It's big and crowded. Sky scrapers soar and crowds stream constantly. But this isn't your average Chinese super city. While it may be overwhelming at times, there's method in the madness. The streets are surprisingly orderly, taxi drivers rarely resort to their horns while historic buildings stand calmly and manicured gardens provide the city much solace.
You may be familiar with Guangzhou as a stopover city, or business hub for foreign trade, but China's third largest city has much more to offer than its prosperous reputation. Formerly known as Canton in the West, Guangzhou has grown from a sea port on the Silk Road to one of China's most cosmopolitan cities. Here are five reasons to stay awhile in Guangzhou.
Often referred to as China's Garden City, Guangzhou is home to numerous parks and gardens including an animal safari park and the largest urban park in China. Its most notable area of green however is the magnificent Yuntai Garden. Located at the foot of the Baiyun Mountain, the garden is China's largest landscaped garden and features a combination of Eastern and Western architectural art as well as over 200 species of flowers.
Guangzhou is the home of Guangdong or Cantonese cuisine, a cuisine typically characterised by its use of mild spices, stir-fried vegetables and roasted meats. Food in Guangzhou is serious business, with many locals taking great pride in their cooking, seeking out only the best ingredients. The city's restaurants and street food are no exception. One meal not to miss is the roasted whole suckling pig.
Cantonese Opera is a traditional Chinese art form that originated in Southern China's Cantonese culture and is popular attraction in Guangzhou. Combining singing, music, acting, acrobatics and martial arts, the opera performances are also visual delights with intricate costumes, hats and makeup.
Dating back roughly 2,200 years, Guangzhou has a colourful history spanning legends and Silk Road trade. Today the city has numerous temples and ancient sites worthy of exploration. One not to miss is the Bright Filial Piety Temple, one of China's grandest and most influential temples. The ornate structure is said to date back over 1,700 years, making it older than the city of Guangzhou. Another site worth visiting is the Temple of Six Banyan Trees, a temple and unique flowering pagoda that dates back to the 6th century.
Much like China's other major cities, Guangzhou is a great place for shopping, from eye-popping luxury to street markets hawking weird and wonderful wares. A great place to begin is at the Qingping Market. Located on Qingping Road, the market is the largest street market in Guangzhou, stretching along 1km and featuring over 2,000 stalls. While you'll see a broad spectrum of products here, from rare animals to Chinese medicine, plants and seafood, the jade and antique stalls are ideal for souvenirs. If you're on the hunt of fashion, the Globale International Shoes Trade Center and Beijing Road shops are sure to satisfy.