A Definitive Travel Guide to All Things Shenyang, China

Shenyang (沈阳 Shěnyáng), formerly known as Mukden, is a city located in northeastern China’s Liaoning Province (辽宁省 Liáoníng Shěng). This bustling Chinese provincial capital with a complex past is a great destination for Qing dynasty history buffs. CLI’s Shenyang Travel Guide introduces the highlights of this fascinating northeastern Chinese city.

yellow roofed traditional Chinese buildings in Shenyang, China

Shenyang Basics

Shenyang is the largest city and administrative capital in northeast China. The city is bordered by Changbai Mountain in the north and the Liaodong Peninsula in the south. Today, Shenyang’s population is estimated to be 8,299,000, and it occupies an area of 12,948 square kilometers (4,999 square miles).

Shenyang features two administrative counties, Faku and Kangping, and is the political, cultural, and economic headquarters of Liaoning Province.

Shenyang natives speak Shenyang dialect, which is quite similar to China’s standard Mandarin dialect, putonghua.

The city is known for its stunning natural scenery and industrious population, and time spent there is time well spent.

modern apartment buildings next to the sea at dawn in Shenyang, China

Today, Shenyang is a bustling modern metropolis.

What Makes Shenyang Famous?

Shenyang is famous for a variety of reasons. It is in this city that the Japanese conquered the Russian army in 1905 during the Battle of Mukden.

The city was also once home to the Chinese warlord Zhang Zuolin and is currently home to renowned Chinese film actresses like Jin Qiaoqiao and Gong Li. Other notable persons originating from Shenyang include tennis player Ma Lin, pianist Lang Lang, and peace activist Yoshiko Yamaguchi.

Shenyang is also known for having been the birthplace of the Manchu Qing dynasty (1636-1912 CE), having briefly served as the Qing capital in the early days of the Manchu conquest.

After the Manchu capital moved to Beijing, Shenyang became a sort of secondary capital. As such, it is home to some of China's best preserved imperial palaces and tombs, such as the Shenyang Imperial Palace, Zhaoling Mausoleum, and the Fuling Mausoleum. Due to their artistic and cultural significance, these palaces are recognized by UNESCO as World Heritage sites.

The Shenyang Imperial Palace (沈阳故宫 Shěnyáng Gùgōng), also known as Mukden Palace, was used as a base for the Manchu royals of the Qing dynasty and currently serves as a historical museum.

Interestingly, the Imperial Palace is the only existing complex that perfectly mimics the Forbidden City.

a map of Mukden Palace, a recommended destination among Shenyang tour guides

Visiting the sprawling Mukden Palace is a great way to gain insight into the Manchu-led Qing Dynasty.

Travelers interested in historical sites should also visit the Fuling Mausoleum (东陵 Dōnglíng), which is a tomb belonging to Nurhaci, the Qing dynasty's founder.

Shenyang is also the site of the Zhaoling Mausoleum, a tomb belonging to Emperor Huang Taiji, the second Qing emperor, and his wife. The Zhaoling Mausoleum is the largest tomb in China.

traditional Chinese architecture in Shenyang, China, a Shenyang travel guide favorite

Thanks to its rich history, Shenyang is a great place to learn about traditional Chinese architecture.

Shenyang is also famous for religious sites like the South Mosque and the Shisheng Temple. The South Mosque is the largest Islamic mosque in the city and one of the most important in China, while the Shisheng Temple is the city’s largest sanctuary for Tibetan Buddhists.

Last but not least, Shenyang boasts an impressive array of restaurants serving Chinese, Korean, and western cuisine. You can ask for traditional delicacies like stewed chicken and cold noodles or Western classics like pizza and steaks.

Other Top Shenyang Attractions

In addition to the Qing dynasty historical sites, there are many places to visit in Shenyang and a lot of fun activities to do. Here are the top attractions:

Meteorite Mountain Park

Have you ever wished to see meteorites up-close? Shenyang’s Meteorite Mountain Park allows you to have this extraordinary experience. Here, you can see the world’s most massive meteorite. which weighs at least 2 million tons. It's thought to have fallen to earth 1.9 billion years ago and is assumed to be nearly 4.5 billion years old.

Qipan Mountain

Situated 20km (12.4 miles) away from the city, Qipan Mountain (棋盘山 Qípánshān) is a stunning natural feature of Shenyang. It was once the site of the Women's Chess Championship, which is how it got the name “qipan” (棋盘 qípán), which means chessboard in Mandarin.

This beautiful reserve has slowly developed into a popular site for hiking and hunting exploits. Climb to the top for a panoramic view of Shenyang.

Qipan Scenic Area

The Qipan Scenic Area is home to the Shenyang International Ice and Snow Festival. It is a great choice for those looking to have an exciting winter experience.

Aside from the festival, other key highlights include a beautiful lake and hills that you can explore. These attractions give you a view of the magnificent natural scenery of Shenyang.

