A weekend in Guangzhou

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Tom and I spent the weekend in Guangzhou, China in November 2012. It’s really easy to get to from Hong Kong, although you need a Chinese visa to get into the country!

Guangzhou (pronounced ‘gwang-joe’) is the third largest city in China and sits at the top of the Pearl river delta (Hong Kong is at the bottom of the same delta). It used to be known as Canton. It’s a massive industrial city, although the centre was quite pleasant to visit and we very much enjoyed our weekend there.

To get to Guangzhou from Hong Kong, you can take a train from Hung Hom station. It takes about 2 hours and costs about HK$350 (approx. £29) for a return ticket. We booked ours online in advance.

We stayed in the Jinjiang Inn Sun Yat Sen Memorial Hall on Jiefang North Road. It was reasonably priced, clean and fairly modern although the room was pretty small. It was also conveniently located near the Sun Yat Sen Memorial Hall subway station.

Since it was close by, we visited the Sun Yat Sen Memorial Hall. Sun Yat-sen was the first president of the Republic of China as and such he seems to have many buildings dedicated to him all over China! We didn’t go inside, but this was an interesting building in nice grounds.

Sun Yat-sen Memorial Hall, Guangzhou

A really nice area to visit in Guangzhou is Shamian Island. This island in the middle of Guangzhou is where the foreign traders lived and traded after the Opium wars, since the Chinese would not allow them to live in the city. As a consequence this tiny island is filled with grand old colonial buildings and seems to be the place to have your pre-wedding photos taken! We saw about 20 sets of brides and grooms there!

Colonial building, Shamian Island

We went for lunch in the Thai Zhen Cow and Bridge, a Thai restaurant on Shamian Island. It came well recommended and the food was pretty good! In the evening we also had a couple of drinks in Lucy’s which is also on the island. Again, I’d recommend it as a nice place for a quiet drink or two.

I enjoyed walking around the area directly south of our hotel. It’s a pretty quiet, traditional area, with low rise buildings and narrow streets and it doesn’t feel like the middle of a big city at all. It reminded us a little of the hutongs in Beijing. Whilst we were there we visited the Temple of the Six Banyan Trees and the Temple of Bright, Filial and Piety, both of which are lovely examples of Bhuddist temples. They each charge a small entry fee so you need to find the ticket office before you go in. The Temple of the Six Banyan Trees has a large pagoda in the middle:

Temple of the Six Banyan Trees pagoda

On our second day, we went for a dim sum brunch in the Panxi restaurant, next to Liwan Park. This restaurant is huge, and has many large halls. We arrived mid-morning and didn’t have to wait very long for a table. There wasn’t much English spoken but luckily they had menus with a small amount of English and some pictures so we were able to order a yummy spread :)

Dim sum at Panxi restaurant, Guangzhou

After we had finished eating, we went for a walk around Liwan Park to walk off some of the food. It would appear that this was the place to go on a Sunday morning. It was full of people, with families walking around and lots of people playing with a type of hacky sack with feathers. We even saw an official hacky sack match, with a court, referee and score board!

Hacky sack match in Liwan Park

Our next stop was the Chen Clan Ancestral Hall. This is a wonderfully ornate building with several courtyards.

Chen Clan Ancestral Hall, Guanzhou

Chen Clan Ancestral Hall gate

Inside one of the rooms was an exhibition of embroideries. These were seriously impressive. They were so intricate, some of them looked like they were photographs until you got really close! The photo doesn’t do it justice at all.

Realistic Chinese embroidery

We finished our time in Guangzhou with a trip to the area around the Canton Tower. This is a 600m tall observation tower situated at the Eastern side of the city centre.


We didn’t go up because it’s really expensive (about £30!) and the view wouldn’t have been that great because it was pretty hazy. Tom has been before though, and can prove that the view isn’t that great!

View from Canton Tower Guangzhou

For those who like that sort of thing, there is a bubble car ride at the top (i.e. you sit in ‘bubbles’ and go round a track) and one of those fairground rides where they pull you up to the top of the spire and then drop you really fast! Not for me!

Canton Tower bubble car ride

We walked around the area on the other side of the river which was a nice precinct with the ultra-modern Guangzhou Opera House on one side, and some remnants from the Asia Games, which Guangzhou hosted in 2010.

Guangzhou Opera House

These were some of the highlights of Guangzhou. If you’re in the area, I’d recommend a visit. It has a nice contrast of aspects of traditional China and the very modern, and on public transport and in the main areas there is a pretty good level of English.

Thanks for reading!