Tuck into superb Cantonese cuisine and seafood in this food paradise, which has more restaurants per head than any Chinese city.
China’s third largest city, located close to the mouth of the Pearl River, has been an important trading port since the Tang Dynasty (AD 618–907). Prior to hosting the 2010 Asian Games, Guangzhou had a somewhat downbeat reputation as the hub of China’s 'Factory of the World' manufacturing heartlands. However, the arrival of smart new downtown developments along with a city-wide infrastructure upgrade, have transformed China’s southern metropolis and drawn travellers back to the city formerly known as Canton.
Guangzhou enjoys a warm and pleasant year-round climate, and is nicknamed 'The Flower City' on account of its abundant flora. Visitors can enjoy plenty of East-meets-West history, genteel river cruising, trendy contemporary art zones and, of course, lots of great dining. Guangzhou claims to have more restaurants per head than any other Chinese city, and the delicate local Cantonese cuisine and fresh seafood are superb.
Despite being the huge capital of the vast Guangdong Province, which is home to a staggering 104 million people, life in the metropolis ticks by at a leisurely Cantonese clip. Be sure to allow plenty of time to join the locals for a slow-paced dim sum lunch while sipping tea and watching one of China’s most intriguing cities go about its daily business.
Stationed in China's subtropical south, Guangzhou's climate is generally warm and humid all year round, without a clear division between the four seasons. October to February (autumn/winter) and April to May (spring) are good times to visit. Summer (June to September) tends to be very hot and steamy. Typhoon season is between June and October.
Singaporean citizens can visit China for a period of 15 days without a visa, while most other nationalities require a visa in advance. Ensure your passport is valid for at least six months and that you have a return or onward ticket.
China's currency is the yuan (Y), also known as renminbi, or colloquially as kuai. International credit cards and bank cards (Cirrus, Plus, Visa, MasterCard, American Express) can be used to withdraw local currency from ATMs, which are found throughout the city.
The modern and efficient Guangzhou's Baiyun International Airport lies 28km (17 miles) to the north of downtown. It takes approximately 45 minutes by car to the Pearl River New Town. Guangzhou has an extensive and efficient metro system comprising eight subway lines.
Guangzhou is a relatively safe city, but petty crimes such as pickpocketing do occur in crowded areas like train stations, markets and busy streets. There is very little violent crime against foreigners, but tourists should be aware of scams that generally begin with a request from the scammer to practise their English or visit a student art exhibition. Avoid unlicensed cab drivers or motorcycle taxis.
In case of health concerns, contact the Guangzhou CanAm International Medical Centre, 5/F, Garden Tower, Garden Hotel, 368 Huanshi East Road (tel: (86) 20 8386 6988).
|How are you?||Neih hou ma?|
|Fine, thanks||Hou hou do jeh|
|Excuse-me! (to get attention)||Ching mahn!|
|Thank you||Do jeh|
|What's your name?||Neih giu mat yeh meng?|
|My name is…||Ngoh giu…|
|Nice to meet you||Hou gou hing gin dou neih|
|Are you on Facebook/Twitter?||Neih yauh mouh jyu chaak Facebook/Twitter?|
|Where’s an internet café?||Mohng ba hai bin douh?|
|Where can I get a taxi?||Ngoh hai bin douh ho yih wandou dik si?|
|Where is the bus/train station?||Fo che jaahm/ba si jaahm hai bin douh?|
|A one-way/return ticket to…||Yat jeung heui…ge daan chihng/seung chihng fei|
|Do you have a room for one/two?||Auh mouh yat/leuhng go yahn ge fohnggaan?|
|When's check out?||Gei dim teui fong?|
|Can you recommend a good restaurant/bar?||Neih ho m ho yih gaai siuh yat gaan hou ge chaan teng/jau ba?|
|A table for two, please||M goi bei leuhng yahn ge toi ngoh|
|A menu, please||M goi neih bei choi paai ngoh|
|The bill, please||M goi maaih daan|
|Where's the toilet?||Sai sau gaan hai bin douh?|
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Canton Tower, opened in 2010, soars 600 metres over the Pearl River New District. Nicknamed ‘the slim-waisted lady’ the slender skyscraper twists on its axis halfway up and is illuminated in rainbow colours at night. It also boasts the world’s highest Ferris wheel. Hop aboard one of the enclosed glass pods for a 30-minute rotation of the city sights and mountains beyond. On the 112th floor, the Cloud Star Bar is a 488-metre-high (1,600ft) lounge with a vertigo-inducing alfresco terrace.
The excellent Guangdong Museum is one of the architectural landmarks of Flower Square. The imposing cube is styled after an antique trinket box with red-lacquered cut-out windows in irregular shapes. Its airy halls house a collection of over 130,000 historical exhibits showcasing Guangdong’s customs, culture and history. Show your passport or ID card at the entrance in exchange for an entry ticket.
Pearl River Sightseeing Cruise
A sightseeing cruise along the Pearl River is a Guangzhou must-do. Departing from Tianzi or Xidi Wharf, tourist cruises of different durations and routes run throughout the day and evening, sometimes with onboard shows and dining. Cruises at sunset offer a spectacular view of the city lights.
