Here’s 11 things that make Guangzhou famous.

Guangzhou is the capital of Guangdong province and the largest city in south China, with a population of around 14 million people.

It’s a port city that’s within reach of Hong Kong on the Pearl River and is home to a striking combination of ancient temples, skyscrapers, and avant-garde architecture.

If you’re looking for a big city with great food, modern amenities, and lots of historical landmarks to explore while you’re in China, then Guangzhou is a great option.

So, let’s take a look at what Guangzhou is known for.

1. Cantonese cuisine

Guangzhou is known for barbecue pork

Char siu is Cantonese barbecued pork. Image by TY Lim on Shutterstock.

Cantonese cuisine has spread throughout the world.

The food offered by Chinese restaurants overseas is usually based on this cuisine, which is why many foreigners think of Cantonese cuisine as ‘Chinese’ food.

This style of cooking was born in Guangzhou and influenced by the trading ships that regularly brought new spices and ingredients into the city over the years. This cuisine is one of the most popular things that Guangzhou is known for worldwide.

Cantonese cuisine tends to focus on fresh, flavorful food that isn’t too spicy. The freshness and mild spices make the food in Guangzhou very accessible for foreigners who aren’t used to some of the more unusual and spicy foods that are eaten elsewhere in China.

Having said that, there is a famous saying that goes along the lines of “People in southern China eat anything with four legs, except tables”. It’s such a funny saying!

Jokes aside, some of the best-known dishes in Guangzhou are:

  • Barbecued pork or char siu 叉烧 (chāshāo)
  • Sweet and sour pork 咕噜肉 (gūlūròu)
  • Wonton noodles 云吞面 (yúntūn miàn)
  • Cantonese style fried rice 广式炒饭 (Guǎngshì chǎofàn).

Also, make sure you try ‘yum cha’ while you’re in the city. It’s basically brunch consisting of Chinese tea and dim sum, which often means loads of dumplings.

It’s a much-loved pastime in Guangzhou and the food is to die for!

2. Canton Tower

Wedding at Canton Tower

A wedding at the top of Canton Tower. Image supplied by Mike Cairnduff.

Canton Tower is the largest tower in Guangzhou and is 600 m tall.

It has a great observation deck at the top where you can take in the city and this view is particularly popular at night, when the city is lit up.

Canton Tower is just as interesting on the lower floors as well. If you have the time, have a meal at the tower’s rotating restaurant, which is the highest restaurant of its kind in the world and serves a good international buffet.

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If you don’t mind heights, then go on the observation ride at the top, where you can sit in moving glass balls to take in the view on all sides.

It’s also a popular place for weddings, and you might even catch a glimpse of newlyweds!

Oh, and if you’re wondering about the ‘Canton’ references, this is because the city used to be known as Canton, a Portuguese name.

3. Flowers

This might sound like an unusual entry into this list, but it’s definitely worth mentioning.

Guangzhou has a subtropical climate that’s perfect for flowers year-round, which is why this city has the nickname of ‘City of Flowers’.

These fragile blooms have permeated every aspect of the culture in Guangzhou and the locals love to plant, admire, and even gift flowers for special occasions.

If you get the chance, try to be in Guangzhou for the Spring Festival Flower Fair, when even the streets and alleyways are decorated with an array of colorful blooms.

4. Shamian Island

European building Shamian Island

European-style building on Shamian. Image supplied by Mike Cairnduff.

If you like architecture, then this little island will probably be your favorite of all the things that Guangzhou is famous for.

Shamian Island used to be a port for foreign trade between the Song and Qing Dynasties. Today, it’s a popular tourist spot for its cluster of European-style buildings.

Shamian Island is located on the Pearl River, the main tributary that runs through the city. The area has plenty of old trees, making it a great place for a walk even on a hot day.

The island isn’t large, only 900 meters east to west and 300 meters north to south, so it’s perfectly walkable if you have a free afternoon.

