The temperatures should be mild to warm, and most of the attractions will be open. However, skiers should visit from December to March.
Shenyang Taoxian International Airport (SHE) is accessible from all over China. From there, airport shuttles take one hour and cost ¥15.50. Expect taxis to cost around ¥80.
Trains from Beijing run into the North Station, and it's around an eight-hour journey from the capital to Shenyang.
Those driving from Beijing need to take the G25, and then the G2511 into Shenyang. From Dalian, take the G15.
Beijing is about eight hours away by bus, and there are daily connections to major cities like Jilin, Dalian, and Harbin as well.
Shenyang city center is packed with superb hotels. Some standout options include the Grand Hyatt Shenyang, the Shangri-La Hotel (with its rooftop Sake bar), and the Kempinski Hotel Shenyang.
Taiyuan Jie - Shenyang's business and shopping center, Taiyuan Jie is the place to go for fine food and great souvenir bargains.
Zhong Jie - Shenyang's other shopping hub, Zhong Jie is also the site of the Mukden Palace, so it's a must-visit neighborhood.
Jinlang Shangquan - located in southern Shenyang, Jinlang Shangquan is home to the superb Science Centrum and the Popular Science Park - one of the city's best family attractions.
Buses in Shenyang charge between ¥1 and ¥2, depending on the distance you need to travel. There are also two subway lines that criss-cross the center, and ticket prices range from ¥2 to ¥4.
Shenyang's taxis tend to charge a meter drop of ¥8, followed by ¥3 per mile.
You can rent a car in Shenyang from companies like Jinghong Car Renting, and prices start at around ¥35 per day.
Zhong Jie and Taiyuan Jie are the two main shopping areas, and both are full of craft stores, electronics retailers, and street food vendors. Wu Ai Market is another place to look, particularly if you are shopping for apparel and accessories.
Supermarkets in Shenyang include Walmart and Carrefour, as well as local companies like Vanguard. Expect to pay around ¥50 for a gallon of milk.
Head to MeiJin Hotpot for noodles, Lǎobiān Dumplings for a local delicacy, or Báiyù Chuànchéng for BBQ meat dishes. Prices should be around ¥25-30 per head.