Koreans first migrated to the Yanji area after a series of famines struck in 1869. The area, called the Yanbian Chaoxianzu (Korean) Autonomous Prefecture, is the home of the largest group of ethnic Koreans living outside of Korea, and while there are a small number of expatriates from North and South Korea, most of the Koreans living here hold Chinese, not Korean citizenship. Since large areas of Yanbian were off-limits to travelers, the tourist facilities and people who speak English are kind of non-existent, but that is changing.
Unlike other Chinese cities, this little city is relatively clean and peaceful. You can find quite a lot of cafes that serve good coffee, and also you will see many tea houses (茶坐) around the city.
Unsurprisingly, due to its large Korean population, the Hamgyong dialect of Korean is widely spoken in Yanji. However, most ethnic Koreans in Yanji are bilingual in Mandarin and Korean, so Mandarin-speaking visitors should not have much of a problem. All official signs are also written in both Chinese characters and Korean hangul.
- 1 Yanji Chaoyangchuan International Airport (YNJ IATA) (6 km west of the train station). Flights are available to all major Chinese cities and Seoul, South Korea on a daily basis from the airport.
- Beijing - takes about 10 hours by high speed rail to Yanji West station and 25 hours by slow train to Yanji station
- Changchun - takes about 3 hours by high speed rail and 10 hours by slow train
Dongbeiya Keyun Zhan Location: Chang Bai Lu, northeast of the train station
- Chang Bai Shan - takes about 3-5 hours
Yanji Zhan Parking Lot
- BeiHe - takes about 4 hours
Yanji is a small city by Chinese standards, but it's big enough for not wanting to walk long distances, especially during the middle of summer or winter. As of 2019, no shared bike systems exist, meaning visitors have to use either taxis or buses to get around.
Taxis fares start at ¥5. Additionally to having your address written in Chinese, it's likely you could also present it in written Korean, as most people in Yanji (even ethnic Han Chinese) are fluent in it. Taxis are plentiful and waiting times should never be long.
As pretty much everywhere in China, buses are an efficient and very affordable way to traverse a city – if you can read Chinese, that is. In Yanji's case, all bus schedules and information are also written in Korean, as are announcements in the bus. Most lines have flat fares of ¥1, and some of ¥2 (for example going to 帽儿山; Mao'ershan). Note that depending on the line, service may stop as early as 18:00.
Yanji is not much of a sightseeing destination; there is no outstanding architecture (apart from a few Russian-style buildings which are relatively new), nor stunning scenery in the immediate surroundings of the city. Rather, it's a non-touristy place to wander, indulge, and get lost in – a melting pot of Korean and Chinese culture, unobtrusive yet busy to a certain point.
That being said, the city is not totally devoid of attractions.
- 1 Korean Folk Customs Park of China (中国朝鲜族民俗园), Yannan Road (延南路) (bus nos. 1, 16, 21, 32, 41, 43 and 46), ☏ . 09:00-21:00. A re-creation of a traditional Korean village. Features shops, restaurants, and various cultural displays. Free.
- 2 Yanbian Museum (延边博物馆), 8627 Changbai West Road (长白西路8627号) (bus no. 28 stops directly in front of the museum; you can catch bus no. 28 from Yanji Railway Station), ☏ , . 09:00-16:30 (summer), 09:00-16:00 (winter), closed on Mondays. Large museum with exhibitions on the history and culture of Yanbian Prefecture. Free.
- 3 Yanji Dinosaur Museum (延吉恐龙博物馆), 1166 Longxiang Street, Jinxue Subdistrict (进学街道龙祥街1166号) (the museum may be reached by a special bus service known as the Dinosaur Museum-Mengdumei Tourist Bus (恐龙博物馆一梦都美旅游专线); buses depart from the Mengdumei Ski Resort at 8:05, 9:30, 11:00, 12:30, 14:00, 15:20, and 17:25), ☏ . 09:00-11:30, 13:30-16:00, no entry permitted after 11:00 in the morning and no entry permitted after 15:30 in the afternoon. Opened in 2021, this is one of China's newest dinosaur museums and the first one to be built in Jilin Province. The museum, showcases the many dinosaur fossils that were accidently uncovered by construction workers in Yanji in 2016. Tickets may be purchased either at the ticket office in the visitor center or online using the museum's official We Chat account (the account name is '帽儿山恐龙文化旅游风景区'). ¥50.
In addition to the above, history/archaeology buffs can visit Longtou Mountain (龙头山; Lóngtóushān), which is a 40-minute drive from the city, near the village of Longmei (龙梅村). The mountain houses royal tombs of the ancient Balhae kingdom which existed between 698–926 AD.
It is possible to visit North Korea, and in particular Rason on visa-free 1- to 4-day trips. Companies such as British run Koryo Tours or Young Pioneer Tours can help arrange these trips for as little as a few hundred euros.
If you spend a couple of nights in this little city, you can check out a small amusement park right next to the bridge of Yanxi Street (延西街; Yanxijie). A dozen small rides, and lots of beer stalls.
- 1 Head Mountain (帽儿山; Mào'érshān), Yanlong Road (延龙路) (Bus lines 16, 21 and 43, all of which pass through the city centre and terminate at a big carpark near the park's main entrance), ☏ . Open all day. For a decent view over the city or a walk through nature, domestic tourists and locals alike visit thhis mountain, which is classified as AAAA tourist site and, surprisingly for a destination with this rating, has no entrance fees (as of 2019). Head towards the tiger statue; you begin walking on a boardwalk built through the forest, and soon have to climb up stairs – well over 1000 steps. Although not overly spectacular, the view from the lookout tower on the top is nice on a fine day, allowing you to see the entire city of Yanji, as well as surrounding plains and rice fields. While the carpark area and forest will be busy on weekends, it's not nearly as crowded as many other such sites in China, and only few people go all the way to the top. The mountain should not be confused with the mountain of the same name in Heilongjiang Province. Free.
