Mar 02, 2021
With an illustrious, centuries-old reputation dating all the way back to the Qin dynasty as China’s imperial backdoor for international trade, the sprawling port city of Guangzhou, also known as Canton, has evolved from its manufacturing roots and wholesale markets on the banks of the Pearl River into a sophisticated, cultured Chinese city, with a bustling contemporary art community, world-class opera house and performing arts centre, and jaw-dropping architectural wonders dotting its skyline.
The Guangzhou Opera House, designed by the late Pritzker Prize-winning architect Zaha Hadid, is the crown jewel of architectural gems in the city’s Zhujiang New Town area. Image credit: Scarbor Siu.
Enjoy this bite-sized guide to exploring the charms of southern China’s metropolitan capital of Guangdong province, from its world-famous cuisine, ancient historical attractions to its emerging contemporary art and modern architectural marvels.
The Guangzhou-Shenzhen-Hong Kong bullet train express link opened in 2018 and cut the usual train journey from nearly three hours to less than an hour. Image credit:
Before pandemic-driven travel restrictions ensued, this exciting city was even easier to access as since 2018, it could be reached via a 47-minute high-speed bullet train ride from downtown Kowloon in Hong Kong. Still, there’s no pressing need to venture to Hong Kong these days as there’s lots to rediscover within Guangzhou itself.
The lobby entrance of Fraser Suites Guangzhou.
Strategically located in an upscale mixed-use complex directly connected to the Guangzhou metro right in the bustling heart of Tianhe, the city’s business and commercial district, Fraser Suites Guangzhou, with its 332 Gold-Standard luxurious serviced apartments, makes an ideal base for exploring this vast metropolis.
Here are our top tips for things to do in Guangzhou:
In Close Proximity to Fraser Suites Guangzhou
Shop in Style
Fashionistas will appreciate Fraser Suites Guangzhou’s location, directly connected within the building complex to trendy One Link shopping mall and a convenient stroll across the street from swanky Taikoo Hui shopping mall with its luxury designer boutiques. Guests in our serviced apartments will find that meeting friends is a breeze with countless cafes and fashionable restaurants in the area.
Immerse in Culture
Designed by the late Pritzker Prize-winning British-Iraqi architect Zaha Hadid, the stunning Guangzhou Opera House, anchoring the city’s Zhujiang New Town district along the river, is the crowning glory of the city’s modern cultural and architectural development. Inspired by the idea of pebbles washed by the Pearl River, the building contains a 1,800-seat theatre, 400-seat multifunction hall and numerous rehearsal rooms. The opera house is easy to access from Fraser Suites Guangzhou via the metro or via a quick 10 to 15-minute car ride so if you’re fortunate enough to be in town during scheduled opera performances, book a ticket. It’s an experience not to be missed.
Beyond The Area around Fraser Suites Guangzhou
Located in a charming 1920s-era red brick building in Guangzhou’s historic Dongshankou neighborhood, Kui Yan Gallery regularly hosts exhibitions from both emerging local Cantonese artists as well as foreign artists. With the closure of the city’s trendy art district Redtory in late 2019, Kui Yuan has become one of the leading places to view contemporary art in the city. At its ground-floor picture-perfect patio, take a well-deserved break and enjoy a cup of coffee or tea with a slice of cake.
Located on a modest corner of Miaoqian West Street is Guangzhou’s first “speakeasy”-inspired cocktail bar – Hope & Sesame. One may be forgiven for assuming that you’ve walked into a grandmother’s old, memorabilia-packed sitting room; the unassuming space belies the innovation and creativity of the cocktails crafted by this bar’s team of mixologists. No wonder Hope & Sesame is consistently named among Asia’s 50 Best Bars as well as among the World’s Top 500 Bars.
As the birthplace of Cantonese cuisine, Guangzhou is a food-focused metropolis. Image credit: Febrian Zakaria.
Destination Dim Sum
As befits the birthplace of Cantonese cuisine, a guide to Guangzhou should highlight its food. No visit to this city is complete without undergoing an authentic ‘yum cha’ (dim sum) experience. While the options for delicious dim sum are so numerous as to be dizzying, one of the most atmospheric has to be the rather unimaginatively named Guangzhou Restaurant, in its original location on Wenchang Lu, Liwan district since 1935. Go in the morning as the locals do, who call it ‘the number one place to eat in Guangzhou’. The menu is vast but don’t forget to order the excellent prawn dumplings and after your meal, digest while relaxing under the ancient banyan tree in the central courtyard.
Shamian Island or Shamian Dao is one of Guangzhou’s most Instagrammable destinations. A tranquil reminder of the island’s historical identity as a British and French trading concession territory, its quaint streets are perfect for a leisurely stroll to gaze at European-style architecture, hundred-year-old majestic trees, and whimsical bronze sculptures, and stop for a refreshing meal or cup of tea.
Walk Back in Time
From Shamian Island, it’s a short hop to Enning Road or Enning Lu. The picturesque street, a showcase of old Guangzhou’s Qílóu architecture – the early 20th century arcaded buildings lining the street – is only wide enough to host eight large sedan chairs side by side. Once known as the most beautiful street in Guangzhou, it is home to more than a dozen cultural attractions, including the Bahe Academy guild hall for Cantonese opera artists, the Cantonese opera art museum, Zhan Tianyou Memorial Hall and the ancestral home of martial arts superstar Bruce Lee, arguably Guangdong’s most famous native son.
Salute to Sun Yat Sen
Together with the Sun Yat-sen Monument, the Sun Yat-sen Memorial Hall, built in commemoration of the late great first president of the People’s Republic of China, sets a landmark for Guangzhou in modern times. The building, now used as a concert hall, was constructed with materials symbolising China’s relationship with the West, with Foshan blue clay for the tiles, Italian marble and French mosaics. The calligraphy emblazoned from the roof spells out Sun Yat-sen’s motto: “Everything below the sky belongs to everyone.”
Cruise the Pearl River
A tad touristy but a leisurely evening cruise on the Pearl River remains one of Guangzhou’s highlights. Enjoy dinner and drinks as you sail and soak up the colourful lights and marvelous scenery of the city’s skyline, with around 30-odd attractions along the way.
The Canton Tower. Image credit: Lycheeart.
Climb the Canton Tower
Completed in 2010 for the Asian Games, which Guangzhou hosted, the 600-metre Canton Tower is now an indelible part of the city’s ever-changing skyline. Ascend to the observation deck at its summit for a bird’s eye view of the city bisected by the Pearl River or enjoy the ultimate lunch or dinner with a view in the tower’s restaurants.
Your Home in Guangzhou
Fraser Suites Guangzhou’s luxury residences come complete with services and offerings, such as a fully equipped gym, swimming pool, kids’ zone, golf simulator, access to the library lounge and other lifestyle amenities, complimentary Wi-Fi access, daily housekeeping services, 24/7 reception and concierge services, round-the-clock security and CCTV surveillance, that are perfect for both business travellers or accidental tourists alike.
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