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Port Review: Dalian, China

Joanna Hall

Dalian is home to China’s largest passenger port, but in the world of cruising it’s still somewhat of an emerging destination in China specifically, and in Asia in general.


A modern metropolis and young by Chinese standards, Dalian has been dubbed “the city built in gardens” thanks to its abundance of green squares and scenic beachside spots. The region has a 40-kilometre-long stretch of beachfront, and there’s another plus; the Dalian Cruise Terminal is close to the city centre, making it easy to explore on foot, by yourself. Dalian first came under the spotlight internationally as a result of Japan’s victory in the Sino-Japanese War of 1984-95, the territory fought over by the Japanese and the Russians, and regarded as a prize because of its two deep harbours, and its geographical location. Today the city comprises six districts, each with its own character. Xigang, for example, is the city’s CBD and centre of government, and a hot spot for tourists with sights, shopping and dining, while in the southeast of the city, Zhongshan is home to some of Dalian’s most popular attractions, including Shengli Square, Tiger Beach, and China’s largest aquarium, Underwater World.  

The Facts

Location: The north eastern coast of China.

Language: Chinese.

Currency: Yuan.

Docking/Anchoring: Ships dock at the Dalian Cruise Terminal on Dalian Harbour, which is part of the Port of Dalian with passenger ferry services to other ports in China and Inchon in South Korea.

Transport: The downtown area is within walking distance, but you can use a ship’s shuttle, or take a taxi from outside the pier (a 10 minute walk). If you opt for the latter, play safe and have directions translated into Chinese, as the drivers don’t speak English. You will also need local currency.

Don’t Miss

Zhongshan Square is the city’s central landmark, where the governmental financial institutions are located. It’s also referred to as “Nicolas Square”, it was a colonial construction built by Russian engineer decades ago, and has more than ten avenues stretching outwards.

Xinghai Square was built in 1997 to commemorate the return of Hong Kong to China, a park area featuring a central square and a Huabiao, a column carved with images of clouds and topped with a mystical creature.

The Dalian Hotel is located on the southern side of Zhongshan square, it’s one of many photo ops in the city, with an imposing European-style architecture with dignified royal court buildings and Baroque vaulting. 

Dalian has a Japanese “street” lined with Japanese restaurants, teahouses and flower shops, and just a kilometre north of Zhongshan Square, across the Shengli Bridge, there is also a Russian street, packed with European and Russian style architecture.

Tiger Beach Ocean Park is a popular leisure spot with Chinese tourists, located on the central southern waterfront area of the city, with a highlight being Tigers Sculpture Square, and its tiger sculptures. This area is also home to world famous Polar Aquarium, showcasing beluga whales, sea otters, polar bears and more.

Best Photo Op

Between its parks, squares and bustling streets there are plenty of photo ops to be had in Dalian, but one of the best views of city and the surrounding area is from Green Hill Platform, about halfway up its highest promontory. Another is from the Polar Aquarium in Tiger Beach Ocean Park.


If you love produce, colour and lively Chinese bustle, there’s and interesting Farmers Market only a short distance from the harbour. Dalian is also home to an annual international fashion festival and known among the Chinese as Fashion City, with plenty of boutiques and department stores. Other popular souvenirs include shell artworks, embroidered goods and glass ornaments. Just make sure you are buying something you can bring back to Australia legally.

Food And Drink

Chinese people take food very seriously, with eating out a major ritual, but given that it’s a major seaport, seafood is king in Dalian. Locals enjoy eating all manner of marine “treasures” including sea cucumber, abalone, scallops, prawns, mussels and oysters. Lantern-shaped steamed abalone is somewhat of a local delicacy; the abalone are literally cut into the shape of Chinese lanterns and steamed with shallots and ginger. Another is the grilled sleeve-fish mixed with mashed garlic and chilli sauce. The most popular local snacks include Men Zi and Salted Fish and Corn Pancake, with dumplings, and thin pancakes rolled with smoked meat.

Pick Of The Excursions

A half-day sightseeing tour of the city is a great way to get orientated and decide in which areas to spend more time.

Lushun is Dalian's outdoor recreation hub, and from here, if you’re in port all day, you can take a boat ride to the 700-plus islands scattered off the coastline, including She Dao, the famous remote island home of more than 13,000 snakes. 



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