Zhongshan Square from above
Zhongshan District (中山区; Zhōngshānqū), at the eastern edge of the city, encompasses both the main business and commercial centre of Dalian and many of the most scenic parts of the southern coastline. As a result visitors to the city tend to spend most of their time here, a fact reflected in the wide range of hotels and restaurants found in the district. The downside of this popularity is that hotels, restaurants and shops tend to be more expensive than in other parts of the city. That being said for those who can afford it, or take advantage of the few lower budget options available, Zhongshan District makes for an excellent base for exploring Dalian.
Map of central Zhongshan District
Central Zhongshan District is very well served when it comes to transportation connections, with both the central train station and passenger ferry terminal lying within its borders. For those arriving by plane, the airport express shuttle and public buses #701 and #702 all stop at the central train station. The main light-rail train station is located in the district, just north of the train station. Both trams #201 and #202 have several stops in the district.
Map of Zhongshan District
Most of the attractions in central Zhongshan District lie within comfortable walking distance of each other. Alternatively, tram 203 takes in much of the central area, and traveling past pretty parks and colonial houses in a 1930s tram car is one of Dalian's more unique experiences. Further afield the Tiger Beach area can be reached via bus 2, departing next to Zhongshan Hotel in Qingniwaqiao, or bus 30, which departs from Zhongshan Square. To get to Donghai Beach take bus 59 from Sanba Square.
- Zhongshan Square (中山广场; Zhōngshān Quǎngchǎng). This square in the heart of the city's financial district is surrounded by some of the best examples of colonial-era architecture in Dalian. Though the square was first laid out by the Russians most of the buildings around the square were built between 1910 and 1920 by the Japanese. The square itself serves as a social hub, with locals gathering during the evening to play hacky-sack or watch football games on the big screen above the Dalian Hotel.
- Labour Park (劳动公园; Láodòng Gōngyuán), (South of Qingniwa shopping area). 6:30AM-6:30PM. The largest park in Dalian containing a number of attractions, including a small aviary area, a few man made lakes and an amusement park (which, like the one in Xinghai Square, is overpriced and fairly uninteresting). Off season the park is free and can be a pleasant place to take a stroll, but it is probably not worth paying to get in during the holiday periods. ¥10-15 during holidays, free the rest of the time.
- Tiger Beach (虎滩乐园; Hǔtān Lèyuán), (South of the city centre). This tourist area is somewhat misnamed, as there really is not a beach to speak of. There are a number of tourist attractions, the most prominent of which is the slightly pricey Polar Aquarium (9AM - 4:30PM, ¥90). Though popular with Chinese tourists the area, though pretty, is unlikely to hold the attention of more jaded overseas tourists for long and is perhaps best seen as a starting point for journeys along Binhai Road.
- Donghai Beach/Haizhiyun Square (海之韵广场; Hǎizhīyùn Guǎngchǎng). Like Tiger Beach, Donghai Beach is not as much a beach as it is a cluster of tourist sights. There is a stretch of what could be called a beach but it is shingle rather than sand. The sights here are somewhat more interesting than at Tiger Beach, with some nice modern art sculptures and mock fossils along Binhai Road a little way up from the beach. This stretch of road also includes a section of sloping road where cars appear to roll up the hill. Most taxi drivers will be happy to demonstrate the phenomenon to tourists, even if not asked. Again like Tiger Beach, Donghai Beach is a convenient place to start journeys along Binhai Road.
- Climb up to the TV Tower, (On top of a hill south of Labour Park). A tourist attraction in its own right, with a restaurant at the top and impressive views of Dalian. Better than the tower, however, is the walk up via a little known side path, which offers both peaceful greenery in the centre of the city and spectacular views. To get to the side road either walk down the east side of Labour Park or take bus 2 or 5 from Qingniwa and get off at the Traditional Chinese Medicine hospital stop (中医院; Zhōngyīyuàn) and walk back towards the park. The road up to the tower is actually a tiny side road underneath a flyover just south of an old red bricked school next to Labour Park. Though somewhat difficult to find, the road is relatively simple to follow. The only junction is about one third of the way up, next to an artificial lake and the Dalian Circus Academy (the lake makes for a nice place to take a break). Keep going straight ahead at the junction then simply follow the road to the peak. The walk should take between half an hour to an hour. Getting back down involves either walking back the same way or taking the cable car or slide down to Labour Park. The cable car costs ¥10 while the slide costs ¥15.
