Shijiazhuang (石家庄; Shíjiāzhuāng) is the capital of Hebei Province.
Shijiazhuang is a young city. It was an unimportant town until the building of the Zhengtai and Jinghan railways saw it become an important regional transport hub. Captured by the PLA under the leadership of the CPC in 1947, it was the cradle of the new China, and for three years housed the headquarters of the CPC.
Nowadays it is the capital and main economic center of Hebei and a relatively important city in China. Shijiazhuang is the largest pharmarceutical base in China and is as well an important center in the textile, IT, manufacturing and chemical industries. In 2007, it was listed as one of the top 15 economic powers in China.
According to the latest census figures, Shijiazhuang has a population of 2.19 million in the city proper, with a further 7.4 million people living in its 20 affiliated counties.
It's a modern city that's in the process of building many new apartment buildings, shopping malls and just renewing it's image.
People are very friendly, it's easy to get around and it's a good place to teach English or study Chinese.
Flights to different destinations have become more convenient since local low-cost airline Spring Airlines  established a base at Shijiazhuang airport in early 2011. Daily flights on Spring Airlines depart for Xiamen, Chengdu, Dalian, Shanghai, Shenyang, Hohhot, Nanjing and Guangzhou, with flights to Hong Kong three times weekly. Spring Airlines provides a free airport shuttle bus from Shijiazhuang (as well as the surrounding cities of Baoding, Hengshui, Xingtai, and Cangzhou) for all Spring passengers as the airport is located about an hour outside of downtown Shijiazhuang. Lots of travellers also elect to take the train to Beijing and fly from there due to extra flight options, connecting by the express trains (2 hrs to and from Beijing).
Shijiazhuang is one of the largest railway hubs in China, and so there are many trains to and from Shijiazhuang. The express train to Beijing is two hours.
Bullet D trains leave regularly from the train station and from the smaller Shijiazhuang North train station. Second Class is 86¥ and First Class is 103¥ to Beijing West Train Station if you purchase at the train station. If you use one of the many train ticket offices, expect to pay a 5¥ surcharge per ticket, but it is faster and the prices for all cities are posted on the walls (including all style of seat). The sign is in Chinese though.
Notice that buses to neighboring cities and towns depart from different bus stations, but each of these stations (and many close destinations) can be conveniently reached by buses and minibuses from the Central Railway Station. Long-distance buses (e.g. to Beijing) depart/arrive to the main bus station, just a few minutes walk to the south of the Railway Station.
The road network is as well quite good and Shijiazhuang can be reached from Beijing by car in about 3 hours.
Buses in Shijiazhuang, as in any large city in China, are frequent and cheap: just ¥1 for a journey, whatever the distance.
Taxis are plentiful and, again, will seem to Western travelers almost laughably inexpensive, with the flag-drop often just ¥5 or so and a delay rate of ¥1.60 per five minutes. Between 1600 and 1900, don't bother looking for a taxi.
Most tourist attractions are located outside the city proper.
Traffic is marginal, except at high peak hours (American rush hour), at which point it could take as much as 20 minutes to get through certain lights on many of the major roads (especially Ping'An Da Jie, Zhongshan Lu, Yuhua Lu, Jianshe Da Jie and Zhonghua Lu).
There are a number of sightseeing places in the area, both natural and historic. Most are not located within the city proper.
Within the city proper
Hebei Provincial Museum. This is a must see and contains expositions from two major discoveries of the recent decades: the tomb of King of Zhongshan (中山王) from the late 4th century BCE, and the royal tombs of prince and princess of the Han principality of Zhongshan (Mancheng 满城 Han tombs) from the late 2nd century BCE.
Pilu Monastery (毗庐寺; Pílúsì; also known as Vairocana Monastery), (Shanjing Village in the northwestern suburbs of Shijiazhuang, bus 115 or 204 from the Railway Station will take you there). Built in the Tang dynasty and underwent major restorations under the Yuan and Ming dynasties. The main hall (Vairocana Hall; 毗庐殿; Pílúdiàn) contains a stone pedestal with excellent Tang carvings as well as murals from the Yuan-Ming period, some of which are truly magnificent (if you have the luck to visit when the sunlight is good enough to observe the details).¥20.
Martyrs' Memorial (Lieshi Lingyuan). Dedicated to Norman Bethune, Eric Liddell and Dwarkanath Kotnis.
A great park to walk around in is the Chang'an Park （长安公园）. It's a great people-watching park. Chinese men get together and play games, woman dance, and there are lots of babies toddling around. The park is actually four parks in one with an underground mall near the entrance (where the giant white statue of Mao Zedong is located).
There are quite a few parks in the city. It's nice to walk around different ones in a day or afternoon. Locals are quite friendly and very interested to know where you're from (if you look approachable). Chang'an, Century and Zhongshan Parks are the biggest and most widely used.
