Guangzhou’s Best Kept Secrets: Your Locals-Only Travel Guide To The City’s Hidden Wonders…

Guangzhou’s Hidden Gems: A Journey into the City’s Non-Touristy Places

Guangzhou, a metropolis in southern China, is best known for tourist attractions like Chen Clan Ancestral Hall, Sun Yat-sen Memorial Hall, and Chimelong International Circus. However, the city offers many interesting hidden gems beyond the typical tourist spots. If you venture into the local neighborhoods, you will discover a charming side of Guangzhou with a rich history and culture.

Some of the fascinating non-touristy places worth exploring in Guangzhou include the Sacred Heart Cathedral, Shamian Island, Liwan Lake Park, Yongqing Fang, Shangxiajiu Pedestrian Street, Xiguan Ancient Streets, and Dafo Temple. These destinations will give you an authentic taste of the city’s heritage and daily life. In this article, I will share my experience visiting these unique attractions in Guangzhou and provide tips to make the most of your exploration of these non-touristy places. Get ready to see a different side of this dynamic southern Chinese city!

I. Sacred Heart Cathedral: Where Ancient Stonework Meets Stained-Glass Wonder

Guangzhou’s architectural wonder blending Gothic style and Chinese craftsmanship

Sacred Heart Cathedral:

The Sacred Heart Cathedral, also known as Shishi Cathedral, is a must-see when visiting Guangzhou. Built in 1863, it is one of the largest cathedrals in Southeast Asia with a French Gothic architectural style. The cathedral features two bell towers, colorful stained glass windows, and an impressive dome. The most striking part of its design is the row of spires that surround the dome.

To get there, take subway to Haizhu Square Station and walk about 700 meters. The cathedral is open Tuesday to Friday from 8:30 am to 11:30 am and again from 2:30 pm to 5 pm, as well as Saturday and Sunday from 8:30 am to 5 pm. No shorts, hats or loud noises are allowed inside. You can take photos but without flash. Don’t miss the opportunity to admire this historic cathedral in Guangzhou!

Sacred Heart Cathedral Key Facts:

  • Take subway to Haizhu Square B1 exit, walk 700 meters
  • Open Tues-Fri 8:30-11:30, 14:30-17:00; Sat-Sun 8:30-17:00
  • No shorts or hats allowed inside, photos without flash permitted

II: Shamian Island: Beauty That Will Steal Your Heart (and Afternoon) Away

Where Guangzhou’s history meets natural beauty under a canopy of trees

Shamian Island

Shamian Island, located in the Liwan District, was formerly an important port of Guangzhou. It was divided into two concessions for the British and French during the Qing dynasty. Today, the island is known for well-preserved European-style buildings and streets shaded by trees. It’s the perfect place to escape from the bustling city and go back in time.

To get to Shamian Island, take subway Line 6 to Huangsha Station and walk about 10 minutes. It’s especially scenic on a sunny afternoon when the tree shadows dance on the buildings. Sit down for a coffee at one of the cafes, or stroll along the quiet cobblestone streets to soak in the historical atmosphere. Shamian Island is a wonderful retreat right in the center of Guangzhou.

Shamian Island Key Facts:

  • Take subway Line 6 to Huangsha Station, Exit E and walk 10 mins
  • Best visited in the afternoon to admire the colonial buildings and tree-lined streets

III. Liwan Lake Park: An Urban Oasis You’ll Never Want to Leave

An oasis of nature and nostalgia in the heart of the city where time stands still

Liwan Lake Park

Liwan Lake Park, located in the Liwan District, is a popular recreational area for locals. It started as a lake called “Taiye Lake” in the Southern Song dynasty but was repurposed as an urban park in recent years. The park surrounds the lake and features gardens, pagodas, playgrounds as well as outdoor exercise areas. It’s an ideal spot for a morning jog or an after-dinner stroll.

To get to Liwan Lake Park, take subway Line 6 to Ruyifang Station and walk about 700 meters. Spend a relaxing afternoon wandering through the gardens and around the lake. Grab some street snacks from nearby shops or dine at one of the restaurants along the park. Liwan Lake Park offers an escape into nature in the middle of the city. No wonder it remains a cherished part of childhood memories for many Guangzhou residents.

Liwan Lake Park Key Facts:

  • Take subway Line 6 to Ruyifang Station, Exit B and walk 700 meters
  • Open daily 6 am to 10 pm, free admission
  • An oasis of greenery ideal for exercize or relaxation

IV. Yongqing Fang: Guangzhou’s Cultural Heartbeat

Step into Guangzhou’s cultural heart for a glimpse of life in decades past…

Yongqing Fang

Yongqing Fang refers to the historic Enning Road area lined with arcade buildings in the Xiguan area of Guangzhou. It offers a glimpse into the city’s cultural past with well-preserved alleyways, temples and ancestral halls. Highlights include the Cantonese Opera Museum, Enning Road, and the former residence of Bruce Lee’s family.

