Guangzhou is the capital of Guangdong Province in southern China and has a population of over 10 million (The official registered population is 7.3 million, with over 3 million unregistered residents), making it the third largest city in China after Shanghai and Beijing. It is adjacent to Hong Kong and Macau. In the era of tea clippers, Guangzhou was known in the West as “Canton”. The food and the language of the area are still known as “Cantonese.”
The city is famous for foreign trade and business, and holds China’s largest trade fair, the Canton Fair. However, in between the seemingly endless skyscrapers, shopping malls and building sites there is a lot of culture and history, and while Guangzhou is not usually high on the list of Asian tourist destinations, it is amazing how much the city actually has to offer.
There are ten districts in Guangzhou:
- Liwan (荔湾 Lìwān) — This is the old Guangzhou, and is combined with the old Fangcun (芳村 Fāngcūn) area in the southwest. Tourist highlights include the colonial Shamian Island, Xiguan Old Houses, and Shangxiajiu shopping districts.
- Yuexiu (越秀 Yuèxiù) — This is the political and cultural center and includes the old Dongshan (东山, Dōngshān) area. Highlights include Yuexiu Park, Beijing Lu Shopping District, and Huanghuagang Martyrs Memorial Park.
- Haizhu (海珠 Hǎizhū) — Located south of the Pearl River, the district is becoming more business focused, particularly in real estate and trading. Locals refer to this part of Guangzhou as Henan, meaning south of the river. Highlights include the Canton Fair Pazhou Exhibition Center, Sun Yat-Sen University, and the Pearl River Promenade. Includes Xinjiao Town
- Tianhe (天河 Tiānhé) — This is the new city center. It is thriving with many new developments, including skyscrapers like the Citic Plaza and new construction within Zhujiang New Town. Highlights include the Sports Center and many shopping centers.
- Baiyun (白云 Báiyún) — This district has a big rural touch, but is slowly being taken over by new developments, including the new airport. Highlights include the Baiyun Mountain.
- Huangpu (黄埔 Huángpǔ) — Not well known among foreign tourists, this district is to the east of the city center. Highlights include the former Huangpu Military Academy.
- Panyu (番禺 Pānyú) — This is the new area and it focuses on technology and economic development. Highlights include the Lianhua Mountain, two wild animal theme parks and the new University City.
- Huadu (花都 Huādū) — This is a developing industrial area. Highlights include Huadu Square.
- Nansha (南沙 Nánshā) — This is an industrial area at the southern tip of the city. It offers little to tourists.
- Luogang (萝岗 Luógǎng) — This is the eastern part of the city and is famous for its plum forest. It is not a popular tourist destination, but it does has some historical sites.
When to visit
In terms of climate, the best time to visit Guangzhou is between October and November. Alternatively, April and May are also good months. Guangzhou has a sub-tropical climate with humidity levels at their highest in the summer, so unless you enjoy Turkish steam baths, this is a season to avoid! Typhoon season is from June to October. Please note that the Canton Trade Fairs take place annually during the 3rd and 4th weeks of April and October, so finding accommodation at those times can be difficult.
There are plenty of airlines offering flights to Guangzhou from major UK airports including London Heathrow, Birmingham, Manchester, Aberdeen, Belfast, Glasgow, Cardiff, New Castle, London Gatwick.
The New Guangzhou Baiyun International Airport ( IATA: CAN) is a major hub in Southern China, second only to Hong Kong. The airport is the base of China Southern Airlines  and has not only an extensive range of domestic flights, but some intercontinental connections, including Lufthansa to Frankfurt, Air France to Paris, China Southern to Los Angeles, Melbourne and Sydney. Also Thai Airways flies to Bangkok and AirAsia  flies to Bangkok and Kuala Lumpur while Singapore Airlines flies to Singapore. Other direct international destinations include Amsterdam, Kuala Lumpur, Penang, Jakarta, Manila, Frankfurt, Tokyo, Nagoya, Osaka, Seoul, Busan, Doha, Denpasar, Dubai, Khabarovsk, Hanoi, Ho Chi Minh City, Taipei, Yangon, Vientiane, Siem Reap, Delhi, Cebu, Jeju, Fukuoka, Kitakyushu, Kathmandu, Male, Phuket, Kota Kinabalu, Phnom Penh, Saipan, Dhaka and Tuguegarao City
The airport is 28 km north from downtown Guangzhou, and should not be confused with the former Baiyun Airport which was closed in 2004. A metro line to the airport is under construction but won’t be ready until 2010. In the meantime, taxi is the fastest option. See the airport fare table for approximate fare cost. A taxi ride to downtown should cost no more than ¥120, inclusive of a ¥15 toll fee. As of 2009, there is a ¥1 fuel surcharge that is not shown on the fare meter.
