Must-see tourist attractions in Guangzhou, China

I'll admit my knowledge of Guangzhou was limited at the time I was offered an opportunity to visit the Chinese city.

Located in Guangdong province, the city of over 14 million people used to go by the name of Canton.

It's one of the closest mainland Chinese cities to Hong Kong, which is just 125km away.

Guangzhou, China city skyline panorama over the Pearl River.
Photo credit: Getty Images

Guangzhou has become a stopover option for Kiwis travelling to Europe, with China Southern Airlines frequently offering airfares to the continent at sometimes half the cost of its competitors.

My advice is always, if you are stopping off somewhere part way though a long journey, then spending at least a day at your stopover location is an opportunity to see somewhere you never planned to see, and to get some rest before jumping on another long flight.

If you've got 48 hours or more in Guangzhou, here are my picks on places to visit. 

Canton Tower:

At nearly twice the height of Auckland's Sky Tower, Canton Tower is the second tallest tower in the world.

Urban dusk, taken in Guangzhou, China

Formerly known as Guangzhou TV Astronomical and Sightseeing Tower, you can see why they simplified the name.

If standing on a glass ledge that juts out from the side of a skyscraper isn't enough for you, then give the Bubble Tram a go.

It's a bit like laying the London Eye on its side and having it go around the top of a building at a height of hundreds of metres. I can't tell you what this experience was like because I stayed well away from anywhere near the windows, let alone the Bubble Trams outside the windows.

Prices go up to NZ$35 for access to the highest levels.

Peoples Park:

I really should have put this at the top of the list. In terms of being immersed in Guangzhou's local culture, my walk through People's Park was the highlight of the entire trip.

People doing yoga in park of Guangzhou, a city in the south of the People's Republic of China, capital of the province of Canton
Photo credit: Getty Images

Here, the city's senior citizens come to dance, talk and play. Jianzi, a sport with similar rules to hacky sack, but using a shuttlecock is also played here.

The sound of toes tapping on the concrete is matched with the sound of people's shoes making contact with the shuttlecock to ensure it doesn't hit the ground.

Must-see tourist attractions in Guangzhou, China
Photo credit: Dan Lake/Newshub.

A local told me people come here to learn to dance, and as their ability progresses, they move further up the parks tiered concrete dance floors. If you're dancing on the top tier, you'll be dancing with the stars of the People's Park. 

Don't be afraid to join in with either the dancing or a game of Jianzi, the locals are more than welcoming.

Pearl River Cruise:

The Pearl River runs 2400km from deep into central China and Vietnam to the Pearl River Delta, in the South China Sea.

night view of Pearl River and Guangzhou CBD buildingsnight view of Pearl River and Guangzhou CBD buildings
Photo credit: Getty Images

The Delta is one of the largest economic zones in the world, with hundreds of manufacturers and brands basing their factories in this region.

Nearly five percent of all of the world's goods were produced in the delta in 2001.

The cruise isn't as long as the river itself obviously. It runs through the central business district of Guangzhou. It's the best way to check out the city's amazing, huge cityscape and skyline. Light shows beam from almost every building all night. 

Definitely do the cruise at night. 

The most basic river cruise costs less than NZ$12.

Nanyue Palace:

Nanyue Palace is one of Guangzhou's most historic locations. The museum is built on top of the remains of the historic palace.

Must-see tourist attractions in Guangzhou, China
Photo credit: Dan Lake/Newshub.

Excavations in 1995 uncovered buildings and artifacts dating back to as far as 203 BC.

It's quite amazing taking in the age of some of the remains you're looking at. Tours are available and entry is free.

The Lychee Bay:

Southwest of the Pearl River is the slightly Venetian area of Lychee Bay.

Take a stroll along the water's edge and visit any of the many food and produce stores that line the walkway.

The area dates back to around 206 AD during the Han Dynasty when it was built to be a summer resort for the wealthy.

It's also a short walk from here to the home of Bruce Lee.

What you need to know: 


Vodafone: China is included in Vodafone's $7 a day roaming package.

Spark: Roaming packs are available from $15. If you don't get a pack, casual rates are $10 per 200MB of data and $2.49 per minute for calls. 

2 Degrees: Data packs are available from $30 for 500MB, otherwise data is between 10-50c per MB.

Local Pack: Some vendors will sell sim-cards which include the number four at discounted prices as its considered bad luck by locals. Prepaid packages can be purchased for around NZ$20.


A beautiful sunset view of Guangzhou CBD.
Photo credit: Getty Images/Newshub.

Guangzhou's winter takes place during New Zealand's summer, and daytime temperatures drop to around 18 degrees. Summer highs are around 34 degrees.

LGBTQ Travel:

Travel website, says Guangzhou's gay scene is growing in size. However, China overall scores poorly in Spartacus' worldwide LGTBQ rights report.


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