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Beyond the Fair – 5 Spectacular Things to Do in Guangzhou, China

Canton Fair - Guangzhou, China

If you are in Guangzhou, chances are that you are attending the famous, twice yearly Canton Fair. The China Import and Export Commodities Fair has been held since 1957 and is the largest trade fair in China. It has the largest assortment of products, the largest attendance, and the largest number of deals made – it is huge!

Canton Fair - Guangzhou, China

It makes perfect sense that you are in Guangzhou to conduct international business! A great port city and major harbor in the former Maritime Silk Road, Guangzhou is steeped in international business and trade history. From 1757 – 1842, Guangzhou was the only Chinese port allowed business transactions with foreign nations. This policy (the Canton System) ended with the Treaty of Nanjing after China’s military defeat by the British in the first Opium War.

After you have finalized your business deals, budget some time to explore this fascinating city. The comprehensive subway system makes it possible to easily and quickly navigate the city.

For my exploring, I purchased a Yang Cheng Tong Card (85 CNY / 13 USD) as soon as I landed at the airport. Good on the metro, buses, taxis and ferries.

My top 5 activities / attractions in Guangzhou:

1. Baiyun Mountain

Forget the hotel treadmill, hit the trail! Not only is Baiyun Mountain (also known as White Cloud Mountain) a terrific place to exercise while enjoying fantastic views of China’s 3rd largest city, it is a great place to immerse yourself in what the locals are doing for recreation.

Baiyun Mountain - Guangzhou, China

The biggest difficulty faced when visiting Baiyun Mountain is getting there and back! There is not a metro stop that delivers you directly to an entrance. I wanted to hike to the highest peak (Moxing Summit – 382 meters) on dirt trails as much as possible, so I took Line 2 to Xiao-gang Station, Exit A and walked approximately 1 km to the West Gate Entrance using MapFactor GPS to navigate. The entrance fee is 5 CNY / .75 USD. It is an additional 5 CNY / .75 USD for a separate ticket to hike to Moxing Summit.

Baiyun Mountain - Guangzhou, China

On my first visit I was rushed for time, so after hiking to Moxing Summit, I took the Sightseeing Bus (10 CNY / 1.5 USD) to the Baiyun Cable Car (20 CNY / 3 USD) to quickly reach the South Gate Entrance.

Baiyun Mountain - Guangzhou, China

From the South Gate, I took Bus 24 to Yuexiu Park Station (Line 2).

Baiyun Mountain - Guangzhou, China

Having enjoyed Baiyun Mountain so much on my first brief visit, I returned another day when I had more time to explore this fantastic park. Even with two visits, I was not able to see all of the attractions and only hiked a fraction of the available trails. When I return to Guanzhou, I will visit Baiyun Mountain again!

2. Museum of the Western Han Dynasty Mausoleum of the Nanyue King

Grab your hat and whip and discover your inner Indiana Jones! One of the most significant archaeological discoveries in China, the Museum of the Nanyue King of the Western Han Dynasty (Chinese language website) (12 CNY / 1.8 USD) is located right in the middle of the city on the site of the original discovery. The museum has excellent English language translations for the exhibits.

Museum of the Western Han Dynasty Mausoleum of the Nanyue King - Guangzhou, China

More than 2000 years old, this amazing archaeological treasure was unearthed in 1983 when the construction department of Guangdong was building an apartment complex.

Museum of the Western Han Dynasty Mausoleum of the Nanyue King - Guangzhou, China

While the museum has thousands of interesting and fascinating artifacts, the highlight is the silk-jade burial garment of Zhao Mo (137 BC – 122 BC), the second ruler of the Kingdom of Nanyue. The garment is constructed of 2291 jade pieces connected by red silk.

Museum of the Western Han Dynasty Mausoleum of the Nanyue King - Guangzhou, China

This museum is very easy to reach by metro. Take Line 2 to  Yuexiu Park Station, Exit E. Turn right and walk about 100 meters to the entrance. Plan to spend some time exploring! A visit is well worth a minimum of two hours. Open 9:00 – 17:30. Ticketing stops at 16:45.

3. Sun Yat-sen Memorial Hall

Learn about China’s founding father! The Sun Yat-sen Memorial Hall (10 CNY / 1.5 USD) was constructed to commemorate Dr. Sun Yat-Sen (1866-1925), the first president and founding father of modern China. The Memorial Hall’s construction began in 1928 and was completed on April 3, 1931.

Sun Yat-sen Memorial Hall - Guangzhou, China

The building is octagonal-shaped, spanning 71 meters at its widest point, and is constructed in such a way that it eliminates the need for a central pillar. The building houses a large theater and lecture hall with seating for 5,000 people. It is actively used for various activities in memory of Sun Yat-sen and for theatrical performances.

Sun Yat-sen Memorial Hall - Guangzhou, China

Known as the Ancient Magnolia Trees, two gigantic and beautiful magnolia trees stand on the east and west sides of the hall. They were planted when the hall was completed and are reported to be the oldest magnolia trees in Guangzhou.

