The capital of the Henan province, situated in the geographical center of China, Zhengzhou is a city of about eight million people. With most of the population being Zhengzhou natives, it’s one of China’s relatively unexplored cities, but packs in heaps of history – the area is known as the birthplace of Chinese civilization – a unique modern culture, distinct food, wonderful buildings and gorgeous surrounding natural beauty in the scenic Yellow River area that spreads around it
A stay in Zhengzhou can make the most of these attractions; engaging in the city’s historic temples, visiting the alleged ‘ghost town’ area of Zhengdong to see if there really are any people, shopping at the bustling markets, eating the specialties of the province and journeying outside of the city to make the most of the spectacular countryside.
Let’s explore the best things to do in Zhengzhou:
1. City God Temple
Situated on the northern side of Shangcheng Road in Zhengzhou City, the City God Temple is a large and complex ancient place of worship; in fact, it is the largest in the Henan Province.
Dating back from the early Ming Dynasty (1368-1644), the building’s original use was to protect the Daoist god, but the original building was torn down by both natural disasters and people’s interference.
But what is left of the temple remains magnificent; and today admirers come to enjoy the artwork that embellishes The Happy Building, to wander around the different buildings and to experience in the folk art and craft fairs that frequently take place.
As it lays within the city center, the temple is easy to reach and generally free to explore, unless a temple fair is happening when cheap tickets must be purchased.
2. Antique Market
Zhengzhou Antique Market is located near the center of the city and is one of the biggest antique and handicraft markets in China; it’s so large it is actually two separate markets!
The South City collects most of the antiques and handicrafts while the North City is home to the furniture dealers, a food court and conference facilities. It’s a must-visit for any furniture or antique enthusiasts and collectors!
If you are planning on making purchases, it’s worth noting that there are some restrictions about antiques that you can take out of China; you are not allowed to export items of a certain value, or that are over 200 years old, for instance. Make sure you research before buying anything to avoid losing your new items at customs!
3. Zhongyuan Tower
The 388 meter Zhongyuan Tower is located in the city center and is a popular Zhengzhou tourist attraction. The tower was built in 2011 and in 2012 it was one of the twenty tallest towers in the world.
Nowadays it is a modern television tower, revolving restaurant and has a high observation deck. It’s a great place to enjoy a luxurious meal or take in the view of the city and surrounding province spreading beneath.
4. Yellow River Scenic Area
The Yellow River Scenic Area is located northwest of the city and encompasses five scenic spots.
Five Dragons Peak is named after a range of five mountains and encompasses elaborate pavilions and fantastic views of the river.
Camel Mountain Range is dominated by a figure of Yu the Great.
Yueshan Temple which features the Purple Golden Pavilion and the Peony Garden
The Stone Figures of Yandi and Huangdi who are regarded as the ancestors of the Chinese
And finally the Ancient City of Liu Bang and Xiang Lu which is littered with figures of war horses and soldiers.
The Yellow River is the second largest river in China and is known as the birthplace of Chinese civilization.
5. Zhengzhou Ferris Wheel
Located in Renmin Park, the Zhengzhou Ferris Wheel was once the tallest Ferris Wheel in China and the second tallest in the world (after the London Eye).
Nowadays, there are three others of equal size and one taller in China alone, but a ride on the Zhengzhou Ferris Wheel is a refreshingly different way to view the city and definitely one of the best things to do in Henan’s capital.
6. Shang Dynasty Ruins
If you’re interested in Ancient Chinese history, the Shang Dynasty Ruins are a must-see.
Reachable by bus from the city center, they are preserved sections of an ancient wall from 3500 years ago, when the Shang Dynasty was in power of China.
The colossal size of the walls located in downtown Zhengzhou are marvelled by many of its visitors, and are a fantastic spot to spend a few hours while visiting the city.
7. Zhengzhou Confucian Temple
Located near the city center, Zhengzhou Confucian Temple is housed in a beautiful building and reflects on the culture of worshipping Confucius and other sages.
