Being China’s third largest city and its foremost trading centre during its 21st century phoenix-like rise to prominence in the world, Guangzhou is a remarkable place for travelers to spend several days exploring.
In addition to its commercial prowess in the past and in the present day, it is also the crucible from where Cantonese cuisine (which is what inspires most Chinese food in restaurants across the West) emerged. As a point of first contact for many Western empires in their colonial periods, it varies dramatically from other Chinese cities in its appearance and attitude, as it has many western inspired building types, and approaches to life that more closely mirror those from societies in the West.
Despite this, Guangzhou (also known as Canton) maintains its inherent distinct identity, with plenty of cultural landmarks to indicate its importance over the ages. So, go to this vibrant metropolis, feel the frenetic pulse of its free-wheeling present, experience the peace and serenity of its past, and cap it off by stuffing yourself silly on its culinary delicacies!
Start your time in Guangzhou paying a visit to the ancient grounds of the Liurong Temple, which has been around since the 6th century. The pagoda on the premises of this timeless place has been here even longer, as it was constructed in the 3rd century AD. The primary attraction at this complex is its eight-sided pagoda, which soars into the sky, as it is 17 stories high.
Uncovered during the construction of a shopping centre in 1983, the Mausoleum of the Nanyue King, which is the final resting place of the indicated monarch from the 2nd century B.C., is widely considered to be one of the most significant historical sites in Southern China. Buried with this member of royalty was well over 1,000 valuable artifacts made of gold, silver, and bronze, along with many colourful murals plastered on the walls of this massive tomb. The emperor himself was dressed in a silk suit studded with jade stones upon burial, which is on display for all to witness.
Following this bit of culture hunting, it’s time to consume one of the better recognized aspects of Guangzhou’s cultural heritage by eating some authentic Cantonese cuisine. While this variant of Chinese food has been the model for the cuisine served in Chinese restaurants in the West, the real deal in its hometown skews toward the adventurous side of the scale. For example, White Cut Chicken is a chicken that has been steam cooked without the head or feet separated, which can be quite shocking for the uninitiated, and it is much the same with many seafood dishes as well! Those who are squeamish can’t go wrong by having some dim sum instead, or some Sio Mei, a BBQ technique that serves up pork, goose or duck in a delectably sweet and juicy manner.
After waking from a long sleep caused by the feast had during the previous evening’s proceedings, be sure to go and check out some of Guangzhou’s other notable attractions. Of them all, the Canton Tower stands supreme, as it is the tallest tower in all of China, measuring up at a vertigo-inducing 600 metres high! In addition to the observation tower, which makes for some excellent skyline shots at night, Canton Tower also has restaurants on site for a memorable meal, and a 4D theatre that will entertain you in a visceral way that traditional cinema does not.
If the urban madness of China’s megacities has been getting to you over the course of your explorations, and you’re getting close to not being able to take it any more in Guangzhou, then strolling through Yuexiu Park will do your soul a world of good. This green space is the largest urban park in the entire country, as it sprawls over many acres of hills that are studded with lakes, statues and other cultural relics. For those looking for a bit more culture indulgence, the Guangzhou Museum is located here, which has relics from 5,000 years into the past on its expansive five floors of history.
Finally, active travelers will love taking a trek up Baiyun Mountain, which has refreshment stations along the way, and offers a cheaper, more natural way to get an inspired view of the city of Guangzhou from above. Those looking to challenge the locals to a match of badminton will be in luck here, as the grounds of this park are a popular recreation place for city residents.