Formerly known as Canton, Guangzhou is China’s third largest city and one of the busiest transport hubs in the country. The capital of Guangdong Province might not be as well-known as Beijing or Shanghai — but it should be. The ancient city has a history that goes back over 2,000 years, but it’s also a strikingly modern destination stacked with skyscrapers and filled with enough to see and do to justify multiple trips back. If you want to experience Guangzhou like a local, here are five things not to miss.
Guangzhou’s Huacheng Square is the largest square in the city and a one-stop-shop for many of the city’s top attractions as well as shopping, hotels, and restaurants. Head here to be in close proximity to the Guangzhou Opera House, Guangdong Museum, and Guangzhou Library, just to name a few. A visit to Huacheng Square will also get you great views of Canton Tower across the Pearl River, and the sprawling square is home to a man-made lake and a large-scale fountain. If that wasn’t enough, travel underneath the square and you’ll find Mall of the World, a massive 150,000-square-metre subterranean shopping centre.
This museum is a little far from the downtown area, but definitely worth a visit. It houses the 2,000-year-old tomb of the Nanyue King, Zhao Mo, who ruled from 137 BCE to 122 BCE. The intact tomb was discovered in 1983 completely by accident and a visit to the museum allows visitors to check out the tomb, as well as to get a look at the many intricate artifacts discovered there. One of the main highlights of the museum is Zhao Mo’s burial suit, a silk-jade garment made of 2,291 pieces of jade.
Anything with the words “party” and “beer” in the name, has got to be worth checking out. And this spot along the Pearl River is the most popular place for locals to drink and hang out. The area is jam-packed with bars and restaurants and was built by the nearby Zhujiang Brewery, so as you can probably imagine, beer is a big focus here. Party Pier also plays host to numerous events, festivals, and concerts so you never know what you might come across. Restaurants and bars have ample outdoor seating perfect for sipping a beer with views over the river. If you’re visiting, make sure to stop by the Pearl River-InBev International Beer Museum, which explains the history and development of brewing in China.
If you only have time to do one thing in Guangzhou, then put stuffing your face with delicious dim sum at the top of your must-do list. The city is famous for its dim sum and is known to have some of the best in all of China. Carts piled high with tapas-sized offerings move deftly between tables of hungry patrons who pick and choose from the many dishes available, often including shrimp dumplings, egg tarts, and barbeque pork buns. Several of the most famous and authentic spots to try Cantonese dim sum in Guangzhou include Tao Tao Ju, Lin Heung Tea House, Jade Garden, Guangzhou Restaurant, and Tao Heung Restaurant
While there are many places to imbibe in Guangzhou, after the Party Pier Beer Culture & Art Zone, one of the best places to order a drink is along the city’s Bai-E-Tan bar street, also scenically situated on the banks of Pearl River. The high-energy area is filled with pubs, clubs, bars, and restaurants of all kinds, from high end to hole-in-the-wall, so you should have no trouble finding a spot to order a drink that fits your mood and budget.