Alternatively, 9 Airport Express bus lines are available to take you to major destinations in Guangzhou. Line 1 (¥16) departs every 15 minutes from 7 AM until the last flight and takes 45 minutes to reach the train station and Central Hotel. The ticket prices range from ¥10 to ¥36. Lines 1 to 6 are traveling within the metropolitan area, while lines 7-9 go to outer districts. There are also direct Airport Express buses to some cities in the vicinity, including Zhuhai and other cities in the Pearl River Delta.
Do not accept solicitations for rides to the city. Those are illegally operated and use unmarked vehicles. They may cost more than taxis since many travelers do not know the cost of airport transportations.
For many travelers, especially those arriving from outside Asia, flying to Hong Kong International Airport (IATA: HKG) may be cheaper. From there, cross-boundary coach service to Guangzhou (and many other cities in Guangdong) is provided by three companies: China Travel Service, Trans-Island Chinalink and Eternal East. Fares range from HK$220-250 one way.
Trains cover the 182 kilometers from Hong Kong in about two hours (including a stop at Dongguan). Through Trains to Guangzhou depart from Hong Kong at Hung Hom railway station in Kowloon and arrive in Guangzhou at the East station in Tian He district. Trains operating on this service are operated by China Rail and the Hong Kong Mass Transit Railway Corporation (MTR). Since the merger of the Kowloon Canton Railway Corporation (KCRC) and the MTR, Hung Hom station and Hong Kong ticket sales are controlled by the MTR .
It is cheaper to take the high speed train (200 km/h) from Shenzhen to Guangzhou. Shenzhen is right across the border from Hong Kong and thousands of people walk over the bridge between the two every day. China High Speed train tickets are numbered D8## and can be bought from ticket counters or machines.
A project is underway to link the entire Pearl River Delta area with high speed (200+ km/h) train network. The Zhuhai-Guangzhou section is due to open in 2008, and the journey will take just 56 minutes. Shenzhen is already connected. This is part of a nation-wide high-speed network that is under construction. Eventually, this will allow a 7-hour Guangzhou-Beijing ride.
There is also a high-speed train service that connects Guangzhou to Wuhan via Changsha and various other cities. It takes only slightly over 3 hours for a journey to Wuhan, nearly 1000 km away. This train holds the current world record for commercial train services in term of average speed.
It is possible to book a train ticket from Guangzhou to Lhasa, Tibet. The 4,980 km journey takes 54h39m and runs every other day. A sleeper costs ¥869 and up. The last stretch is on the new (2006) Qinghai-Tibet railway; for discussion see Overland to Tibet.
Bear in mind there are two major train stations in Guangzhou. The Guangzhou East Station (广州东站) services routes to Hong Kong. The Guangzhou Station (广州站) is one of the biggest in the country and services routes that go all the way to Harbin. Countless travellers have gone to the wrong station and missed their scheduled trips, so be sure of your departing station, which is specified on the ticket. Metro line 1 ends at Guangzhou East Station, and line 2 has a stop at the Guangzhou Station.
Note that there is little English signage at the train stations, and staff may not understand English well enough (except at the Guangzhou-Kowloon counter) – bring a phrasebook or a Chinese friend if you’re planning on traveling deeper into China.
Coach services are available to bring passengers from Hong Kong International Airport to several locations in Guangzhou. Among the destinations are recognizable landmarks like Jinan University (暨南大学) on Huang Pu Da Dao (黄埔大道), Garden Hotel (花园酒店) and China Hotel (中国大酒店) (see hotel section). The trip takes about 3+ hours and costs 250 HKD. There are also cross border bus terminals throughout Hong Kong. One of the Stations is at Austin Road and Canton Road near Kowloon Park. A one way ticket costs about 100 HKD.
Domestically, it is possible to hop on a bus from any corner of Guangdong province and get to Guangzhou. There are also many options from nearby provinces like Guangxi, Hubei and Fujian. The main stations are the Provincial Station (省汽车站), Tianhe Dasha Station (天河大厦站), Liuhua Station (流花站) and Yuexiu Nan Station (越秀南站).
