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If you are planning 3 days in Guangzhou, China, this Guangzhou itinerary written by guest writer, Krasen, will help you plan the perfect trip to China’s 3rd biggest city.
Guangzhou (otherwise known as Canton) is the geographical, historical and cultural core of the country’s southern part. Being such an important city, it is no wonder that there is a lot to see and a lot to do there. It is full of places of interest and opportunities to try.
If you want to explore it in full, you need maybe a whole month. But what if you have only 3 days in Guangzhou to stay? Here is my suggestion about how to best spend your time in this famous city and build a perfect 3 day Guangzhou itinerary.
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But before that – let’s introduce Guangzhou. What kind of city is it? What can you expect there?
If you look at the map of China, you can see three rivers, called East, North and West Rivers, joining together in a large and complex delta. This is Pearl River Delta, occupied by one of the largest city clusters in the world. Guangzhou is a part of this cluster, the biggest city within it. It is also known by the name Canton, but Guangzhou is its local Chinese name.
Guangzhou is established in the northern part of the delta, on land which is mainly flat, consisting of many islands and river canals. It has its central urban part, and long northern and southern suburbs area- so long, that the distance between the southern to the northern ends is more than 100 km.
So, you can build your 3 day Guangzhou itinerary as a part of a longer itinerary including Hong Kong, Shenzhen, Macau and the other cities of Pearl River Delta. If you want to explore the whole Delta, but your time is limited, plan 1 or 2 days in all of the other cities, but leave 3 days in Guangzhou as a minimum.
Two of these three days leave for the central area. On the first day focus on the old sites and the second day spend exploring the new and modern sites. Then, on the third day head to the southern suburbs, called Panyu and Nansha, which are more interesting than the north suburbs.
An overview of this 3 days in Guangzhou itinerary
Here is my proposed Guangzhou itinerary:
Day 1 Explore the two older parts of Guangzhou; Liwan and Yuexiu
Day 2 Focus on Pearl River, and the new modern parts of Guangzhou; Tianhe and Haizhu
Day 3 Make a trip to the south- to explore Panyu and Nansha areas.
Reasons you should visit Guangzhou
As I already mentioned, Guangzhou is the southern centre of China, so it should be a mandatory part of your China trip. Here are a few other reasons you should visit Guangzhou…
- Guangzhou has more than 2000 years of history and has developed a rich culture, so you can expect to see really a lot here.
- Guangzhou is one of the most modern and developed cities in the world, perfect for those who are looking for luxury and super modern style.
- The food in Guangzhou (called Cantonese cuisine) is known as one of the richest in variety in the whole of China.
- Guangzhou is one of the largest trade centres in the world, hosting the famous Canton Fair, so for the businessmen, it should be of great interest.
When is the best time of the year to visit Guangzhou?
Guangzhou is located in the southern part of the humid tropical zone. It is near the South China Sea, and the climate is really humid. From February to June is mainly rainy, and in February it is also cold so the weather is comparable with rainy weather in England!
Then from April to September is the hot and humid summer, the rains reaching their peak at the end of May and the first half of June, after which it starts to dry up.
So, the best time of the year to visit Guangzhou is from the second half of October until the beginning of December. The weather then is mainly sunny and dry, and not too hot but pleasantly warm.
After December 1st it starts getting cold. Still nice, but since there is no central heating in Guangzhou, your room could be cold and uncomfortable.
Also, avoid the main Chinese holidays, especially the National Holiday from October 1 to 7, because it may be really crowded. Seriously, don’t forget that the Chinese population is almost 1,4 billion people and you can feel it VERY strongly during these holidays!
How to get around Guangzhou
As a big city, Guangzhou has a very well developed transport network, so you can go almost anywhere very quickly.
One of the most convenient forms of transportation is the metro system. It is cheap (from 2-10 CNY, depending on the distance). I would recommend your stay close to a metro station. From there you can travel conveniently to every corner of Guangzhou, avoiding the heavy traffic and traffic jams around the city. It is good for quickly moving from one place to another. The only downside is that you can’t watch the city go by.
Public buses are another option. They are convenient too and allow you to observe local daily life in Guangzhou. However, they are slower than the metro.
If you want to move faster, and at the same time to watch the city from the window, you can take a taxi. Of course, it is much expensive than the metro and bus, but can be very comfortable. Prices start from 10 CNY – add 2-6 CNY for every kilometre.