Beiling Park

Do you like going to expansive parks to relax? Then you will find Beiling Park interesting. It is the largest public park in Shenyang and promises a great experience.

In Chinese, the name 'Beiling' means the 'north tomb,' referring to the Zhaoling Mausoleum, tomb of Emperor Huang Taiji, which is located within the park.

To the west of the mausoleum are beautiful gardens and a kids' play area, which helps make the park a relaxing spot for families and groups.

Zhaoling Mausoleum, a Shenyang travel guide recommended spot

Zhaoling Mausoleum serves as the resting place of the second Qing emperor.

International Horticultural Expo Garden

Just 18km (11.2 miles) away from Shenyang, the International Horticultural Expo Garden is a popular spot for nature lovers. Visiting the garden allows you to explore some of the most exceptional flora in Shenyang.

The 246-hectare garden is lavish and features ten imperial plots, 50 local yards, and 24 open parks earmarked for exhibitions.

Shenyang Botanical Garden

An alternative to the International Horticultural Expo Garden, the Shenyang Botanical Garden is a lovely place to spend your afternoon. Established in 1959, it boasts of some of the world’s most elegant exotic flowers, bushes, and herbs.

There are more than 1,700 plant varieties in this garden, and this explains why it is a top travel destination for botanists. Here, you can find a variety of rare plant species. The Botanical Garden is an especially excellent place to welcome the spring season.

Royal Ocean World

If you are looking to have fun with friends or family, Royal Ocean World is a great place to go. This amusement park is quite popular in downtown Shenyang. It features a waterpark called 'Hawaii' where you can enjoy water rides. It is also known to have a stunning aquarium that features exhibits with unique fantasy themes.

Tai Cny Pedestrian Street

The Shenyang Tai Cny Street is a shopping paradise that is often crowded with local and foreign tourists. You can buy everything from local crafts to mouthwatering bites on this street. It has several permanent food joints that serve the best Chinese delicacies.

Strange Slope

Located 30 km (18.6 miles) away from Shenyang, the 80-meter (262-foot) long Strange Slope is considered a natural wonder by many. It is a marvel to see and at the same time, weird, given that it seems to violate the laws of gravity.

If you stop a car at the foot of this slope, it will drift upwards towards the top of the slope instead of rolling downwards as you might expect. Whether you decide to drive or walk along the slope, the experience is a magical one.

Safety

Shenyang is considered a safe place to visit. Crime rates have dropped significantly over the past few years. Although the city is generally safe, it is still advisable to exercise personal security precautions when visiting this and other Chinese cities.

Getting there

Shenyang enjoys the convenience of an elaborate transportation system. The city is connected to other parts of China by direct flights, buses, and high-speed trains.

International travelers can get to Shenyang through the Shenyang Taoxian International Airport, which is 30 km (18.6 miles) away. There are direct flights to the airfield from South Korea, Hong Kong, Tokyo, and Osaka.

For those traveling from other parts of China, there are direct flights to the Shenyang International Taoxian Airport from Sanya, Beijing, Xi'an, and Guangzhou, just to name a few.

By car, you can get to Shenyang from Beijing. The distance is about 685 km (425 miles). You can also book long-distance buses from Beijing, Harbin, Jilin or Dalian.

If you prefer railway transport, Shenyang has two stations, the north and south railway stations. Both stations are entry points to the city from Beijing, Jilin, Dalian, Tianjin, and Harbin.

Weather and Best Time to Travel

Shenyang experiences dry weather at most times of the year. Summers get hot, with temperatures rising as high as 39.3 degrees Celsius (103 degrees Fahrenheit), while winters get cold, with temperatures dropping below 0 degrees Celsius (32 degrees Fahrenheit). It is advisable to wear lots of warm clothes in winter.

a traditional Chinese pavilion in Shenyang, China, a favorite stop for Shenyang travel guides

Due to its location in China’s northeast, winters in Shenyang can get quite cold. (Image Credit: Mukden Palace in the Snow © donpablovi/Instagram)

The best time to travel to Shenyang is between May and June, when the temperatures average 23-27 degrees Celsius (73.4-80.6 degrees Fahrenheit), and between August and October, when they average 16-28 degrees Celsius (60.8-82.4 degrees Fahrenheit). In addition to having warm weather, Shenyang is also less crowded at these times. 

Something for Everyone

Shenyang is a city that blends the ancient and the modern and offers a variety of activities for travelers. As we hope our Shenyang Travel Guide makes clear, anyone who visits this provincial capital is likely to find that there is plenty to see, do, and learn.

After visiting Shenyang, Qing dynasty history aficionados may also want to check out the Summer Palace in Beijing, which served as the primary residence of the Qing emperors during the latter portion of the dynasty.

If you're interested in continuing to explore China's long history through visits to other ancient Chinese cities, we recommend taking a trip to Suzhou, a city famous for its many classical Chinese gardens. You can also consider checking out Xi'an, a city famous for its role as the starting point of China's ancient Silk Road.

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