The city of Guangzhou, one of China’s ancient trade ports, has a history that extends back more than 2,200 years. Though Guangzhou was once the starting point of the Silk Road, it has since undergone tumultuous changes. From a revolutionary hotbed throughout the twentieth century to came rapid growth and modernization, turning Guangzhou into a bustling metropolis of over 7 million people during the 1980s and 1990s. Today, the city offers visitors a window, not only into China’s history, but also into the history of the great nation’s relations with the rest of the world.
Day 1: Past and Present
Yuexiu Park sits at the heart of Guangzhou where you can start your visit with a stroll through the gardens, past locals practicing tai chi and old men fishing the lakes. Pay a visit to the Guangzhou City Museum, located within the red Xhenhai Tower, for a look at the history of the city dating back more than 2,000 years. Swing by the Sun Yat Sen Memorial Hall at the base of Yuexiu Hill for a more in-depth look at Guangzhou’s role in China’s major revolutions. Continue your tour through the past at the Chen Clan Academy where the Chen family youth came to prepare for their imperial exams. In the afternoon, you can stroll through the pedestrian streets of Shamian Island, where foreign traders established a lavish foreign enclave after the first Opium War. End your day with a cruise down the Pearl River as you watch the city light up.
Day 2: Religious Roots
Many of China’s religious traditions have roots in Guangzhou. In the morning, head to the trio of temples located just south of the Museum of the Mausoleum of the Nanyue King. The towering pagoda at the Temple of the Six Banyan Trees (Liurong Temple) is one of Guangzhou’s most recognizable landmarks. Nearby sits the Bright Filial Piety Temple (Guangxiao Si), Guangzhou’s oldest Buddhist temple and the place where Huineng, one of the most important figures in Zen Buddhism, studied as a novice monk. Head south for a visit to the Temple of the Five Immortals (Wuxian Guan), a Taoist temple with peaceful gardens and unusual decor. In the afternoon, check out the city’s second major landmark, the towering minaret at Huaisheng Mosque, perhaps the oldest mosque anywhere in China.
Day 3: Day Trips to Hong Kong
A short ferry or train ride from Guangzhou sits one of the world’s most modern and international cities: Hong Kong. Upon arrival, head to Tsim Sha Tsui for a walk along the promenade to watch the iconic junk boats passing in front of Hong Kong Island. Stop at a local restaurant for dim sum, a Cantonese specialty, before taking the Star Ferry across the harbor to Hong Kong Island. For the best views of the city, ride the Peak Tram to the top of Victoria Peak, the island’s tallest hill. Spend the afternoon (and your extra spending money) shopping the Golden Mile on Nathan Road, and finish your whirlwind day with a relaxing dinner at Knutsford Terrace.