City Guide: Guangzhou
Guangzhou is the capital of the Guandong province in the South of China and one of the major industrial cities in the country. In this City Guide, we’ll show you what you can expect when visiting Guangzhou as a tourist!
Cities in China are first and foremost one thing: Extremely large. If you think of Paris or London as a big city, just multiple the size by five and you might understand how Guangzhou looks like. This means that you’ll surely need a few days for exploring Guangzhou even though there are not even that many sights. Yet, getting from one place to another takes a while and sometimes there can be substantial cues. This is also why I’ll try to combine sights located close to one another in this city guide under each headline, so you can plan your trip accordingly!
Liwan Lake Park, Shamian and Guangzhou Cathedral
The first interesting area to mention in Guangzhou is the more historically one in the West or South-West of the city center. Here, you can find the cute Liwan Lake Park, which is also home to a historic temple.
From here, you can either walk or take a car for less than ten minutes to get to Shamian, an island of-sorts, which once was home to Europeans living in Guangzhou (known as Kanton at the time).
Thus, there are still various historic buildings with an European influence, which makes visiting the little island, which is easily walkable and very enjoyable compared to the busy city center, very enjoyable.
You’ll find various historic buildings, including beautiful churches, which make you feel like being in a city somewhere in Europe.
There’s also a nice park by the water as well as a selection of statues throughout Shamian.
I’d say that walking around here for an hour or two should be enough, but you can easily spend more time here when having a coffee, for example. Yet, I’d schedule some time to visit another interesting and very well hidden sight in the area: Guangzhou Cathedral, which is surprisingly beautiful.
Especially after seeing all these churches, you’ll be wondering whether you are actually in China!
Dafo Temple, People’s Park and Sun Yet Sen Memorial Hall
Speaking of highlights in Guangzhou, there are a couple of more in the immediate city center. First of all, there’s Beijing Road, which is not only a nice shopping street, but also comes with some historic monuments.
My personal favorite definitely is the Dafo Temple, which is not only massive, but also comes with a very distinctive architecture – really spectacular.
About a ten minutes walk away from here, you can find the People’s Park. While this name is basically found in all Chinese cities, from Chengdu to Beijing, I thought that the park in Guangzhou is particularly nice if you are looking for an escape from the busy life in town.
In addition, the People’s Park in Guangzhou is just a few steps away from one of the major sights in the former city of Kanton: The Sun Yat Sen Memorial Hall.
This building has an incredibly important historic background for people in Guandong province and China in general, but is also just nice to have a look at.
Just behind the Memorial Hall, there’s also the Yue Xiu Park, which offers another nice retreat from the city and, in addition, some really nice views of town.
While exploring this area might take a few hours, you should be able to combine it with Shamian and the areas further West, if you are in a rush exploring Guangzhou!
The new city center, Guandong Tower & Guangdong Museum
The interesting city about Guangzhou is that there are two actual city centers, the historic and the modern one. The later looks so much different to the former as it is dominated by skyscrapers.
In my opinion, the developers of this area went with a smart approach of one major park stretching from the South to the North of the business district, allowing for a recreation area in-between all the skyscrapers.
From here, you can also catch a nice glimpse of Guandong Tower, the highest building in Guangzhou and one of the highest buildings in the whole world.
Speaking of architecture, there are a couple of more noteworthy buildings here and those are not all skyscrapers. For example, there’s the Guangzhou Opera House with its unique design.
On the other side of the park, you can find the Guangzhou Library, which looks special as well.
Right next to that building, there’s one of the most famous museums in the area, the Guandong Museum, showcasing different artworks over time.
In the middle of the river, on an island, you can also find the beautiful Haixinsha Park with its many different flowers and a lovely little lake in the middle.
Furthermore, there is a somewhat fake-historic development named Pearl River New Town not far away from here. No must see, but interesting nevertheless.
Depending on your interests, you can easily spend a couple of hours in this area of Guangzhou as it’s definitely not a boring business district as many others in cities around the world.
Baiyun Mountain Scenic Area & Guangzhou Yuntai Garden
A further highlight of Guangzhou is the Baiyun Mountain Scenic Area, which you can either climb up to in one or two hours or you can take a cablecar up. Sadly, I didn’t make it when visiting Guangzhou due to the incredible crowds over Chinese New Year. It’s supposed to be really nice though, which is why I’d highly recommend taking some time to explore the Baiyun Mountain! On the ground station of the cablecar, you can also find the Yuntai Garden, which is a large park in typical Chinese fashion.
This means that it’s sort-of a mix of a traditional park with beautiful flowers and hiking paths and a theme park with various attractions.
While I thought that many things were a bit too much, there are certainly nice areas here to explore and admire.
There’s one little hike up to a small mountain for example, from where you can enjoy a nice view of the city.
This may not be a must-visit, but if you are in the area and want to go up Baiyun Mountain anyways, this might be a good place to stop-by for an hour or so.
Overall impressions of Guangzhou
Before visiting Guangzhou, formerly known as Kanton, I didn’t really know what to expect. After a few days in the city over the busy holiday season, I must say that it’s a surprisingly nice place to visit. Sure, there are other cities with more sights and more history, but the combination of the nicely done modern city center and the remainings of the past combined with many parks throughout the city make the capital of Guandong worth a visit!
Do you have any questions about Guangzhou? Feel free to ask or share your impressions in the comments!