There is a frequent ferry and hovercraft service from Hong Kong, Macau, and Haikou (Hainan Island) at the Zhoutouzui Ferry Pier (洲头咀码头). There are boats from other mainland cities, such as Xiamen, Shanghai, and Qingdao at the Dashatou Pier (大沙头码头).
New Nansha Pier (新南沙客运港) is now open with 6 lines daily traveling between Hong Kong and Guangzhou. The trip takes 75 minutes (¥116-230). However, Nansha is very far from the city center, although there is a bus servicde available from the White Swan Hotel, running three times a day. Location Nansha Port: 1.6km South from Humen Bridge, Nansha District, Guangzhou. Passengers can take a bus from the White Swan Hotel to the doc. There are 3 runs a day. Nansha can also be reached by taking the metro to the Panyu station and then hopping onto a bus or mototaxi. If you plan on exercising this adventurous option, it is advisable to have instructions written in Chinese for you in advance, as many of the motorbike riders do not speak English.
Guangzhou has a fairly efficient and rapidly expanding public transportation system.
If you intend to stay in Guangzhou for an extensive period of time, it is highly advisable to purchase a multi-purpose Yang Cheng Tong (羊城通) stored value card, similar to the Octopus Card in Hong Kong. It can be used not only for public transportation (bus, subway, parking meters and some taxis), but also for public phones and designated shops, places of interests and certain vending machines. The card includes a ¥30 refundable deposit. While you can purchase the cards in many places, returning your card at the end of the trip is a hassle, because such service locations are limited. The best place to do so is at the service center at the metro station Gong Yuan Qian. It may be worth it to simply keep the card as a souvenir.
Guangzhou’s metro system opened in 1999. The network covers much of the city center and is growing rapidly outward. The fare ranges from ¥2 to ¥12. Most of the signs and announcements are also available in English. Tickets can be bought from vending machines in the stations. Bills from ¥5 – ¥10 or coins from ¥0.5 – ¥1 are accepted at these machines. You can break up your big bills at the customer service counters. The ticket is a small plastic token, which you swipe over the blue reader at the gate to enter the platform, and at the exit where you insert the token into the slot like a vending machine. Multi-Pass and Yang-Cheng-Tong are also accepted and can be purchased at the customer service counter. Please note that most of these machines do not accept old or torn notes. You can exchange old or torn notes for coins at the customer service counter. Tell the officer at the counter where you want to go and he or she will return your note with the requisite fare in coins and the rest in notes.
As of January 2010 there are now 5 metro lines. Lines 1 and 2 are the most useful to tourists, running east-west and north-south respectively across the city center. Line 3 mostly serves the Tianhe and Panyu districts and splits at Tiyu Xilu with a short branch to the East Railway Station. Line 4 is an elevated suburban line serving Panyu, University City and the surrounding villages south-east of the city proper. Line 5 is a half-circular route mostly following Huangshi Dong Lu (the inner ring-road).
There is also a comprehensive public bus service that covers Guangzhou from end to end. By far, it is the cheapest way to move around. Bus fares are ¥1 for the older buses and ¥2 for the air-conditioned ones, although the older buses are slowly being retired. Information at bus stops is mostly written in Chinese, although the current stop’s name is also written in English and stops close to subway stations are marked with the Guangzhou Metro logo, which is handy if you are lost. On-board announcements are made in Mandarin, Cantonese and sometimes English. Exact fare or a Yang Cheng Tong card is needed when boarding. If travelling on a quiet bus it’s advisable to signal to the driver that you wish to get off when approaching your stop by pressing the red buzzer next to the exit door or by saying ‘xia yi zhan you xia'(pinyin:xià yī zhàn yǒu xià) meaning I’m getting off at the next stop or simply ‘you xia'(pinyin:yǒu xià).
Buses are only handy for travelling within one district or for reaching suburban districts that are not served by the subway, and heavy traffic can lead to a slow, uncomfortable journey although they can be handy for a cheap but slow sightseeing tour. Trolleybus routes 101-109 are handy for exploring Liwan and Yuexiu districts. There is currently a bus rapid transit (BRT) line under development which will cut journey times between Tianhe Sport Center and Huangpu District by up to 50% by using segregated lanes in the center of the road and using flyovers and tunnels to cross major intersections.
There are also 3 tourist bus lines passing through many scenic spots in the city.
A handful of commuter express buses run mostly in peak hours from major bus/subway interchanges to outlying districts using the elevated roads and can be faster than taking a conventional bus. Fares are charged according to distance.