Visitors to the Confucian Temple come to admire the decoration of the Dacheng Hall, the Jade Emperor’s multicolor artwork on the building (which represents the Taoist deity and the stories of the Three Kingdoms), and the sacrificial ceremonies that are hosted at the temple every Spring and Autumn.
8. Novotel Tower
If someone was asked to think of an icon of Zhengzhou, the Novotel Tower of the Zhengdong district might come to mind.
The tower was made famous on the 60 Minutes TV show, which advertised the area of the city as a ‘ghost town’. The TV show claims that Zhengdong, like other areas in China, are expanding before their time; that the government is creating towns without the necessary resources to fill them, thus making areas where nobody actually lives.
Since the infamous TV show, various writers and photographers have visited Zhengdong and have proved that the sweeping claim made is not entirely true, but the Novotel Tower’s unique contemporary architecture is now synonymous with the city of Zhengzhou and is a must-see for any tourists to the area.
9. Orient Shopping Center
Have you ever wondered what a shopping mall looks like – with no people? The Orient Shopping center, located in ‘ghost town’ Zhengdong is home to an array of ‘shells’ of shops, with the signs already in place.
After a walk around the center, you’ll probably believe the ‘ghost town’ reports– although other shopping centers just around the corner will immediately disprove this theory. Orient Shopping Centre is an eerie, almost apocalyptic place that gives an interesting insight to China’s national development.
10. Zhengdong New District Financial Center
It might not be your stereotypical tourist attraction, but the Zhengdong New District Financial Center is a fascinating destination for all those interested in modern Chinese culture and architecture.
The area has been recently designed, modelled on Shanghai’s Pudong District. This is the supposed center of ‘ghost town’ Zhengdong, but an exploration around the financial area – which is hardly heaving, but definitely shows some signs of life – proves this statement to be not completely accurate.
If you like cityscapes, you’ll get a great view of Zhengdong with some intriguing contemporary architecture, offering a great insight to modern Chinese architecture, economy and society.
11. Have a Typical Henan Breakfast of Hulatang
Soup for breakfast might not be everyone’s cup of tea, but it’s the normal morning meal of choice for the Henan province and should be sampled for at least one breakfast while you’re in the city!
Typical ingredients include beef broth, capsicum and black pepper, and there’s lots of restaurants dotted around the city that will happily serve you a steaming bowl in the morning.
12. Eat Hui Mian
Hui mian is one of China’s most famous noodle dishes, which originated in Henan Province.
Don’t visit Zhengzhou without enjoying some of the typical noodle dishes of the region; Mutton Noodles (yangrouhuimian) and Beef Noodles (niurouhuimian) in particular are recommended, and they are sold at many restaurants and street food stalls around the city.
13. Guoliang Village
Guoliang Village is tricky to get to, but is well worth it. The village used to be cut off from the province; with the only way to reach it being steps cut out of a very steep cliff.
Due to the elevation of the village and the difficulty of the climb, the stairway was named the ‘Sky Ladder’. Tourists nowadays visit Guoliang Village to admire the ‘Sky Ladder’ and appreciate the bravery that went into creating such a treacherous path.
There is spectacular scenery to the area, and the villagers are welcoming and inquisitive towards tourists. The village itself is built, in its entirety, from stone; making it a very unusual place to visit.
To reach the village, you must take a train from Zhengzhou to Xinxiang and then a bus to Huxian Bus Station. From here, a bus can be taken to the Wanxianshan Scenic Area. At this point, the park and the village are both accessible by hiking. Here’s some more detailed directions if you plan on making the trip:
14. Erqi Night Market
A very popular night dining option for visitors to Zhengzhou, Erqi night market offers a range of street food style foods at bargain prices.
But don’t just visit the night market for the food; Erqi Square is the center of the city and every night comes alive with a buzzing atmosphere and lots of entertainment.
15. Northern Song Dynasty Imperial Tombs
Nestled in-between the Songshan Mountain to the South and the Yellow River to the North, the Imperial tombs offer stunning vistas in a peaceful countryside setting and a unique history of the emperors of the Song Dynasty.
