Guangzhou is at last living up to its title as one of China’s top tier cities. For a long time Beijing and Shanghai made Guangzhou look like a big, dirty, untamable concrete jungle. Now though,Guangzhou is a relatively easy to manage, fascinating city. This article has been written to hopefully give first time visitors some ideas of how to spend a day in this dynamic city.
In my opinion Guangzhou’s western areas are by far the most fascinating. The area features beautiful tree shaded streets, interesting ‘east meets west’ style architecture, quiet narrow lanes and bustling markets.
The best way to explore this area is to catch the metro to Huangsha station. This station is located next to a fascinating part of Guangzhou’s colonial history, Shamian Island. Shamian was home to many of the colonial powers’ consular buildings. These buildings have been well preserved and make a walk around the island a must do when visiting Guangzhou.
From Shamian Island a short walk north will bring you to the famous Qingping Market. Qingping made its name by selling everything from bear paws to live monkeys. Crack downs many years ago have seen most of the weird stuff disappear but Qingping is still a fascinating place to visit. Vendors still sell all types of dried herbs and roots, animals for eating and medicinal purposes (ie. Snakes, scorpions, turtles etc) and many animals as pets (hopefully not food). Qingping is centered mainly around Qingping Lu but spans out into surrounding streets so feel free to stray off the path a little.
Above Qingping Lu is Shangxiajiu Lu orUp Down Street. This bustling shopping street is lined with beautiful shop house style buildings that are an interesting mix between Chinese and western architecture. Most of these buildings feature stunning stain glass windows on their upper floors. As you come toUp Down Streetturn right and after a while you will come to large open square area. In a corner of this plaza is Ming Hui Zhong Hua Xiao Chi Jie 名汇中华小吃街 (or SmallEats Streetto make it easy!). Down this little avenue you can do as the Cantonese have done for centuries and eat weird stuff! They sell everything from fried star fish to fried cockroach.
Around the same plaza there is a shopping centre dedicated to jewels, beads and pearls. It is called Liwan Plaza and you may need a whole extra day just to explore it properly!
Whilst on Shangxiajiu Lu look out for the coq man too!
After walking up and down Up Down Streetand you are back at the plaza walk north up Kangtai Nan Lu 康王南 路. On the left side of the road you will come across quite an eye catching building which was the Jinlun Guild Hall for the Silk Textile Society of Guangzhou, pop in and read up on its history and significance.
From the Guild House entrance head west to explore the narrow alley ways of the Jade Market. There are many stalls that dot the surrounding laneways and are a fascinating place to explore and to buy something nice for the misses. In amongst the jade stalls is the Hualin Temple. This temple features two beautiful buildings that house hundreds of golden Buddha and monk statues.
At the end of the Jade Market main street head west towards Li Wan Park. Li Wan Park is beautifully laid out with walk ways over the water and huge banyan trees shading the open areas. The park is usually teeming with elderly people playing kick to kick with their hacky sacks (that are more like shuttlecocks), dancing or performing Taichi.
Bordering the park’s southeast side are a number of interesting buildings that have been converted into museums that are worth a look. From here head southeast down Ening Lu. Ening Lu is lined with similar buildings to Up Down Streetbut is much more quiet, lack the neon signs and are almost as well maintained.
Running off Ening Lu are a huge number of narrow laneways. These lanes are one of the most interesting parts of Guangzhou. Some lanes have been turned into bustling markets and some are far more sleepy and the gathering places for the elderly who crowd around games of Chinese chess. As this is the end of our Guangzhouwalking tour we recommend you turn off into these laneways and just get lost amongst it all. Each turn will reveal a more interesting scene then the last, we guarantee you will love Guangzhou afterwards!