- Take a boat trip out to Bangchui Island. Located just off the coast from Bangchuidao Beach on Bagchui Island (棒棰岛; Bàngchuídǎo) is a small, uninhabited islet and a nice place to spend a relaxing few hours exploring or nature watching. You can get to the island by using the tourist ferries that leave from Xinghai Square and Tiger Beach. A simple round trip costs ¥40 but paying an extra ¥20 gives the option of getting off the boat and exploring for as long as you want while the boat waits.
- Listen to a concert at the People's Cultural Club, (Off Zhongshan Square). Built in 1951 and today serves as the main concert hall of the city. A wide variety of orchestral, operatic and ballet performances are held. They are performed by local and touring companies. Ticket prices are usually ¥30-70, though tickets for performances by major touring companies can cost as much as ¥400.
- See a performance of traditional Chinese opera. For those interested in more localized musical performances, Dalian offers a couple of options. The Peking Opera House, a former Japanese Shinto temple located between Labour Park and the Foreign Languages University, offers regular performances of Peking Opera. For those interested in catching the kind of opera more associated with north-eastern China there is a theatre just behind the Ramada Hotel, Victory Square, which specializes in local opera forms. Tickets are ¥30-80.
- Friendship Centre (友谊商店; Yǒuyì Shāngdiàn), 8 Renmin Lu. 9:30AM-9PM. Lots of imported goods. Some may can be found elsewhere for less, but if you are looking for really exclusive products, both imported and domestically produced, this is the place to go. There is also a number of other high-end shops (Cartier, Gucci, Armani, etc.) and shopping areas east of here along Renmin Lu.
- Qingniwaqiao Shopping Area (青泥洼桥; Qīngníwāqiáo), (Between Victory Square and Labour Park on Youhao Jie). Host to a number of moderately expensive department stores, supermarkets and shopping centres. Designer clothing can be found in abundance here.
- Tianjin Street (天津街; Tiānjīn Jiē), (From Victory Square to near Zhongshan Square). Pedestrian street with a number of department stores, supermarkets and shopping centres. It also offers a large number of stalls, selling goods ranging from underwear to swords, that operate along the length of the road.
- Times Square (时代广场; Shídài Guǎngchǎng), (E of Furama Hotel along Renmin Lu). Dalian's most up-scale (international) stores are found here.
- Victory Square Shopping Centre (胜利广场; Shènglì Guǎngchǎng). Hidden underneath the Square, this huge mall contains a large food court, tearooms, a video arcade and a bowling alley in addition to a massive number of small stalls selling a wide variety of goods. This can be a good place to come to get decent bargains however, it is confusingly laid out and maps are nowhere to be seen while the few signs there are are in Chinese. Allow plenty of time when visiting here as simply finding a way out can take far longer than expected.
Food courts and sidewalk vendors offer the cheapest fare (and the resulting quality shows, often times re-using ingredients or using artificial ingredients). When walking around shopping malls, most of the food courts are underground levels. Foreign fast food chains can be found but the city lacks the variety found in larger cities.
Over the bridge noodles (过桥米线; guòqiáo mǐxiàn) is a dish native to Yunnan province in where raw ingredients (typically a variety of meats, vegetables and quail eggs) are dropped along with rice noodles into a large bowl of boiling hot chicken stock at the table. A thin layer of oil on the top of the soup allows the ingredients to cook inside the soup (the name derives from a legend that a scholar's wife found that any food she took to her husband on the other side of a large bridge went cold before she reached him, so she invented a way of keeping it hot). A dish from the southwest may seem a strange thing to seek out in the Northeast, but guòqiáo mǐxiàn are incredibly popular, with restaurants all over town serving it. Probably the best is located on a side road off the eastern edge of Labour Park, near the Peking Opera House (head east along the road parallel to and south of the street the opera house is on until you find a small restaurant with a couple of seats out the front with a board running along the wall which acts as the restaurant's loyalty scheme, 6th bowl is free). The combination of ingredients are listed on the wall. Busy from 1PM-2PM on weekdays during the school year. ¥6-10.
