Tianjin and Beijing are the ideal gateway cities to the vibrant Northeast of China. They are part of the Jingjinji triangular economic cluster defined by Beijing, Tianjin, and Hebei that houses over 80 million residents, with over 80,000 people commuting between Beijing and Tianjin by train daily.
Formerly home to an overseas concession ceded by Chinese Qing dynasty rulers to European trading powers, Tianjin is the world’s sixth most populous city, housing over 15 million. And China’s nearby capital, Beijing, was the seat of emperors for centuries before the fall of the Qing empire.
Driven by a few sectors including electronics, petrochemicals, software, health services, and manufacturing, both cities play a huge role in powering today’s Chinese economy.
Learn how you can navigate both cities, and how Tianjin versus Beijing compare, with our handy guide.
Stock Up Your Fridge: Where To Buy Groceries in China
Live like the locals by getting acquainted with Tianjin’s markets and supermarkets.
For a quintessentially local market experience in Tianjin, check out Gaode Maps to find your way to its wet markets. If you prefer the familiar food brands of home, take a taxi to 302 Nanjing Road or 138 Dongma Rd to check out Carrefour, where you can find everything you need in an international hypermarket.
In China’s capital Beijing, Wal-Mart (沃尔玛), Metro (麦德龙), and Carrefour (家乐福) are mainstays among hypermarkets with international offerings. Metro even provides a delivery service to your doorstep. And fans of Japanese design will be pleased by the affordable prices of the Miniso (名创优品) household goods outlets.
Dress in your Chinese Best: Where To Shop For Clothes
Fashion mavens, get ready. Tianjin’s proximity to South Korea has introduced the popular Lotte Department Store to China. There are two branches to choose from:
- Lotte Tianjin Dongmalu Store modelled after Myeongdong shopping district in Seoul with major beauty brands; and
- Lotte Tianjin Wenhua Zhongxin Store with upscale Korean and regional lifestyle and fashion names.
When in Beijing, strut your stuff at independent designers such as DONGLIANG, a small concept designer store packed with over 20 independent local brands such as Uma Wang, Ban Xiao Xue, Museum of Friendship, Ling Wu, and Deepmoss.
Opened by Nam Lang and Charles Wang in 2009, the Beijing Central Park location promotes new Chinese designer talent by giving them market space to display their works.
Getting Around: Transport In And Between Tianjin and Beijing
To travel short distances within Tianjin, hop onto any of its bus lines, the TEDA Modern Guided Rail Tram system, or its sprawling underground subway system (the second one built in China). Depending on length, bus fares in Tianjin range from CNY1-2 per ride, while distance-based subway fares range from CNY2 to 5.
And to get around Beijing, purchase a Beijing Municipal Administration Traffic Card (北京市政交通一卡通 or Yikatong) to board a local bus. Beijing bus fares start at CNY2 for the first 10 kilometres, followed by an additional CNY1 for each subsequent 5 kilometres. With the Traffic Card, you can enjoy a 50% discount on your bus fares. And Beijing subway fare is CNY2 for each journey.
In a hurry in either city? Taxi apps will bring you to your destination quickly. However, be prepared to pay slightly more for the convenience.
Zip between the two cities in just 30 minutes on the Beijing-Tianjin Intercity Railway (京津城际铁路) by bullet train. Tickets start at CNY54.50 for a second-class seat, CNY65.50 for a first-class seat, and CNY93.50 for a VIP seat.
On major holidays such as Chinese New Year and Golden Week, demand for these bullet train seats will go up, so book early to secure your seat. Bullet trains are worth the trip compared to inter-city domestic flights, because train stations are typically in city centres, saving you a lengthy and pricey airport transfer.
The Price Of An After-Work Beer
Kick back and relax with a post-work beer; since they are available at wallet-friendly prices, you can afford to buy your colleagues a round or two!
Fortune magazine recently reported that Snow Beer (雪花啤酒), Tsingtao Beer (青岛啤酒), and Budweiser (百威) are the three largest beer brands in China. A Snow Beer will set you back by only CNY3 for a 330ml can to CNY7-10 for a 500ml bottle in Beijing; an equivalent bottle in Tianjin costs only CNY5-6.
Better known as a college students’ drink in the West, Budweiser is marketed as a premium product in China. A can of Bud costs about CNY6-7, while a bottle costs CNY7-8 in either city.
Order a beer and late-night food delivery on the Eleme delivery app, China’s version of UberEats.
Where To Eat Out In Tianjin and Beijing
Nanshi Food Street (南市食品街) is a popular Tianjin gastronomic spot. Built in 1984 with four Qing-style city gates, it’s where you can find steamed buns (蒸包), dough twists (麻花), and even Russian and Italian cuisine.
Over in Beijing, the famous Wangfujing (王府井) pedestrian shopping street is lined with local and international delicacies. Feast on world famous Beijing roast duck and tuck into food stalls serving meat kebabs and traditional candied fruits. Or visit the “calling card” of Beijing—Laoshe Teahouse—to watch traditional Beijing performances while enjoying Chinese tea and palace-style snacks.
Before going out for dinner, check out Meituan to get an idea of the price ranges of Tianjin and Beijing restaurants. The app allows you to search by the type of cuisine you’re craving, be it Chinese hotpot (火锅), Northeastern Chinese cuisine (东北菜), Cantonese food (粤港菜), or grilled fish (香锅烤鱼). In Beijing, a hotpot meal for two sets you back by about CNY80 in Beijing. In Tianjin, however, hotpot for two starts at CNY60, though prices and quality in either city run the gamut.
For a treat in Tianjin, sample the signature tiger prawns, marinated jelly fish in vinegar, crabmeat soup, and stir-fried conch at the Hai Tien Lo restaurant at Pan Pacific Tianjin. The nearby Noodle Bar serves up Taiwanese and Southeast Asian noodle dishes and sweet desserts.
Where to Catch the Arts: Cultural Performances and Exhibitions
Catch a world-class performance at the 85,000 m² Tianjin Grand Theatre, home to traditional Chinese theatre, dance festivals, opera, and children’s theatre art.
Designed by German architects from gmp-Architekten from 2010-2012, the US$240 million theatre features a signature circular roof shaped like a seashell, a Czech pipe organ, and a 220-acre cultural centre. Surrounded by a man-made lake and fountain, this iconic cultural institution also has museums, an art gallery, library, youth centre and shopping mall. Performances are held at three different venues: a 1,600-seat opera house, 1,200-seat concert hall, and 400-seat multi-function hall.
Famed for its appearance in the 2008 Beijing Olympics, the National Centre for the Performing Arts (巨蛋/Giant Egg) in Beijing hosts an exciting calendar of international performances. Choose from Shakespearean dramas, Western and Chinese operas, and classical music performances. Or enjoy exhibitions of Chinese cultural artifacts and paintings.