Brilliant Beijing The capital has some of China's grandest attractions: the Forbidden City, a vast complex of courtyards, halls and pavilions with 9999 rooms; the Imperial Summer Palace, with its beautiful gardens; and Tiananmen Square, surrounded by the Great Hall, National Museum and Mao's Memorial Hall.
Hit the Wall You can't visit China without seeing the Great Wall – and from Beijing most head for the stretch at Badaling (the Mutianyu section is a little further but less crowded!). Dating from 221BC, it's almost 4000 miles long
Panda Party Chengdu is a laid-back city of tree-lined avenues and traditional tea-house culture. But its biggest draw is the giant pandas at the nearby research centre. Morning and late afternoon are when they're most active, and autumn is best for seeing cubs – and possibly even handling one!
Dream River Don't miss the visually breathtaking limestone peaks and spires of the journey down the Li River from Guilin. It's a dream-like, fairytale landscape, complete with fishermen clicking signals to their tame cormorants to bring in their daily catch.
Where Time Stands Still Lijiang is a delight – a time capsule town with cobbled streets and traditional life in the shadow of Jade Dragon Snow Mountain. Dayan (in the old town) is particularly charming, with narrow streets bisected by streams spanned by stone bridges.
Sizzling Shanghai Shanghai has always had a reputation for glamour built around The Bund. The grand colonial waterfront was once home to banks, newspapers and consulates and now buzzes with galleries, boutiques and the most amazing restaurants.
Secret Army The city of Xi'an is the epicentre of early China, and a fantastic destination. But most visitors now come for the incredible Terracotta Army. Found in the 1970s, the original chamber has 6000 warriors, each one different and with spine-tingling detail.
What a View! Hong Kong's soaring skyline is best seen from its most popular attraction, Victoria Peak: easily reached by the Peak Tram and with dancing fountains, shopping gallery and waxworks at the top. The vista's always spectacular – especially at night.