Guangzhou the 3rd largest city in China only after Shanghai and Beijing, but if you count the population in the whole Metropolitan Area then Guangzhou (which is also known as Canton locally) has 44 000 000, yes 44 million inhabitants, that´s about the same population as the whole of Spain or Argentina.
A major transportation hub and port and dubbed ‘Capital of the Third World’ owing to the influx of immigrants and foreign temporary residents from various parts of the world.
Annually, The Spring Festival Flower Fair is celebrated in honour of the striking blooms.
It is aptly called ‘The Flower City of China’ as flowers bloom all year round here because of its sub-tropical climate.
Guangzhou is known for the multiplicity of handicraft goods it offers.
Paired with the city’s famous cuisine and cultural attractions, it has become one of China’s chief tourist destinations and if you are a visitor to this beautiful city in the far southern part of China, just a few hours away from Hong Kong.
From its markets and back-alley street shops where you can get some great bargains, to some of China’s well-preserved historical sites and temples, to the luxurious shopping malls and skyscrapers, Guangzhou has a plethora of tourist attractions.
Guangzhou offers a balance between antiquity and modernity if you know where to look.
The city is often called China´s factory since they produce vast quantities of clothing, electronics, plastic goods, and toys are shipped from Guangzhou to all over the world.
But still, the city is rarely visited by foreign travellers except for western businesspeople visiting Guangzhou for work.
Compare to Beijing, there might be a bit of historical feeling is missing in the city (however, Guangzhou is still 2200 year old already, and the city was one of the main cities along the maritime Silk Road), or not with so much crazy fancy skyscrapers like Shanghai (click here to read about what to do in Shanghai), but honestly, it´s not far behind at least Shanghai at least in skyscrapers.
A great way to explore Guangzhou is to take advantage of China s 144 hours free transit visa for Guangzhou.
Here are the Top Things to Do in Guangzhou
Visit the Canton Fair and Canton Tower And Enjoy The View Over Guangzhou
Guangzhou is most known for its annual Canton Fair, the largest trade fair in China. This is a biannual affair with one session in the Fall and one in Spring.
Buyers come here in thousands to meet with manufacturers to source and produce goods on an international level.
Guangzhou has its fair share of tall buildings, with the Canton Tower at 604 meters (1,982 ft) tall with multi-purpose as observation/Tv Tower.
As the highest and most obvious looking building to visit in the city, it comes with a price.
The entrance fee is steep, very steep. So you are much better off to visit the SkyBar on the 99 floor at the Four Season Hotel for free. (Soon, a Sky Bar at the 101!
The floor will open at Guangzhou CTF Finance Centre)
The Canton Tower has four different observation decks, at 488M high for 398 RMB, 460M high for 298 RMB, 450M for 228 RMB or 433M for 150 RMB.
Then Again, since the SkyBar at Four Season Hotel is entirely free, even though they would still expect you to buy a drink or coffee. (If on a small budget, just take the elevator to the 99th floor and head to the toilet, it offer just a great view)
A visit to the tower at night will leave you awestruck since it is completely lit up and a sight to behold.
The observation deck at Canton Tower will give you a bird’s eye view of the city.
Visit The Pearl River-InPub International Guangzhou Beer Museum
Just next to the south banks Of the Pearl River and just 15min walk east of Canton Tower is Zhujiang-InBev International Beer Museum.
A Small and modern museum about the history of Chinese beer and the rest of the world, from the first Beer being made about 5000 years ago to China´s first brewery which opened in 1900 and to the modern-day Chinabeer culture in the 2000s.
The museum has a lot of artefacts on display showing how beer making has evolved over thousands of years. Everything is explained in both Chinese and English.
After done with going through the museum, you could head to the small bar area where you can enjoy unlimited free Beer. You need to show your entrance ticket.
Entrance Ticket Price: 50 RMB.
Opening Hours: 8:30 AM—12:00 PM; 13.00 —17.00
Getting There: Take metro line 8 to Chigang Station, transfer to Bus B7 to Yuejiang Xilu Zhong Station or take Bus 765/779 to Zhujiang Brewery Station.
From/To The Canton Tower will a Taxi cost 10RMB (The Minimum Taxi Fare in Guangzhou)
Watch A Guangzhou F.C (Guangzhou Evergrande) Football Game.
Football is rapidly becoming the most popular sport in China; with some of the best foreign players here has the world´s highest (insane) salaries. And what´s the best football club in China?
Guangzhou F.C which is formally known as the Guangzhou Evergrande has won the Chinese Super League 8 times since 2011. Making the local club from Guangzhou by far the most successful Chinese football club in modern history.