This is the most popular way for foreigners to get around, and it is very affordable. The starting charge is ¥7 for the first 2.3 kilometers, or about 1.4 miles. After that is ¥2.6 for each kilometer. The cost may be slightly different, depending on the taxi operators. ¥1.5 fuel surcharge is now added. Although widely publicized, many of them actually do not accept Yang Cheng Tong as payment. The taxi hot line is 96900. This comes in handy if you forget your valuables in a taxi. Save your receipt because it contains the taxi’s identification number.
Tip: Business names and addresses on this guide are also in Chinese. Print them out and show them to the taxi drivers. Most drivers do not speak English; many are from the poorer northern provinces and do not even speak Cantonese.
While driving in Guangzhou is an option, drivers unfamiliar with the driving conditions in China’s large and densely populated cities should be aware that the experience can be extremely daunting and potentially dangerous.
Although a convenient way to navigate the city’s back alleys and lanes, motorcycles are totally banned from the downtown area of the city, and riding a motorcycle into these prohibited areas can lead to fines and possible confiscation of the bike. In addition to the downtown motorcycle ban, electric bicycles are banned from the city roads.
Due to the increasing affordability of private cars, bicycles are in sharp decline in Guangzhou, and it’s possibly now the least cycle-friendly city in China. Still, if you are adventurous, a bicycle can be a convenient way of getting around. Roughly speaking, Yuexiu and northern Liwan are the least cycle-friendly districts in Guangzhou – cycle lanes are non-existant or just a 1m wide strip along the edge of the road normally filled with parked cars, and crossing intersections normally involve carrying your bike across endless over- or underpasses. If you can work your way through the maze of back alleys, navigating these areas is a little easier. Further away from downtown, the going is a little easier as traffic is less hectic and roads are wider, affording cyclists more space.
Bike rental in downtown is almost non-existant, although it is available around Shamian Island and Fangcun. It will be expensive and the bike will usually be in a bad state of repair. Buying a bike is much easier – head to a backstreet bike shop and you can get a used (possibly stolen) single-speed for as little as 100 yuan – Wuyang is a popular local bike brand based on the more famous Flying Pidgeon brand. These are generally in better condition and more comfortable, but is a rather slow and heavy way of getting around. Check that the tires have plenty of air, the chain is well oiled, and the brakes work before handing over your cash. New bikes are available in major hypermarkets from 200 yuan for a cheap single-speed to around 800 yuan for a 21-speed mountain bike, although quality leaves a lot to be desired. Giant and Merida are the two most common international brands (both are from Taiwan) and whilst a little more expensive (expect to spend over 1000 yuan for anything with more than 1 gear), they offer something a little faster and of better quality. Get a decent quality lock too – bike theft is rampant!
Folding bikes are permitted on the subway (but not on buses) and can be carried in the trunk of a taxi at the driver’s discretion, but non-folders are not permitted on any form of public transport other than the cross-river ferries. Bicycles are not permitted to cross the river via the Zhujiang Tunnel or Zhujiang suspension bridge, but are permitted to go on the public ferries for 1 yuan (see below).
The ferry is the cheapest way of crossing the Pearl River (Zhujiang) – it runs between the seafood market next to Shamian Island in Huangsha and the Bai-e-tan Bar Street (Changdi Lu) in Fancun every 5 minutes from 5AM to midnight. The fare is 0.5 yuan for a foot passenger or 1 yuan if you bring a bicycle. The fare can be paid in cash (no change given) or by using a transportation card. There are separate boarding gates for cyclists and pedestrians, and you pay at the boarding gate.
Due to the sheer size of the city, walking is not advisable if you are trying to reach destinations in different districts e.g. from Shamian Island to Citic Plaza. However, walking is a great way of exploring individual districts, and treats such as markets, small antiquities shops and local restaurants can be found up almost every little alley. Walking along main roads can be a nightmare – construction work can result in some inconvenient pedestrian diversions. Open manhole covers or sidewalks blocked by huge piles of cement are common. Take caution when crossing roads, even when the light is green, as bicycles and cars routinely expect everyone to move out of their way and drive through blindly. Many major intersections must be crossed using complex underpasses and footbridges. Make sure you have a map with you. It is all too easy to get lost in the rabbit-warren of small streets and alleys, even if some street signs are also in English.
