Guangzhou

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.

When to go

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.

Visa requirements

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.

Money

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.

Transport

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. 

Health and safety tips

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).

Emergency details

The Singapore Consulate is located at Unit 2418, CITIC Plaza Office Tower, 233 Tianhe North Road, Tianhe District (tel: (86) 20 3891 2345).
 

Dial 110 in an emergency.

Basic greetings
English Cantonese
Hello Neih hou
How are you? Neih hou ma?
Fine, thanks Hou hou do jeh
Goodbye Joi gin
Excuse-me! (to get attention) Ching mahn!
Thank you Do jeh
Yes Haih
No M haih
OK Hou
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?
Help! Gau mehng!

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Canton Tower

222 Yuejiang West Road, Haizhu District

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.

Guangdong Museum

No. 2 Zhujiang West Road, Tianhe District

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

Tianzi Wharf, Beijing South Road

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

Chimelong Paradise, Panyu District

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

No. 1 Zhujiang West Road, Tianhe District

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.

Shop

Antique Market

Kangwang Road by Yuansheng Xijie Street

The Guangzhou Antique Market sprawls along Kangwang Road and several surrounding lanes. Rifle through the knock-offs and bric-a-brac to find antique treasures, such as kam muk (gilded sculptured wood panels), jewellery boxes,  vintage watches, tiny embroidered silk shoes made for women with bound feet, and a wide range of Shiwan porcelain from nearby Foshan.

Budget $$

Haizhou Square Wholesale Markets

Haizhou Square

Guangdong province is a major production centre for off-the-peg clothes and shoes. Haizhu Square, on the north bank of the Pearl River, contains vast wholesale markets selling everything from shoes and t-shirts to souvenirs and bolts of fabric, all at rock-bottom prices.

Budget $

Hualin Jade Market

Changshou Road and Wenchang Road

The Hualin Jade Market dates back to the Qing dynasty. Selling both wholesale and retail, you can find a wide array of Chinese jade and pearl accessories at every price range. Be prepared to haggle for the best prices.

Budget $

Redtory

No. 128, Yuancun Si Heng Road, Tianhe District

The galleries in Guangzhou’s cutting-edge Redtory contemporary arts district, located in the redbrick factory buildings of a 19th-century canning factory, are a great place to pick up original creations by local and international artists. There’s also a pleasant arts and crafts market at weekends.

Budget $$$

TaiKoo Hui

383 Tianhe Road, Tianhe District

Guangzhou’s ritziest shopping mall can be found above Shipaiqiao subway station. The 138,000-sq-metre (1,485,000-sq-ft) TaiKoo Hui contains upscale restaurants and cafés, a handy Ole supermarket, as well as luxury brands such as Armani, Chanel, Dior, Hermès, Louis Vuitton and Prada. Don’t miss trendy bookshop, Fang Suo, which sells both Chinese and English-language publications in architecturally inspired surroundings.

Budget $$$

Tee Mall

208 Tianhe Road, Tianhe District

Tee Mall, also known as Tian He Cheng, is one of Guangzhou’s most popular shopping destinations. Located above the Tiyu Xilu subway station, the seven-storey mall has some 160,000 sq metres (1,722,000 sq ft) of shopping, dining and entertainment outlets, including local and international brands such as H&M; and Zara, as well as cafés, restaurants, a cinema and a gaming centre.

Budget $$

Dine

Beijing Street

Beijing Street

The historic trading street of Beijing Street retains its lively atmosphere and is crammed with cheap boutiques, souvenir shops and streetfood stalls. Fill up on local snacks like soup noodles, offal-on-sticks, bubble milk tea and deep-fried ice cream.

Budget $

Bei Yuan Restaurant

202 Xiaobei Road

Housed in a beautiful 1928 courtyard residence, Bei Yuan Restaurant serves up Cantonese seafood and dim sum overlooking lantern-strung gardens and goldfish ponds. In addition to the bustling dining room, there are multiple private rooms.

Budget $$$

Dayang Coconut Chicken Shop

13 Wende Road

Look for the long queue of hungry people that snakes outside the door of Dayang Coconut Chicken Shop, a small, no-frills soup restaurant. The specialty is coconut chicken soup, steamed in the coconut shell with fresh, juicy chicken or quail, lotus root, goji berries and slightly sweet coconut milk.

Budget $

Ebony

389 Tianhe Road

With its chic monochrome interior designed by Taiwanese-New York designer Tony Chi, Ebony, at the Mandarin Oriental Guangzhou, has become a fashionable society hangout. The open kitchen serves creative Mediterranean-inspired dishes including prime cuts and fresh seafood. It opens onto a flower-studded alfresco dining terrace and outdoor swimming pool.

Budget $$$

Element Fresh

3/F, TaiKoo Hui

Healthy American style café Element Fresh has branches in Shanghai, Beijing, Nanjing and Guangzhou. It serves all-day breakfasts, Western- and Asian-inspired mains, along with good coffees, smoothies and fresh juices in a bright and trendy setting. A good place for breakfast ahead of a day of sightseeing, or for a coffee or juice to recharge during the day.