Sun Yat-sen Memorial Hall - Guangzhou, China

There are many interesting displays that highlight historic events that happened at the Memorial Hall. One that I found particularly interesting is that the Memorial Hall was the site  of the surrender of Japanese 23rd Army on September 16, 1945. Chinese General Zhang Fakui accepted the surrender from Hisakazu Tanaka, the Commander in Chief of the 23rd Army and Governor-General of Hong Kong. Hisakazu Tanaka was later arrested and tried before an American military tribunal for war crimes and he was executed by shooting in 1947.

Sun Yat-sen Memorial Hall - Guangzhou, China

Take Metro Line 2 to Sun Yat-sen Memorial Hall Station, Exit D2. (I simply walked to the Memorial Hall after visiting Museum of the Western Han Dynasty Mausoleum of the Nanyue King to explore the area, get exercise, and to scout restaurants.)

4. Ancient Huangpu Village and Port

Travel back in time to the start of the Maritime Silk Road! Once the only entrance into China for foreigners wishing to trade, Huangpu Village (free) is a fascinating and relaxing place to learn more about the Canton System.

Huangpu Village - Guangzhou, China

It is fun to step into the past, wander the narrow streets, and enjoy the beautiful architecture. Throughout the village there are informative plaques with fantastic English language translations that give descriptions of the historical buildings.

Huangpu Village - Guangzhou, China

The buildings include ancestral halls, temples, ancient schools, and official buildings built in the Lingnan architectural style.

Huangpu Village - Guangzhou, China

Huangpu Village is located very close to the Canton Fair, making it perfect for a quick afternoon visit. Take Metro Line 8 (or Line 4) to Wanshengwei Station (just one stop from Pazhou Station). Take exit B, turn right and go to the bus stop. Take bus 564 or 762 to the entrance of the village. It is a very short bus ride, about 1.4 kilometers. I took Bus 762 to Huangpu Village and Bus 564 back to Wanshengwei Station.

5. Eat!

I love Chinese food! Guangzhou is the home of world-famous Cantonese food, the culinary tradition that most Westerners associate with Chinese cuisine. There is certainly no shortage of fantastic restaurants that will satisfy any palate.

The Search for General Tso is a fascinating documentary about Chinese food in America.

Xin Tai Le Restaurant - Guangzhou, China

I will highlight just one restaurant that I absolutely loved and look forward to visiting again – Xin Tai Le Restaurant. It was the restaurant that I discovered while exploring the area around the Museum of the Western Han Dynasty Mausoleum of the Nanyue King.

Xin Tai Le Restaurant - Guangzhou, China

I chose it simply based on two reasons:

  1. It was very crowded.
  2. I saw an advertisement for claypot eel, and eel is one of my favorite meals.

It turns out that Xin Tai Le is a famous restaurant that specializes in eel dishes. I loved Xin Tai Le so much that I ate there three times. I had the eel twice and chicken once – all delicious! Averaging 100 CNY / 15 USD each meal, these were the most expensive meals that I had in Guangzhou.

Xin Tai Le Restaurant - Guangzhou, China

The eel claypot had perfectly cooked eel with slices of pork belly and copious amounts of whole garlic cloves.

Xin Tai Le Restaurant - Guangzhou, China

Xin Tai Le Restaurant is located at 63 Panfu Road. Take Line 2 to Yuexiu Park Station, Exit E. Turn right and walk past the Museum of the Western Han Dynasty Mausoleum of the Nanyue King. Turn right onto Panfu Road (one of Guangzhou’s great restaurant rows) and Xin Tai Le will be on your right.

GPS Coordinates (for Google Earth viewing*):Click to expand


China Import and Export Commodities Fair (中国进出口商品交易会) @ 23.103261,113.357602
Baiyun Mountain West Gate (白云山风景名胜区(西门)) @ 23.199133,113.281413
Baiyun Mountain South Gate Bus Stop (白云山索道) @ 23.158709,113.290392
Sun Yat-sen Memorial Hall (中山纪念堂) @ 23.134314,113.259257
Museum of the Western Han Dynasty Mausoleum of the Nanyue King (西汉南越王博物馆) @ 23.140392,113.256233
Huangpu Village (黄埔古港) @ 23.096440,113.392563
Xin Tai Le Restaurant (新泰乐(盘福店)) @ 23.138056,113.254739
click here to collapse

*Note: Carry a paper map and double check where you are heading! Navigating by GPS is a challenge in China –  China uses an obfuscation algorithm to randomly offset both the latitude and longitude by 50–500 meters. With some experimentation, you can use the Chinese language site Tencent QQ Map for street view verification (Google Earth does not have street view in China). I have included the Chinese script in parentheses that I used to search locations in Tencent QQ Map. Just copy and paste it into the search field. Go to street view by double clicking on the spot marker and then double clicking on the image.

*Disclaimer- ALWAYS verify locations, transportation routes, GPS coordinates, etc. Errors are made, routes changed, sometimes we are just plain wrong. No one knows what you like more than you. If the trip is worth doing, it is worth doing right! Do your homework.