Another new and convenient way for relatively short distances is the shared public bike. Great for if you want to get between metro stations and attractions. Now you can easily find a shared public bike on the street and move quickly to the desired place, fully immersed in the local life around you. You just need to have WeChat installed, the shared bike’s application and a bank account attached.
Where to base yourself for 3 days in Guangzhou
You need a good location to base yourself in Guangzhou, in order to use your time in the best way. Basically, the best places in big cities like Guangzhou are near the metro stations.
You’ll want to find somewhere with plenty of things to do in the evenings and ways to relax in Guangzhou whilst also being close to the metro station.
The first place I’d suggest is near the pedestrian street Shanxiajiu, which is very attractive, especially in the evening. It has its own ‘old Cantonese’ atmosphere and is full of restaurants, street food, shops, malls, as well as bars and clubs. The nearest metro station is Changshou Road.
Another good place is near Beijing Road, another more modern pedestrian street. The nearest metro station would be Beijing Road station.
Your 3 Day Guangzhou itinerary
So, let’s look at your Guangzhou itinerary in detail…
Day 1 of your Guangzhou itinerary
In the morning…
Your first day in Guangzhou is focused on Yuexiu and Liwan areas, which are the older part of the city. There are a few important landmarks and symbols of Guangzhou, which represent this city, so you can focus on them this day.
They are Yuexiu Park, Xiguan Antique City, Chen Clan Academy and Sun Yat-Sen Memorial Hall, as well as some minor, but also very interesting sites like the Cantonese Opera and Art Museum and Nanyue King Mausoleum.
So, in the morning you should move to your starting point for the day- Yuexiu Park Metro Station. From here you will visit your first destination for the day- Yuexiu Park, with its symbols Five Rams Sculpture and Zhenhai Tower.
Yuexiu Park is located on a hill, with nice gardens and three lakes. It is full of beautiful traditional pavilions, amusement playgrounds, alleys and other places to relax.
But first, you should visit Zhenhai Tower- a very important symbolic building, dated from the early Ming Dynasty times. It is the first Lingnan architecture style tower in the area, and now it is turned into the Guangzhou Museum. The entrance fee will cost you 10 CNY.
Another important symbol is the Five Rams Statue. More than 2000 years ago, five immortals, riding five rams, came to this place (suffering poverty and misery at that time), gave rice to the local people and left. But their five rams stayed, turned into stone and remained as an eternal blessing of prosperity to the city. That’s why this turned into one of the most important landmarks of Guangzhou.
The whole walk in Yuexiu Park, including the Guangzhou Museum visit, can be roughly about 3 hours long. So, after that, it would be time for lunch. If you are looking for something cheap and fast- there are a lot of small fast food places on the streets around.
But if you are looking for something more special, you can go to a few restaurants nearby: Macau Restaurant (澳门街风味餐厅), or Subway Lao Xiguan Food centre (赛百味)- both of them can be easily found on Google Maps (just copy-paste their names in Chinese).
In the afternoon…
In the afternoon, when you finish your lunch, you can proceed to explore the nearby sites. There are two important museums, just right beside Yuexiu Park.
The first one is the Nanyue King Mausoleum. It presents the history of the ancient Nanyue Kingdom- a state which existed in the 2nd century BC, finally conquered by the Han Empire. The most interesting and symbolic artefact there is the Jade Burial Costume of the Nanyue King- a unique way of burial by thousands of jade plates. The entrance fee is 10 CNY as of June 2019. You will need about at least one hour to explore.
Then proceed to the second important site nearby – Sun Yat-Sen Memorial Hall. Now you move ‘by the time machine’ to the beginning of the 20th century. Guangzhou played a very important role in the Republic of China era, and Sun Yat-Sen’s life. So this memorial hall, being the largest one, dedicated to Dr Sun Yat-Sen, is now turned into a museum. The entrance fee is 10 CNY (as of June 2019.) Estimated time for visiting is about 1 hour.
Once you have finished exploring Sun Yat-Sen Memorial Hall, you can enjoy a nice evening in Xiguan Antique City- a delicious dinner in the restaurants in the area, like Lingji Fulaige or Panji Restaurants, offering Cantonese food. Or, alternatively, you can try some street food nearby.
There are a few ways how to get to from Xiguan Antique City from Sun Yat-Sen Memorial Hall. If you choose to travel by taxi, you can expect it to cost 30-35 CNY.
