Guangzhou Travel Guide

Province

Guangdong

Location

South China

Population

15 million

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Language

Cantonese

Welcome to Guangzhou!

Located on the intersection of three rivers, Guangzhou is home to 15 million people. It’s one of China’s world trade centers and is a busy, crowded, modern city. You need to like big cities if you’re going to travel to Guangzhou.

Visiting Guangzhou is exciting. There’s always something to do, and the locals are used to seeing foreigners.

Guangzhou is also a good choice if you’re on a tight budget. Accommodation, shopping, and food tend to be a little cheaper than other major cities in China, so you’ll get more for your travel dollars!

But it isn’t all good. Guangzhou is known as a factory city, the place where import and export companies store and distribute their goods. That’s why you’ll see a lot of ugly gray buildings and industrial areas in Guangzhou.

 
Pearl River Guangzhou

The Pearl River runs through Guangzhou. Image supplied by Mike Cairnduff.

Shamian Island building

Wander through Shamian Island. Image supplied by Mike Cairnduff.

The Guangzhou tourist experience

Guangzhou is an ancient city. Although a lot of that history has been lost, its age is still evident once you hit the city streets.

Your sightseeing days in Guangzhou will be filled with architectural marvels and solemn temples, all of which will give you a hint of the sheer age and history of this sprawling metropolis.

While you’re in Guangzhou, remember that the major language is Cantonese, the same as Hong Kong, rather than Mandarin.

This relates back to the city’s history as the heart of the old Canton era and is still an important factor in everything from the local food to the customs.

Things to do in Guangzhou

There’s a lot to do in this city.

Be prepared to see some amazing things and make sure you have the name of your hotel on your phone in case you get lost!

1. Take in the views from Canton Tower

View from Canton Tower

Make sure you visit Canton Tower on a clear day! Image supplied by Mike Cairnduff.

Canton Tower is one of the tallest buildings in China at 1,968 feet and offers stunning views over the entire city. But it isn’t just the views that draw tourists to this tower.

Canton Tower also offers extreme adventures like the Spider Walk, a transparent aerial ladder, and the Sky Drop, which is just what it sounds like.

You will need a strong stomach to enjoy these attractions, but if you don’t mind heights, it’s a great way to get your adrenalin pumping.

Just keep an eye on the weather. On overcast days, you won’t be able to see a lot from the top of the tower.

2. Take a night cruise

Guangzhou is situated on three important rivers in China, including the main one, known as the Pearl River.

If you’d like to see the city from another angle, then take a night cruise along the river to see the towering skyscrapers lit up with neon. It’s a sight that you’ll never forget.

3. Spend time on Shamian Island

Shamian Island architecture

The architecture is different on Shamian Island. Image supplied by Mike Cairnduff.

If you enjoy architecture or learning about the history of a place, then you need to visit Shamian Island. Located about 15 minutes from the city by car, this island is covered in European style buildings, fountains, and statues.

You’ll see everything from neo-classical architecture to new baroque and pseudo-Gothic, so just wander around and see what catches your eye.

If you stay late on the island, make sure you check out some of the local bars for the best nightlife Guangzhou has to offer.

4. Visit the Sun Yat-sen Memorial Hall

Sun Yat-Sen was a Chinese statesman, political philosopher, and revolutionary leader who was born in 1866 and died in 1925. He’s an important figure in Chinese history and this memorial hall was set up to mark the significance of his life.

In the hall, you can learn about his life while you marvel at the traditional Chinese architecture that went into building the hall. Look out for performances at the hall as well and make sure you see the oldest kapok tree in the hall’s yard.

5. Visit Chimelong Tourist Resort

Chimelong Tourist Park water ride

A water ride at Chimelong Tourist Park. Image by Michael Gordon on Shutterstock.

Chimelong Tourist Resort is basically a huge theme park for tourists. It includes several smaller theme parks including:

  • Safari Park
  • Water Park
  • Birds Park
  • Chimelong Paradise.

The facilities at this tourist resort are world-class and it’s an ideal place to visit with kids or friends.

6. Go shopping

This should go without saying, but Guangzhou is known for its amazing shopping, so be prepared to do a lot of it. The wholesale shopping in Guangzhou is particularly good, and if you can brave the crowds then you’ll get some great prices.

Here’s where to go wholesale shopping in Guangzhou:

  • White Horse Clothing Market
  • Xijiao Building Jewelry Market
  • Huimei Garment City
  • Zhonggang Leatherwear Mall
  • Zhanxi Market
  • Baima Clothing Wholesale Market
  • Guangzhou International Textile City.

Guangzhou is also famous for its retail shopping and here are some of the most popular places to pick up local and foreign goods:

  • Shangxiajiu Street
  • China Palace
  • Beijing Road Shopping Area
  • Zhujiang New Town
  • Tianhe Teemall.

