My top 5 favourite places in Guangzhou


Inspired by my reader Jason and my friend Linda, today I will be summing up my favourite places in Guangzhou. Over the three years I’ve spent here, I’ve grown to love this city and can’t imagine living anywhere else. I get easily attached to places and don’t enjoy moving from city to city.

In Finland I was born in Vantaa, near our capital Helsinki, but moved to small city called Heinola when I was two years old. I grew up there, but moved to Orivesi, even smaller city, for high school. After high school graduation I moved to Tampere, which is the third biggest city in Finland. I worked and studied there until I moved to China. All in all I haven’t been living in that many places.

But what are my favorites after three years of living in Guangzhou?

1. Xiaozhou Village

My number one favourite since I first visited it back in 2010 is still Xiaozhou Village. I recommend anyone and everyone living or traveling in Guangzhou to visit this art village. It’s perfect for reading books in unique coffee shops, taking photographs and learning art.

2. Xiguan

For Cantonese Lingnan style architecture I head to Xiguan, which is part of Liwan district now. During festivals and holidays area around Liwan lake gets a bit crowded but it’s also a good place for enjoying the atmosphere and taste some local delicacies.

3. University Island

A great place for biking is the University Island. It’s a home for ten university campuses and three villages. There are bike rentals in the metro stations and every weekend you can see quite a many locals biking and enjoying the fresh air. If you bike around the outer ring road, it’s about 20km and takes one hour. But for a nice day out I recommend you to eat in one of the villages, Beigang, Beiting or Nanting.

4. Sun Yat-Sen University Campus

I have to admit I really love our campus! It’s full of old red brick architecture and big trees transforming the campus to a park. The central grass area is great for a picnic during the day, but when the sky starts to get darker you should head to the North Gate where all kinds of people from kids to grandparents hang out and practice dancing.

5. Tianhe Book Center

If you want to buy books in Guangzhou you should absolutely head to Tianhe’s Book Center. They have an English book store on the fourth floor which is a bit pricy, but it has a nice selection of foreign books. The book center also has a good stock of Chinese learning material. So no matter if you are enrolled in a university, self studying or preparing for the HSK, check out this book center.

+ Top 3 restaurants

  1. For the best curry in town, take a taxi to Beijing Lu where you can find an amazing Viatnamese restaurant called the Tiger Prawn. Try curry chicken soup with French bread.
  2. If you want pizza, then I recommend Oggi near the Taojin metro station. They also have a restaurant in Tianhe, but the prices there are much higher than in Taojin.
  3. And because we are in Guangzhou, everyone should try the traditional dim sum. There are numerous places for dim sum all over the city. One really nice is Weiguo Kitchen on Binjiang East Road in Haizhu district.

+ Tourist tips

  • For some background information to the history of Guangdong province, take your passport and enter the free Guangdong Museum in Zhujiang New Town.
  • If you want to cruise along the Pearl River, go when it’s dark and only take the cheapest 38RMB ticket. The food buffet isn’t worth it.
  • For gifts go to Onelink Plaza in Haizhu Square.
  • For expat news read That’s PRD magazine.

Now it’s your turn! What’s your favourite place in Guangzhou? Or if you were to visit Guangzhou, what kind of areas or places would you like to visit?


  • thenakedlistener

    When you say ‘biking’ at the University Island, I take it you mean ‘cycling,’ right? Because if it’s my ‘thing’ (motorcycling), I’d be there in a flash!


    Sara Jaaksola Reply:

    You know, I actually had to check this up! :) According to wikipedia cycling could also be called biking. Could this be a difference between American and Brittish English?


  • Daniel McDermott

    I agree with University Island, biking there is one of the better places to do so. Xiaozhou is good ,but I’m a bigger fan of Redtory.

    Here are 3 more I would list… Huacheng Square for sure is my #1. Beautiful skyline, nice walking parks, and great malls all around. It shows the best of modern China all in one area. Everytime the East Tower (Chow Tai Fook) gets a floor taller during its construction, I realize how quickly China is progressing.

    #2 I am biased since I live in Dongshankou, so this is a place that would always be on my list. Dongshan Lake is very beautiful at night, and seeing it so lively with musical instruments, tai chi and dancing is very unique to see for a foreigner. It’s very close to the Pearl River where you can get a nice view of all the cruise boats and night lighting on all the buildings. Also, of course Dongshankou is filled with traditional snacks and small shops to eat and traditional Cantonese restaurants.

    #3 Jiangnanxi. The atmosphere here is young and hip, and there are tons of cafes and small locally owned restaurants everywhere you look in the residential areas, none of which are owned by a big chain. It feels like a college town, with lots of small places to hang out with friends, and for the ladies there is great underground shopping.


    Sara Jaaksola Reply:

    I totally agree with Jiangnanxi! It seems like every time I hear about a unique theme coffee shop, they are always in jiagnanxi. I usually go there when we are playing broad games with friends and occasionally go to the Loft.


  • Alysa

    TianHe Book centre is also one of my favorites, along with Haizhu Square and Shamian Island. Its such a quirky unique place with so much culture!


    Sara Jaaksola Reply:

    There’s an interesting book store also near the Sun Yat-Sen University metro station B exit. It consists of several rooms which makes it easy to get lost while browsing books.


  • Grace de Castro

    Hi there!

    I am going to Guangzhou this end of November and am feeling a bit nervous because I will be going solo and it will be my first time in China. :)

    Reading your blog relieved me some of the nervousness. I don;t know why. I think it’s because of the “lightness” I fell when I’m reading your posts on Guangzhou and how it is “home” to you. In a way, I feel that China is a good place.

    Thanks for all your tips!


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