The provincial capital of Guangzhou is a megalopolis that combines old and new in fascinating ways. No matter if you are a history buff, or simply looking for place to spend a leisurely weekend, there are many fun and interesting options available. Here is a list of our top 10 must-go places. Please note that this is a big city, so planning your trip to each of these spots requires attention to transport details. Klook.com is our favorite, and they have affordable chauffeured tour options. You can do day-trips, now that high-speed train links make it easier, but we wouldn’t suggest it: better to take your time with hotel bookings and stay at least one night – or more.
- Canton Tower: see a panorama of the city
China’s tallest tower stretches up to 600 meters (1,968 feet). Situated in the city’s modern area of Zhujiang New Town – built mostly in the past decade – the tower is a landmark of the city that appears in most of its tourism brochures. The ascent provides not only a bird’s eye view of the entire city, but presents some extreme challenges. The world’s tallest horizontal sky wheel, Bubble Tram, is one; another is Sky Drop, where you can experience a 30-meter free fall at a height of 485 meters (it is listed in the Guinness World Records). At night, the tower is a spectacular sight, lighting up the Pearl River and Zhujiang New Town area with its rainbow of colors. A short stroll away is the city’s modern shopping district (see #6 below).
- Shamian Island: strolling through history
A remnant of the city’s colonial era, when foreign powers ran the enclave as their own territory during the 19th century, Shamian is a treat for fans of both architecture and history. The streets are strewn with statues, pavilions, wooden chairs and fountains. There are more than 150 buildings in European style on the island, including 42 distinctive new baroque, pseudo-Gothic, neo-classical styles and some buildings with mixed characteristics of China and Europe. Strolling around here is a great way to spend a few hours, including a meal at the iconic White Swan hotel or a coffee at a nearby café (yes, there is a Starbucks).
- Chimelong Guangzhou: great family fun
Chimelong Paradise was a sensation when it opened nearly 30 years ago, setting a gold standard for theme parks in China, and it is still the country’s leader, in our view (Disney doesn’t come close). Today, Chimelong’s original park in the southern Panyu district has grown into a collection of parks including Chimelong Paradise, Safari Park, Water Park, International Circus, and Birds Park. We cannot possibly do it justice by summarizing all the attractions here. The circus is amazing, the water park is all-day fun for the kids, and the night safari is unforgettable. Check out its website for further details.
- White Cloud Mountain: for nature lovers and hikers
Standing imperiously over the city in its northern area, White Cloud (Baiyun) Mountain offers wonderful hiking routes. It consists of more than 30 peaks, the highest being Moxing Ridge, which provide spectacular views of the city. Especially after it has rained, you can see white clouds floating around you. There are seven scenic areas, but don’t worry, if you get tired, there are shuttles available. Spring is a great time to go, with flowers in bloom. Placid lakes and fresh air provide a wonderful escape from the hustle-and-bustle of the city.
- Sun Yat-sen Memorial Hall: history comes to life
Built in commemoration of the revolutionary leader who founded the modern republic, Sun Yat-sen (1866 -1925), the Memorial Hall is an important venue for large gatherings and performances in Guangzhou. The main building is a magnificent octagonal palace with traditional characteristics. In the hall, you can get an introduction of Sun Yat-sen and his life experience. In addition, in the yard stands the oldest kapok tree and the city’s two largest magnolia trees.
6. Huacheng Square/Flower City Square: the “living-room”
For a modern view of Guangzhou, Huacheng Square is a must-see spot. Several new landmarks surround the square, including the Guangdong Museum, Guangdong Library, International Finance Center, and Canton Tower (just across the river). For a fabulous nighttime view, it is best to visit after sunset so that you are able to admire the colorful lights. More than 600 trees have been planted in this square and flowers bloom all year around. At the core of the area is Mall of the World, consisting of three areas offering 400 high-quality shops. Here you can enjoy shopping, dining and entertainment all in one place.
- Redtory: creativity within a “can factory”
The Redtory is known as “Guangzhou’s 798 District” (after the famous artists’ colony in Beijing). It is a unique artistic zone for fashion and design, attracting talented people to debut their collections. Once a sprawling old abandoned can factory built in 1956, today, Redtory is filled with art galleries, studios, organizations, bars, cafés and restaurants. The place is great for photos and tea. Also, stepping out the front gate, you’ll find you’re just two minutes away from majestic Pearl River scenery.
- Yuexiu Park: splendid sightseeing
Built during the early days of the Communist Party’s rule in Guangzhou (1952), the park consists of seven hillocks (or knolls) and three artificial lakes – Beixiu, Nanxiu, and Dongxiu. Verdant grasses and trees, birds’ singing, and fragrant flowers blooming throughout the year – all make this a pleasant enclave in the city. Spring and autumn sees big flower shows held here. There are also many famous scenic sites of different historical period decorating the park, such as the well-known “Statue of the Five Goats” and Zhenhai Tower.
- Pearl River: take a night cruise
On the third longest river in China, the Guangzhou section is where many famous sights are clustered and a night cruise on the river is a highlight of any city tour. It is a good way of seeing the city’s many contrasts. You can admire the Xinghai Concert Hall, the futuristic Liede Bridge, as well as scenic spots with romantic names, such as “Night Moon over the Goose Pool” and “Red Heart of the Pearl River”.
- Chen Clan Academy: traditional academic complex
The Chen Clan Ancestral Hall (also known as the Chen Clan Academy), which now houses the Guangdong Folk Art Museum, is a great spot for its history and architecture fans. It was originally a space for students training for the Confucian Imperial Examinations, built by two overseas Chinese in America returning to Guangzhou. There are 19 buildings with nine halls and six courtyards that are connected in a symmetric pattern. The intricacy of the artwork is mesmerizing.