7. Watch a show at the Guangzhou Opera House

Guangzhou Opera House

Guangzhou Opera House. Image by GuoZhongHua on Shutterstock.

Created by British-Iraqi architect Zaha Hadid, the Guangzhou Opera House blends perfectly with the city while still catching the eyes.

It plays host to a range of performances from ballet and drama to opera, so check out what’s on while you’re in the city and dress up for an elegant night out.

Where to eat in Guangzhou

You’ll have plenty of opportunities to enjoy amazing meals when you’re traveling in Guangzhou.

And there are lots of places where you should do just that.

Guangzhou Jiujia 广州酒家

This is one of the oldest dim sum restaurants in the city and one of the best! There are lots of locations around Guangzhou, but the city center location is probably the best. Just remember that the restaurant only serves dim sum before 11 am, so show up early.

Address: 2 Wenchang S Rd, ShangXiaJiu, Liwan Qu 文昌南路2号

Tao Tao Ju 陶陶居

This is another famous dim sum restaurant in Guangzhou, though admittedly it’s more expensive than some of the others. The extra cost is worth it though as this is one of the oldest Cantonese restaurants in the city.

Just be aware that the restaurant serves almost every animal part available, so be discerning when you order if you have a sensitive stomach.

Address: No.22 DiShi Fu Road, Liwan District, Guangzhou

Panxi Restaurant 泮溪酒家

The surroundings are one of the biggest draws of this restaurant. It’s located in a Southern Han Dynasty imperial garden, so is surrounded by weeping willows, traditional architecture, and historical artifacts. Of course, the Cantonese cuisine is also exquisite, so make sure you make a reservation and try it out.

Address: No.151 Long Jin West Road, Liwan District, Guangzhou

Chez Max 香舍法餐

You’ve probably never considered the idea that China has amazing French food, but it really does. This little bistro offers creative dishes that change regularly according to what’s in season. It’s popular among locals and tourists, so head over there for lunch or dinner.

Address: 1F Guangyi Building, No.38 Huale Road, Yuexiu District, Guangzhou

Le Lutece

You need to have a meal at this restaurant for the views alone. Located on the 105th floor of the Canton Tower, this revolving restaurant offers panoramic views. The prices are a little steep of course, but the menu offers award-winning French favorites as well as more innovative choices.

Address: Floor 105, Canton Tower, Haizhu District Guangzhou

Traditional dim sum

Traditional dim sum. Image by Alice Cheung on Pixabay.

The best food markets in Guangzhou

Guangzhou was once famous for its street food, but these days it’s mostly sit-down restaurants.

There are some streets where you can still find some amazing food though.

Shangxiajiu Pedestrian Street

This is the oldest street in Guangzhou and offers a huge range of stalls and shops. This is the place to enjoy authentic Cantonese snacks and there are also lots of restaurants in the street in case you want something more substantial.

Address: No. 19, Xiajiu Road, Liwan District, Guangzhou

Huifu Gourmet Food Street

This street is a gourmet experience not to be missed. It actually includes three separate areas: Lushan Road where you’ll find traditional Lingnan and foreign foods, Shufang Street with a variety of cuisines, and Huifu East Road, which offers Lingnan and Southeast Asian snacks. So, no matter what you’re in the mood for, you’ll find something delicious in this area.

Address: West of Wing Hon Theatre, Yuexiu District, Guangzhou

Xihua Road

For a more local eating experience, head over to Xihua road, where the locals eat and shop. This is where you’ll get a glimpse of the true Guangzhou culture as well as more traditional snacks.

Address: Panyu District, Guangzhou

Where to stay in Guangzhou

Guangzhou offers a huge range of accommodation options to suit every budget and taste.

Budget

The Lazy Gaga Hostel is just four minutes from the local metro center and was the first hostel built in the very center of Guangzhou. It’s bright and cheerful and offers lots of common spaces where you can chat with your fellow travelers.

Located within walking distance to the riverside bar area, shopping streets, and historical attractions, the hostel offers dorm as well as private rooms.

Mid range

Close to the center of the city, the JI Hotel Guangzhou Tianhe East Railway Station offers large, clean rooms suitable for any mid-range traveler. It’s close to local shopping areas and each room has a private bathroom and all the usual hotel amenities.

High end

The White Swan Hotel is located on Shamian Island, in the center of the historic part of Guangzhou. It’s a short walk from the local subway station and offer a fitness center, outdoor swimming pool, spa lounge, and large rooms.

There’s also a Cantonese restaurant on site in case you feel like a quiet night in, and the private bathrooms have a bathtub to encourage even more relaxation!

