A brief introduction to Luoyang

Luoyang is one of the cradles of Chinese civilization and arguably the first city on the ancient Silk Road.

It’s a small city (though still with a population exceeding 7m) and something of a backwater in Chinese terms, which makes it an ideal place to visit if you want to escape the hectic pace in Beijing or Shanghai.

In the following post I will tell you what to see in Luoyang in case there is something you might have missed.

The city is located on the central plains of China which means it has excellent transport connections to the rest of the country and there are many world class tourist sites right on the doorstep.

Juxtaposed with the thousands of years of history, Luoyang is not afraid to hide its love for the modern and luxurious and you can find all the shops and entertainment one would expect in any Western City.

Luoyang, the Peony Capital

Luoyang is known as the “city of peonies,” and the best time to visit it is in late spring when the peonies are in full bloom.

It is said that Empress Wu Zetian (624-705) of the Tang Dynasty once decreed that all the flowers in her royal garden in the capital Chang’an (today’s Xi’an) were to bloom in deep winter. The flowers, afraid of the power of the Empress, all bloomed, except for the peony. This enraged the empress, who ordered the peony degraded and moved to Luoyang. Since then, the plant flourished here.

Climate

Luoyang lies within the sub-tropical zone which means long, hot summers with the odd heavy shower. Temperatures from May to October rarely dip below 30c and in the height of summer it is blisteringly hot (40c).

Winters are short and mild, usually with two or three days of snow and temperatures rarely drop below freezing. Spring and autumn are short and cool.

Things to see and do in Luoyang

When you ask yourself: what to see in Luoyang, here are some things that shouldn’t be missed…

Luoyang Parks

Luoyang has many beautiful parks which provide welcome shade in the summer and a perfect place for a picnic or just to escape the city. Entry to the parks is free for most of the year, but there is a 20 RMB charge during school holidays when they usually have events happening.

Wangcheng Park, Zhengzhou Road, Xigong District

Wangcheng Park is home to Luoyang’s zoo, but please avoid supporting zoos in China (or anywhere for that matter) where the animals are kept in terrible conditions, and instead enjoy the beautiful park and river. In spring, the place is bursting with colorful peonies. Wangcheng Park is also home to statues of Mao, Wu Ze Tian and even has a Dutch-style wooden windmill.

Luopu Park, Binhe Nan Lu (either side of the river)

Luopu Park follows the Luo River for almost 10km and is a great place for a picnic. Birdwatchers will be treated to Egrets, Cormorants and Heron’s fishing for their supper, and in the trees above azure-winged magpies, hoopoes and bulbuls.

Zhou Shan Park, Zhuo Fei Lu, Jianxi District

My favorite park in Luoyang, Zhoushan Park (Mountain Park) offers fantastic views over the city and out to the mountains in the distance. The park is a little far from anything else of interest (you can stumble into the countryside here and witness the real China) but is worth the short taxi ride to get there as the views are simply marvelous.

Sui & Tang Dynasty Botanical Gardens, Wangcheng Dadao, New District

Sui Tang Botanical Gardens is Luoyang’s largest park and is across from the Luoyang Museum and has an adjacent amusement park.

Luoyang Peony Festival

Spring is the best time to visit Luoyang as it is when the Peony, the flower for which it is famous, comes into bloom. Events happen across the city including at the Luoyang National Peony Garden, Wangcheng Park and Longmen Grottoes.

Laochung/Luoyang Old Town

Luoyang
Luoyang

Although consisting of a small area (really just two streets and a nearby temple) Luoyang’s old town is well worth a visit for the charming city wall and long street lined with art and craft sellers. You can pick up a wealth of hand-made (carved, painted etc) gifts and mementos for next to nothing.

It’s best to go later in the afternoon and then as the sun sets you can turn on to Laocheng with its food-stalls situated under the bright red hanging lights. There is plenty to sample from barbecue to Ice cream and freshly squeezed juices. The more adventurous can try a stick of freshly grilled scorpions.

 Feeling brave? Why not try the local fare? Grilled scorpions in Luoyang’s old town.

Getting There: The old town is located in Laocheng District in the east of the city not far from the TV tower and to the west of the Luo River. A taxi from anywhere in the city should not cost more than 30RMB. 

Luoyang Museums

Longmen Grottoes

Longmen Grottos
Longmen Grottos

The UNESCO certified Longmen Grottoes is the incredible collection of tens of thousands of Buddha’s carved in to the limestone cliffs over the Li River. The carvings, differing in size from 1 inch (25mm) to a staggering 57 feet (17m), were all carried out between 493AD to 1127 AD under the auspices of different dynasties who ruled from Luoyang.

