10 Reasons to Visit Dalian, China
November 6, 2014
The larger-than-life Chinese seaport of Dalian has one of the world’s longest boardwalks and the biggest city square. Gabrielle Jaffe suggests you dally a while.
Published on Nov 6, 2014
For those who prefer their coastlines with a dash of drama, Dalian happily obliges. This coastal city in northern China is perched on the end of a peninsula running parallel with Korea. On its southeastern flank, the Yellow Sea has carved out an imposing shoreline where tall cliffs and rocky outcrops meet the water. Here, a wooden pathway cuts across the cypress-clad headland, stretching out for 32 kilometers, making it one of  the longest continuous boardwalks in the world. It's an ideal destination for those who think a trip to the seaside means striking vistas and brisk, salty air, not topping up tans; rather than Bali, think Brighton, England.
Positioned at the western end of the boardwalk,  The Castle (luxurycollection.com) lives up to its name. Its exterior sports turrets and crenelated walls, and the interior is pure opulence: a well-appointed spa and pool, marble finishes, silks, chandeliers and an elegant glass atrium that floods the grand lobby with light. From atop the enormous terrace on the fifth floor, known as the  Esplanade, guests can gaze out at the sun setting over the bay as they listen to live bands and quaff glasses of champagne or home-brewed German beer from the adjoining  Royal Cellar Bar. When the fog rolls in, take a relaxed hour-long hike to the top of  Lotus Mountain behind the hotel, for a bird's-eye view of the misty scene.
At the other end of the boardwalk is the  Bangchuidao Scenic Area. Here verdant hills transmute into a sandy beach overlooking Bangchui Island, which glows golden in the afternoon sun. Until the 1980's, this spot was reserved for top communist cadres only.
So if you're looking for company, head to the  Fisherman's Wharf, a harbor halfway along the boardwalk that's been transformed into a trendy outpost with pastel-colored, Northern European-style buildings, cafés and seafood restaurants. Don't miss  Hemaolong (58-9-5 Marina Drive, Fisherman's Wharf; +86 411 8631 2288), where abalone, yellow croaker and other fruits of the sea are barbecued in northeastern Chinese flavors or simply steamed to preserve their fresh taste.
Grab a coffee and watch the world go by at one of the charming cafés along the southern end of the beachside  Xinghai Park, or stroll to nearby  Xinghai Square. Dalian's residents are very proud of this landscaped, star-shaped plaza, which, at more than one million sprawling square meters, is reported to be the largest in the world. You'll spot them here practicing tai chi in the evenings and mornings, and flying kites at all times of the day. Dalian's outdoor spaces might be record-breakingly big, but the locals know how to enjoy them on an intimate scale.