The primary language of Guangzhou is Cantonese, although standard Mandarin, or Putonghua, is also widely spoken due to the large influx of migrants. As with elsewhere in mainland China, standard Mandarin is the only language used in schools, so expect all educated people to be fluent in it. However, Guangzhou natives are known among the Chinese for their heavily accented Mandarin, which may take a while to get used to if you have just started learning Mandarin. As the Guangzhou dialect of Cantonese is considered to be the prestige dialect, Guangzhou is a good place to start for those wanting to learn Cantonese in its “purest” form.
English is not common, but is still better understood here than most other Chinese cities, especially in restaurants and bars. It’s a good idea to get your hotel’s business card so taxi drivers can take you back if you get lost, and also to get hotel staff to write down the names of any tourist attractions you wish to visit in Chinese, so that locals can point you in the right direction.
Places to See in Guangzhou
- Guangxiao Temple (光孝寺 guāng-xiào-sì) 109 Guangxiao Lu (光孝路) (Metro 1 Xi Men Kou – Exit C) – As the sixth patriarch of Zen Buddhism, Hui Neng, trained at this temple in the 7th Century, it is a popular pilgrimage site for Zen Buddhists. The temple has been destroyed several times by fire, and the current buildings date only from the mid 19th century. Admission ¥4. Warning – there are beggars outside who will approach any tourist and whilst they will be grateful for whatever you give them it is the monks of which you need to be careful. The monks thrust small ‘lucky’ charms onto tourists before insisting on ‘donations’, and claiming that anything between 100 and 400 RMB is normal, which is crazy for a country with a typical weekly salary of around 600 RMB: avoid these orange clothed con artists.
- Liurong Temple (六榕寺 liù-róng-sì) 87 Liurong Lu (六榕路) (Metro 1 Gong Yuan Qian – Exit I)– The Temple of Six Banyan Trees, which includes the 17 story, eight-sided Hua Ta, or Flowering Pagoda, is one of the most popular attractions in Guangzhou. The temple dates back to the 6th century, while the pagoda predates it by about 300 years.
- The buildings and streets of the former British and French concession on Shamian Island (沙面岛) have been beautifully renovated, creating an oasis of tranquility in an otherwise bustling and hectic metropolis. One of the old structures is Our Lady of Lourdes Chapel, located at 14 Shamian Street. Attractions on the island are all free. As an island, Shamian is not particularly spectacular, but what makes it special that for several hundred years this tiny spit of land was the only place in all of China that Europeans could establish settlements. The architecture reflects that era, and it has a very unique atmosphere. (Metro 1 Huang Sha – Exit D)
- Across the canal from Shamian is the Chinese Medicine Market. The modern front of the market has quite a few stalls selling dried herbs used in Chinese Medicine. The real charm here lies just behind the modern exterior. The modern exterior is built onto a series of old historical narrow alleyways with shops selling herbs. The Starbucks on Shamian provides a great respite from the hustle and bustle of Guangzhou
- Sun Yat-Sen Memorial Hall (中山纪念堂 zhōng-shān-jì-niàn-táng),(Metro 2 Ji Nian Tang – Exit C) located on Dongfeng Zhong Lu, is dedicated to the founder of the Republic of China and local hero Dr. Sun Yat-Sen. It was constructed in 1931 and built on the original site of Sun Yat-sen’s presidential office on Yuexiu Hill. Oopen 8AM-6PM.
- Chen Clan Academy (陈家祠 chén-jiā-cí) Zhongshan 7 Lu (中山七路)(Metro 1 Chen Jia Ci – Exit D). This is very well preserved architecture from the 19th century. It used to belong to a wealthy family by the name of Chen and now houses many articles including ivory sculptures and artistic statues. (Admission ¥10)
- Shishi Sacred Heart Catholic Cathedral (石室圣心大教堂 shí-shì-shèng-xīn-jiào-táng) 56 Yide Lu (一德路旧部前)(Metro 2 Hai Zhu Guang Chang).It is one of the oldest church structures in the city, and the largest of its kind of Southern China. It is currently in use for worship. Visiting hours are limited to Sun from 7AM-6PM. Free admission.
- Huangpu Military Academy (黄埔军校旧址 huáng-pǔ-jūn-xiào-jiù-zhǐ) is on Changzhou Island. It was founded in 1924 by Sun Yat-sen, along with the Chinese Communist Party at the time. Many famous Chinese war heroes were trained here. Admission ¥15.
- Wu Xian Guan Temple (五仙观 wǔ-xiān-guān) Weifu Xi Lu (惠福西路). (Metro 1 Xi Men Kou Exit C)Admission ¥5.