Zhaozhou Bridge, Zhao County (赵县; Zhàoxiàn) (Bus from the southern Nanjiao Station (南焦客运站; Nánjiāo Kèyùnzhàn; which can be riched by bus 35 from the Central Railway Station) to Zhao County or, better, to Ningjin County (宁晋县; Níngjìnxiàn), get off the bus at the junction from which it is 1km walk). <A great masterpiece of Chinese civil engineering. Created around 600 CE under the Sui dynasty, it survived numerous floods and earthquakes, and is considered nowadays as the oldest stone single arch bridge in the world. Adjacent small museum with a collection of stone carvings, steles and statues from the vicinity of Zhou County.¥30 including the museum.
Bolin Monastery (柏林寺; Bólínsì), Zhao County (赵县; Zhàoxiàn) (In Zhao County proper, 3km from Zhaozhou Bridge and can be reached by the same buses). Large monastery, dating back to the Tang dynasty.
Cangyan Mountain (苍岩山; Cāngyánshān), (90 minutes drive from Shijiazhuang, bus from the western Xiwang Station (西王客运站; Xīwáng Kèyùnzhàn; reached by bus 9 from the Central Bus Station)). Really beautiful, picture postcard temples built on the steep hillsides. There is a pavilion built on a bridge over a gorge that was filed in the final scenes of the Oscar winning film Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon. Looking down at the Cangyan Mountains, two mountains stand facing each other from east to west, and one chain of mountains lie across their back from north to south, with the Fuqing temple built in the valley formed by the precipices and cliffs. The mountains are more than one thousand steep high, so that it is cold in the valley with the wind blowing; There are jagged rocks of grotesque shape at the bottom of ravines and the stream is gurgling; In the valley the trees are verdant and the green grass is luxuriant; The old sandalwoods depend on the cliff, twisting and curling like dragons; The plank road is winding, and the temple is hung up in the air; The cloud and mist are surging under the bridge hall, and the red wall shines through the green clumps.
Shitou Village (石头村; Shítoucūn; lit. Stone Village; also known as Yujia Village (于家村; Yújiācūn)), (20km from Jingxing County and can be visited en route to the Cangyan Mountain). A perfect example of Chinese stone architecture, with an excellent local temple (Qingliang pavillion; 清凉阁; Qīngliánggé) built in the late Ming-Early Qing period (16th-18th centuries). It may serve as an introduction to popular beliefs of the Chinese peasants.
Niangzi Guan (娘子关; Niángziguān), (20km east of Shitou Village, a taxi will be ¥80-100 from Shitou Village or Jingxing County (井陉县; Jǐngxíngxiàn), or you can take the train from Shijiazhuang (6414, leaves at 6:38AM, back at 5:59PM)). For those who really love old towns. The dusty coalminers' town has two major attractions: a small but impressive section of the internal Great Wall, separating Shanxi from Hebei, a site of major battles from the sixth century on; and a beautiful village built on a stream, with private watermills run by many villagers (ask for Shuishangrenjia; 水上人家; Shuǐshàngrénjiā).
Ancient town of Zhengding (正定; Zhèngdìng), (15km north of Shijiazhuang, bus 201 or 31 from the Railway Station). Features numerous beautiful sites, most specifically the Longxing Temple (隆兴寺), built in the Tang dynasty, which features a huge 22m high bronze Buddha statue donated by the Song emperor in the 11th century. It is also home to four unique ancient pagodas.
There are some well-equipped leisure centers, especially the luxury bathing centers.
Shijiazhuang is home to three of China's top 10 wholesale markets, which makes it is a good place great bargains. Be prepared to haggle, either yourself or with a friend!
There are also a number of very large modern department stores. Prices can be a bit steep, but you can usually find reasonably priced, good quality goods.
Bei Guo. In the middle of the city, at the corner of Zhong Shan Lu and Jian She Da Jie. Bei Guo has many locations around the city, but this is the largest.
There is a new mall located on the east side of the city called the Wan Da Mall. It is on Huai An Lu, one block east of Century Park, on the north side of the street. It has a Starbucks, Pizza Hut, McDonald's, and KFC. It also has a movie theatre with an IMAX screen, as well as many clothing stores which are reasonably priced. Easily the nicest mall in the city, its an "American-style" mall, very nice to go just to walk around and window shop.
The "You Mall" at Bei Guo Centre is very nice. Lots of little shops with clothing, accessories and various trinkets. Mostly for women. Nice food court on top floor (see "food card" system below).
The Wonder Mall opened in Spring 2010 and has a theater, large department store and a really nice, clean food court, although the food was mediocre. It also has a Starbucks (opened December 2011)
Xin Bai Centre offers more shopping, as does Dong Fang Commercial Center.
Behind and near Dong Fang are EGO, Tai He and Nan San Tiao, for wholesale shopping. Beware: Many items are pirated or ripped-off so make certain they work first.