To get there, walk about 17 minutes from Liwan Lake Park or take a bus to Enning Road and walk 100 meters. The Cantonese Opera Museum is free to enter before 5 pm. Spend an afternoon strolling through the historic arcades and alleys to soak in the cultural atmosphere of old Guangzhou.

Yongqing Fang Key Facts:

  • Walk 17 minutes from Liwan Lake Park or take bus to Enning Road
  • Explore the historic arcades, Cantonese Opera Museum and Bruce Lee’s home
  • Museum open free daily before 5 pm

V. Shangxiajiu Pedestrian Street: Shop and Dine Like a Local

Join locals in Guangzhou’s paradise for dining, shopping and people watching to your heart’s content

Shangxiajiu Pedestrian Street

Shangxiajiu Pedestrian Street, located in the Liwan District, has been a commercial hub in Guangzhou for over 100 years. The 1,000-meter street is lined with shops, restaurants and street vendors. It’s a paradise for tasting Cantonese snacks, shopping for souvenirs or just observing the daily life of locals.

Stroll about 15 minutes from Yongqing Fang to reach Shangxiajiu Pedestrian Street. Go in the late afternoon when the street becomes most vibrant and stay until evening to see the neon lights sparkle to life. Pick up some dried meat, herbs or teas to bring home. Or sit down for a hotpot dinner to round out the Guangzhou experience. Shangxiajiu Pedestrian Street is the perfect place to shop and dine like a local.

Shangxiajiu Pedestrian Street Key Facts:

  • Walk 15 minutes from Yongqing Fang, open daily 24 hours
  • Shop for local goods and snacks, or enjoy a hotpot dinner
  • Most vibrant from afternoon till evening

VI. Xiguan Ancient Streets: Where the Past Shines Golden

Explore the historic streets that witnessed Guangzhou’s rise as a global trading port and still glitters with memories of the past

Xiguan Ancient Streets

Xiguan Ancient Streets, located along the west bank of Pearl River, were the center of trade and commerce in Guangzhou during the Qing dynasty. The streets are lined with shophouses, ancestral temples, and courtyard houses in the traditional Lingnan architectural style. Some notable landmarks include Guangdong Customhouse, Nanguan Building, Xinhua Hotel, and Aiqun Hotel.

To get there, walk about 15 minutes from Shangxiajiu Pedestrian Street. The streets come alive at dusk when the historical buildings are illuminated with golden lights. Take a stroll after dinner to admire these architectural gems. Visit the Guangdong Customhouse Museum to learn about the history of trade in Guangzhou. Xiguan Ancient Streets offer a glimpse into the city’s past glory as a major trading port in China.

With a mix of colonial buildings, ancestral temples and shophouses, Xiguan Ancient Streets showcase the cultural fusion in Guangzhou over centuries of development. Though some of the historical structures have been replaced with modern buildings, the area still retains its charm as an important commercial district. A walk through Xiguan Ancient Streets allows you to discover stories of Guangzhou’s diverse history.

Xiguan Ancient Streets Key Facts:

  • Walk 15 minutes from Shangxiajiu Pedestrian Street, illuminated at night
  • Admire the historical Lingnan-style shophouses and landmarks
  • Visit Guangdong Customhouse Museum to learn the district’s history

VII. Dafo Temple: Tranquility Through the Ages

Lose yourself in serenity at this 1500-year-old Buddhist temple…

Dafo Temple

The Dafo Temple, located in the Dongshan District, is an ancient Buddhist temple originally built in 537. The current temple halls were constructed during the Qing dynasty with traditional Chinese architecture. The grand halls house various Buddha statues, ancient pagodas and cultural relics.

To get to Dafo Temple, take subway Line 6 to Wenhua Gong Station, transfer to Line 2 and get off at Beijing Road Station. Walk about 800 meters through the pedestrian street. Admission to the temple is free but there are additional charges for activities like burning incense or making offerings. Open daily from 7 am to 9 pm, Dafo Temple offers a peaceful sanctuary in the city and a look into China’s Buddhist tradition.

Dafo Temple Key Facts:

  • Take subway Line 6 to Wenhuagong, transfer to Line 2 and exit Beijing Road Station.
  • Walk 800 meters to the temple, open daily 7 am to 9 pm
  • A historic Buddhist temple with free admission, charges for incense offerings

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