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A city of shopping centres and skyscrapers that still upholds ancient traditions, Guangzhou is a major cultural and historical centre, home to temples and relics that date back 2,000 years.
For a breath of fresh air, Guangzhou has plenty of green spaces with scenic spots for afternoon picnics. Afterwards, residents can dine out at a Cantonese restaurant, go to a nightclub or attend a world-class performance at the Guangzhou Opera House.
Shopping in Guangzhou
Known for its growing industries, Guangzhou gives residents ready access to countless products, including inexpensive clothing and electronics. The city has some of the best supermarkets in China and a vibrant wholesale clothing sector.
Two of the best known wholesale markets are located close to the Guangzhou Railway Station in the city’s Yuexiu District. Tianma International Fashion Wholesale Center and Baima Garment Market sell international and domestic clothing brands.
Shopping areas include Beijing Road, a bustling pedestrian road of more than 300 stores, and the Global International Trade Center Buyun World, which offers an endless variety of shoes at much better prices than in the West.
The Fenghe Tianxiong Textile City is another well-known consumer attraction. The market features an abundance of knitting, chemical fibres, cotton weaving, linen, leather and silk, and has more than 700 vendors.
Nightlife in Guangzhou
Some of the city’s best-known party districts include the Binjiang Lu Bar Street on the banks of the Pearl River and Huanshi Lu Street in the city centre. Residents will also have access to live music, dance venues, international DJs, karaoke and riverside pubs throughout the city.
Eating out in Guangzhou
Guangzhou is arguably the region’s culinary capital and boasts a variety of signature restaurants, some of which are internationally recognised. Patrons can indulge in a variety of Cantonese, Chinese and foreign cuisines.
The city's finest food emphasises organic flavours and subtle seasonings and is characterised by rich tastes, strong fragrances and vibrant colours. Cantonese pastries and dim sum are especially popular, although expats should be sure about what they are eating, as they may come across many exotic ingredients they're not familiar with.
Teahouses in Guangzhou are a part of its social fabric. Locals drink tea to cope with the summer heat, and to soothe sore throats in winter. The city’s teahouses tend to fill up early and are a part of many people’s daily routines.
Sports and outdoor activities in Guangzhou
A range of outdoor activities are within easy reach of Guangzhou. Rock climbing and hiking in places such as the Yingxi Fenglin are popular pastimes. This scenic area contains dense forests, iconic rock formations, caverns, grasslands and rivers. Paragliding at Lufeng in southeast Guangdong is another popular activity, and expats with older children can put on their battle fatigues and try their hand at paintball.
Sports enthusiasts will also have a variety of options in the city. There are a number of golf courses and country clubs that offer members and non-members access to their impressive facilities. The city is also home to the Guangzhou Sport University, which trains athletes and referees, and offers students a range of options in sports sciences, research and sports management.
Guangzhou is home to several large sports centres, including the Tianhe Stadium which provides facilities for football, basketball, badminton and table tennis. City residents often make use of the stadium's offerings, which allow them to exercise, play sports and take classes.
See and do in Guangzhou
Besides towering skyscrapers and sprawling shopping malls, Guangzhou also boasts a rich history. Known for being a centre of trade and cuisine, the city’s warm climate, natural and cultural attractions give expats a variety of options both indoors and out. Here are some of the best things to see and do in Guangzhou.
One of the best known scenic spots in the city, Yuexiu Park is the largest natural space in Guangzhou and provides city residents with a chance to surround themselves with nature in the middle of the sprawling urban landscape. It also contains a number of Ming Dynasty cultural relics and a stone statue of the Five Rams, one of the city’s emblems.
A massive amusement park, Chimelong Paradise offers a dizzying range of entertainment options, including a circus, a water park, a wild-animal-themed park and one of the world’s most exhilarating rollercoasters. Chimelong Paradise offers fun for the whole family.
Often hailed as the best museum in China, the Guangdong Museum contains over 160,000 artefacts and has been open to the public since 1959. Exhibitions of the local culture, natural environment and history are contained in its modern facilities, making for a perfect day out with the family.