Getting There: To get to Longmen you can take bus number 60 from Mudan Square (60 minutes – 1RMB) or take a taxi (30 minutes – don’t pay more than 50RMB).

Tickets: The grottoes make an excellent day out and the 100RMB entrance ticket includes access to the beautiful hidden gardens as well as the multitude of caves and a small museum.

For more details, see my article on how to visit Longmen Grottoes.

Museum of Ancient art and Tombs

Ancient Art Museum, Luoyang
Ancient Art Museum

The Luoyang museum of Ancient Art is a collection of 25 underground tombs, cave paintings and burial objects for some of China’s most notable Emperors from the Wei Dynasty to the Sui and Tang Dynasties. Situated just 10km (6 miles) north of the city and next to Luoyang Beijiao Airport, this free exhibition is well worth a visit for anyone spending a few days in the city.

Entrance to the museum:

Entrance is free but foreigners need their passport to enter and Chinese citizens must bring their identity card. An English recorded guide is available for ¥20 or tour guide for ¥100.  

Opening Hours: 09:00 – 16:30 (closed Mondays).

Getting there: Take bus 27/K27 from Mudan Square, bus 83/K83 or 98/K98 from Luoyang Railway Station. Ticket price is ¥1. Journey time 20 to 30 minutes. A taxi should cost no more than ¥25 (20 minutes).

For more information, see my article on how to visit the Museum of Ancient Art

White Horse Temple

White Horse Temple, Luoyang
White Horse Temple

Not satisfied with being the ancient capital of China, Luoyang is also home to the first ever Buddhist temple in the Middle Kingdom and is considered by many as the cradle of Chinese Buddhism. Established in AD60 under Emperor Ming of the Eastern Han Dynasty, White Horse Temple is an absolute must see for any visitor to the region.

Admission: Peak Season: ¥50 Low Season: ¥35

Opening hours: 07:30 – 17:30

Getting there: From Mudan Square take bus No 9 11 stops to the Old Town (30 minutes ¥1) and change to bus 56 or 58 (30 minutes ¥1.5). From Luoyang train station take bus number 56 (40 minutes ¥1.5).

For more information, see my article on how to visit White Horse Temple.

Entertainment in Luoyang

Luoyang has Cinemas at Wanda and Qan Shun malls, with some English language screenings.

Every Saturday at 8pm there is a water fountain display in front of Qan Shun Mall.

Shopping in Luoyang

Although a communist country in name, there is no shortage of huge shopping malls selling the latest fashions and other goods as well as many restaurants.

Qan Shun Mall, Zhan Lan, Lu, New District

Xin Dou Hui, Jiefang Road, Xigong District

Wangfujing, (corner of Nanchang Lu and Li Chun Lu), Jianxi District

Wanda (corner of Li Xin Lu and Liao Ning Lu), Jianxi District

Cafes and Restaurants in Luoyang

Luoyang is home to a plethora of bars, restaurants and café’s. Here I’ll list some, but just dive into anything you see as you walk the streets. You may strike lucky and have the meal of your life for no more than a few pennies back home.

There are plenty of chain coffee shops including Zoo Coffee and Starbucks, as well as some smaller independently run establishments across the city.

Old Luoyang, Taiyuan Lu, Jianxi Disctrict

A great restaurant serving authentic Luoyang cuisine that is always busy with locals. A big meal for 2 including drinks will cost under 150 RMB.

Peony Plaza Revolving Restaurant, Mudan Square, Jianxi District

The restaurant at the top of the Peony Plaza Hotel is a Chinese buffet that revolves to give great views of Luoyang. The restaurant serves dishes from all over China and you just grab a plate and help yourself. The cost (300 RMB for 2) includes unlimited wine and soft drinks.

Hugo’s Rooftop Restaurant, Friendship Hotel, Mudan Square, Jianxi District

Hugo’s is a ‘French’ restaurant that serves a selection of steaks and other western dishes. The food is not bad, with even better views.

If you are stuck for somewhere to eat, just head to the top floor of any of the shopping malls where there are many Chinese and mock-western restaurants.

Unfortunately (or fortunately, depending on your tastes), China hasn’t escaped the Mcrise of fast food and you can find McDonalds, KFC, Pizza Hut, Burger King and China’s own Dicos across the city and located in all major shopping centres and train stations. Expect to pay 30RMB for a Big Mac meal or similar.

Bars & Clubs & Live Music in Luoyang

Iron Horse Tap House, JianKang West Road, Xigong District

One of Luoyang’s first brewpubs, Iron Horse features 40 different craft beers plus an extensive cocktail menu and a menu of Chinese and Western food. Beers from 35 RMB. Monday night is live music night and there is a pool table upstairs.

Update May 2020: Iron Horse is now a hot pot restaurant, however they do still have a selection of craft beers and a pool table.

