Guangzhou is a great choice for travellers who like to try a little of everything. Formerly known as Canton, China's third largest city (after Shanghai and Beijing) is the best place to try authentic Cantonese cookery and delicious Dim Sim. The city enjoys an impressive location on the Pearl River 75 miles northwest of Hong Kong and 90 miles north of Macau, and its fabulous landmarks include China's tallest structure the Canton Tower. Once a stop on the famous maritime Silk Road, Guangzhou can be reached easily from almost any part of the world today.
Visitors will enjoy the contrast between past and present. The modern skyline and sprawling metropolis are fringed by traditional villages, many of which date back to the Song Dynasty. There are reminders of the country's Republican past in almost every district and ancient temples vie for attention with futuristic structures.
Outdoor enthusiasts will love nature parks like the Nanshu Wetlands, while history fans shouldn't pass up the chance to see the Mausoleum of the Nanyue King or visit some of the many prestigious galleries and museums. Fashion lovers will be spoiled for choice in the upscale malls and huge marketplaces -- the city is often called China's answer to Bangkok.
Things to do in Guangzhou
There really is something for everyone in Guangzhou. It's a foodie's dream destination, a shopaholic's paradise and a must for history fans. However, it's also a great choice for families and its parks and outdoor spaces are stunning.
See the Most Famous Sights
A visit to China's highest structure should be high on any list of 'what to do in Guangzhou'. Admission to the Canton Tower is cheap by Western standards and visitors will love the 4D theatre and restaurants almost as much as the amazing views of the Pearl River from the observation deck. Alternatively, spend the day at Shamian Island amid beautifully renovated British and French 19th-century colonial buildings - be sure to see Our Lady of Lourdes Chapel at 14 Shamian Street -- it's one of the oldest.
For the Nature Lovers
Nansha Wetland Park is a bird-watchers paradise. The 200-hectare reserve is a popular escape for locals and, amazingly, it's all manmade. The local climate ensures that mangroves thrive here among, reeds, colourful trees and wetland flowers. Wintering birds come from Siberia and further afield and it's a great place to spot storks, spoonbills and a host of other species. Those who prefer to stay closer to the city centre might enjoy a visit to the Canton Orchid Garden, where thousands of rare plants and flowers can be seen in beautifully laid out gardens and glasshouses.
Guangzhou -- a Retail Fan's Dream
Often called 'China's Bangkok', the city is known for its sprawling traditional markets, shopping cities and ultra-modern malls. Try Huimei Clothing Market or the BuYun Shoes World Plaza - Global International Trade Center for good designer copies or get the real thing at stylish malls like Grandview or TaiKoo Hui.
Take a Step Back in Time
Guangzhou is home to the largest cathedral in Southeast Asia -- the Cathedral of the Sacred Heart of Jesus which is commonly referred to as Shishi Cathedral. The city also boasts one of the region's most important historic finds; the Mausoleum of the Nanyue King was only discovered in 1983 and its jade-tile-covered burial chamber is truly beautiful. History buffs should also visit Sun Yat-Sen Memorial Hall, which is dedicated to the founder of the People's Republic of China.
Eat, Drink and be Merry
Cantonese or Yue is the most widely exported cookery style in the world and the city is the ideal place to tuck into favourites Cantonese dishes like Sweet and Sour Pork, Won Ton Noodles and Chow Mein. You can also try ancient specialities like Congee or take the kids to eat at a Dim Sum buffet -- the tasty snack style dishes are the Cantonese answer to tapas or bar food. Look for real Yue cuisine in traditional restaurants or sample the exciting contemporary versions served in some of Guangzhou's trendiest 5-star establishments. Finally, as the sun sets over the city, the weary traveller can take a boat cruise down the Pearl River to see the illuminated landmarks or linger over cocktails at one of the fabulous bars on the banks of the Zhujiang or Pearl rivers.
Calendar of Events
Guangzhou may be known for its food and shopping, its outdoor spaces and its eye-catching landmarks, but visitors will also find lots of exciting events to choose from throughout the year, too.
Chinese New Year. Possibly the most famous event of the year throughout China. Dates vary but those hoping to catch colourful parades, dragon dances, concerts and fireworks should plan to visit Guangzhou from January to February.
Canton Fair. One of the biggest trade fairs in China, the Canton Fair was established in 1957 and attracts professional exhibitors and visitors from around the globe. It takes place from mid-April to May and again from mid-October to November.
The Guangzhou Lotus Festival. This colourful annual event happens from July/August and there is a weekly changing theme over the course of the festival. Almost 300 different types of lotus flower will be on display and there are activities for children and various demonstrations.
Yangjiang Kite Festival. This fun festival on 28th October (do check as dates can vary) is adored by visitors and locals alike. The tradition of flying a kite on the ninth day of the ninth lunar month dates from the Song Dynasty (960-1279). The festival was founded in in 1992 and has attracted over 10,000 visitors from all over the world.
Storm Electronic Dance Music Festival. It's not only about tradition and history in Guangzhou. The city hosts the biggest EDM festival in China each September and dance music fans can see internationally acclaimed DJs and Chinese talent in a friendly and vibrant setting.