One of the country’s longest rivers, the Pearl River is strung along 1,491 miles (2,400 km) of the Chinese landscape and is especially beautiful at night. The four river systems that make up the Pearl join up in Guangzhou before spilling into the South China Sea. As it cuts through the city at night, the river’s surface reflects the city’s neon lights, providing a unique view of Guangzhou’s urban beauty. Expats are able to walk along the river’s ‘Scenic Corridor’ while enjoying the gentle evening breeze, and take a ferry or river cruise.
What's on in Guangzhou
Festivals in Guangzhou are characterised by enormous preparation. Often, people from different religious, geographical and social backgrounds come together under a common cause to ensure that the festival runs smoothly. Cultural events in Guangzhou are full of colour and life and are an important part of the city’s heartbeat.
Spring Festival (January/February)
Better known to Westerners as the Chinese New Year, the Spring Festival is the most important traditional festival in China and is celebrated in parks and city streets across the country. Traditionally, the event is enjoyed by eating a New Year feast, setting off firecrackers, hanging red lanterns and visiting relatives. In Guangzhou, the Pearl River is lit up with magnificent firework displays while revellers feast on local cuisine.
Guangzhou International Dragon Boat Race (May/June)
Taking place on the fifth day of the fifth lunar month, the Guangzhou International Dragon Boat Race is another annual event focused on the Pearl River, and celebrates the Duanwu Festival. While dragon boating was popular during the Ming and Qing dynasties, the modern form of the city’s celebrations was officially declared in 1994. Since then, participants from all over the world have participated in the race between the Haiyin and Guangzhou bridges. There are, however, dragon boat races all over the city as residents and visitors race for the honour of victory.
Guangzhou Lotus Festival (August)
Tourists flood the street’s of the city’s Panyu District every August to take in the sights, tastes and sounds of the Guangzhou Lotus Festival. Visitors get to enjoy a variety of entertainment as they view fine lotus specimens and taste food made from lotuses harvested in the districts many ponds and rivers.
Guangzhou International Gourmet Festival (November/December)
The Guangzhou International Gourmet Festival is a sensory affair that combines fine food, tourism and entertainment into a single experience. One of the biggest annual events in the city, it showcases the best of Guangzhou’s world-renowned cuisine and allows experts, foreigners and locals to interact and exchange recipes and ideas.
Meeting people and making friends in Guangzhou
Making new friends can be one of the toughest parts of moving to a new city. The good news is that joining a local club is a great way to ease the process, giving a natural starting point for conversation among people with similar interests.
A Facebook group of more than 14,000 people, Guangzhou Expats is an invaluable resource for new arrivals. Here, group members can share advice, make connections and arrange in-person meet-ups.
Guangdong International Volunteer Expatriate Service (GIVES)
This group, formed in 1997, offers a fantastic way to engage with other expats while doing good for the local community. GIVES works closely with local welfare agencies and has a history of engaging with the education, medical, rehabilitation, orphanage and elderly care sectors to offer assistance.
Guangzhou Hash House Harriers
Describing themselves as "a drinking club with a running problem", Hash House Harriers is a fun-loving, social group of people. Walkers, hikers and runners are all welcome to join the club's excursions to the green, hilly areas surrounding Guangzhou. Club members meet up at the Gold Mango Bar before bussing out to the location of the run.
►For insights into a nearby city, read about the lifestyle in Foshan
"We have enjoyed many things in Guangzhou. However, our favourite is that everywhere you go, you feel as if you have entered into a completely new city. There is something interesting around every corner. It feels like every part of Guangzhou is its own city." See what else is enjoyable about living in Guangzhou in our interview with Paz.
"We were fortunate to have expat friends that already had an expat community established. We have helped out with English clubs at universities and that has helped us get to know locals too." Read more about making friends in Guangzhou in this interview with Seth K.
Are you an expat living in Guangzhou?
Expat Arrivals is looking for locals to contribute to this guide, and answer forum questions from others planning their move to Guangzhou. Please contact us if you'd like to contribute.
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