5. Lychee Bay

Lychee Bay Antique City

Antique City at Lychee Bay (view from Longjin Bridge). Image by LiudmilaD on Shutterstock.

Lychee Bay is one of the prettiest areas that Guangzhou is known for.

It’s a little water town that’s located in the Liwan District and was founded in 206 BC as a summer resort. The entire area is car-free and it’s ideal for a casual walk on a warm afternoon.

Lychee Bay actually ceased to exist in 1992, when the last canal was filled in after many years of declining popularity.

However, the entire area was restored, and the canals opened up in 2010 and it’s now one of the most popular tourist areas in the entire city.

Here are just some of the things you can do in Lychee Bay:

  • Stroll along Wenjing Antique Street for antiques and old wares
  • Take a boat ride along the canals
  • Admire the classical Chinese architecture of Renwei Temple
  • Try some snacks which are based on the local cuisine.

6. The Pearl Riverfront

Guangzhou is known for the Pearl River

The Pearl River is the heart of Guangzhou. Image supplied by Mike Cairnduff.

The Pearl Riverfront is Guangzhou’s answer to the Bund in Shanghai.

It obviously isn’t as famous as the Bund, but it’s lined with some art deco and neoclassical buildings and palaces that tell the story of the city. Some of the most famous buildings in this area are:

  • Canton Custom House, which is the oldest customs building in China
  • Aiqun Hotel, which is a beautiful example of the art deco style
  • Nanfang Building, which was China’s tallest building in 1922.

The Pearl River itself is an attraction on its own as well. It’s the third longest river in China, and the most scenic spots along the river are all found in Guangzhou.

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The best way to see the river at its best is by river cruise.

As your boat sails along, you’ll see the city’s famous concert hall, numerous skyscrapers, and Liede Bridge, where the 2010 Asian Games opening ceremony was held.

7. Shopping

Beijing Road Pedestrian Street Guangzhou

You can find big brands on Beijing Road. Image by Yevheniia Kudrova on Shutterstock.

Like many cities in China, shopping is something that Guangzhou is famous for.

There are a huge number of malls, retail stores, and wholesale markets in the city. You can grab high-end designer goods in some, and cheap and cheerful bargains in others.

If you love to shop, then here’s where to do it in Guangzhou:

  • Tee Mall Plaza – conveniently connected to the Metro
  • Beijing Road – for souvenirs and dining options
  • Shangxiajiu Street – like Beijing Road but cheaper
  • China Plaza – middle-priced shopping
  • Baima Garment Market – cheap clothing and knock-off goods.

8. Huge population

crowded subway train guangzhou

A packed subway train in Guangzhou. Image supplied by Mike Cairnduff.

Since the start of China’s rapid industrialization, countless people have moved from the countryside to large urban centers in search of work and better salaries.

Guangzhou has been one of the top destinations for migrants. This has led to the city becoming so big that it’s now known as a megacity.

A staggering 14 million people now call Guangzhou home.

The entire Pearl River Delta area, which includes other big cities like Shenzhen, has a population of about 85 million.

9. Parks

Baiyun Mountain

Baiyun Mountain is the green lungs of the city. Image by AllenChen_001 on Shutterstock.

For a big, modern city, Guangzhou has a lot of great parks because of the subtropical climate, which plants love.

Some of the parks have been in existence for centuries, while others are newer but just as colorful and relaxing to spend time in.

Some of the parks that Guangzhou is famous for are:

  • Baiyun Mountain, which is Guangzhou’s largest green area
  • Yuntai Garden, which features stunning scenery, a Roman column, and more than 200 rare flowers
  • The Southern China Botanical Garden, one of the largest tropical botanical gardens in the country
  • Baomo Garden, which was built in the Qing Dynasty and contains lots of nice scenic spots such as Qingping Lake
  • Yuexiu Park, where you’ll find the Five Rams sculpture, one of the emblems of the city.

