Formerly known as Canton, the capital of China’s southern manufacturing heartland attracts plenty of business travelers, but is largely overlooked by tourists. While less dramatic than Beijing and Shanghai in an aesthetic sense, Guangzhou is nonetheless an intriguing city. Conscious of its forthcoming star turn as host of the Asian Games in 2010, it is undergoing a massive urban facelift.
New structures include China’s tallest building, the 2,000-ft (610-m) Guangzhou New Television Tower; a futuristic opera house designed by Zaha Hadid; and a Beijing Olympics-style “Water Cube” aquatics arena. Located on China’s strategic southern coast and spliced by the Pearl River, Guangzhou was for a long time China’s sole maritime connection with the outside world. In the late 19th century, it became a foreign treaty port. Shamian Island, in the city’s Liwan district, boasts a rich architectural legacy from that period. Neo-Classical banks, mansions, consulates, and churches were constructed amid the tropical greenery, and fine granite buildings line the old waterfront Bund, which is reminiscent of its namesake in Shanghai. The impressive Gothic-style Catholic Church of the Sacred Heart, completed in 1888 under the Emperor Guangxu, was modeled on the cathedral of Notre Dame in Paris. Guangzhou’s other significant drawing card is its sublime Cantonese cuisine, China’s most cherished culinary genre. According to proud locals, this is the place to feast on the Middle Kingdom’s finest dim sum and seafood.
Getting There and Around Domestic and some international airlines serve Guangzhou airport, which is 17 miles (28 km) from the city center. Public transportation within the city is good, with a subway, buses, trams, and water buses.
Where to Eat Experience authentic Cantonese cuisine at Panxi Restaurant, which serves fine seafood in a classical garden setting.
Where to Stay The Grand Palace Hotel Guangzhou, in the heart of the financial district, has smartly furnished rooms, and more character than many of the city’s business-focused hotels.
When to Go April–May and October are the most pleasant periods to visit, being less hot and sticky than the summer months.
Budget per Day for Two US$100–150