Below you find a list of some of our favorite hidden gems of Guangzhou. None of the obvious places, but rather the off-the-beaten-path little pockets that don't make it into travel guides and websites. Most are outdoors, some are indoors or private. All are suitable to children of all ages. Some restaurant and museum recommendations are shown at the bottom of the page.
It is best viewed on a mobile phone and from within WeChat, where you can click into maps for each location. Click the link to open it in your browser, and open it from within WeChat: https://mp.weixin.qq.com/s/w-jpjrtw_SvdZXNrhUgCDA
1. South China Botanical Garden
In northern Tianhe you find one of Guangzhou’s prettiest parks, where you are allowed to sit and play on the grass. Have a picnic, discover some amazing flora in one of the pavilions, climb trees, and have a stroll around this beautiful park.
2. Dajisha Island
This car-free island can only be reached by ferry from the Huangpu side on the north bank of the river. Famous for bird watching, you can walk along the riverside with views of fishermen, navy ships, and the Huangpu harbor. It’s a cool, rustic little place to chill for half a day. Some little shops and restaurants are available, and (poor) bikes can be rented.
3. Canton 'Bund'
The prettiest part of Guangzhou’s riverside boulevard is the section from the Aiqun 'flat iron' building to Shamian island. You pass some historic buildings such as the Nanfang Building, the Customs House and Guangzhou's 'Tower of Pisa' (fourth picture below). You can combine a walk here with visits to the 13 Factories Museum, the Sacred Heart Cathedral, Yide Lu wholesale market, or a visit to Shamian island (dim sum at the White Swan hotel, churches, the Starbucks, Orient Express - French restaurant with train). If you go at night, you may want to walk further east, past Haizhu Square, and have a drink at LN5 hotel's roof top bar with live music and a river view.
4. Walk near Xiaobei - Luhu Lake
There is a sweet little walk through Xiaobei to Luhu Park. It starts along the railroad track on the corner of Luhu Lu and Luyuan Lu (麓湖路 - 露园路, through an alleyway filled with graffiti. Head into this alley in western direction, and turn right onto Lujing Lu (麓景路), along the northern part of Donghaochong canal, and finish up at a (artificial, albeit pretty) waterfall where you can dip your feet in the clean water. End up at Luhu Lake, where you can stroll along the southern/eastern boardwalk, and pass by a little beach somewhere halfway up. You can loop around the lake (anti-clockwise) and continue along the Cloudway Skywalk (see suggestion 8), or instead walk in northern direction to Baiyun Mountain.
5. Metro into the Countryside
If you’re adventurous, get on metro line 14 or 21 and head north/northeast into the countryside of either Conghua or Zengcheng districts of Guangzhou. Check the satellite images of the stations along the line, pick the one you like best, and walk into the unknown! You will likely run into rice fields, ancient villages, water buffaloes, mountains, streams, and much more!
In this former sugar factory, now creative park you find lots of graffiti street art, installation art, industrial heritage, and artists’ galleries and workshops. Enjoy a river view and have a coffee at one of the nice cafes. There is a beautiful hotel and a space with cabin accommodation as well. A little later this year the public swimming pool will open. A visit can be combined with a visit to Shawan village (suggestion 7).
7. Shawan Village
An 800-year old village with narrow alleyways, Lingnan architecture, oyster shell houses, ancestral homes, local snacks and much more to discover over a half or full day. A trip here could be combined with a visit to Zinitang (suggestion 6).
8. Cloudway Skywalk
An elevated walking trail from Luhu Park (near Baiyun mountain), bringing you to the Sculpture Park, Yuexiu Park and Sun Yat-sen Memorial Hall. Some spectacular city views, pretty parks and a unique way of traversing the city in a green and quiet environment. If you have more time, you could start with the Xiaobei-Luhu Park walk (suggestion 4).
9. Xijiao Urban Beach & Pool
A yellow sand beach in the middle of Guangzhou? The water park is fun for everyone, kids and adults, has beautiful views over the Pearl River and you can bring food, drinks and music. Only open in late spring and summer.
10. Huangpu Ancient Wharf
Former port where western ships docked and stocked tea, porcelain and silk. Museum, old village with alleyways, ancestral homes, a restored canal, Pearl River, views, and a ferry to Changzhou island is within walking distance.
11. Kuiyuan Gallery - Dongshankou
Our favorite little space in Dongshankou. An art gallery on the first floor, fashion boutique on the second, and coffee shop with great balcony on the third. Dongshankou has plenty of other places to roam around, including the newly restored Xinhepu Canal (fun for kids!) the Chunyuan museum and the museum commemorating the third Communist Party Meeting in 1923. Head to TripleRooster for excellent coffee and western food.