- Century City Food Court, (on Qingniwa Jie). Offers Chinese fare, as well as some Japanese and Korean. Mālàtàng (麻辣烫), a kind of soup served in a wide dish with various ingredients cooked inside the soup (the name literally means "hot, spicy and mouth numbing" but do not be put off by the name). Chili sauce (served in a side bowl along with sesame sauce) available. As with most mālàtàng places, to order you simply select the ingredients you wish to have (the ingredients are placed on skewers in easy reach) and hand them over to be cooked. ¥5-15.
- Abashi Curry, Yan'an Lu (S of Zhongshan Sq). Curry house with roasted meat, nan, and other offerings. ¥30-80.
- Dongdouting (东都亭; Dōngdōutíng), 65 Jiefang Jie (and other). Dalian's proximity to South Korea and significant Korean population means there is a large number of both northern and southern Korean restaurants. Meat, seafood, and vegetables for barbecuing (most liberally marinated in spices) can be cooked on the table or by staff. ¥40.
- Red Lotus Cantonese, Seafood and Dim Sum Restaurant (日航飯店; Rìháng Fàndiàn), 123 Changjiang Lu (Near Zhongshan Square on 3F Nikko Hotel), ☎ +86 411 82529999. Authentic dim sum and the chef is excellent. Cantonese specialties and Dalianese seafood recipe also. 20 private rooms but better book in advance. ¥7 for dim sum.
- Qing Dynasty Dumplings (大清花饺子; Dàqīnghuā Jiǎozi), 5 Wuwu Lu (Between Harbour Sq and Sanba Sq). Dumplings are a common staple in North China, and this Shenyang-based chain does them better than most. Wide variety of dumplings but the menu lacks English (but not photos). Try the sample plate, offering four different foods from various parts of China. ¥25-50.
- Zhongshan Hotel Dim Sum, Indian and Russian Hot Pot Restaurants (中山酒店; Zhōngshān Jiǔdiàn), Jiefang Lu (Next to Century City, 5F of hotel). Daily 24 hours for dim sum only. The usual dim sum dishes are offered and in the same dining area as the Indian restaurant. The hotel also has a Russian hot pot and vegetarian restaurant. ¥6-20.
The most expensive restaurants in the city tend to offer seafood or Japanese cuisine. Meals vary in price, but expect to pay ¥200 or more for meals at the high quality establishments.
- Ademain (阿都曼日本现代创作料理; ādōumàn Rìběn Xiàndài Chuàngzuò Liàolǐ), 8 Wuwu Lu. Offers a wide range of dishes, one of the cheaper Japanese places. ¥60-150.
- Intermezzo Italian Restaurant, (Inside Nikko Hotel). Authentic recipes. 5-star quality, good selection of affordable wine and grappa. Lunch buffet ¥138, dinner ¥158.
- Tian Tian Fishing Port (大连天天渔港; Tiāntiān Yúgǎng), 10 Renmin Lu, 41 Yan'an Lu, ☎ +86 411-82801118 (). 9AM-9PM. National chain seafood restaurant with good reputation. ¥100-500.
- Alice Bar, Wenlin Jie (2-min walk N of Minzhu Square). Near-naked ladies dancing on poles and house band singing mainly pop tunes. One pool table, lots of TVs. New location opened in 2009. ¥20-50.
- Blossom Jazz, Kunming Jie (1 block E of Labour Park). Live jazz sets throughout the evening offered by the house band. All the beer is imported, nearly all from Germany. ¥35-60.
- Bobo's, (Zhongshan Sq to Yan'an Lu and left on Huachang Jie). A small pub with 2 rooms. The first, which contains the bar, has TVs and a dart board. Continuing to the back is a basement-like room with booths. The pub serves a variety of drinks, including Harbin beer starting at ¥10. ¥10-50.
- Dave's Bar (玛克威酒吧; Mǎkèwēi Jiǔba), (1 block N of Zhongshan Square), ☎ +86 411 82822345. Still a popular bar (sort of the first popular Western-themed bars) but has something of a seedy air nowadays. Small dance floor with DJs playing electronica and hip-hop most nights. Cheap local beer. ¥20.