Budget $$

Hongxing Seafood Restaurant

276 Huanshi Central Road, Tianhe District

At the Hongxing Seafood Restaurant make your selection from the astounding variety of live seafood in tanks and have it cooked up in your favourite style. Everything from crab, prawns and lobster to sturgeon and crocodile snout can be found here. There are non-seafood choices, too. Regulars sing the praises of the stuffed giant crabs.

Budget $$

Stay

Baiyun Hotel

367 East Huanshi Road, Yuexiu District

Conveniently placed in Guangzhou’s CBD, the large, Chinese-managed Baiyun Hotel is close to a metro station, shopping malls and the Guangzhou Convention Centre. Smart and functional guestrooms, a swimming pool and fitness facilities, plus a 26th-floor Executive Lounge, mean this hotel hits far above its very reasonable prices.

Budget $

Four Seasons Guangzhou

5 Zhujiang West Road, Tianhe District

The highest Four Seasons on the planet sits atop the 103-storey IFC tower overlooking Flower City Square. The breathtaking lobby looks up to a 30-storey faceted atrium, and spacious rooms command floor-to-ceiling views across the metropolis. The hotel's Hua Spa is one of the city’s best, with window-side bathtubs so you can literally soak in the 69th-floor vistas. Catch is the excellent penthouse seafood restaurant.

Budget $$$

Fraser Suites Guangzhou

OneLink Walk, 232-2 Tianhe Road

Fraser Suites Guangzhou is a short walk from Tianhe Sports Centre metro station. It offers comfortable and spacious one- to three-bedroom suites with home theatre systems, mini kitchens and fast internet. The complex also features a variety of recreational facilities including a swimming pool, gym and golf simulator.

Budget $$

Holiday Inn Guangzhou Shifu

188 Dishifu Road

The Holiday Inn Guangzhou Shifuis located at the heart of Shangxiajiu Road, a famous pedestrian street lined with heritage qilou architecture and bustling retail and dining options. This functional hotel, adorned with Chinese antiques, features modern guestrooms plus a breezy Poolside Bar on the 14th floor overlooking Guangzhou's historic rooftops. Hualin Jade Market, Liwan district and the Chen Clan Temple are all close by.

Budget $

Langham Place Guangzhou

638 Xingang East Road, Haizhu District

Adjacent to the Guangzhou International Convention and Exhibition Centre, you can’t miss the iconic design of the Langham Place Guangzhou, an impressive hotel overlooking the Pearl River. The sophisticated design continues within the 500 comfortable, soft-hued guestrooms. The alfresco Sky Bar, Chuan Spa, Ming Court Chinese restaurant and 24-hour gym are all reasons to love this smart, decently-priced hotel.

Budget $$

W Guangzhou

26 Xian Cun Road, Tianhe District

W Guangzhou, the city’s hippest hotel, is located in the Pearl River New Town.  Expect a funky DJ-led soundtrack, designer dining, plus a swimming pool and bar in a shrub-filled conservatory. Rooms are smartly decorated in black and white and Bliss bath products provided. Fei Lounge is a local hotspot covering three glamorous storeys of opulent lounges, DJs, dancefloors and beautiful people.

Budget $$$

Canton Fair

April and October

Held twice yearly since 1957 in the massive Pazhou Exhibition Hall, this is the largest international trade fair in China involving more than 300 companies from almost 40 countries.


Guangzhou International Dragon Boat Festival

5th day of the 5th lunar month in May, June

Celebrating one of China’s most important traditional festivals, colourful dragon boat races involving more than 100 international teams are held on Pearl River, along with cultural performances and the eating of zongzi dumplings.


Guangzhou International Food Festival

November

Local Cantonese fare is regarded as one of China’s eight great cuisines. Taste the finest local and regional Chinese favourites at this annual foodie fest.


South Music Festival

April

Popular local music festival held at Zhujiang Party Pier beside the Pearl River. Dozens of bands from across China perform on outdoor and indoor stages, accompanied by fashion flea markets and beers on tap.


Spring Festival Flower Fair

January/February

Guangzhou is known as the Flower City and has held this floral fair since ancient times. The fair usually starts three days before Lunar New Year and reaches a climax on New Year's Eve when people crowd the streets to enjoy and buy the fresh blooms and ‘lucky’ tangerine trees.


Culture

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.

Places to visit:
Shamian Island, Canton Bund, Bei Yuan Restaurant, Redtory.

Kids-friendly

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.

Places to visit:
Flower City Square, Guangdong Museum, Guangzhou Chimelong Paradise, Canton Tower.

Adventure

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.

Places to visit:
Baiyun Mountain, Sacred Heart Cathedral, Shang Xia Jiu Road, Pearl River