12. Sun Yat-sen University Campus
Sort of tricky to get into, but if you do, you’re rewarded with an amazing campus with stunning brick buildings, fields of grass to chill on and the air of academia.
13. Huangsha Seafood Market
Southeast Asia’s largest seafood wholesale market where you can find lobsters, salmon, crocodiles and much more. You can bring your catch up to the restaurants above to have them cooked and served directly. A visit to Huangsha can be combined with Shamian island and the Canton Bund and Yong Qing Fang (suggestions 3 and 19).
14. Donghaochong Greenway
The regenerated canal traverses old Canton from Luhu Park (see suggestion 4) in the north to the Pearl River near Dashatou in the south. It’s a fun walk that passes by some interesting places, such as the stunning Beiyuan Restaurant, the Dongping Pawn Shop Museum, and a museum on Guangzhou as a water town. Kids will love playing with the fountains and stepping stones across the water. A walk here can be combined with other walks near Luhu Park, strolls along the Pearl River, or an exploration of the many urban villages the canal passes through.
15. Zhugang Foreign Cemetery
Changzhou Island, east of University Town, was the location where foreign vessels repaired their ships and restocked for the return journey. It was also where numerous foreign diplomats and merchants found their final resting place at the Zhugang cemetery, where graves date back over 300 years. Entrance is from the south (Anxin Jie - 安新街) through an outdoors camp/team building park, and a 2-3 minute walk straight uphill from there. Changzhou island has plenty of other things to offer, including the Huangpu Military Academy museum, old villages, some greenways, ferries, a kids play park and a hill with views.
16. Liuyun Neighborhood
六运小区 (Tianhe District)
Stuck between the Tianhe Sports Center and Zhujiang New Town you find this cute little pedestrianized neighborhood of Liuyun (Six Cloud) Xiaoqu. Packed with little coffee shops, bars, restaurants and fashion boutiques, it’s worthy of a little afternoon stroll, or a night of (Japanese) dinner+drinks.
17. Urban Villages of old Canton
Guangzhou is packed with urban villages and old neighborhoods where you experience the local way of life. Where laundry is hung on electricity cables, the elderly play mahjong on the street, barbers offer haircuts on the street, and where you stumble upon little ancestral homes, funky coffee shops and local wet markets. Just look at the satellite image of Guangzhou, zoom in to find a dense neighborhood where you cannot identify the roads, and go for it! Some of our favorite areas: Nanhuaxi 南华西 (Haizhu), Shipai Village 石牌村 (Tianhe), and any area really in Yuexiu and Liwan districts.
18. Urban Planning Exhibition Center
广州市城市规划展览中心 (Baiyun District)
Brilliant and immersive experience where you learn about Guangzhou’s history and future. Lots of models, interactive displays, 4D video experiences, flying over the future Guangzhou, self-driving the tramway or a racing car. For history fanatics, families and anyone interested in this beautiful city. The museum has free entry, but a reservation is needed, ask a Chinese friend to help.
19. Yong Qing Fang
永庆坊 (Liwan District)
A bit touristy, but well-worth a visit. This area in old Liwan district is centered around the Cantonese Opera Museum (mildy interesting). In the neighborhood you find Bruce Lee’s (supposed) ancestral home and museum, the Lion Dance studio, and many small boutiques with Guangzhou’s famous craftsmen in porcelain making, ivory carving, bamboo flutes, silk weaving and more. There are cool cafes and restaurants as well, mainly on the eastern end. A trip here could be combined with more walks around Liwan (e.g. Lychee Bay, Baohua Lu, Shangxiajiu, Shamian, Canton Bund, etc.).
But, the best advice of all:
Get yourself a bike and ride!
Go to GIANT, Decathlon or Dahon and get yourself a decent bike (let's say from ~1500CNY). Having a nice bike allows you to enjoy your ride, explore the city at the perfect speed, have fun and do some exercise. It gives you the freedom and ability to get to places quickly and conveniently, while getting a true feel for the city. Soon enough you'll find the small & quiet streets and short cuts away from the big roads. Go ride!
There are too many restaurants and cuisines to choose from... It is best to check the Michelin guide for Guangzhou with pictures and addresses at this link: https://guide.michelin.com/us/en/guangdong-province/guangzhou/restaurants
Our favorite museums: