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These days, Dalian is a city that people across China dream of calling home. It’s sophisticated and prosperous, with a glitzy commercial center, a few laid-back beaches and pockets of colonial architecture. It’s also relatively young, so city planners were able to carve out a distinguishable downtown district. Even the hotels in Dalian are well above average, with a great selection of luxury options in the area.

Dalian’s history is unique. It was occupied by the British, later leased by the Russians and finally invaded by the Japanese – and all of this for a city that scarcely existed before the mid-19th century. There is plenty of European architecture form the early 1900s to admire, as well as the recently renovated Russian Street and a few remnants of the Japanese occupation.

Many of the city’s tourists are Chinese, and they come explicitly for the resorts in Dalian beaches. In the old days, Communist party elites came as often as they could, though most of today’s visitors hail from China’s ever-growing middle class. The beaches with the most to offer are Fujiazhuang Beach, Bangchuidao Beach and Gold Pebble Beach.

Tourists also take an interest in the city’s military history, especially as it relates to Port Arthur. The port itself is still a military base, but certain sectors can be visited by tourists. Otherwise, time away from the beaches is best spent in the city’s cosmopolitan core. Stylish clothing boutiques deal in Japanese and Korean fashions, while local restaurants serve everything from sushi to hot pots. After hours, the action shifts to nightclubs around the posh luxury hotels in Dalian city center.

For more information on hotels and landmarks in the different areas of Dalian, click on the interactive Dalian map on the left-hand side of the page.