Jilin is the only city in China that shares the same as its province. Winter is definitely the time to come to the city for the ski slopes at Songhua Lake and Beidahu Ski Area and the famed snow-crusted "rimy pines" that bring in flocks of local tourists. Like Harbin, tourists visit Jilin in January for the annual Ice Lantern Festival and to enjoy the spectacle of the city transformed into a winter wonderland after snow falls.
In Manchurian dialect the city is named "city along the river." Flanked by a waterfront promenade lined with pine and willow trees, the Songhua River cuts through the middle of Jilin making for an easy navigational landmark.
For a modern city known to be predominantly industrial, Jilin has a surprising number of large parks, possibly the city's best feature. In spring and summer, pack a picnic lunch and take a walk south across Jilin Bridge over the Songhua River to Century Square and Jiangnan Park (also the winter location of the Ice Lantern Festival). Some vendors rent roller skates on the eastern side of Century Square in case you want to give it a go (although if your feet are large, forget about getting a rental). In winter, a brisk hike on the hilly footpaths of Beishan Gongyuan (Beishan Park) is a good way to keep warm while enjoying the great, though chilly, outdoors.
Also, whether you visit in winter or summer, Songhua Lake, 24 kilometers east of the city center, is a lovely spot. Long, narrow and surrounded by hilly forests it's ideal for boating and swimming in summer and skiing in winter.
The city itself has few tourist attractions, but there are a couple odd little gems, like the Meteorite Shower Museum which houses the largest chunk of meteor in the world, the old Kung Fu School, and Wen Miao, the 2nd largest Confucius temple in the world.
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Seemingly out of place in such a small and comparatively insignificant city, the large Jilin Confucius Temple (Jílín Wénmiào, 吉林文庙) is a grand,..