There are many entertaining things to do in Guangzhou, although the city is not really known as a tourist destination. You can witness the massive growth that most of the big cities in China go through but you can also explore the older, more traditional parts of town. It’ on its way of becoming one of the world’s biggest and most important cities of the world. For everyone visiting Guangzhou, I have made a list of 10 things you should definitely do, so you don’t have to be bored during your stay.
Guangzhou is a city with a long history that dates back over 2000 years. It has been the capital of China a couple of times in the last century and is currently growing fast. It has plans of becoming one of the world’s largest cities and is very strategically located to make it a perfect import and export hub. To experience this transformation of the city first hand, is very exciting.
Going out to eat is one of the most popular things to do in Guangzhou, which explains the excessive amount of restaurants around here. The new parts of town have all the popular western food chains like McDonald’s, Pizza Hut, Burger King or Subway.. It would however be a waste, not to try the more traditional Chinese restaurants. A lot of them can be found in the older parts of town and they are a much cheaper, and often healthier, choice.
It’s not very surprising that you can find many restaurants serving noodles and rice dishes here. Eating with chopsticks is always a fun challenge too and quite doable, if you keep trying. To get an idea of the restaurants in Guangzhou, find a list of my favourite restaurants here.
The Chimelong Group built 4 very large amusement theme parks in Guangzhou that offer fun for all ages. They are located in Panyu, a little outside of Guangzhou but still very easy to reach by metro.
Xianjiang Safari Park is the first of the theme parks that was built by Chimelong Group. It was completed in 1997 and it’s the largest safari park in the world with over 500 different animal species. There is a little train that drives through the safari areas of the park with all kinds of wildlife, which feels like like being somewhere in Africa.
Chimelong International Circus is the world’s largest permanent circus. It can hold up to 8000 visitors at a time and is a good way to spend your evening in Guangzhou.
Chimelong Paradise is a theme park with all kinds of amusement rides and roller coasters and was opened in 2006. It also offers a variety of parades, special performances and a very spectacular stunt show. With more than 70 different rides, it’s the largest amusement park in all of China. The most spectacular rides in the park are a 10 inversion roller coaster and the Dive Coaster that has a 90 degree drop straight down from a height of 60 meters.
Chimelong Water Park was opened in 2007 and is the largest water park in the world. There are several large slides and water rides in the park but also a couple of pool sections where you can just relax on a floating tube. A very refreshing place to spend a humid summer day.
Currently, the highest building in Guangzhou is the Canton Tower, with a height of 600 meters. It’s one of the highest towers in the world and was completed in 2010. If you want to see for yourself how big the city of Guangzhou is, this is the best place to go check it out. The most amazing thing about it is the lookout point outside on the rooftop, at a height of 450 meters.
To make things even more spectacular there is a cable car on the rim of the roof. It goes all around and is the best way to overlook Guangzhou from airplane height. Another wild ride out here is the Sky Drop which goes up to 480 meters and then drops you in a couple of seconds back down, to a height of 450 meters.
Xiaozhou Village can’t really be compared to any other spots in Guangzhou. It’s a place with a lot of art shops and you’ll find people everywhere, drawing paintings and improving calligraphy skills. Time seems to stand still here. The village consists of ancient buildings, temples and cozy pathways along small canals.
Art students come from far away to meet with other artists and to improve their skills. Some of them even live here. The environment seems to be very inspiring for them here as it’s a very romantic and idyllic place to be.
Because it’s a little outside of the city and not that popular with tourists, it’s not so easy to find the place. When I went here, we were sent in the wrong direction by everyone we asked, for some reason. Some older Chinese people even asked why we wanted to go there, saying that it’s very far away when it was actually just around the corner. It seems they are not very keen on tourists around here.
The Chen Clan Academy is a good display of what Chinese were capable of in the 19th century in the field of wood carving, stone carving, surface painting and stucco relief. This building is basically a temple, that was completed in 1893 by a clan of people with the surname Chen. Its main purpose was to function as temporary accommodation space for Chen clan members visiting Guangzhou for a variety of reasons.
The architecture of the Chan Clan Academy is similar to other temples around Asia, but it stands out by having very detailed pieces of artwork. The best examples of this are the wood carvings that are placed at the roofs of the halls and the impressive images cut out on the stone rails throughout the building. You don’t see a lot of such art pieces being made anymore, nowadays.
This tourist attraction couldn’t be easier to reach. It has its own metro stop and can be found right at the metro exit. It only costs 10 yuan for an entrance ticket.
Guangzhou has a lot of clubs and bars, spread throughout the city. Although this is not a traditional Chinese thing, the bigger cities in China are becoming more and more westernised due to the high amount of foreigners living there. Many of the younger Chinese people prefer going to a karaoke bar though, which are also still around in abundance in Guangzhou.
What’s very common in a club in Guangzhou, and throughout the most of Asia, is that a group of people will rent a table and have their own little party there. Some of the fancier clubs go as far as rejecting you if you don’t buy a bottle and order a table.
There is a large scene of nightclubs and bars close to Haizhu Square, at the Pearl River side with clubs like True Color, Richbaby and Hyper. More recently they opened a new area with a bunch of clubs in the Modiesha area. This is also located next to the Pearl river but a little further to the east, a previous industrial area. It’s called the Party Pier and more and more restaurants and clubs are opening there, with the Wave and Suns clubs currently being the most popular.
The newer areas of Guangzhou like Liede and Zhujiang New Town, are very popular these days with tourists and foreign businessmen. It doesn’t give a representative image though of what Guangzhou is like and how it used to be. To get a better feel of the traditional lifestyle in the city, the Haizhu Square area is a good place to go as there is a lot to do and to experience.
The Onelink Plaza is located in this area which is a very popular destination for foreigners to do some special gift shopping. A little further down the road you will find the Sacred Heart Catholic Cathedral. It’s over 150 years old and built from granite, in a Gothic style. It’s a very impressive building and it can be visited free of entrance every Sunday.
Redtory is a collection of art museums, located in old renovated buildings that used to be part of a canned food factory. The whole area is free of entrance and most of the museums too. It doesn’t get crowded that fast as Redtory is 170.000 m2 in size. It’s a pretty big place and there are even some bikes available for visitors to ride around for free.
The Redtory area is the new cultural district of Guangzhou and was opened in 2009. There are also a couple of restaurants in the old factory buildings so you won’t have to look far for some food and a drink. Visiting Redtory is one of the best things to do in Guangzhou, if you’re an art lover.
Not too long ago there was nothing worth mentioning in the Zhujiang New Town area but now one of the world’s most impressive city centers is built here, with extremely tall skyscrapers all over the place. Currently, the most impressive one is the International Finance Center, which is a massive black building going up 440 meters.
There is a lot to do at the Zhujiang New Town area, especially around the skyscraper area. There’s the Guangdong Museum, which can be entered free of charge and right next to it the new Guangzhou Library. Opera lovers can visit the Opera House at the opposite side, which is located in a beautiful, state of the art building.
Yuexiu Park is the largest park in Guangzhou and is a good place to go if you’re fed up with the extreme crowds in the city. The park is located on Yuexiu mountain and has its own metro stop. There’s a pond where paddle boats can be rented cheaply and the Guangzhou Museum is also at this park. The museum is a good place to go if you want to learn more about the 2000 years old history of Guangzhou.
The symbol of Guangzhou can be found also on Yuexiu Mountain, which is the Five Ram Statue. It’s a stone statue that represents an ancient story about the city that goes back 2000 years. This story got Guangzhou the nickname City of Rams. The statue is 11 meters high and is a popular place to make some ‘selfies’.