Jilin (吉林; Jílín) is one of the most beautiful cities in Manchuria. The Han Chinese name Jilin comes from the original Manchurian name Kirim Ula, which means along the river. Just like the name, the biggest attraction of this city is Sungari River - in Han Chinese, Songhua River. The meaning of Sungari River is "white river."
Jilin has a population of 1.3 million people. It is bisected by Songhua River. The city was originally a fortress and it was an important ship building city during the Qing Dynasty. During World War II, the city was taken by Russia and has never fully recovered from the damage caused by the occupation. Now it is a growing industrial city with some decent attractions, especially in the winter. For many, it serves as a staging point for travel to Changbaishan National Nature Reserve.
The nearest airport is Changchun Longjia International Airport (长春龙嘉国际机场 CGQ IATA) some 65km away. The facilities are very modern and up to Western standards; there are banks and various shops. Credit cards are accepted by the airlines.
Domestic flights are available to Beijing, Chengdu, Chongqing, Dalian, Fuzhou, Guangzhou, Haikou, Hangzhou, Hong Kong, Jinan, Kunming, Nanjing, Qingdao, Shanghai, Shenzhen, Wenzhou, Wuhan, Xiamen, and Yantai.
There are direct international fights to Seoul, South Korea; Vladivostok, Russia; and Tokyo, Japan. However, travelling by air is expensive. A regular single to Beijing costs ¥940, over 4 times the cost of a rail ticket, although you can get a discount sometimes.
The new high-speed train covers the distance from Longjia airport to Jilin city in 30 minutes, and runs approximately every hour during the day (¥24). There is also a coach service from the airport to Jilin City approximately four times per day (¥20-30). A taxi ride may set you back around ¥200 including highway fees.
Trains arrive at Jilin Railway Station (吉林站; Jílín Zhàn). The new high-speed rail corridor and the D trains that operate on the corridor have reduced travel times to Beijing and destinations in the northeast greatly. The shortest trip time to and from these popular destinations are as follows:
- Beijing - takes about 7 hours (D train)
- Shanghai - takes about 31 hours
- Changchun - takes about 45 minutes (D train)
- Dalian - takes about 12 hours (5 hours D Train)
- Harbin - takes about 2.5 hours (D Train)
- Shenyang - takes about 3 hours (2.5 hours D train)
- Tianjin - takes about 14 hours
- Yanji - takes about 5 hours
Main Long-Distance Bus Station at 13 Zhongkang Road, west of the railway station
Jilin City's bus system is cheap and convenient, and most of the buses in the urban area charge only ¥1 no matter where you go. However, some buses become very crowded in the rush hour and you need to keep an eye on your valuables.
There are many taxis in the city, and you can easily take one everywhere if you are in the urban area. All taxis charge a starting fee of ¥5 and an additional ¥2 per kilometer after the first 2.5km. If you want to take a round-trip, the additional charge is ¥1.2 per kilometer. Unlike most cities in China, taxi drivers in Jilin are scrupulously honest, always use the meter (except outside the train station), and never drive you in circles. Fractions of yuan are rounded down under .5, and rounded up .5 and over. For example, ¥5.30 on the meter will cost you ¥5.00; ¥5.60 will cost you ¥6.00. As of September 2011, there is an additional ¥1 fuel surcharge for all trips.
- Ice-rimmed Trees (Along Songhua River). January and February. This is a natural phenomenon which occurs when warm water from the river meets the cold winter air, forming ice crystals on the trees. The phenomenon is considered one of the four major natural wonders of China (along with the mountains and lakes of Guilin, Stone Forest of Yunnan, and Three Gorges of Yangtze River).
- Confucius Temple Museum (吉林文庙博物馆; Jílín Wénmiào Bówùguǎn), Songjiang East Road (松江东路; Sōngjiāng Dōnglù) (Bus 13). This is the largest Confucius temple in Manchuria. Originally built in 1736 but replaced by the present one in 1909, it includes an exhibition on the Qing Dynasty imperial examination system. There is a modern Confucius sculpture in front of the main buildings. Unfortunately, if you have seen some old photos of this temple, you would probably feel sad when visiting it. Around the temple, there are a lot of tall buildings which completely destroy the original atmosphere. To make things worse, the noise from the nearby highway is extremely annoying. And the people who work in the temple know extremely little about the temple and why such a temple was constructed in this place. The best way to learn some history of this temple is to hire a guide from the local CITS office. ¥10.