Transport in Guangzhou

Like most other cities in China, Guangzhou has a first-rate transport system.

In fact, you’ll probably find that it’s worlds ahead of the transport system at home. Just remember that it won’t always be in English, so come prepared with a map and translations for the names of the places you need to go.

(And remember to download a VPN on your phone before you arrive in China if you want to use Google Maps.)

If you’re going to take public transport in the city, then pick up a Yang Cheng Tong pass. This is a rechargeable smart card you can use on the metro, buses, and even some stores.

You can buy it at 7-Eleven stores, metro ticket centers, bus stations, and customer service centers. It’s the easiest way to pay for public transport while you’re traveling in Guangzhou.

Air transport

Guangzhou Baiyun Airport is a huge, modern airport and the transportation hub of southern China. It’s home to China Southern, the biggest airline in China.

The airport sees lots of traffic and has flights all over China and to international cities like Los Angeles, Paris, Sydney and all the big cities in Asia.

It’s about 40 minutes by taxi from the center of the city and you can also get there via Metro Line 3 (North Extension).

Inside Guangzhou Baiyun Airport

Guangzhou Baiyun Airport is impeccably clean. Image supplied by Mike Cairnduff.

High speed rail

If you want to explore outside of Guangzhou, then the high-speed rail is the best way to do it. The cost of train trips in China is mid-range, and the trains are fast, sleek and modern.

Trains from Guangzhou travel regularly to major cities in China like Beijing and Shanghai as well as far-flung cities like Lhasa, Tibet. There are four major passenger train stations in Guangzhou, so make sure you check out which ones will take you where you want to go.

Long distance buses

If your budget is a little tighter, then you can always travel around Guangzhou by bus. There are six major bus stations in the city traveling to lots of cities around the province.

Just be aware that there will be a language barrier, so be prepared to work out where you need to go using your smartphone.

Local buses

The bus system in Guangzhou is extensive and usually costs around two yuan a ride. There is no change given on the bus, so make sure you have the exact change.

Stop announcements on the buses will be in English as well as other languages and the stop names are usually in English too, so this system is fairly easy for foreigners to navigate.

The Metro

The metro system is fast, easy to use, and goes everywhere in Guangzhou. It costs between 2 and 14 yuan per ride and connects almost everything in the city that you’ll want to see. The most popular lines for tourists are 1, 2, 3, and 5 as these connect the most popular attractions in the city.

Taxis

There are thousands of taxis in Guangzhou, but they can still be hard to hail at peak times. Just make sure that the driver uses the meter and have your destination written down in Chinese characters because they probably won’t speak much English.

Water bus

The water bus is another popular way of getting around Guangzhou. It runs along the Pearl River and travels to all of the popular attractions located near a ferry port.

Make sure you try this option while you’re in the city as it’s cheap and offers you a unique view of the city.

Traveling outside Guangzhou

Don’t spend all of your time in the city while you’re in Guangzhou.

Make sure you check out some of these amazing day trip areas.

The White Cloud Mountain

Located about 20 minutes out of the city, White Cloud Mountain is one of the most scenic areas in the province. It includes more than 30 peaks and offers great hikes as well as amazing views of the city from certain points.

Spring is the best time to visit the mountains, as they’re full of flowers, but it’s truly gorgeous at any time of year.

Kaiping Diaolou

Local just two hours from Guangzhou, this is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It’s actually a nearly abandoned village with more than 1,800 authentic historical buildings for you to explore. If you’re interested in history or culture, this is a must-see.

Xiqiao Mountain

Enjoy hiking in beautiful natural surroundings? Then get out of Guangzhou and explore Xiqiao Mountain.

It’s about an hour out of the city and is a historical natural park dotted by temples and a statue of the goddess Guanyin. The hiking in this part of the country is amazing, so put your walking shoes on.

Videos about Guangzhou

Get a visual taste of Guangzhou before you visit!

Here’s a travel vlog about the city.

And for the thrill-seekers, here’s the Sky Drop at the top of the Canton Tower.

Don’t forget…

 

It’s easy to forget a thing or two before you head to China.

So, here are a few reminders for you:

  • The right visa – if you’re only staying for a quick trip, you may be eligible for visa-free travel.
  • Bring t-shirts – Guangzhou can get really muggy so make sure you bring breathable clothes.
  • A VPN app – if you want access to all your favorite websites and apps in China, you’ll need to download a VPN before you leave your country. Get a VPN that works in China.

Have a great time in Guangzhou. And don’t forget your VPN!

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Page last updated 8 November 2021. Main image credit: Huramaul from Pixabay. Commercial relationship disclosure: The Helpful Panda has commercial arrangements with organizations that may appear on this page, such as affiliate links. See our terms for more info.

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