The largest city in central China, Wuhan is home to colonial architecture, a lively waterfront, fine restaurants and street markets.
Ancient Wuhan is home to beguiling colonial-era architecture, a lively waterfront and enough fine restaurants to make your mouth water. The largest city in central China, Wuhan has modernised rapidly, but you’ll still find fantastic temples and street markets here.
One of China’s oldest cities – dating back a staggering 3,500 years – Wuhan is deservedly proud of the role it has played in China’s development. From as far back as the Han dynasty right through to World War II and beyond, Wuhan has been at the centre of some of the most pivotal events in Chinese history.
Despite its ancient roots, the city only started going by the name of Wuhan in 1927, when three separate settlements joined together to create one massive city. Cut in half by the Yangzi River, also known as the Chang Jiang, Wuhan is made up of Hankou and Hanyang, on the eastern side of the river, while Wuchang sits on the right-hand bank. Hankou makes the best base for visitors, with many hotels, shops and restaurants close by.
Wuhan features in the classic 14th-century Chinese novel Romance of the Three Kingdoms, but in 1861 it was forcibly opened for trade with the West in the wake of the Opium Wars. Wuhan, though, is perhaps best known for the Wuchang Uprising of 1911, which led to the fall of the Qing dynasty and the end of thousands of years of rule in China by emperors.
Wuhan swelters in July and August, justly earning its nickname of the 'furnace' of China. But during the rest of the year, it's much more pleasant. Expect some rain from April through to July.
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. There are ATM's and exchange counters at the airport. ATM's accepting foreign bank cards are plentiful across Wuhan. Credit cards can be used at high-end hotels, shopping malls and restaurants. Everywhere else, it is best to carry cash.
Wuhan's Tianhe International Airport is 32km (20 miles) northwest of town. Airport shuttles run along two routes to Hankou train station (Y17) and the Fujiapo long-distance bus station (Y32) every 30 minutes from 9am until the last flight arrival. There are less frequent buses to Wuhan train station (Y37). A taxi from town will cost Y100-120. Wuhan's expanding metro system is a great way to beat the traffic congestion. Currently, three lines operate and tickets cost Y2. Taxi flagfall starts at Y6. Buses around town cost Y1.50-2. Ferries (Y1.50) cross the Yangzi River from 6.30am-8pm.
Wuhan is a very safe city by international standards with violent crime against foreigners extremely rare. But pickpockets are active so watch wallets and purses on buses and in crowded areas. Avoid using unlicensed taxis. Don't drink the tap water.
|How are you?||Ni hao ma?|
|Fine, thanks||Hen hao, xie xie|
|Excuse-me! (to get attention)||Qing wen!|
|Thank you||Xie xie|
|What's your name?||Ni jiao shen me ming zi?|
|My name is…||Wo jiao…|
|Nice to meet you||Jian dao ni hen gao xing|
|Are you on Facebook/Twitter?||Nin zai shi yong Facebook/Twitter ma?|
|Where’s an internet café?||Wang ba zai na li?|
|Where can I get a taxi?||Wo ke yi zai na li zhao dao chu zu che?|
|Where is the bus/train station?||Qi che zhan/huo che zhan zai na li?|
|A one-way/return ticket to…||Yi zhang dao…de dan cheng/shuang cheng piao|
|Do you have a room for one/two?||You yi/liang ren de fang jian ma?|
|When's check out?||Ji dian tui fang?|
|Can you recommend a good restaurant/bar?||Ni neng tui jian yi jia hao can guan/jiu ba ma?|
|A table for two, please||Qing gei wo liang ge ren de zhuo zi|
|A menu, please||Qing gei wo cai dan|
|The bill, please||Qing gei wo zhang dan|
|Where's the toilet?||Xi shou jian zai na li?|
Destination content brought to you by Insight Guides
The Revolution of 1911 Museum
Sometimes known as the Red Chamber, The Revolution of 1911 Museum chronicles Wuhan's most famous moment: the Wuchang Uprising. Led by Sun Yat-sen, China's first president, the uprising prompted the fall of the Qing dynasty and led to the establishment of the Republic of China in 1912. There's some heavy communist party propaganda on display here, but the building itself is an imposing redbrick structure.