Talking about the Football Stadium, the Tianhe Sports Centre Stadium had a capacity of 58.500 and located in the dead centre of Guangzhou if you are in the commercial centre of Guangzhou at around Tianhe, so will it be impossible to miss it if it´s a match day during your visit.
A ticket will cost around 60 to 100 RMB. A “fake” football shirt for the Guangzhou Evergrade that´s sold everywhere around the stadium on a matchday is about 20 RMB.
Stroll Around Shamian island
Shamian Island has a lot of history backing it. Walking around this island will give you a good perspective of its history, culture, and architecture.
This beautiful path is lined with trees on one side and ancient-style buildings on the other. I would suggest renting a bike to explore the island. If you opt to explore on foot, there are plenty of benches spread across the island for resting your feet.
If you need a small break from the traffic and hustle head to Shamian Island where cars are banned. A small island (well connected by a few bridges), The buildings and streets of is full of former British and French buildings that have been restored to its former glory.
A great place to enjoy a cup of coffee and do some people watching, Shamian is trendy for locals to take their wedding photos or model photos. I counted more than 50! People are having a photoshop on the streets there during my 2hour visit.
Hike in the Baiyun Mountain
Guangzhou is located in a hilly part of south China; but there is no high mountain around the city itself, so if you want to escape the city, and enjoy some nature so is are the best place to visit the Baiyun Mountain (Ticket: 5yuan).
However it’s been called a mountain but actually not that high, the highest point is Mo Xing Ling which is only 382 meters, there is no steep slope, you can easily walk to the peak within two hours.
But If you do not want to go hiking you can also choose to take the cable car to the hillside (up way 25 yuan, down way 20 yuan, two-way 40 yuan).
However, if you choose to go to Baiyun Mountain on weekends or during some traditional Chinese festivals, you may not even be able to sit down for a place.
People in Guangzhou love to go for a walk in Baiyun Mountain when they are free, bring home a few buckets of spring water for making tea, eat a bowl of sweets called tofu flower, and gather together the elderly to play musical instruments or rehearse chorus of some old songs; there’s also a budda temple in the mountain, everything is full of Guangzhou lifestyle.
If you do not love the crowd, the choice of going to Baiyun Mountain after the sunset is also a good choice. And definitely stay away during the weekend.
From several major entrances, you can reach the Mid-Levels observation deck in less than half an hour, overlooking the city of Guangzhou at night and all the lights, which is a completely different feeling compared to daytime.
Beside the main entrance of Baiyun Mountain, there is also a garden called Yuntai Garden (Tickets: 10 yuan, holiday: 15 yuan), which planted a variety of 200 kinds of exotic plants in the subtropical regions, flowers open in four seasons. It takes about two hours to visit the entire park; you can choose to come and look around if you do not have time to go to the botanic garden.
Baiyun Mountain is considered one of the most scenic places in Guangzhou. The Mountain with a forest range of 28 square kilometres is aptly considered the lung of Guangzhou. The name Baiyun Mountains means White Cloud Mountain because you’ll find the summit draped in clouds.
You can revel in the grandiose and natural beauty surrounding it by riding the cable car to the top. There are several scenic areas on and around the mountain:
- Yuntai Garden– The largest landscaped garden in China that houses exotic flowers and plants.
- Moxing Summit– The highest peak of Baiyun, it offers a magnificent view of the city (only if it’s bright and sunny). It also has a big wish tree, so you can try locking love and luck here like so many others have done before going by all the red flags and love locks you see around.
- Luhu Lake– Famous for its crystal-clear water, it reflects the scenery around the lake like something straight out of a picturesque drawing.
- Sculpture Garden– Located at the southwest corner, the garden features various themes like gardening, historical, ornamental, and artistic in their sculptures.
Visit the Sacred Heart Cathedral
This beautiful structure is the epitome of architectural genius. Also called the Stone House by the locals, this place of pilgrimage has walls and pillars made of granite. It attracts millions of visitors annually.
Initially designed by two French Architects, it was completed by Chinese craftsmen. It is one of only 4 all-Granite Gothic churches in the world.
Located in a bustling metropolis, this holy structure depicts peace and serenity at its best. When the sunlight hits the intricate window-work, it gives the cathedral a mystique feel. These windows have a mosaic of over 60 famous Bible stories. The structure, when seen from above, gives the appearance of a crucifix.
Visit Dafo Temple.
Dafo Temple is considered to be the most important Temple in Guangzhou with a history of more than one thousand years and was built by Emperor Liu Yan in 917-971 during the Southern Han dynasty.
Go on a Pearl River Cruise
Pearl River is the largest river in Guangzhou and the third largest river in all of China. At a whopping 2,214 kilometres, the Pearl River gets its name because it accommodates a stone island that looks like a pearl.
