Guangzhou is a great city located in southern China, very close to Hong Kong. Compared to Changsha (where I lived for 2 years) it’s a lot more westernised but still with the beautiful traditional Chinese culture. When you’ve lived in a fairly polluted city in China for a long time, seeing the blue skies and puffy white clouds of Guangzhou is one of the best feelings. Located along the river there are numerous things to do in Guangzhou, keep reading for my top 5 things to do in the city!
- CANTON TOWER
The most iconic landmark of Guangzhou, Canton Tower is a 604m high observation tower which I believe rather progressively projects the gay pride rainbow every night in dazzling form. Due to China’s policies on human rights and freedom of speech I don’t actually think the rainbow colours are supporting LGBT rights, but we’ll go with it! The tower should be viewed during the day but definitely also at night! It’s enjoyable to walk along the river and take in Guangzhou’s beautiful skyline.
Prices for adults wanting to explore the 428m cloud observation deck and the 433m star observation deck is ¥150 (US$23). Canton Tower also has a rollercoaster style sky drop for ¥268 (US$41), or you can enjoy the views from a so-called bubble tram.
2. SHAMIAN ISLAND
This island is not a traditional out to sea island, but one right in the heart of the city, formed through the tributaries of the Zhujiang River. This island is like stepping into Europe, a complete juxtaposition to the streets across the bridge. Shamian Island is perfect for a get away from the busy city life of Guangzhou, perfect for walking around and taking in the sights. It’s a very small island so it will not take long to stroll around. There are a few cafes and shops lining the tree covered walkways, but when I was there back in 2019 not many were open.
Getting to Shamian Island is easy thanks to China’s extensive metro system. Take metro line 1 or 6 to Huangsha stations, then take Exit F and you will soon find an overpass that leads to a pretty bridge (see below) to the island.
3. WATERFRONT WALKING OR CYCLING
One of the best things about China, are the bikes. There are so many affordable bikes for rent, that are parked up along most streets just waiting to be used. The pathways around the city are great for cycling or taking a stroll. Make sure to walk along to Zhujiang River for great city views, street vendors and lots of things to see and do. At night everything is lit up and there are fluorescent river cruise boats travelling up and down the river.
4. SACRED HEART CATHEDRAL
Located in Yuexiu District the Cathedral has been described as the ‘Notre Dame of East Asia’ and is definitely more evidence of European influence in the city. It’s a nice spot to take photos and admission is free, the cathedral is open from 8am to 5pm. There are a few shops and cafes that you can enjoy in the square outside cathedral. To get to the Sacred Heart Cathedral you can take the metro line 2 or 6 to Haizhu Square and leave the station from Exit B2 and head along Yide Road and you’ll find the cathedral.
5. TEMPLES FOR DAYS
Just like the rest of China temples are plentiful in Guangzhou. Here are just a few suggestions of temples you can add to your itinerary. The Temple of the Six Banyan Trees is also adorned with a pagoda and nice spot to walk around just outside the gate. By metro you can arrive at Gongyuanqian Station and take the I2 exit. Next up is one of the oldest Buddhist temples in Guangzhou, Guangxiao Temple. To get the take the metro to Ximenkou Station Exit C and then head north up the road and you’ll spot it. Located in Yuexiu District, Dafo Temple is worth a visit, with its beautifully elaborate entrance, both during the day and at night when it’s all lit up! To get there head to Gongyuanqian Station and take Exit D and then head south towards Beijing Lu, it’s hard to miss this beauty!
If your going to China for a quick trip Guangzhou may not be at the top of your list of cities, with many opting to visit Shanghai and Beijing but it is a great city in the south and if your in China for longer you should definitely give it a visit!