There’s a reason the Chinese ancient walled city of Pingyao is listed as one of the best conserved walled cities in the world. It takes a few seconds to notice when entering the city though one of the gates. Wandering through the streets you’ll find countless traditional buildings, colorful lanterns and picturesque courtyards. If you would picture a period film showing ancient China, it sure would look precisely like Pingyao.
Although crowded with Chinese mainland tourists, Pingyao has been one of the highlights of our trip to China. Perhaps it had to do with the perfect location of our guesthouse (central, situated in a family owned paper cut shop, with a gorgeous courtyard and quite a cosy room). Or the fact that the ancient walled city is free of cars. The town charmed us with its beautiful buildings, massive courtyards and cobblestone streets.
Pingyao seems to be somehow authentic for you won’t find any modern buildings within the city walls. Note that most of the buildings are used to do business, either by selling souvenirs and antiques or offering food or other tourist related services. Yet, wandering through Pingyao’s courts after or before the crowds with Chinese tourists are gone, gives you a good glimpse of how a Chinese town used to be like back in time, during the Ming or Qing dynasties.
Here’s a nice video that gives a perfect image of Pingyao’s highlights and atmosphere.
TOP 5 IN PINGYAO
It’s advisable to stay at least two days in the city of Pingyao, especially if you want to take your time to explore the buildings from the inside. Here’s a top 5 of things we recommend you to do when visiting Pingyao, including a suggestion for accommodation and some tips.
Pingyao City Walk
1. Simply go for the city walk since cycling is not an option with big crowds taking over the main streets. It’s definitely worth buying a 3-day ticket to get access to any of the 30 attractions inside Pingyao’s city walls. With this ticket you’ll be able to appreciate many beautiful buildings, towers, temples and courtyards from the inside. Don’t forget to visit the Confucian Temple next to the South Gate!
Tasty street food
2. Try some great street food offered in South Street for example. It’s very cheap and instead of heaving a big lunch, try different snacks offerend by the vendors. We sure enjoyed doing this!
Shop till you drop: Chinese souvenirs
3. Buy some cool souvenirs/ arts and crafts (paper cut and jewelry, prints) to take home at one of the many souvenir shops in Pingyao.
Walk on top of the outer walls
4. South Gate: use this entrance to climb the outer walls and get an nice view over town. You’ll get access to this site with your 3-day entrance ticket (see #1). Enjoy the splendid view over the rooftops of Pingyao, which is a totally different angle to appreciate the city.
Eating & Drinking
5. Go to at least one (or more) of our favorite eateries and cafes, listed below:
MIGU COFFEE SHOP
No.16 North Street, Pingyao County, China
Delicious coffee but also great juices in a very nice atmosphere.
South St, Pingyao, Jinzhong, Shanxi, China
Amazing good food for a good price. We’ve been here 3 times for lunch or dinner since we wanted to try all dishes on the menu!
CHI CHI CAFE – COFFEE & BOOKS & TEA BY SHREW
No.8 Chenghuangmiao Street
They say this might be Píngyao’s best place to have espresso, lattes and single-origin brews. You can also order Belgian beers or cocktails. We sure liked the cosy interior design of this place!
More info >
JNSN LUSHi SHOP
Located on the corner of South Street and East Street, this is a good place to taste some local delicacies! Try the platters with exotic meats.
TIAN YUAN LUI HOTEL
No.73 South Street, Pingyao
We didn’t enter the hotel but we read good reviews of the restaurant. The food was absolutely amazing, the staff was friendly and the atmosphere of the restaurant was great! A good option for having dinner with your travel buddy or family/friends!
WHERE TO STAY IN PINGYAO?
PINGYAO BAICHANG INN HOTEL
This family owned hotel is located inside a paper cut shop which adds and extra dimension to your hotel experience. We really liked the decoration of our room and the courtyard with traditional lamps. Breakfast was included and if you’re in for Chinese breakfast, it sure tastes good! Last but not least, the location of the hotel is great: in one of Pingyao’s main streets.
Address: No. 47 Nanda Street, 031100 Pingyao, China
When we visited the city in October 2015, there were no possibilities to get cash at ATM’s inside the ancient town. ATM’s didn’t accept Maestro, Mastercard nor Visa cards. We advise you to go to the Upper West Gate, cross the street and get cash at the ABC Bank (take the machines inside the building). Or simply bring cash before entering Pingyao.
HOW TO GET THERE
We took the fast train from Beijing to Pingyao which takes about 3 hours. When arriving at the train station, it’s a 20 minute drive to the ancient city. It’s best to take a taxi or ask your hotel to pick you up.