You have not really visited Guangzhou if you skipped the Pearl River Cruise. The scenery this cruise offers is exquisite and reflective of the cultural values, and heritages Guangzhou holds dear. It’s the best way to appreciate the beauty of the city.
At night, the city’s skyscrapers and bridges are covered by sparkling lights. If you’re someone who is a big fan of magical experiences, remember to schedule your cruise for the night. This two-hour long journey will take you through the historical buildings, star graded hotels, and other famous landmarks, including the Haixinsha Asian Games Park.
Dim Sums are traditional Cantonese food items, usually bite-sized portions of dumplings and other snacks that are an accompaniment to tea. Dim Sum translates to “touching heart”, and it’s now hugely popular across the world.
With a splurge in tourism, travellers all over the world started to visit teahouses for small meals, popularly known as ‘yum cha’ or ‘drink tea’ meals. These teahouses have a custom of serving 2 small pieces of delicately made items, sweet or savoury, to complement the tea. These complimentary items are called dim sums.
Dim sums were usually based on local food. Chefs experimenting with other flavours and taking inspiration from other regions of China broadened its variety. What started as a complimentary item while sipping Tea has grown into a full-fledged food item in itself. Earlier a cheap street food, Dim Sums now occupy a central position in top-end restaurants.
The small portions of Dim Sums ensure you get to taste a variety of food items. Dim sum restaurants usually have a wide variety of small dishes, totalling several dozens. The tea has continued to retain its importance in the thriving Dim Sum culture.
Go Street Shopping
China is one of the biggest producers of goods and commodities. With thousands of factories and warehouses, the competition ensures you get some great bargains.
- Beijing Road, the shopping thoroughfare, is one of the most popular pedestrian streets. A shopper’s paradise, you’ll find almost everything here, and most stores stay open from 9 AM to 10 PM. It’s even got some history thrown in with the original road from the Song Dynasty (960-1279 A.D.) on display.
Most shop owners speak English, so language is no barrier for overseas travellers. Except for the grand shopping malls, bargaining is pretty common in Beijing Road. There are a lot of food carts and restaurants around Beijing Road where you can satisfy your hunger needs once you’ve splurged on shopping.
- China Plaza, in Guangzhou, is the best place for mobile phones, branded clothing, etc., at throwaway prices. A large number of shops mean stiff competition, and it’s easy to compare and bargain.
- Shangxiajiu, one of the three busiest commercial centres, is a pedestrian street that is almost 1,240 meters long. It is dotted with numerous stores selling cheap clothes and restaurants serving delicious local cuisine. The highlight of your shopping experience here will be aesthetics since all the shops and restaurants follow a traditional folk residence style of architecture.
Guangzhou Opera House
Located at the riverside, it is one of the biggest opera houses in China. It contains within it the Opera Hall, the Experimental Theatre, and the Modern Gallery. The auditorium alone has a seating capacity of 1800.
The structure has a futuristic feel to it, creating a gorgeous visual effect. The structure is influenced by the river valleys and the effect time and erosion have had on them.
As long as you have some form of ID, you can stroll through this architectural masterpiece at night, when it is lit up, without any entry fees. Along with Opera, classical music, dance, and international productions are also staged here. The Guangzhou Opera House is an enduring monument to the New Millennium and establishes the city among the top cultural centers in Asia.
Chimelong Safari Park
This Safari Park is home to several animal and plant species. A family-friendly attraction, it provides an ecosystem where animals can live and procreate in a natural environment, free of bondage. It contains the world’s largest population of white tigers and protected species like the Giant Salamander.
Panda triplets have next to no rate of survival. In 2014, the first known set of Panda triplets were born in this park, making it one of the major tourist attractions. You can access the safari park through ‘Safari on Wheels’ or walk-through animal exhibits.
- The Safari on wheels is like a drive-thru experience. The trams will take you to landscapes and habitats where the animals move freely. At times, they tend to get close to the trams, which can be a treat for the children. If you’re someone who takes a lot of pictures, opt for the self-drive option.
- The walk-thru or ‘zoo’ is where most of the exhibits and habitats are. The Giant Panda Centre can be found here, and unlike other zoos where you see a lone Panda minding its business, here you can see a group of them playing, eating, and indulging in other activities together.
The park is huge so remember to get a guide map so you can get a rough idea of what you want to see and where it’s located. This will help you make the most of your visit here.
The city is also advantageously located if you plan to extend your trip to Hong Kong and Macau. Pick from any or all of the top things to do in Guangzhou from this list for a memorable trip, and the city will surely take you by surprise.
The easiest and often fastest way to travel around China is by train; check out this post about train travelling in, China train guide.
Check out this post if you are heading to Macau next and want to relax on a beach.
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