You can also go there by metro, although you have to change from Line 2 to Line 5. There are some public buses that you can use too: No. 133, 85 and 204 (for only 2CNY). And finally, the best (in my opinion) option – by a shared bike.
In the evening…
After dinner, you can enjoy the old streets of Xiguan, and especially the nice park with its Liwan Lake. The evening atmosphere is really exciting there. You can enjoy some shopping in this area too – there are a lot of souvenirs, Chinese tea, as well as just clothes, shoes and other “normal” shops.
Day 2 on your Guangzhou Itinerary
In the morning…
There are still a few more places you need to explore in Guangzhou. The first important place, which is one of the most important Guangzhou landmarks is Chen Clan Academy. You can go there by metro and it is found by exit D of Chen Clan Academy (Chen Jia Ci) station.
Chen Clan Academy is a real masterpiece of Cantonese Lingnan architecture. It was originally built by a wealthy Chinese overseas family to serve as an educational centre, preparing students for government examinations in Qing Dynasty era. After the fall of Qing, its role has changed a few times. Now it is not just a museum of art and architecture but still serves as an educational centre for fine arts. The entrance fee is 10 CNY (as of June 2019.) Estimated time for visiting is 1 hour.
Then you can take the metro to Changshou Road or Huangshan (1 or 2 stations away only) and walk around 550-600 m to the Cantonese Opera and Art Museum. This museum is really worth to visit.
It is not just a museum, but it also contains a splendid Cantonese traditional garden, with old Lingnan architecture buildings and a beautiful pond. In the main hall of the museum, you can see a lot of Cantonese opera and art presentations. It is free to enter and the estimated time for visiting is 1 – 1.5 hrs.
The best place for lunch on your second day of this Guangzhou itinerary is Shamian – a small piece of Europe in the heart of Guangzhou. The best way to move from Cantonese Opera and Art Museum to Shamian is by taxi or shared bike since there are no direct buses or metro on this route. If you chose to walk it will take around 30 mins.
Crossing one of the bridges onto Shamian Island, you will find yourself in a totally different environment. Shamian is an island which has been given to the French and British traders in concession, from the end of the 18th century. As a result, a lot of beautiful buildings were raised there, all in the classical European style, with quiet garden-style alleys. You can literally feel like you are in Vienna or somewhere in Paris. So, Shamian has become another landmark of Guangzhou.
Your walk in Shamian would lead you to the Pearl Riverbank, where you can find some nice restaurants and cafes – a great location to find some lunch.
In the afternoon…
After lunch, it is time for one of the most exciting activities during your Guangzhou itinerary- a cruise on Pearl River.
Follow the river bank. After you leave Shamian, you find a large square, where you can see the beautiful old building of the Canton Customs on your left. Not far from there you will see the wharf where you can take the ferry to Canton Tower, for only 2CNY (a really cheap cruise!).
The cruise on the river is around 45 mins and you will enjoy stunning views of the Guangzhou cityscape. The highest skyscrapers will rise on your left, and straight in front of you will be Canton Tower, the newest symbol of Guangzhou.
Canton Tower is one of the tallest TV towers in the world, and in general- one of the tallest buildings, at 600m high. Its design is a real masterpiece, reminiscent of a maiden, gently twisting her waist.
You can enjoy seeing the Canton Tower from outside but there are a lot of attractions inside the tower too. Yes, it is more expensive with an entrance fee of 150 CNY and some attractions requiring an additional fee, such as the bubble tram and free-fall dropping. But the best thing to do in the Canton Tower is to visit the panoramic terrace. You can not only observe the whole Guangzhou from bird’s view but if it is late afternoon and the sky is clear, you can enjoy a breathtaking sunset.
When you go out of Canton Tower and walk around 300 m southward, you will see another tower, which is small and much older. It is called Chigang Pagoda, and the small garden around it is a really nice place to relax. If you walk around it, you can find a spot where you can take a photo of the two towers together – the old and the new one.
From Canton Tower, you can take the metro for a few stations and arrive at the central part of Tianhe- to Tianhe South station. Then you can take an evening walk and enter Tee Mall – one of the biggest malls in China. There are a lot of things that you can do inside – shopping, watching movies, and of course finding your dinner. There are a lot of restaurants, offering plenty of cuisines from China and abroad.