- 2 Yanji Dinosaur Kingdom (延吉恐龙王国), 1520 Longxiang Street (龙翔街1520号) (see directions for Yanji Dinosaur Museum above), ☏ . 09:00-21:00, no entry after 19:30. A dinosaur theme park located just south of the Yanji Dinosaur Museum. The park only opened in July 2022, so all the facilities are new and some have not been fully completed yet. If you can read Chinese, you can purchase tickets on the park's We Chat account (the account name is '延吉恐龙王国'). Tickets for the amusement park are ¥198 for adults and ¥138 for children. Tickets for the water park are ¥138 for adults and ¥98 for children. Tickets for the performing arts theater are ¥60.
Famous for pine mushroom. There are lots of shops in front of the train station.
Cold noodle; the characteristic food of Korean-Chinese, authentic taste is nowhere else to be found. Sweet, cold, a bit spicy at the same time. Price is ¥10-15. Look for the sign 冷面 (lěngmiàn) or 랭면 (raengmyeon). Some are around Renmin Road and Guangming St.
Also this city is famous for other Korean specialities, like BBQs (including Korean BBQ 韩式烧烤, yanbian chuan 延边串) and Shenjitang (参鸡汤. 삼계탕 samgyetang in Korean), herbs and ginseng chicken soup with boiled rice in it. Also, lots of 'dog meat (狗肉)' restaurants are in the city, too.
Under South Korean influence, you can find a number of decent cafes around the city and it's a lot more than other closer bigger cities. Few clubs are scattered in the city, mostly South Korean DJs are playing Korean pop.
Hands Coffee 핸즈커피 含旨咖啡, Xintian Building No. 103 Aidan-Road 743 爱丹路743号鑫田大夏103室, ☏ . This small cozy cafe is pleasant and peaceful, which is quite rare in northeast China. It's a branch of a South Korean coffee franchise company. Serves various kinds of coffees (espresso based and hand drips), smoothies, cakes and fresh fruit juices in reasonable price. Waiters will greet you in Korean, but English menu is available. Free Wi-fi. It's next to the north bus station. Although the signboard is only in Korean, you can easily find it by its bright yellow door on the north side of Aidan Road. Americano ¥15.
Star Box, Gongyuan Road and Yanji St. Aide Dept. Store 10F 公园路和延吉接 爱得百货10楼. A nightclub for young folks. Crowded after 22:00. South Korean DJs are playing speedy K-Pop. Even though a draft beer is ¥15 at the bar, there are ¥200, ¥300 liquor sets that you can order if you occupy a table. People do dance, but the stage is small, lots of tables. Endless small shows by Korean DJs and other entertainers. Draft beer from ¥15.
Despite holding Chinese citizenship, the ethnic Koreans in Yanji generally share a common culture with their North and South Korean counterparts. Various points in the respect section of the South Korea article also apply when interacting with the Yanji Koreans.
Like many other Chinese cities, foreigners are only allowed to stay in the places that meet 'the standard', even if there are plenty of cheap inns. It means you have to pay above ¥100 per person in high season (in low season, it would be around ¥80). If it says inn (Luguan, 旅馆), foreigners are not likely allowed to stay. If it says hotel or motel (宾馆, binguan) you might be able to stay there, but it's more expensive than those small inns (normal inns are ¥20~50 for a room) However there's one option below ¥100 for foreigners.
- Shi Shang Motel (binguan) 时尚宾馆, 30 meters south from Lihua elementary school (梨花小学校, Lihua Xiaoxuexiao), at the south end of Yuanhong Hutong (园虹胡同, on 2F, ☏ . This little but clean motel is the best deal for a budget (foreign) traveler. A double room with a computer (internet available) and an inside toilet/hot shower with no window starts at ¥50 in high season. The cleanest sheets and towels than other more expensive hotels. The city center is in walking distance and the creek next to it provides a good walk path. The amusement park on riverside and the nightclub Star Box is also in walking distance. If you planned to take a taxi, don't say the road name but say Lihua Xiaoxuexiao (elementary school) since it's more famous than the names of little allies.
- Baishan Mansion, 2 Youyi Rd., Yanji City, ☏ , fax: .
- Cha Er Si Hotel 查尔斯宾馆, At the intersection of Changbai Road and Zhanqian Road, three blocks north of the train station and three blocks west from the bus station. Look out for a large, black neon sign saying karaoke and hotel.. The reception on the first floor is for a different hotel, instead take the elevator to the 3rd floor for the correct one. Cheapest room is ¥139 and some come without window. You can get about ¥15 discounts if you plan to stay more than 3 days (need to get a membership card). Rooms are equipped with computer, a TV and with a bathroom inside. Water pressure is poor. Karaoke Bar is in the same building, so it can be a bit noisy around 23:00 to 01:00. Close to the train station as well as one of the bus stations, but not a good location if you want to hang around in the city center. The airport is a short taxi ride away that shouldn't cost more than ¥10-20.
While there are plenty of internet cafes around, you will be required to have a Chinese ID in order to use them. A foreign passport will not suffice unless you get lucky. The easiest way to get access may therefore be to get a hotel room which provides it.
Yanji is the gateway for Changbaishan National Nature Reserve, about 5 hours southwest of town.
- Jilin - takes about 4 hours - ¥70 for a train ticket.
- Longjing - takes about 30 min - ¥5. Longjing is a small village where famous Korean poet Yun Dong-Ju lived. Occasional buses go from the north bus terminal on Aidan Road.