Guangzhou Chimelong Paradise
One of China’s largest and best amusement parks, Guangzhou Chimelong Paradise spans 60 hectares and offers more than 70 attractions. Highlights include roller coasters, stunt shows and a 4D movie theatre. The adjoining water park features more rides, waterslides and a wave pool. The same company also manages circus and safari parks nearby.
Guangzhou Opera House
The Guangzhou Opera House on Flower Square not only hosts famed operas, such as Bizet’s Carmen, but performances by the Boston Symphony Orchestra and Hong Kong Philharmonic Orchestra. Stealing the spotlight, however, is the theatre itself. Designed by starchitect Zaha Hadid, the curvaceous structure features dual humps encased in monochromatic granite evoking the smooth rocks in the nearby Pearl River. Half emerged from below ground, its sensual lines make for impressive photographs.
Begin your tour in the southwest of the city at Shamian Island, a tiny reclaimed island established in 1862 as a British and French Concession. The picturesque streets are flanked with century-old neoclassical buildings, interspersed with fig trees, parks and terrace cafés.
At the eastern edge, cross the Renmin Daqiao bridge and continue eastwards along the waterfront to the old Canton Bund (Yanjiang West Road), which is lined with grandiose heritage edifices, most notably the Customs House and the stone-fronted old post office.
Guangzhou claims to have more restaurants per head than any other Chinese city, and refined Cantonese cuisine is a local obsession. Housed in a beautiful courtyard residence built in 1928, Bei Yuan Restaurant serves fine Cantonese seafood and dim sum with views of the lantern-strung gardens and goldfish ponds.
It’s a short taxi-ride from here to Redtory, Guangzhou’s edgy art district in the grounds of the former Guangdong Canned Food Factory. The late 19th-century redbrick factory buildings now house contemporary art galleries, artist studios and quaint cafés. Don’t miss C4 Gallery, Hong Kong Contemporary Art Museum and the Redtory Art Centre, which showcase innovative works by some of China’s hottest talents.
Shamian Island, Canton Bund, Bei Yuan Restaurant, Redtory.
Begin at Flower City Square, the centerpiece of the Pearl River New District in the east of the city. The vast square, covering more than 560,000 sq metres (6,000,000 sq ft), offers plenty of space for kids to run around or join the locals flying kites. Here, you can also visit Zaha Hadid’s Guangzhou Opera House – whose two curvaceous humps were inspired by Pear River pebbles – and the excellent Guangdong Museum, containing more than 130,000 exhibits showcasing Guangdong’s customs, culture and history. Directly beneath the Square is the mammoth Mall of the World shopping and entertainment complex.
In the afternoon, make tracks to Guangzhou Chimelong Paradise. This acclaimed theme park is one of China’s largest, stretching over 60 hectares (148 acres) with more than 70 attractions. Highlights include roller coasters, stunt shows and a 4D movie theatre. The adjoining water park features more rides, waterslides and a wave pool. A wet weather alternative is the Guangdong Science Centre, which features interactive exhibits and unique cinematic experiences.
As night falls, return to Flower City Square and ascend the 600-metre (1,900ft) Canton Tower. Kids (and adults) will be thrilled by the world’s highest Ferris wheel, which loops around the top of the tower. Adults can retire to the 112th-floor Cloud Star Bar, Guangzhou’s highest bar with a vertigo-inducing outdoor terrace.
Flower City Square, Guangdong Museum, Guangzhou Chimelong Paradise, Canton Tower.
To the north of downtown rises Baiyun (White Cloud) Mountain, named after its cloud-obscured peaks. A city retreat for more than 1,000 years, the mountain park contains some 30 peaks, streams, lakes and abundant historical relics. Rise early to explore the six sightseeing zones and ride the mountainside cable cars for terrific aerial views across the city.↵↵Head back into town passing Yuexiu Park, home to the emblematic Five Ram Sculpture, which is based on a fabled Guangzhou legend. Further south is the eye-catching Sacred Heart Cathedral. China’s largest cathedral was completed in 1888 and is built from granite, earning it the nickname ‘stone house’.
From here you can walk to Shang Xia Jiu Road, a prosperous commercial district of yore. The narrow pedestrian street is lined with more than 200 historic ‘qilou’ terraces, a unique architectural style from the Guangdong region that blends Chinese and western influences.
Head to Lizhiwan Brook, a 19th-century canal neighbourhood lined with shops, restaurants and heritage buildings. Once you've had your fill of strolling around the historic streets, take a boat ride along the canals or enjoy a refreshing drink by the waterside.
Return to Tianzi Wharf in the late afternoon and hop aboard a sightseeing cruise along the magnificent Pearl River, China’s third largest river and the historic lifeblood of Guangzhou. Cruises of different durations and routes depart throughout the day and evening: time yours to coincide with sundown for front-row views of the city as it lights up for the evening in dazzling neon.
Baiyun Mountain, Sacred Heart Cathedral, Shang Xia Jiu Road, Pearl River