Day 3 of your Guangzhou itinerary
During your last day in Guangzhou, you can try moving further from the central parts of the city. There are two main suburbs areas. The northern consists of Baiyun, Huadu and the counties of Zengcheng and Conghua. It is too large, covered by fields, low mountains and a lot of villages, towns, industrial and residential areas. There are some attractions too, but they are too far and require too long time only to reach one of them.
There is also a smaller eastern suburb area, consisting of Huangpu and Luogang districts (which are now merged), but there is not too much to see there.
And finally, there is the southern suburb area, consisting of Panyu and Nansha. I would recommend visiting here on the 3rd day of your Guangzhou itinerary, especially Panyu.
In the morning…
In Panyu, there are a few beautiful old traditional and historical sites worth visiting. But since with just 3 days in Guangzhou, you will not have enough time to explore all of them, I would recommend two – Lingnan Impression Park and Baomo Garden. But be ready for long distance trips, much longer than in the previous two days.
First thing in the morning, take the metro to Higher Education Mega Center South (Daxuecheng Nan) station. From there you have a 15-20 minute walk, or alternatively, take a taxi or shared bicycle.
Lingnan Impression Park is a former village, gradually swallowed by the growing city. But unlike many other villages, this one has been well protected due to its beautiful old Cantonese architecture.
There are a lot of old traditional buildings inside. But of special interest are those with walls covered in oyster shells – it is something unique, which you won’t see everywhere in China.
There are also two ancestral temples, a mansion house, turned into a museum, which depicts the life of a wealthy family. There is also the Hong Kong-Macau goods area for shopping. The entrance fee is 60 CNY and estimated time to visit is around 2 hours.
When you finish exploring here, you can move to Baomo Garden. You have two choices- the more expensive choice is by taxi which will take around 50 mins to 1 hour (or more if there is traffic jam somewhere). But you can expect it to cost at least 130-150 CNY for the trip.
Another way, which is cheaper, but can take at least 1 hour 40 mins or more, is by metro and bus. First, you have to back to Higher Education Mega Center South station and take the metro to City Bridge (Shi Qiao) station (change one line). And from there take bus No.67 to Baomo Garden. It will be around 20-30 CNY.
Since the distance is long, I would recommend you stop at City Bridge station and take your lunch there. It is the central part of Panyu district, where you can find malls, shops and restaurants.
In the afternoon…
In the afternoon, explore Baomo Garden. It is a real paradise and the most beautiful garden of this kind that I have seen. Its story comes from the Qing Dynasty times, and now it presents plenty of Cantonese architecture; pavilions, temples, halls, ponds, artificial rock hills and bridges.
There is also a ship-like hall, where you can enjoy watching Cantonese opera, drinking local tea. The most spectacular feature of Baomo Garden is two long walls with an inscribed story on them, one in relief from, and one like a long picture – a splendid art masterpiece. The entrance fee is 45 CNY and estimated time to visit is at least 2 hours.
From Baomo Garden back to the centre is a long trip- about 2 hours, if you choose the cheaper way. You have to back to City Bridge station by bus No. 67, then by metro and one line change to reach Changshou Road station or any other station that your hotel is located. Expect to pay more than 150 CNY for a taxi but it will only take 50-60 minutes.
Alternative itinerary for Day 3 in Guangzhou
If you don’t want to spend too much time in old traditional sites, on your Day 3 you can go to another, very different place, replacing Lingnan Impression or Baomo Garden. This is Chimelong Resort- the largest amusement park area in China. Actually, it consists of 4 parks.
The first is Safari Park – a large place like a zoo, but in a much more natural environment for the animals. The second is Paradise Park- a vertiginous amusement park with plenty of entertainment to keep you amused. The third is a Water Park- again an amusement park, but with water sports and play. The fourth is Bird Park- something like Safari Park, but for birds watching.
Visiting any of the Chimelong parks is expensive, entrance fees are more than 150 CNY for each park. Visiting one park would take you at least half a day. The good thing is that there is a nearby metro station-Hanxi Changlong station, which makes the trip to and from Chimelong much more comfortable.
Your 3 days in Guangzhou has come to an end but if you have followed this Guangzhou itinerary, you will have experienced its geography, history, culture, local life and entertainment. And yes, whilst 3 days is a short amount of time to explore Guangzhou, it will have been an unforgettable few days and hopefully, inspire you to visit and explore Guangzhou further.