7 Top Things to Do in Guangzhou, China

Finding things to do in Guangzhou isn’t hard. Sitting along the Pearl River, the massive metropolis of Guangzhou is one of the most visited tourist destinations in China and the third-biggest city in the country. From the banks of the river to the outer reaches of the city, it’s packed with interesting attractions and endless places to explore.

In 2010 and afterwards, the city experienced a building boom to accommodate the 2010 Asian Games. This sudden growth hasn’t changed the fact that the city is more laid back than other cities in China. You’ll still have lots of leafy green side street to stroll down as you explore ancient temples and beautiful pagodas.

Enjoy panoramic views of the city from a 600-metre skyscraper or take a leisurely drive through the local wildlife park. Travel to museums or shop for antiques at the unique local markets.

Not sure what to see and do? Start planning your trip with this guide to the best Guangzhou attractions…

What to do in Guangzhou

Gaze out across the city from the top of Canton Tower

As with many cities, one of the top points of interest in Guangzhou is its tallest building. Designed to resemble a thin hourglass, the Canton Tower stands over 600 metres tall.

Canton Tower

Guangzhou is a major city and smog is an occasional problem. When you get to the viewing deck at the top of the tower, you may get lucky and have a clear view across the city. Even on days with limited air quality, you can still see the skyscrapers poking through the smog.

If you only have 24 hours in Guangzhou, make sure you visit the tower. Besides sweeping views of the area, the tower has the typical tourist amenities. You can grab some food from the rooftop restaurant or shop for souvenirs at the gift shop.

Ride roller coasters at Chimelong Paradise Park

As a major city and one of the top destinations whether you have 10 days in China or several weeks, Guangzhou has lots of fun things for the whole family, including a trip to Chimelong Paradise Park. It’s the largest amusement park in the country, with 10 inversion roller coasters and over 60 rides and attractions.

Inversion Coaster

One of the newest additions is a roller coaster with a maximum speed of 105 kph and a peak that stands at 61 metres tall.

If you’re not a thrill seeker, skip the amusement park and head to Chimelong Safari Park. The same company that operates the amusement park operates the nearby wildlife resort, housing giraffes, monkeys, lions, and pandas.

Find all the bronze statues on Shamian Island

Shamian Island is an interesting spot in the centre of Guangzhou along the Pearl River. It’s one of several islands near the banks of the river and connected to the mainland via multiple bridges.

Shamian Island

Tourists tend to overlook this small island, as it doesn’t have a lot of attractions, but it’s still one of the top Guangzhou points of interest. As you walk around the narrow quiet streets, you’ll start to find life-size bronze statues. The island has a collection of these statues scattered around.

Shamian is one of the best places to visit in Guangzhou to get away from the crowds. You can wander the streets looking for the statues and then find a quiet little restaurant to eat lunch before venturing back into the heart of the city.

Shop for souvenirs and local cuisine on Shangxiajiu Pedestrian Street

If you ever have trouble deciding what to do in Guangzhou, visit one of the shopping streets, such as Shangxiajiu Pedestrian Street.

Shang Xia Jiu, all about shopping

Instead of high-end shops and boutique stores, you’ll find a series of small stores and street vendors. It’s the perfect street to walk up and down, trying different local foods and purchasing small trinkets to take home as souvenirs for family or friends.

You can find all types of skewered meats, pan-fried tofu, noodles, seafood, and desserts. Enjoy some food as you browse the selection of handmade goods. Just remember that it’s an incredibly busy street, so keep your wallet secure.

Get Your cultural fix with a trip to Chen Clan Ancestral Hall

With lots of things to see in Guangzhou, it’s easy to miss a few of the best attractions, such as Chen Clan Ancestral Hall.

Entrance building at Chen Clan Ancestral Academy

If you want to know where to go in Guangzhou for local culture, visit the ancestral hall. It’s a great example of traditional Chinese architecture. Added to the list of Cultural Relics of National Importance, it’s a protected site with a large collection of unique artifacts.

During a trip to the hall, you can explore 19 different buildings and six courtyards. It spans over 13,000 square metres. Inside the buildings, you’ll find wood carvings, pottery, and various historic items.

Enjoy the massive trees surrounding the Temple of the Six Banyan Trees

The Temple of the Six Banyan Trees makes the list of the top tourist attractions in Guangzhou thanks to its distinct pagoda. If you spend time travelling around China and the rest of southeast Asia, you’ll see lots of temples with three, four, or five-storey pagodas.

Temple of the Six Banyan Trees

The Temple of the Six Banyan Trees boasts a nine-storey pagoda in the centre of a small complex surrounded by large banyan trees. Originally, the temple was surrounded by six trees, as the name suggests. Of those, only three of the trees remain.

The original structure was completed in 537 AD, but was destroyed multiple times over the centuries. It was most recently restored in 1900 AD and remains one of the most impressive temples you’ll ever see.

Marvel at the stained glass windows at Sacred Heart Cathedral

Guangzhou sightseeing often includes stops at religious sites. Sacred Heart Cathedral stands out due to its Gothic architecture, especially after visiting some of the temples in the city.

Guangzhou - Shishi Sacred Heart Cathedral

The cathedral features two large spires and narrow stain glass windows. It’s in a quieter part of the city, but still draws a lot of tourists. During peak travel seasons, you may need to wait in line for an hour or two before getting inside.

It’s also an active church, with services held in Chinese, English, and Korean on the weekends. On the weekdays, the church holds mass in Cantonese. If you arrive during mass, you’ll be treated to the sounds of the church organ spilling out into the streets.

Where to stay in Guangzhou for sightseeing

As China’s third-largest city, you can bet that choosing where to stay in Guangzhou isn’t always so easy. For digging into the top points of interest in Guangzhou, the areas of Tian He and Yue Xiu are the best choices as both offer a varied selection of hotels in the city centres. Here are a few great places to stay to start your search…

  • Oakwood Premier Guangzhou: An elegant aparthotel featuring fully-stocked suites with excellent city views that won’t break the budget.
  • Aloft Guangzhou Tianhe: Mid-range travellers can hardly do better than spending their time in Guangzhou at this hip & stylish hotel in Tian He.
  • Park Hyatt Guangzhou: As you’d expect from the brand, this luxury hotel offers up tremendously sophisticated rooms in the Zhujiang New Town CBD area. The amenities here are nothing short of world-class especially the 63rd-floor pool and 70th-floor rooftop bar.
  • Four Seasons Hotel Guangzhou: Whether you stay for the spectacular city views, relaxing amenities or epic dining, this 5-star gem offers the best luxury experience in Guangzhou.

Ryan O'Rourke is a seasoned traveler and the founder & editor of Treksplorer, a fiercely independent guide to mid-range luxury travel for busy people. With over 20 years of extensive travel experience, Ryan has journeyed through over 50 countries, uncovering hidden gems and sharing firsthand, unsponsored insights on what to see & do and where to eat, drink & stay. Backed by his travel experience and in-depth research, Ryan’s travel advice and writing has been featured in publications like the Huffington Post and Matador Network. You can connect with Ryan on Twitter/X at @rtorourke.

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