Capital of Liaoning province and unofficial capital of the northeast, SHENYANG is a railway junction and banking centre that has served as host to the Manchus, Russians, Japanese, Nationalists and then Communists. The city draws domestic tourists from all over the north-east of China, and their primary focus is all too obvious: as any cabbie here will delight in telling you, Shenyang has the only other Imperial Palace in China. Constructed by Manchus before their takeover of the Ming dynasty, many visitors find it far more user-friendly than its (much larger) counterpart in Beijing.
Though you’re unlikely to need more than a couple of days in Shenyang, there are other notable sights dotted around this fast-moving city, including a stunning monument to Chairman Mao built during the frenzied height of the Cultural Revolution; the tombs of two former emperors; and architecture left over from Japan’s occupation, including a real gem of a hotel. You’ll have to time it right to enjoy another amusement: from December to February, the town hosts the Shenyang International Ice and Snow Festival – held at Qipanshan, 17km northeast of town, it’s lower-key than Harbin’s festivities, but increasingly popular.