- Jazz Bar, (On Sanba bar street). Features a live band (sometimes playing jazz, other times pop songs). There is a large central area spanned by balconies and decorated in fake greenery. German draught beer is most popular. ¥50 for a pint.
- Jazz Club, Zhigong Jie (Just SE of Shangri-La Hotel). Trio provides tunes for patrons. A variety of drinks. ¥40.
- The Lounge, (Ground floor of Nikko Hotel). Classy hotel lounge with a very good resident jazz band who usually play during happy hour and after dinner hours. Champagne cocktails, draft beer and imported wines by the glass. Afternoon high tea features the best of the classicals recipes and some yummy creations. ¥40; happy hour two-fers.
- Paulaner Brauhaus (凯宾斯基饭店; Kǎibīnsījī Fàndiàn), 92 Jiefang Lu (Basement of Kempinksi Hotel), ☎ +86 411-82598888, . One of the places to get a microbrew made on the spot. Live house band typically playing pop. Food available as well. Just outside the bar's entrance is a cigar hut. ¥50 beer.
- Stroller's, (1 block NW of Nikko Hotel at Jiqing Jie and Changqing Jie). Diverse offerings of bottled beers, with a few on tap. TVs, music, and food give it a restaurant feel but due to the large number of offerings, especially bottled beer, it's a good spot to hunker down and have a few. Happy Hour specials. Has a non-smoking section although it is not a real big establishment. Have a tradition of asking each customer, particularly non-Chinese, their first name and writing it in a pad, so don't feel awkward when they ask. ¥20-50.
- Tinwhistle/Hole in the Wall (双子座酒吧; Shuāngzǐzuò Jiǔba), Changjiang Lu. These two bars are virtually next door to each other, the former having an Irish them with Guinness and Carlsberg on tap and big screen TV for sporting events, the latter a cozy, pub-like bar with a wider range of drinks than is found in most Dalian bars.
- All's Well Coffee. Also sell cakes and has a buffet with pizza, soups, Chinese cuisine, fruit, dessert, and Tsingtao.
- Amici (欧米奇; Ōumǐqí), 1F New World Department Store Tianjin Jie, another at Renmin Lu and Yimin Jie. Menu has pizzas, sandwiches and other food. Also serves alcoholic beverages and has free wi-fi for paying customers. ¥15.
- Cafe and Deli, (In Nikko Hotel). Branded Jerome Chocolates, pastries, Haagen Dasz ice cream parlor and on Friday evenings, wine and pizza parties. Bakery items half price after 6PM. Kids corner for mommies club.
- SPR Coffee, various locations, including one 2 blocks E of Kempinksi Hotel on Wuhan Jie. Make their coffee by the cup, also serve juice drinks and beer. Has food, but drinks are what is known. Wuhan Jie location is 2 floors, has high ceilings and a piano. ¥20.
- Starbucks (星巴克; Xīngbākè), 3 locations in Zhongshan District, including New World Plaza on Tianjin Jie, Hongyuan Store on Renmin Lu and Parkland Mall on Jiefeng Lu, ☎ +86 411-82559607, 82597925, 82312658. Free wi-fi for paying customers. ¥20.
104 Warship, home of the Haiyun International Youth Hostel.
- Haiyun International Youth Hostel (海韵国际青年旅舍; Hǎiyùn Guójì Qīngnián Lǚshě; also known as Dalian Sea Rhyme Youth Hostel), 104 Warship 667, ☎ +86 411-2394026. This hostel boasts the fairly unique distinction of being housed inside an old Chinese warship moored at Tiger Beach. The whole hostel, from staff uniforms to rooms, is decked out in a nautical theme. Rooms vary from doubles to multi-person dorms. They claim to be part of Hostelling International, but they are not listed by them (perhaps because the hostel does not accept foreigners). ¥20-100.
- Hotel Ibis Dalian, No. 49A Wuwu Lu (1/2 block S of Sanba Square), ☎ +86 411-39865555 (, fax: +86 411-39865558), . Completed in 2009, this hotel offers clean rooms and sits in the eastern side of the district. Free internet access in all rooms and 2 PCs for guest use in the lobby. From ¥168.
- Bohai Pearl Hotel (渤海明珠大酒店; Bóhǎi Míngzhū Dàjiǔdiàn ), (SE of the train station). Closest hotel to the train station. Rooms are a bit outdated.