- Huaisheng Mosque (怀圣寺 huái-shèng-sì) 56 Guangta Lu (光塔路) (Metro 1 Xi Men Kou Exit C). This is one of the oldest Muslim mosques in China, built in 627. The mosque is not open to the public, but you can take a peek outside.
- Sanyuan Temple (三元宫 sān-yuán-gōng) – ingyuan Lu (Metro 2 Ji Nian Tang – Exit C). This is the largest and oldest Taoist temple in the city.
- Xiguan Residence (西关大屋 xī-guān-dà-wū) (Metro 1, Chang Shou Lu)– See the traditional Cantonese architectures from ancient Guangzhou. This structure was occupied by the upper class.
- Hualin Temple (华林寺 huá-lín-sì) (Tour Bus No. 2; Metro 1, Chang Shou Lu)
Museums and galleries
- Guangzhou City Art Museum (广州美术馆) guǎng-zhōu-měi-shù-guǎn (Metro 2 Yue Xiu Gong Yuan)– Located near the Zhehai Building in Yuexiu Park, this impressive gallery has more than 10,000 pieces of art work, including calligraphy, traditional Chinese paintings, sculptures and Tibetan Buddhist art (Thangka).
- Guangdong Museum of Art (广东美术馆) guǎng-dōng-měi-shù-guǎn, 8 Yanyu Lu, Er-sha Island, (Tour Bus No.2) . Open 9AM-5PM, Tue-Sun. The museum is on Er-Sha Island and focuses on contemporary Chinese art, with a particular emphasis on Guangdong artists. Admission ¥15. Under 18 is free with paying parents.
- Nanyue Royal Tomb Museum (南越王墓 nán-yuè-wáng-mù), 867 Jiefang Bei Lu, (Metro 2 Yue Xiu Gong Yuan) (解放北路867号) – Across from Yuexiu Park. This is a tomb of a king of ancient South China. 9AM-5:30PM. Admission is ¥12, 20 8666 0885)
- Guangzhou Sculpture Park (广州雕塑公园) guǎng-zhōu-diāo-sù-gōng-yuán – Tongxin Lu at the foot of Baiyun Mountain. Free Admission. (Tour Bus No. 1, 3)
- President Sun Yat-Sen Museum (孙中山大元帅府纪念馆) 18 Dongsha Jie, Fangzhi Lu (纺织路东沙街18号). +86 20 3428-1366. Admission is ¥6. Open 9AM-5PM Tue-Sun. Closed Mon.
- Guangzhou Uprising Museum (广州起义旧址纪念馆) 200 Qiyi Lu (起义路200号)(Metro 1, 2 Gong Yuan Qian Exit J). The Museum is at the site of the first Communist government building. Open 9AM—12PM and 1:30PM-4:30PM Tues–Sun. Closed Mon.
- Guangdong Revolutions History Museum (广东革命历史博物馆) 2 Lingyuan Xi Lu [b8907[p (陵园西路2号大院之2), (Located in the martyrs memorial park. Metro 1 Lie Shi Ling Yuan Exit D). Sun Yat-Sen was sworn in here in 1921 as the president of Republic of China. The museum tells stories from the Opium War to the founding of the new China.
- Peasant Movement Institute (农民运动讲习所 nóng-jiǎng-suǒ) 42 Zhongshan 4 Lu (中山四路42号),(Metro 1, Nong Jiang Suo Exit C). This is the original site of Communist training center founded by Mao Tse-tung in the 1920s. Now it is a museum covering the recent China revolutionary history. Open 9AM-4:30PM Tue-Sat.
- Huanghua Gang Commemoration Park (黄花岗公园), huáng-huā-gǎng-gōng-yuán, 79 Xianlie Zhonglu, ) (Tour Bus No. 1), +86 20 3758-8321. Open 6AM-8:30PM. Admission is free. This is a park that will set you in a poignant mood. The main attraction is the monument built to commemorate the 72 martyrs who died during the 1911 uprising.
- Yuexiu Park (越秀公园) yuè-xiù-gōng-yuán, (Metro 2 Yue Xiu Park Station Exit B1) is the largest urban park in China and is a lush green area that flows over acres of hills and includes several lakes. It includes the Ming Dynasty Zhenhai Tower (镇海楼) zhèn-hǎi-lóu, now home to the City Museum with relics dating back to the 15th century and an up-to-date miniature of Guangzhou (separate admission). Also check out the Stone Statue of the Five Rams (五羊石像), the symbol of Guangzhou (For more details, see ‘History’ section of Understand). Open 6AM-9PM. Free Admission.