10. Canton Fair

Guangzhou is famous for the Canton Fair

Canton Fair has been running since 1957. Image by Laukamsaiah from Pixabay.

Guangzhou is the most important center of international trade in south China, which is why it hosts the Canton Fair twice a year.

It usually lasts a couple of weeks and is held between April to May and October to November.

The Canton Fair is basically a huge trade fair with exhibits covering 16 categories of goods from food and drink to fabrics, household items, fashion, and building materials and hardware.

There are numerous events and exhibitions held during the fair and it’s a really big deal that involves almost the entire city.

11. Five Goats

Five Rams statue

Five Rams statue at Yuexiu Park. Image by Rickyd on Shutterstock.

This is one of the more unusual entries to any list of what Guangzhou is known for.

The Legend of Five Goats dates back to ancient Guangzhou and has given this city its nicknames of ‘City of Five Goats’ and ‘City of the Goat’. You’ll also see lots of local brands that use the goat theme in their names.

According to the legend, there was a time of drought in ancient Guangzhou. It lasted so long that people were starving until five gods appeared in the air along with a holy melody and colored clouds.

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The gods were riding goats of different colors, and each gave the people a sheaf of wheat with six stalks. When the gods left, they left the goats and the wheat behind.

From that day on, Guangzhou was said to have regular rain and winds, as well as good harvests.

If you go to Yuexiu Park, you can see a statue of the five goats, which is still one of the most important sites in the city.

The ancient peoples also built the Temple of the Five Immortals in the same area. Over the years, the temple fell into ruin but was recently renovated and is still worth seeing today.

12. Chimelong Tourist Resort

Chimelong Tourist Park

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

If you’re traveling with kids or just love to get your adrenalin pumping, then you should spend some time at Chimelong Tourist Resort.

This huge park contains everything you could want for an active day in the city. Here, you’ll find an amusement park, aquarium, water park, bird park, and even a safari park where the animals roam around freely.

The park is also home to a large number of pandas, the largest population outside of their home in Chengdu. So, if you haven’t seen these famous residents of China, then make sure you take this opportunity to do so.

Psst! A quick travel tip

If you’re planning a trip to Guangzhou, don’t forget the internet is censored there.

So, when using hotel Wi-Fi you won’t have access to your favorite sites and apps like Instagram, Facebook, WhatsApp, Google and Gmail, unless you get a VPN before you leave your country.

See your Guangzhou VPN options here.

So, what is Guangzhou really famous for?

Guangzhou is an enormous city that has a little of everything, from modern amenities to great food, architecture, and shopping.

Although this city has some great tourist attractions, it’s also a busy, modern city where people go about their daily lives.

This gives you a chance to experience modern Chinese culture while never losing sight of the history that made it that way!

If you’re looking for an authentic introduction to China, it’s time to experience some of the places and things that Guangzhou is known for.

Heading to Guangzhou soon? Then check out the Guangzhou travel guide as well as the ultimate China packing list. And don’t forget your VPN!

Keep learning about China

Main image credit: Image by Alice Cheung on Pixabay.

Frequently asked questions about Guangzhou

Where is Guangzhou located?

It’s in southern China, in Guangdong province, just 131 km (82 mi) from Hong Kong.

Guangzhou is in which province?

Guangdong province, in southern China.

Why is Guangzhou called Canton?

Canton originally came from a Portuguese name for Guangzhou. While the city is now known internationally as Guangzhou, the name Canton is still often used, especially when it comes to describing something from the region, such as Cantonese language or food.

Why is Guangzhou called Goat City?

It’s based on a legend that the gods left behind goats and wheat during a drought, and only good harvests followed from that day on. The city thus became known as Goat City.

What is Guangzhou famous for?

A lot of things! It’s mostly known for Cantonese food, the Pearl River, Canton Fair, shopping, and tropical parks.

When was Guangzhou founded?

Then known as Panyu, the city was founded on the banks of the Pearl River around 214 BC. This makes Guangzhou more than 2,000 years old.