There are eight tombs on site – seven for the Emperors of the Song Dynasty and an additional tomb for the father of the Dynasty’s first emperor.
Buses leave from Zhengzhou coach station every 30 minutes and the tombs are a fantastic day trip from the city.
16. Dahe Village Ruins
Covering an area of 300,000 square meters, the Dahe Village Ruins were discovered in Autumn 1964 and is nowadays the best-preserved house of its kind in China.
It demonstrates prehistoric architecture; the building thought to be dating back to 5000 years. A selection of pained potteries are on display in the Dahe Village Ruins and the house offers guests valuable insights into aged culture in this area of China.
To reach the ruins, take a bus from Zhengzhou bus station to Gongyi bus station and then transfer to a taxi to the ruins.
17. Henan Provincial Museum
The area of Henan has one of the most interesting and rich cultures in China – it was actually the birthplace of Chinese civilization as we know it – so of course the Provincial Museum is a must-visit. T
Take a wander around the Henan Provincial Museum to appreciate the distinct culture and history of this city and the province.
18. Erqi Strike Monument Tower
The pagoda isn’t the most scenic you’ll see in China, but it’s got a distinct and unique shape that makes it worth a visit, and it is centrally located, overlooking the popular Erqi square.
At night time, the tower is lit up and the square is teeming with life; making it a great place to enjoy an evening.
19. Yu Opera
Henan Opera is a must-visit while you’re in Zhengzhou; even if you can’t speak a word of Mandarin, the night is great fun!
In similarity to Beijing opera, Yu Opera has a host of characters, including male and female figures and, of course, clowns.
The Yu Opera is a fantastic way to spend an evening in Zhengzhou, with the best place to watch the show being the Chaxiang Cun Traditional Opera and Tea House.
20. Drink A KingStar Beer on Hongqi Road
A popular street with bars and restaurants, Hongqi Road is a great place to enjoy a beer during an evening.
Try a local KingStar Beer and enjoy the unique atmosphere of this area of the city.
21. Shaolin Temple (Shaolin Kung Fu)
Shaolin Temple is located near to Zhengzhou and is recommended to be ‘The Number One Temple Under Heaven’ and is a UNESCO heritage site.
A great site to learn more about Chinese Buddhism, the temple consists of many attractions including the Mahavira Hall and the Pagoda Forest.
If you’re interested in martial arts, The Wushu Training Center is frequented by practices of Shaolin Kung Fu and has been the location of Kung Fu practice for over 1500 years.
22. Song Mountain
About 50 miles east of Zhengzhou is Song Mountain, which is one of the Five Mountains of China and has incredible natural scenery.
Buses leave from Zhengzhou to Dengfeng and then different buses can be caught to each scenic area. Including the Zongyue Scenic Area and the Songyang Scenic Area, with 72 mountains and an abundance of valleys, caves, pools and waterfalls, plenty of time can be relished at Song Mountain.
It hosts an array of cultural history which greatly appeals to its many visitors.
23. Yellow Emperor’s Palace
The Yellow Emperor (Huangdi) is known as the ancestor of all of the people in China and his palace is nowadays a fascinating tourist attraction.
The Ancestor- Worshipping Square, ancestral temples, ancient vessels, arts court and Xuanyuan Hill are important attractions to enjoy the Yellow Emperor’s prestigious story.
If you’re visiting in March you might even get the chance to take part in the festival of worship towards the Huangdi.
24. Century Amusement Park
If you’re seeking for some recreation after all of the history and culture of Zhengzhou, take a trip to the city’s Century Amusement Park.
It’s the biggest in the area, is set amongst lovely scenery and is generally a quiet spot. It is home two main coasters; a Chinese SLC and a Semeco built looper, as well as ‘spinning mice’ which are popular in China.
25. Zhengzhou Art Museum
Open since 1997, this free of charge museum in the city center includes old photos of Zhengzhou which document its history, paintings from Chinese artists and calligraphers and over 100 paintings from Yantao Liu, a Chinese artist.