Global surface temperature trends, based on land and marine data, show warming of about 0.8°C over the last 100 years. This rate of warming is sometimes questioned because of the existence of well-known Urban Heat Islands (UHIs). We show examples of the UHIs at London and Vienna, where city center sites are warmer than surrounding rural locations. Both of these UHIs however do not contribute to warming trends over the 20th century because the influences of the cities on surface temperatures have not changed over this time. In the main part of the paper, for China, we compare a new homogenized station data set with gridded temperature products and attempt to assess possible urban influences using sea surface temperature (SST) data sets for the area east of the Chinese mainland. We show that all the land-based data sets for China agree exceptionally well and that their residual warming compared to the SST series since 1951 is relatively small compared to the large-scale warming. Urban-related warming over China is shown to be about 0.1°C decade-1 over the period 1951–2004, with true climatic warming accounting for 0.81°C over this period.