The Dalian you see today, an important Asian trading port on China’s northeast coast, not far from North Korea, grew from a small fishing village and was shaped enormously by three powers that ruled the city over the course of the 20th century: Russia from 1898 to 1905, Japan from 1905 until the end of World War II and, after the city was liberated by Soviet troops, China.
At first glance, Dalian looks like many other Chinese cities—sprawling and industrialized. But look a bit closer and you’ll notice its pleasant seaside promenades, lush green spaces like Labor Park (particularly lovely during cherry-blossom season) and grand historic buildings, including those on Russian Street and the Art Nouveau Yamato Hotel.
Beyond its historic and cultural sites, Dalian’s seaside location makes it one of the best places in China to enjoy fresh seafood. When you are ready for a break from exploring the city, head to one of Dalian’s many restaurants and you’ll see families, couples hand in hand and groups of friends tucking into seafood feasts and sipping Tsingtao beer, a legacy of German rule in Qingdao, some 400 kilometers (250 miles) to the south.