- Dalian Hotel (大连宾馆; Dàlián Bīnguǎn), 4 Zhongshan Square 辽宁省大连市中山区中原街21号, ☎ +86 411-82633111 (email@example.com, fax: +86 411-82634363), . The place to stay for anyone interested in exploring the history of Dalian. Built in 1914 by the Japanese, designed by a Frenchman, the hotel is pretty much the only place to stay in Dalian that is older than 15 years and frequently plays host to visiting dignitaries when they are not staying at Bangchuidao. Its age means its facilities (a small business center and gym) can not compete with its more modern rivals but its character is unmatched. The Japanese restaurant in the hotel is one of the best in the city. ¥400-640.
- Delight Hotel Dalian, No. 81 Renmin Lu (Renmin Lu and Dandong Jie), ☎ +86 411-82809000 (fax: +86 411-82809222), .
- Grand Hotel (博览大酒店; Bólǎn Dàjiǔdiàn), 1 Jiefang Jie, ☎ +86 411-82806161. Probably the pick of the mid-range hotels in the eastern half of the city center, offers good sized rooms, decent facilities (sauna, gym, optional broadband internet access in rooms) and a decent variety of restaurants and bars in a very central location just off Zhongshan Square. Has drawn praise for its attentive and friendly staff. ¥300-645.
- Ramada (华美达饭店; Huáměidá Fàndiàn), 18 Victory Square (SE of the train station on Changjiang Lu), ☎ +86 411-82808888, . Fantastic location for train travelers. Includes a gym, swimming pool, free internet access in rooms and English speaking staff. Lots of trinket shopping close. ¥400-680.
- Regent (丽景大酒店; Líjǐng Dàjiǔdiàn), 12 Hutan Jie, ☎ +86 411-82892811. Next to Tiger Beach, offers great views and a convenient location for exploring the southern seafront of Dalian. Amenities are decent (Chinese and Japanese restaurants, French café, gym, sauna) if nothing spectacular. ¥270-880.
- Furama Hotel Dalian (富丽华大酒店; Fùlíhuá Dàjiǔdiàn), 60 Renmin Lu, ☎ +86 411-82630888, . A Japanese chain, the Shangri-la's main competitor and just across the street from it. Slightly more modern and sleek than it. ¥1,125-2,500.
- Harbour View Hotel (海景酒店; Hǎijǐng Jiǔdiàn), 2 Gangwan Jie, ☎ +86 411-82728888, . Best Western-run hotel is a little older than its competitors, as is evidenced by its blue-glassed 80s chic tower, but it still offers the usual facilities and the most convenient location for those arriving or departing from the harbor or interested in exploring the Sanba bar area. ¥885-1,390.
- Hotel Nikko (日航飯店; Rìháng Fàndiàn), 123 Changjiang Lu, ☎ +86 411-82529999, . A hotel that is been through almost as many name changes as Dalian itself, now run by Japan Airlines it is an impressive building to look at with a particularly good western restaurant. Its post-takeover (slight) remodel makes it among the most up-to-date of the 5 star hotels. Best dim sum and Cantonese treats in town. ¥1,000-2,000.
- Intercontinental Dalian, 6 Youhao Square (Southeast corner of Youhao Square), ☎ +86 411-82366666, . Dalian's tallest building featuring a restaurant on the top floor. Completed in 2008.
- Shangri-La Hotel Dalian (香格里拉大饭店; Xiānggélǐlā Dàfàndiàn), 66 Renmin Lu, ☎ +86 411-82525000, . Part of the Hong-Kong based chain, the decor and faci1ities may not always be as up to date as its competitors, and the quality of service has received mixed reviews in the past. But, generally, the hotel offers everything you would expect from a five star hotel. ¥680-1,900.
- Swissötel (瑞士酒店; Ruìshì Jiǔdiàn), 21 Wuhui Lu. This hotel is a knock-off, having no affiliation with the Swiss-based Swissôtel like it once did. Housed in a sleek, modern tower at the southern tip of the Qingniwa shopping area and offers splendid views over Labour Park. The food is alright and pricey (possibly because the restaurants are rented out). Sunday church service. ¥880-1,355.