Tianjin is a somewhat ignored city in Northeast China - an industrial metropolis with a strong colonial influence. Only about an hour's train journey from the capital Beijing it tends to get overshadowed by its famous neighbour. Which is a shame because, while it's no highlight of a trip to China, it is an interesting place and slower paced and more spacious than crowded Beijing. It comes as a huge surprise to find out that it's a city of about 5 million - not as big as Beijing but a major city by any standards.
Located right by the sea, it was an important port for colonial powers and was fought over by the French, British and Japanese and was the scene of much fighting during the Boxer Rebellion. The Treaty of Tianjin in 1858 opened China up to foreigners - the most famous repercussion of which was the opium trade. Today the port is not as prominent as it once was - overtaken in importance by textiles and other production industries - but the old colonial buildings and charms remain. In parts of the city, walking the streets can be like stepping back in time to 19th century London or Paris... with a strong Chinese influence of course!