Inside China...Dalian: Port of plenty

31 May 2013 by ahmarshah

Located on the southern tip of the Eastern Liaoning Peninsula, Dalian looks out over the Yellow Sea to the east and the Bohai Sea to the west. For most of the 19th century, the area was peppered with small military settlements created by the Qing government, until colonial powers took over.

The city centre of modern-day Dalian was established by the Russians at the end of the 19th century. Known as Dalny, it was strategically linked to the Trans-Siberian Railway. The southern part of Dalian was then a separate area called Port Arthur (known to the Chinese as Lushun). Both cities changed hands between China, Imperial Russia, Japan and the Soviet Union between 1894 and 1945.

In 1950, Dalian was merged with nearby Lushun to form the city of Luda, covering 12,574sq km in area. However, a subsequent decision was made in March 1951 to rename the merged city as Dalian. Today, it is home to some six million people and is an industrial hub, with shipping and finance two of the major sectors.

Dalian is blessed with a deep and ice-free harbour, which consequently has links to over 160 countries and regions. The city has a strong manufacturing sector for machinery and digital audio-visual products, as well as oil refining and software industries. Also located here are a digital manufacturing park, a biological engineering park and a pharmaceutical industrial park.

The business event sector is also developing, with 40-50 national and international events taking place each year. These include the annual Dalian International Fashion Festival, Acacia Flowers Festival, Spring Festival of Fireworks, and Dalian Import and Export Commodities Fairs of China.

First impression

On arrival, Dalian Zhoushuizi International Airport looks and feels like many others in second-tier cities around the country – nondescript. It’s a modern structure, but it is very basic in its facilities, with very few shops and restaurants. The airport serves 100 domestic and international air routes, but didn’t seem very busy during our visit.


Of its 12,500sq km area, only 2,415sq km is urban. The rest of the municipality’s area consists of hills, rivers and interesting rock formations, especially along the coast. There are eight districts: Zhongshan is the financial and commercial centre, while Xigang to the west is the municipal government district. Shahekou farther west is mainly residential, although it also has many universities, and Ganjingzi, the largest district of urban Dalian, is home to Heishijiao University, a high-tech area and Dalian airport.

There are four more districts and three sub-cities in the wider Dalian administrative area. Among them, you’re likely to visit Jinzhouqu to the northeast for its newly developed industrial zones as well as Golden Pebble Beach. Lushunkou, at the southwestern tip, is the site of former Port Arthur. Rural Zhuanghe, all the way to the northeastern end of greater Dalian, features the Buyun Shan Hot Springs and Yinshitan Forest Park.

What to do

Jinshitan Scenic Area

Also known as the Golden Pebble Beach National Resort, this tourist precinct is about 50km northeast of Dalian City. It has two peninsulas with a long stretch of beach in between, government-run resorts and attractions such as Golden Rock Garden, Jinshitan Geological Museum and Dalian Mao Ze Dong Badge Exhibition Hall. It’s a nice half-day trip. It is reachable by light rail from Dalian Railway Station in 52 minutes, at a cost of RMB8 (US$1.30). Individual attractions cost between RMB10-RMB30 (US$1.60-$4.80) each.

Lushun Russia-Japan Prison

With an eerie atmosphere very similar to the Berlin-Hohenschönhausen Memorial, this facility was established by the Russian Empire in 1902 and later expanded by the Japanese. The 226,000 sqm site, containing 253 wards and torture chambers, has been kept to remind people of the brutality of war.

139, Xiangyang Street, Lushunkou; tel +86 411 8661 0676; bus from Zhanbei Square to Lushun costs RMB7 (US$1.14) and operates from 5.30am to 7.40pm.

Where to stay

Hilton Dalian

Located in East Harbor New Development Zone, this hotel looks out on Dalian Bay and offers 370 rooms and all the modern amenities such as 24-hour fitness centre, a 25-metre swimming pool, Chinese sauna-style Touch Spa, as well as Northern Chinese, Japanese and international dining. www3.hilton.com

New World Dalian Hotel

Located in the city centre, this 420-room hotel has recently been renovated, and offers excellent facilities including a 27x14-metre indoor swimming pool, four food and beverage outlets, as well as newly opened, multi-purpose Liaoning Room for events. www.dalian.newworldhotels.com

Kempinski Hotel Dalian

Located right in the middle of Zhongshan district, this hotel has 400 rooms, some offering a great view of Laodong Park. Its fitness centre offers personal coaching and swimming lessons, and other than international dining, the hotel also has a 30th floor Sky Lounge and German beer house Paulaner Brauhaus. www.kempinski.com/en/dalian

Where to shop

Qingniwa Shopping Area

Right in town and opposite to the Dalian Railway Station, this area contains the most popular shops and malls in the city, including Jiuguang Departmental Store, Parkland Departmental Store, Pacific Dalian, Newmart Shopping Center and Mykal Dalian.

Where to eat

Tiantian Seafood Restaurant

One of Dalian’s most famous seafood restaurants, Tiantian features upscale décor and fresh, refined seafood dishes. The Baked Big Shrimp dish here is just RMB68 (US$11).

45 Tongtai Street, Shahekou District, tel +86 411 8454 9111

The Riviera Restaurant

The most popular Western restaurant in Dalian offers dishes such as salads, steaks and pizzas. It may also be one of the few places in town for a good glass of wine. A 400g sirloin steak costs about RMB480 (US$78) here.

G/F, Gold Name Tower, 68 Renmin Road, Zhongshan, +tel 86 411 3963 3899

Where to unwind

Alice Club

A “Eurostyle performing club” of some 1,000 sqm, this club features garish décor as well as live performances, DJ-spun music and visual stimulation by VJs. There are over 20 private rooms.

Building 12, Block B, Classical Life, Zhongshan District; tel +86 411 8264 6516; www.alice98.com

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