- Yuntai Garden (云台花园)(Tour Bus No. 1, 3) yún-tái-huā-yuán is situated at the foot of Baiyun (White Cloud) Mountain and is famous for its wide variety of rare flowers and trees. Every year there is a beautiful 3-D flower exhibit. During this period, admission is ¥20, but it is well worth it. Admission is ¥10.
- Huadu Square (花都广场) huā-dū-guǎng-chǎng is a park-cum-recreation square located in the north part the city and near the government office buildings of Huadu District (花都区). The square incorporates, among other attractions, an outdoor theater, large fountain, outdoor dance area and statues. There is a large grass area that is similar to a Western style meadow and a subtropical forest and ornamental flower beds.
- Xiangjiang Wild Animal Safari Park (香江野生动物世界) xiāng-jiāng-yě-shēng-dòng-wù-shì-jiè is in Panyu district. Admission is ¥150.
- Guangzhou Martyrs’ Memorial Garden (广州起义烈士陵园) guǎng-zhōu-qǐ-yì-liè-shì-líng-yuán) Zhongshan 2 Lu (中山二路),(Metro 1 Martyrs’ Park Station Exit D) – This park is dedicated to those who fought and died in the Communist Uprising in 1927. Free adminssion.
- Grand World Scenic Park (广州世界大观) guǎng-zhōu-shì-jiè-dà-guān, 888 Daguanyuan Nan Lu (天河东圃大观园南路888号), (Bus 548, 224, 245). Open 8:30AM-5:30PM.
- The Baiyun Shan (White Cloud Mountain) (白云山 bái-yún-shān),(Tour Bus No. 1, 3) is a great place to relax and enjoy a day among lush, rolling hills. It also offers great views over the city. The road to the top is restricted to park trams and pedestrians. To get to the top lookout point, you can use the main roads or trails. There are many places to rest and refreshments are available along the way. It is a great place to see people enjoying nature and playing games, such as badminton, football and even bungie jumping. There are many bus routes to and from different parts of the city, as well as taxis usually available near the park gate. Open 6AM-7PM. Park entrance ¥5. Cable car round trip is ¥40, tram from ¥20. Other attractions ¥5-¥10)
- Lianhua Shan (Lotus Mountain) (莲花山 lián-huā-shān) features an impressive quarry from which red sand stones were mined about 2,000 years ago, a pagoda from 1612, and a barrack from 1664. The obligatory statue of Guanyin, the Buddhist Goddess of compassion, at the side of the Buddhist temple is also not to be missed. From Guangzhou, take bus 308 or 302 and exchange bus at Panyu (番禺). The bus takes about two hours and costs ¥14. There is a ferry service from Guangzhou at Tianzi Pier (天字码头) at Beijing Lu Nan (北京路南) for ¥25. The boat leaves at 8:15AM and returns at 3:15PM. Admission is ¥30.
Things to Do
- Pearl River dinner cruise (珠江夜游) Dashatou Pier (大沙头码头), Tianzi Pier (天字码头), and Xiti Pier (西堤码头) – This is a one to two hour cruise in the evening and a great way to see the Guangzhou skyline along the Pearl River, including a light show at Bai-E-Tan. Tickets for the deluxe dinner cruise can be bought from most high-end hotels. Prices from ¥50 per person.
- Chinese New Year/Spring Festival (春节 chūn-jié) occurs on first day of first lunar month, usually in January or February. This is a 15 day celebration and some districts can be quite deserted as many migrant workers return to their home provinces. The flower fair is popular during the days before New Year.
- Dragon Boat Festival (端午节 duān-wǔ-jié) on fifth day of fifth lunar month, usually in May or June. This festival commemorates the sacrifice of Qu Yuan (屈原), a famous poet who drowned himself in the river by way of making a statement against government corruption during the Warring States Period. The highlights are dragon boat racing along the Pearl River, and eating rice dumplings wrapped in bamboo leaves (粽子).
- Mid-autumn Festival (中秋节 zhōng-qiū-jié) is on the 15th day of 8th lunar month, usually in Sept or Oct. Cantonese moon cakes are enjoyed during this holiday. Lian Xiang Lou and Tao Tao Ju’s moon cakes are especially famous (see “Eat” section). Kids’ favorites are paper lanterns. Many locals also enjoy riding ferries and watching the full moon on the Pearl River.
