When in the bustling port city of Ningbo, there is one sure way to fit in with the crowd—be exuberant.
“[Ningbonese] always speak very loud, almost shouting. They consider this … a proper way to show their sincere hearts,” said Chinese tour guide Han Zhi An in a Bangkok Post feature. “At the schools, there are sessions where students must make loud speeches for 20 minutes. If [a student] cannot deliver a loud speech, teachers may wonder if the kid is healthy or not.”
Ironically, some of Ningbo’s finest attractions are best admired in quiet contemplation. Let the Pan Pacific Ningbo team uncover these hidden treasures. Read on as we show you how to spend 48 hours in Ningbo, and leave with much to talk—and think—about.
Take a Walk in Ningbo City
Welcome to Ningbo! Ningbo is considered one of China’s mid-sized cities—it has an estimated population of 7.6 million, compared to Shanghai’s 24.18 million. By Chinese standards, crowds and noise are less of a problem in Ningbo, and exploring the city centre on foot can be a pleasurable undertaking. However, guided walking tours in English are not the norm here, so your best option is to bookmark a self-guided tour or plan your own.
In the city centre, look out for Tian Yi Pavilion, the oldest surviving private library in China. It was built in 1561 for a high-ranking defence official known as Fan Qin, who, impressively, managed to acquire more than 70,000 works for his personal collection. Through the centuries, the library was vulnerable to thievery and natural disasters. Fortunately, efforts were made to protect and recover the books.
Today, the library is estimated to house anywhere from 80,000 to 300,000 works on Ningbo’s education, economic development, literary culture, and history. The collection also includes rare handwritten works and imperial examination records from the Ming Dynasty.
During your city saunter, you will inevitably find yourself in the vicinity of the Old Bund, not to be confused with Shanghai’s Bund. The Old Bund has historic significance because it stands at the convergence of three waterways in Ningbo, and was once the city’s major port area.
According to the Shanghai Daily, this area “underscores the emergence of Western civilisation in China, [and it] is also the only place in Zhejiang Province that still reflects traditional port culture.” Its most striking—and most photographed—structure is an 1872 French Catholic church, known to tourists as the “Jiangbei Catholic Church.”
Enjoy a Serene Half-Day Retreat to the Lake
You may have heard of the legendary Chinese beauty Xi Shi—one of the famed Four Beauties of ancient China. She was reputed to be so mesmerising that fish could forget how to swim upon glimpsing her reflection in the water. Wish to test if you are as enchantingly attractive? Head to Dongqian Lake, a 45-minute drive from the city centre. This is where Xi Shi is said to have enjoyed a romantic retreat with her husband, the plutocrat Fan Li.
Dongqian Lake is a place for slow living, and the attractions, while not glitzy, have rich origin stories rooted in Chinese values. While in this area, look out for a Putuo Cave near the Xiayu Temple—a pious son was said to have once led his mother to this cave to pay respects to the goddess Guan Yin, to prevent her from embarking on a perilous mountain trek. His devotion did not go unnoticed by the goddess, who appeared before mother and son to give them her blessings.
Similarly, Jiulong (“nine dragon”) Lake offers respite from the city, with the opportunity for outdoor recreation such as a forest hike. This is the place in Ningbo to be, if you are after a soul rejuvenating experience—its mountainous setting featuring a stunning lake will do wonders to clear your head and boost your spirits. A Ningbo expat hails this as one of her “favourite destinations” in Ningbo, particularly because the hiking trails still feature natural footpaths. If you prefer to relax, ride a buggy up the mountain or take a ferry ride on the lake for a different view.
Hike Up Mount Putuo for a Delightful Day Trip
“The place that all tourists should definitely visit is Putuo Mountain,” said a local to the Shanghai Daily. “It is one of the Four Great Buddhist Mountains of China, as well as one of the most popular national scenic spots in China. It is definitely worth a visit as the scenery is beautiful.”
You can catch a ferry from Ningbo to Putuoshan Island, the highlight of which is Mount Putuo—the “ashram of Guan Yin, the goddess of mercy.” Apart from being accessible, Mount Putuo has an official website with information about the location’s choice sights.
For one, you can wander into palace- and residential-style temples; palace-style temples are developed along a middle axis, with a more structured and symmetrical layout, whereas residential-style temples are more fluid in their design. The Huiji Temple at the peak of Foding Mountain is an example of a residential-style temple, said to resemble a Chinese garden house.
Other things to do in Mount Putuo include geological tours, water sports, or simply savouring a meal of island-fresh seafood. For a taster of what Mount Putuo has to offer, watch a short travel clip featuring the area’s scenery on The Star.
Alternatively, aim to cover five essential Ningbo tourist attractions during your short trip. To unwind while on your Ningbo holidays, stay at the well-appointed Pan Pacific Ningbo Serviced Suites, designed for the corporate traveller in mind. Or speak to our team at Pan Pacific Ningbo to discuss your accommodation and sightseeing needs.