Hubei Provincial Museum
Hubei Provincial Museum is one of the best museums in China. The star attraction is the tomb of the Marquis Yi of Zeng, which dates back to 433 BC. Equally fascinating is the collection of musical instruments. They include a five tonne set of bronze bells, one of the largest instruments in the world. There are also pottery and jewellery exhibitions here. The museum is located by the vast East Lake in the east of Wuchang district and is open Tuesday–Sunday 9am–5pm.
A lovely Taoist shrine, the Changchun Temple, just west of Snake Hill Park, traces its roots all the way back to the Han dynasty in the 3rd century AD. There are many monks in residence here, but the centrepiece is the Hall of Supreme Purity and its statue of Laotzu. Less spiritually-minded visitors are drawn to the excellent vegetarian restaurant located here.
If you're in Wuhan during the blistering summer months, do as the locals do and make tracks for the East Lake. This large expanse of water within a huge park in Wuchang is the place to cool off, with designated swimming areas and even a couple of beach areas. The most popular place to swim is at the northwestern side of the lake.
The Guiyuan Temple is over 350 years old and is Wuhan's biggest Buddhist monastery, attracting local worshippers aplenty. Check out the Buddha carved out of white Burmese jade in the Canjing Pavilion. Make sure too, not to miss the 500 arhats, or enlightened disciples, housed in their own hall.
Wuhan is the perfect destination for anyone remotely interested in Chinese history. You can explore buildings that date back thousands of years or neighbourhoods that are only a hundred years old but all are equally fascinating.
Any visit to Wuhan has to start with climbing the Yellow Crane Tower. First constructed in AD 223, but re-built at least twelve times since, it is the symbol of Wuhan. Immortalised by the Tang dynasty poet Cui Hao, who visited it in the 8th century, it soars above Wuhan from its strategic position atop Snake Hill on the Wuchang side of the Yangzi River. On a clear day, you get awesome views of the river and Wuhan. The tower is accessed via Snake Hill Park (open daily 7.30am–5.30pm).
From Snake Hill Park, walk east for ten minutes to the river and catch a ferry across the Yangzi to the Hankou side of town. The ferry will drop you on Yanjiang Dadao, the new name for what used to be called the Bund, or the riverfront, when Wuhan was a treaty port dominated by the western colonial powers.
A short walk north from the ferry stop takes you into the heart of the colonial era quarter. The former consulates and homes of the western traders are well-maintained. Some of the grandest stone neo-classical buildings are now trendy boutiques, especially along Jianghan Lu which is a very popular shopping street with the locals. In the early morning and evening, Yanjiang Dadao is also a fine spot for people-watching, as Wuhan residents crowd out the riverfront to chat, exercise and fly kites.
Yellow Crane Tower, Yanjiang Dadao, Jianghan Lu.
Wuhan is foodie heaven, especially if you believe that breakfast is the most important meal of the day. Nowhere else in mainland China do people place such value on finding something super-tasty to snack on before they head off to work. In fact, Wuhan residents even have their own word for breakfast: guozao.
While you’ll find Wuhan’s famous breakfast xiaochi, or small snacks, all over town, the best place to go for early morning eats is Hubu Xiang, an alley in the Wuchang district that has become one of Wuhan’s most famous dining destinations. This is the place to come to sample the most popular breakfast eating option in Wuhan: regan mian, hot and dry noodles flavoured with peanut sauce and sesame paste. All along Hubu Xiang, you’ll find hole-in-the-wall outlets selling the dish for as little as Y4–5.
Noodles are just one breakfast choice. Savoury doughnuts, light and sweet pancakes and tangbao, delicious dumplings filled with pork and a scalding soup (wait for them to cool a bit before biting into them), also go down a treat here. Another must-try is mijiu tangyuan, a rice wine-flavoured soup.
Nor will you go hungry during the rest of the day. There are any number of places serving Yangzi River fish dishes, fiery Sichuan-style hotpot, Cantonese and northern Chinese favourites. Western food lovers will find everything from classic French cuisine, to Turkish kebabs. Late-night snack fiends should make a beeline for the street vendors who emerge after midnight armed with their woks.
Hubu Xiang, late-night food stalls.