Hebei House. For a fantastic authentic Chinese feast you cannot go past this restaurant.
Rehehuiguan Restaurant (热河会馆; Rèhéhuìguǎn), (Just opposite the railway station (slightly to the south)). Features excellent Hebei and Manchu cuisine.
Tu Da Ri, Zhongshanxi Road (中山西路; Zhōngshānxīlù) (a few minutes walk from the railway station, near Tai He, north side of the road). Small but lovely, and relatively cheap restaurant.
There are few foreign restaurants and the ones that exist don't seem very Western. But it's still fun to go to them and try what they think is foreign food.
Pizza Hut is in SJZ, although the food is different than PH in the States or other places. However, if you want something like pepperoni, they can usually make it, sometimes with a little polite insistence. Just tell them you want a pizza with LaRouChang. They also have decent onion rings.
If you like ice-cream, there are 3 Dairy Queens in SJZ, within a few blocks of each other. One is in the EGO building beside Tai He, directly underneath McDonald's. The second is in the Wonder Mall, at the corner of ZhongHua DaJie and YuHua Lu. The third on is right across the street from the train station. All three of them also have a Yoshinoya (Japanese fast food) sharing the store space with them. Look for the orange Yoshinoya sign.
KFC is everywhere.
Coffee shops in the western style are emerging. There's a new Costa Coffee that just opened in one of the malls, there are some cute coffee cafes, a SPR (starbucks look-alike) and others. You can goto one of the chain restaurants (McDonalds and KFC) and get a "Navy" coffee, and chill out there. One of the best coffee shops / bakeries is across from Beiguo "Tasty Bread." There is, however, a bakery on the bottom of "You Mall" in BeiGuo Shancheng that looks like a real bakery/coffee shop where one might sit down and have a coffee.
A Starbucks recently opened (September 2011) in the Wan Da Mall on Huai An Lu in the east side of the city. Another Starbucks is opening soon in the Wonder Mall on Yu Hua Lu.
Xiang Jun Fu, Ti Yu Nan Da Jie/ Dong Gang Lu (SW of the Train Station). Excellent Hunan food. To get there, take the 32 bus from the train station and transfer to the #6 bus at Hebei Normal University (师大）.
Food card system
Most food courts in Shijiazhuang have a "food card" system whereby one pays for a "food card" first. You then take the food card to the food court restaurant to order and they then deduct points or "cash" directly from the card only. Each individual restaurant does not take cash.
The good citizens of Shijiazhuang enjoy the Chinese alcohol made from rice baijiu, or white spirit. It is a strong drink and you need to develop an acquired taste. You will surely get to try some whenever you eat out with Chinese friends.
Seven Club (Qi Jiuba), (West of the train station). The main night club that all the expats and foreign teachers go to. The beer is not great but it has the best atmosphere compared to any other club.
mazzo club, zhongshan lu (two km east of train station). 20:00. newest club/KTV in Shijiazhuang. Located between the train station and Bei Guo Shopping Center on Zhongshan Lu. Sister club is Rolling Stones （滚石酒吧: pinyin: gun shi jiu ba） and its adjoining club Club No.88 (八八酒吧: pinyun - ba ba jiu ba), just down the street toward the train station. There are two internet bars and a movie theater within a five minute walk, along with three more KTVs and western and Chinese restaurants, as well as a sushi restaurant.04:00.
The Shijiazhuang administration does not allow foreigners to stay at budget hotels, (ie under about 200rmb, 2012. This includes any hostels that might appear in booking sites - they are for Chinese only (including the hostel across the street from the train station).
Other options including checking with the Foreign Affairs Departments of universities who sometimes have budget accommodation. There are private accommodation options around, varying from rough to excellent. Near universities is a good place to look for a room. There are also what are often translated as 'private hotels': which might be an apartment where the rooms are rented out by the day. They can be found advertising on the Net but are all are in Chinese. The law says that you must register with the police within 24 hours of arriving when you stay in any private accommodation (as it states on the back of the immigration card when entering the country). Most residents are unaware of this and probably won't ask you to, but you and the resident can get into mild trouble with the authorities if found out.
There's a Home Inn about 3 blocks from the train station that is allowed to accept foreigners and which is pretty clean and moderately priced.
There is no problem finding higher priced accommodation and there's plenty of it.
In the Cangyan Shan region, there are/were no places to stay for foreigners - in fact this is the issue in much of Hebei province. If a proprietor can be bothered and the police feel inclined, the police can allow you to stay in accommodation not approved for foreigners provided you register with them.
If you want to go to some hot-springs, check out the White Deer Hotel in Pingshan County. Ask your Chinese friends. You need to take a bus from the North Station. It's around 200RMB for the day, but beautiful and huge. They have indoor and outdoor pools. Bring your sunscreen.