Guilin is one of the most famous tourist destinations in China. The reason for this is less the city itself, but more the surrounding area. In this extensive city guide, we’ll show you what you can see in Guilin and why visiting can be worth it!
When people think of travelling to Asia, China isn’t the most common destination. The reason for that is China’s strong domestic tourism, which doesn’t make it necessary to even focus on foreign tourism. Guilin is one of the examples for really important tourism destination, which aren’t really visiting by foreign guests, but by millions of Chinese a year. After my visit, I can tell that visiting Guilin for the nature around is absolutely worth it, but visiting the city itself isn’t something special.
Guilin only has one real landmark building in the city center, which is the Jingjian Princes’s Palace, also known as the Guilin Yi Royal Palace. This site has a charming historic character with huge walls.
However, it is only partly a museum (with a hefty entrance fee) as the other parts of the palace are used as university grounds, which seems a bit odd.
While we didn’t have time to visit, I must say that the palace looked interesting from the outside, so it might actually make sense to visit in case you spend some time in the city of Guilin.
Particularly if you are interested in history, visiting is well worth it as Guilin just doesn’t have many other historic sights to offer.
Something else at least somewhat historic in Guilin are the many historic bridges, which connect the city center located on an island with the rest of the sprawling city.
While the bridges as such aren’t that old, some of them look quite nice and offer a historic charm, which obviously isn’t comparable with the historic quarters of European cities like Paris or Prague.
Nevertheless, walking through Guilin is actually quite nice, particularly if you stick to the walkways by the water. On one side, there’s the Li River and on the one you are passing all the lakes of Guilin.
They are looking more like a river than lakes to me as they are all connected, by the all offer a somewhat different scenery, which is enjoyable.
You can easily walk around the inner city right by the water for about two hours, which gives you a good impression of Guilin.
The highlight of all the lakes in Guilin definitely are the two Southern Lakes, which are quite large and offer very walkways by the water.
One of the major sights here and generally in Guilin are the Sun and Moon Pagoda, which is a nice looking double pagoda, yet by far not as impressive as the ones in Dali.
There are also several of the more historic buildings of the city along the promenade here, so you can get a taste of how parts of the city must have looked a couple of decades ago.
Various status can also be found in this area.
Furthermore, one of the touristic highlights, the so-called Elephant Mountain, is also located nearby. It’s basically a cave with a unique shape, which you usually have to pay entrance for to visit. However, if you go to a certain spot at the Li River, you can also see if from the distance without paying.
Honestly, I’d say it’s nice looking, but not exactly a real highlight, at least in my opinion.
While we will release a special destination guide for the Longji Rice Terraces, it’s worth noting that those are one of the highlights near Guilin.
They are located about two hours away from the city and consist of various different rice terraces. Depending on the seasons, they always look different, but are generally worth visiting.
Especially if you are into nature, the whole scenery is just fascinating and you can also visit smaller villages, which sadly are also quite touristic, but still feel so different from the major metropolises in China like Guangzhou or Shanghai.
While the drive to the Longji Rice Terraces sure isn’t the most enjoyable car ride you’ll ever take, I would definitely recommend visiting when you are in Guilin.
The most important touristic activity near Guilin are cruises along the Li River, which are going from the South of the city to Yangshuo.
While the whole experience is an incredible tourism dumb with large boats and tour groups and ships going down the river in a convoy of sorts, the scenery still is special.
The area is dominated by unique karst mountains, which you can only find in very few parts of the world. Another example is the Shilin Stone Forest near Kunming.
We’ll also release a special guide on the whole Li River cruise experience in Guilin, but if you are visiting the city, this definitely should be one of your activities. I’d also recommend spending some time near Yangshuo as the area is really beautiful.
Guilin as such isn’t exactly the most beautiful city in the world and I’d limited my time in the actual city to one day. Walking along the lakes is enjoyable and seeing the few interesting spots in the city is worthwhile, but I’d focus on visiting the Longji Rice Terraces as well as the Li River and the beautiful scenery around Yangshuo.
Do you have any questions about Guilin? Feel free to ask or share your impressions in the comments!