The Tree House Bar, Binhe Bei Lu, Jianxi District

Named for the large tree growing through the middle of the bar and through the roof, the Tree House serves a selection of craft beers, cocktails and a western food. Live music most weekends.

Beer Public, Liao Ning Lu, Jianxi District

Beer Public is a favourite hangout of expats and has an extensive selection of bottled beers and whiskeys. Live DJs most nights and occasionally international music acts of all genres perform on the small stage at the back.

Luoyang’s biggest clubs are Space and U+ and these lively venues include the latest club music from across the globe as well as international dancers (usually from Russia or Ukraine). It’s customary to pay for a table at clubs in China and you will have your own personal waiter or waitress who will usually collect your drinks and pour them for you.  

What to see near Luoyang

Yellow River Scenic Area

Yellow River
Yellow River

The Yellow River is the 6th largest river system in the world and its basin is famous as the birthplace of Chinese civilization. The scenic area, which includes gorges, parks and mountains, is located 40km north of Luoyang and is easily reached by bus (or bicycle).

The river is dammed here and beneath the massive concrete blockade is a very pleasant park where many interesting birds can be seen (red-billed blue magpie, herons, egrets and more).

Getting There: Buses depart from the bus station opposite Luoyang railway station. Price 6RMB and journey time is about 90 minutes.

Tickets: Entrance to the scenic area and dam costs 60RMB in peak season (Mar – Oct) and 40RMB off-peak.

Facilities: There are minimal facilities here so bring a picnic to enjoy in the beautiful parkland surrounding the river.  

The Shaolin Temple

Kung Fu Monks at Shaolin Temple

Two hours by bus from Luoyang is the world renowned Shaolin Temple; a Buddhist monastery dating back 1,500 years and famous for its martial-arts practicing monks. In addition to being able to see daily displays of Kung Fu where the discipline was created, the monastery is set within the confines of the beautiful Song Shan Mountain national park.

Watch young monks practice a variety of fighting styles under the backdrop of the impressive Song Mountain, take a walk through the enchanting Pagoda Forest and take a cable car up the mountain (though it’s much more fun to hike). This makes an excellent day trip from Luoyang.

Getting There: Buses depart from the bus station next to the Luoyang railway station. Once through security go to the ticket window (they usually know that westerners are there for Shaolin). Pay the 26RMB fare and go out into the depot to fin the minibus (not always easy, but just ask around for Dengfeng or Shaolin and it won’ be long until someone shows you the right bus). Buses leave when they are full so be prepared for a wait.

Tickets: Entrance to the Monastery, grounds and national park is 100RMB. Cable car tickets cost extra (80RMB – 140RMB one way).

For more information, see my article on how to visit Shaolin Temple.

Yuntaishan National Park

Yuntaishan
Yuntaishan

Boasting mountains, deep gorges cut through ancient red rock and some of the highest waterfalls in Northern China, Yuntaishan is one of the most scenic places to visit from Luoyang.

Getting There: In the summer there are buses from Luoyang Bus Station, but when these are not running, take a train to nearby Zhengzhou and a bus from there. See my post about Yuntaishan for more detailed information.

Tickets: Entrance to the national park costs 100 RMB for 3 days, and a 3 day bus pass costs 60 RMB.

For more information, see my article on how to visit Yuntaishan.

Huashan Mountain

Huashan
Huashan

Located 200km west of Luoyang is the magnificent and downright scary Huashan Mountain with the famous ‘plank walk’. It is one of the Five Great Mountains of China and makes an excellent stop off point on the way to Xi’an and the Terracotta Warriors.

There are five main peaks accessible by two cable cars or can be climbed by the more adventurous (allow at least six hours to get up). Watching the sunrise from one of the peaks is a popular thing to do and many brave or foolhardy Chinese make the ascent in darkness during the night. There are also guesthouses on the mountain if you want to view the sunrise without the perils of a midnight ascent.

Getting There: Trains depart frequently (several times an hour) from Luoyang Longmen Station (the fast train station south east of the city). The fare varies between 80RMB and 120RMB for a second class seat.

Tickets: Entrance to the mountain and associated temples costs 180RMB from March to November and 100RMB outside the peak season. Expect to pay around 140RMB for a one way cable car ticket (double for a return). The cable car ride is an experience in itself and not for the faint of heart (terrifying actually, but worth it).

Xi’an

Bell Tower, Xi'an
Bell Tower, Xi’an

Xi’an in China’s Shaanxi Province is a must-visit city for anyone who has come this far. Home to the world famous Terracotta Warriors,  Xi’an is a wonderful city boasting many attractions and  fine eateries. With China’s high speed rail linking Luoyang and Xi’an in under 90 minutes, there is no excuse not to go!

