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Tianjin (northeast) is a coastal city. It belongs to no province; it is a special municipality that is closely administrated by the central government. The history of the city as well as its geographical location is closely connected to Beijing. When the Mongols established Beijing as the capital in the 13th century, Tianjin first rose to prominence as a grain-storage point. Today the city is nicknamed “Shanghai of the North,” a reference to its history as a foreign concession, its heavy industrial output, its large port and European architecture. Like Beijing, Tianjin is a large, sprawling municipality of which most is rural.
Tianjin Antique market (guwan shichang) is one of the China’s most impressive markets. Just the sheer size and variety makes it fascinating to stroll around, especially on Sunday mornings. The Ancient Culture street (gu wenhua jie) of Tianjin is an attempt to recreate the appearance of an ancient Chinese city. On certain public holidays streets operas are staged here. It is claimed that the Temple of Tianhou (tian hou gong) located here was built in 1326. Among the other temples the most famous located in Tianjin are Confucius Temple (wen miao), Great Mosque (qingzhen si), Dabeiyuan Monastery (dabeiyuan), and the Catholic Church (xikai jiaotong).
Stroll along the bank of the Hai River and see photo booths, fishing, or early-morning taijiquan - opera singing practice that is a typical scene in Hai River Park (haihe gongyuan).
The pride and joy of Tianjin residents is the TV Tower (dianshi ta). The view from the top of it is better at night if the sky is clear and there is a restaurant at the top.
There are about five traditional museums in Tianjin. The more interesting reason to visit, however, is that the city itself is a museum of European architecture. One minute you are in Little Vienna, turn the corner and you are in London, and so on.
Chinese Food street (shipin jie) in Tianjin is a covered alley with two levels of restaurants. Shops and restaurants open and close all the time. It is easy to find some real exotica here: snake, dog meat, eels, and more! It is just one km from the city center. Tianjin’s specialty, dough-twists (mahua) made from sugar, sesame, nuts and vanilla, can be bought all over the city.
Tianjin is famous for its carpets. Clay figurines and New Years posters (woodblock prints with hand-coloring that can bring good luck and happiness) that first appeared in the 17th century are other local specialties.