- Tomb Sweeping Day (清明节 qīng-míng-jié) is around the spring equinox, usually on April 5th. Involves visits to the family tombs for cleaning and making offerings.
- Chinese Valentines Day (七夕 qī-xī) is on 7th day of 7th lunar month, usually in August or September. According to legend, a heavenly fairy Zhi Nu (织女) fell in love with a mortal farm boy Niu Lang (牛郎). It’s forbidden of course, so as punishment, they are only allowed to meet once a year on this day. This is the Chinese equivalent of Valentine’s Day, but it is steadily losing its appeal among the locals, especially to the young.
- Winter Solstice (冬至) dōng-zhì, which literally means the Coming of Winter is on December 22nd. Traditionally, Cantonese people observe the day with a family feast, which often includes preserved duck and sausages. However, the highlight of the day’s festive dishes is hot soup served with flour dumplings (汤圆).
The Canton Fair
Twice a year, in Spring and Fall, Guangzhou hosts the Canton Fair or China Import And Export Commodities Fair. It has been running since 1957 and for many years was almost the only way foreign businesses could make contacts in China. It is still very important now. Anyone who is doing or wants to do business with China should consider visiting.
If you are going to the fair, book a hotel well in advance. Hotels tend to be booked and expensive during the Fair. China Hotel and Dongfang Hotel are probably the best places to stay if you can afford it. It is right across the street from one of the main exhibit halls. Many affordable hotels, including Oasis Hotel Guangzhou , provide free shuttle services to the main exhibit centers during the fair. Taxis may not be your best option since there are traffic controls in the exhibit areas.
The two main exhibit halls are the Pazhou Complex at 380 Yuejiang Zhong Lu (Metro 2 Pa Zhou), and the old Liuhua Complex at 117 Liuhua Lu (Metro 2 Yue Xiu Gong Yuan). The old Liuhua Complex is closed now, the whole fair takes place at Pazhou Complex (for details visit the official website of Canton Fair).
Guangzhou is known among the Chinese for its relatively high crime rate compared to the rest of China. However, it is still not a dangerous city by Western standards, and is no more dangerous than a large American or Western European city. Due to the enormous number of people from other mainland provinces flocking to Guangzhou in the hope of finding jobs (often unsuccessfully), the area surrounding the main train station has gained a notorious reputation for being chaotic, unsafe and rampant with petty crimes. Pickpockets are especially active here. In recent years, armed (large blades, knives, and such) robberies in the open and abductions which result in first degree murders have been on the rise in the city, even though such crimes are punishable by death. Just bear in mind, when people become desperate, they will do anything to get what they want. If you are getting robbed, do not expect the crowd to help. And if they are armed, do not fight back. The best defense, as always, is common sense. Do not flash your valuables in public, do not wander around by yourself late at night and remain alert at all times. Use only official taxis and get advice from the government-run tourist office.
There has been increasing incidences of HIV positive men and women using infected syringes to threaten people for cash. Other tactics include walking amongst heavy traffic while carrying bags of goods and then deliberately dropping these bags onto nearby cars in the hope of fooling the drivers and asking for monetary compensation.
Use caution at bars or night clubs. Foreigners have been targets of physical assaults in these venues. Attacks on foreigners have been provoked when someone is perceived to have made derogatory statements about China.
With its vast, ever-increasing population, there will always be people (mostly from out of town) who just seem to be hanging around. Those unaccustomed to this may feel intimidated, especially Westerners who get stared at a lot. However, please remember that rural Chinese are not used to seeing a “Gwai Lo” (a white man), so their stares are merely out of interest, and should not be construed as something rude or offensive. In this respect, it is important to bear in mind that 3 out of 10 people in Guangzhou are migrants from other provinces.
Traffic accident rates in Guangzhou (or China for that matter) are significantly higher than other countries. Use extra caution when crossing streets; use pedestrian bridges and tunnels whenever possible. Like everywhere else in China, cars do not yield to pedestrians. Instead, drivers automatically expect pedestrians to give way to them. So in most cases, they do not stop until it is too late.
Motorcycles (other than 3 wheeled vehicles for the handicapped) have been completely banned from Guangzhou’s streets due to a previous rash of motorcycle based snatch robberies and other safety issues.
Emergency numbers are: Police: 110; Fire: 119; Medical: 120; Traffic accident: 122.