The 4 Most Famous Cities in China

Do you know how many cities China has? Over 600, officially. But you don’t have to know all the cities. Start with 4 famous Tier 1 cities: Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou and Shenzhen. Actually, these 4 cities are not the biggest but frequently referenced by the media for business, transportation, tourism, education, and so on. These four cities also have the most expensive real estate markets in China. They're often referred to as one group using the first character of each city's name: BěiShàngGuǎngShēn 北上广深.



Beijing is the capital of China. It has been the political center of the country for most of the last 8 centuries. It is known for political, educational, and cultural activities. It's actually China’s largest city by area but not by population.

In Beijing, you'll find the most historical attractions, both ancient ones such as the Great Wall, Summer Palace, Forbidden City, as well as more recent ones like Chairman Mao Memorial Hall and Tiananmen Square. Additionally, you can also explore modern developments such as 798 Art Zone and Sanlitun Bar Streets. Beijing is a good city to visit to enjoy both the modern and traditional aspects of China.



Shanghai, is China's largest city by population with more than 24 million people as of 2017. Shanghai is located at the midpoint of China's Eastern coastline, where the Yangtze River empties into the sea. Due to its advantageous location, Shanghai is the financial center of China and the most international city, historically connecting foreign countries with China.

Shanghai is renowned for its modern skyline in Lujiazui: Oriental Pearl TV Tower, Jingmao building, World Financial Center and Shanghai Tower, the 2nd tallest building in the world (2018). Shanghai also has many famous historic buildings along the waterfront, known as The Bund, in the old town at Yuyuan Gardens, and in the ancient water towns surrounding the city.



Guangzhou, historically known as Canton, is the capital of Guangdong Province and China’s third largest city by urban population. It is located at the Southern end of China, near Hong Kong. What makes Guangzhou world-famous is Cantonese food and Cantonese language. You can find Cantonese food and hear people speaking Cantonese in Chinatowns all over the world.

Guangzhou is well known for its annual Canton Fair, the oldest and largest trade show in China. People in manufacturing will most likely visit the factories in Guangzhou.



Shenzhen is located immediately North of Hong Kong and just South of Guangzhou. Back in the 1970’s, Shenzhen was a small market town with a population of only 30,000. After it was promoted to a city in 1979 and designated as China’s first Special Economic Zone in 1980, Shenzhen became one of the fastest-growing cities in the world. It attracted workers from all over China and foreign investment for manufacturing. Now, Shenzhen is a major financial and industrial center of Southern China. 

This article is part of our new online Chinese course. An efficient way to learn Chinese language for working and living in China.