- Catholic Church (天主教堂; Tiānzhǔ Jiàotáng), Songjiang Middle Road (松江中路; Sōngjiāng Zhōnglù). This is an active church with a few dedicated nuns. To visit this church is a way an escape from the contemporary money-oriented city for a time. The interior design of this church is similar to that of modern churches which were built in Scandinavia during the early 20th century. There is a very small library inside, with Bibles mainly in Chinese and a few in Russian.
- Meteorite Museum (吉林陨石博物馆; Jílín Yǔnshí Bówùguǎn), 100 Jilin Avenue (吉林大街100号; Jílín Dàjiē) (Bus 3), ☎ . 9AM-4:30PM. Shows the largest extant meteorite in the world and you may touch a smaller one. ¥20.
- Zhuque Mountain (朱雀山; Zhūquèshān; lit. Rosefinch Mountain). Temples, hiking and the local ski area.
- Beishan Park (北山公园; Běishān Gōngyuán; lit. North Hill Park), Desheng Road (德胜路; Déshèng Lù) (Bus 7), ☎ . 6:30AM-5:30PM. This large park is a good place to see lotus flowers in the summer and ice-rimmed trees in the winter. The park features lakes where you can go boating and also some small mountains. Scattered around the park is a number of temples and other buildings. ¥5.
- Longtan Mountain Park (龙潭山公园; Lóngtánshān Gōngyuán; lit. Dragon Pool Mountain Park) (East of Jilin), ☎ . 7:30AM-5:30PM. Site of the ancient Kingdom of Gaojuli. ¥5.
- Century Square (世纪广场; Shìjì Guǎngchǎng) (Jilin Dajie imm. south of Jilin Bridge). Public Square. Locals come to skate (skate and skateboard hire shops avail.), or sit and people watch.
- Jiangcheng Square (江城广场; Jiāngchéng Guǎngchǎng). A symbol of Jilin City.
- Ice Lantern Festival (Bingdeng Jie). Mid-January.
- Beidahu Skiing Ground. Has a long snowing season, and is a renowned skiing ground in China. Snow sports section of the 6th Asian Winter Games was held there.
- Explore. Jilin is far more pleasant and manageable than most of the cities in Dongbei (Northeast China). Spend a day wandering around the (largely rebuilt) hutongs, clustered between the river to the south, railway tracks to the north, Tianjin Jie to the east, and Bei Da Jie to the west. Stumble upon scrumptious snacks and small temples and mosques.
Local articles to be found here includes
- Ginseng — used as natural medicine, one of the Three Northeast Treasures.
- Marten — fur used for clothing, one of the Three Northeast Treasures.
- Pilose antler — from sika deer or wapiti, used as natural medicine and considered to be helpful against a great variety of weaknesses, one of the Three Northeast Treasures. They are produced from a number of large deer farms in and around Jilin.
- Kirigami — paper cutting art works.
- Painted calabash — local art works.
- East Shopping Building, 131 Henan Road.
- Jilin Department Store, 179 Jilin Road.
- Jilin Fortune Shopping Mall (吉林财富购物广场; Jílín Cáifù Gòuwùguǎngchǎng), 重庆街1367号; 1367 Chongqing Jie.
- Ouya Commercial Capital (Behind Century Square on Binjiang West Road).
- Yanbinyuan Dumpling Restaurant (宴宾园饺子馆; Yànbīnyuán Jiǎoziguǎn), Sichuan Street (四川街; Sìchuānjiē), ☎ .
- Yangmazi Da Bing (Jiefang Road at Dongchang Street, across from the Jiangcheng Press building). Feast on delicious family-style dishes and a wide variety of the eponymous flat breads (Da Bing). With beer, a meal will cost less than 30RMB.
- Mom's house (妈妈家) (Jiefang Road north of Liaobei Road). As you might expect, dishes are traditional family style at this bright, loud, smoky, home-style restaurant. The difference from many places in Jilin are the sheer quality of the dishes, and the location ensures enough foreign patrons that you won't encounter any staring squads or over-curious waiters.