For more information, see my article on what to see in Xi’an.

For more information on how to get to Xi’an, see my article on the Beijing to Xian train.

How to get around Luoyang

Bus

Luoyang is served by a comprehensive bus system and the fare is a set price no matter the length of the journey (either 1 or 1.5 RMB). The buses can get a little busy during rush hour, but during the day they are useful way to get around the city. Services start from 06:00 and finish relatively early at 21:00.

Taxi

Taxis are plentiful and inexpensive. The minimum fare is 5 RMB and then 1.5 RMB per km after that. The maximum you should pay for any trip within the city is around 30 RMB. Be aware that you need to add 1 RMB to whatever the metre shows for fuel surcharge.

As with taxis in any city the world over, some drivers may try and rip you off so make sure to ask for the metre to be used. Conversely, there are plenty of times I try to tip drivers and they won’t accept it, so it‘s just bad luck if you get a bad one.

If a taxi doesn’t have a fare, you will see a red light on the dash board or on the top of the vehicle.  Always take official taxis (brown and yellow, or green and yellow vehicles).

If you are proficient in Mandarin, then download the DiDi app (Chinese Uber) as this will be a lot cheaper than metered cabs (or if you have Chinese friends here, you can ask them to book for you).

On Foot

The major sights and attractions in Luoyang are pretty spread out and there is no ‘downtown’ area as such. You can explore individual areas on foot, and then jump on a bus or hail a cab and move on to the next place of interest. Luoyang’s parks (see above) are wonderful places to walk and a perfect escape from the hustle and bustle of the city.

Shared Bike

Shared Bikes, China
Shared Bikes

As you may have read n the news, the s called Sharing Economy is huge in China, and it all started with Mobike. You won’t get far in any city in China without seeing sidewalks filled with bikes. There are various companies offering shared bikes, and all similar in price (about 1 RMB per journey).

You will first need to download the WeChat app (link here) and then just scan the QR code and sign up. WeChat (the Chinese Whatsapp) is a very useful app to have regardless for anyone visiting China (and can be used in English).

Subway (Under construction)

A subway system is currently under construction which will link the Airport to Longmen fast train station and will open in 2020. Due to the construction journeys by bus or taxi will take longer, so allow plenty of time before catching a train a flight.

How to get to Luoyang

High Speed Train
High Speed Train

Luoyang benefits from a great location in central China meaning nothing is off limits. There is a small airport a few km north of the city with daily flights to Beijing and a few other Chinese destinations, but Luoyang is best served by its two train stations (central and Longmen).

You can reach Beijing in under four hours by fast rain, Shanghai in five hours and even Hong Kong in eight hours (well, Shenzhen and you will cross the border by bus). Tickets are cheap (an example fare from Beijing to Luoyang is 300RMB for a 2nd class seat) and the trains are modern and comfortable. If you want to save money on accommodation, simply book the overnight trains and travel in comfort, waking up at your destination.

For more information, read my Guide to Taking the Train in China.

Flights

Luoyang Airport has a handful of international flights linking Thailand and Japan to the city, and regular domestic flights to most of China’s largest cities. See Trip.com for up to date flight booking.

Trains

You can reach Luoyang from practically anywhere in China by fast or slow train. Fast trains are great for saving time, but if you are on a budget then the slow train is an excellent option as not only is it a lot cheaper, but you can save on a night’s accommodation by travelling overnight.

Beijing to Luoyang by fast train takes around 4 hours and costs 368 RMB. Slow train takes around 11 hours and costs 297 for soft sleeper (4 berth compartment) and 196 for hard sleeper (open plan carriage). You can also get a hard seat for 105 but this is not recommended for long journeys.

Shanghai to Luoyang by fast train takes around 6 hours and costs 512 RMB. Slow train takes around 16 hours and costs 318.50 for soft sleeper (4 berth compartment) and 208.50 for hard sleeper (open plan carriage). You can also get a hard seat for 112.50 but this is not recommended for long journeys.

Xi’an to Luoyang by fast train takes around 90 minutes and costs 174.50 RMB. Slow train takes around 5 hours and costs 161.50 for soft sleeper (4 berth compartment) and 108.50 for hard sleeper (open plan carriage). You can also get a hard seat for 54.50.

Download the Trip.com app or visit the website to book train tickets in English.

For more information, see my article with all you need to know about train travel in China.

Further Information

If you have any questions about Luoyang, be sure to ask in the comments. I’ve lived here for four years, and if I don’t know the answer, I will certainly be able to find out.

ExpressVPN
Shaolin Temple, Luoyang
Shaolin Temple, Luoyang
Hutongs
Xi’an Travel Guide