- Xiang Rui Chuan Dian (Changjiang Street at Huashan Road). A loud and smoky kebab house just a short walk east of Century Square, this always-busy place sells what is hands-down the best chuan (Chinese kebab) in town. Lamb kebabs （羊肉串）, chicken heart kebabs （鸡心串）, mantou （馒头）, chicken wings （鸡翅）are all amazing. Also delicious noodles like the spicy beef noodles (麻辣牛肉面）.
- Qingxiangyuan Restaurant (清香园饭店; Qīngxiāngyuán Fàndiàn), 船营区顺城街裕华园旁; Chuányíngqū Shùnchéngjiē (Next to Yuhua Garden, buses 1, 8, 34, 46), ☎ . Manchurian cuisine.
- Laobai Sausage Restaurant.
- Little Boy Western Food (小男孩饭店：Xiaonanhai Fandian) (Qingdao Jie at Henan Jie). Inauthentic but still good western and Korean food, some Chinese dishes. Good prices, nice atmosphere, and a streetside patio for a beer or five.
- Xinyuan Dumpling Restaurant. Dumplings.
- Dongsheng Islamic Restaurant, Tianjin Road.
- Zhonghua Ming Shifu, Jiefang Avenue, ☎ . 10:30AM-9PM. Local food popular with locals.
- Liyade Shifu, 56 Jiefang Zhong Road, ☎ . 10AM-10PM. Muslim restaurant. Serves small portions of tasty mutton dishes.
- Jin Zhou Tang Cheng (Xiamen Jie and Hengshan Lu). Good, authentic Korean restaurant. Galbi, Bibimbab, Bulgogi, and, of course, Kimchi. Also, dog meat. Second location on Jiefang Beilu north of Yan'an Lu.
- Full House (DongTan Jie at JiangWan Lu 东滩街 江湾路). Excellent Korean food in the heart of Jilin's Korean district. Staff and most customers are ethnically Korean. Most staff speak English very well.
- Cherry Blossom (Jiefang North Road, across from Empire Garden Hotel). Housed in a small two-storey building (you can't miss it in this city where everything is 6 storeys), this Japanese sushi house offers a variety of all-you-can-eat options. At 169RMB, the cheapest option is still pricey, but the quality and variety of sashimi and dishes are unmatched in Dongbei, and come with as much hot sake as you can drink.
- German Beer Bar (New Century Building, Songjiang East Road). If you get tired of dumplings, noodles, and chuan, head for this place in the plaza near Wen Miao. German beer by the bottle and European sausages and mustards are served for the premium prices you might expect.
- Jinbake Bar (金巴克酒吧; Jīnbākè Jiǔbā), 7 Hunchun Street (珲春街7号; Húnchūnjiē).
- MIX Bar (MIX酒吧; MIX Jiǔbā), North Avenue (北大街; Běidàjiē), ☎ .
- Hive Bar (HIVE 酒吧） (Binjiang Donglu near BeiHua University East Gate). A college dive bar like you'd expect to see in California. Cheap draft beer, Western spirits (not fake), and a laid-back atmosphere with snowboards on the wood-panelled walls, and a fireplace, populated almost exclusively by college students, often foreigners. WARNING: Almost impossible to get a taxi out after 11:00 PM.
- Motel (Railway Station Branch) (莫泰连锁旅店 (吉林火车站店); Mòtàiliánsuǒlǚdiàn (Jílín Huǒchēzhàndiàn)), 199 Tianjin Street, Changyi District (昌邑区天津街199号; Chāngyìqū Tiānjīnjiē), ☎ . Rooms with free internet. Listed rates for doubles from ¥158, breakfast ¥15.
- Jiangcheng Hotel, 4 Jiangwan Rd. Jilin, ☎ , fax: .
- Empire Garden Hotel (吉林皇家花园酒店; Jílín Huángjiāhuāyuán Jiǔdiàn), 10 Liaoning Road, north end of Jiefang Avenue, Changyi District (昌邑区解放大路北段辽宁路10号; Chāngyìqū jiěfàngdàlùběiduàn Liáonínglù), ☎ , fax: , e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. Listed rates for doubles from ¥980, discounted from ¥400.
- Songhua lake. 15 km away from the city center. A Japanese constructed hydropower station is available for visiting.
- Changbaishan National Nature Reserve is 565 km east of Jilin City and Jilin City is a major staging point for trips to the mountain reserve.