Must see attractions in Guangdong

  • Top ChoiceSights in Shenzhen

    OCT-LOFT

    By far the best place for strolling or simply hanging out in the city is the breezy OCT-LOFT complex, a warren of repurposed communist-era factories criss-crossed by cobbled laneways. It's also a great place to browse a multitude of contemporary art spaces in between pit stops at the area's excellent cafes, design shops, music venues, bars, restaurants and Shenzhen's best bookshop.

  • Top ChoiceSights in Guangzhou

    Shamian Island

    Don't depart Guangzhou without an amble through the concession-era gem that is Shamian Island. The central east–west drag is a time-warp boulevard of faded European-style buildings shaded by columns of banyan trees. It's a charming setting and the backdrop to many a wedding photo shoot. Choose a quiet time of day, and duck into side streets where you can peek into lived-in residences with wooden staircases and cracked Victorian floor tiles.

  • Top ChoiceSights in Kaiping

    Zili

    Zili, 11km west of Kaiping, has the largest collection of diāolóu historic watchtowers in the area, though only a few of the 15 are open to the public. The most stunning is Míngshí Lóu (铭石楼), which has a veranda with Ionic columns and a hexagonal pavilion on its roof. It appeared in the film Let the Bullets Fly. Yúnhuàn Lóu (云幻楼) has four towers known as ‘swallow nests’, each with embrasures, cobblestones and a water cannon.

  • Top ChoiceSights in Guangzhou

    Chen Clan Ancestral Hall

    An all-in-one ancestral shrine, Confucian school and ‘chamber of commerce’ for the Chen clan, this compound was built in 1894 by the residents of 72 villages in Guangdong, where the Chen lineage is predominant. There are 19 buildings in the traditional Lingnan style, all featuring exquisite carvings, statues and paintings, and decorated with ornate scrollwork throughout.

  • Top ChoiceSights in Shenzhen

    Dafen Oil Painting Village

    This folksy urban village of narrow lanes and alleys is a pleasure to visit in itself, but what makes Dafen simply unmissable is the hundreds of art studios and shops churning out reproduction oil paintings by hand, from Van Gogh's sunflowers (yours for less than ¥100) to enormous, gilt-framed scenes of mounted cavalry or galleons at sea rendered in lavish detail, costing upwards of ¥2000. Or why not go pop art with a Mona Lisa–meets-Minions mash-up?

  • Top ChoiceSights in Chaozhou

    West Lake

    The moat of ancient Chaozhou is a lake inside a park well loved by locals. Around the lake are a few notable buildings. Hanbi Building served as a military office during anti-warlord expeditions in 1925. Sitting on a knoll is Phoenix Building, with its bird-like shape, iron moongate, gourd-shaped ceiling openings, and quirky interior spaces formed by the fowl’s anatomy.

  • Top ChoiceSights in Chaozhou

    Guangji Bridge

    Originally a 12th-century pontoon bridge with 86 boats straddling the Hán River, Guangji Bridge suffered repeated destruction over the centuries. The current version is a brilliant, faux-ancient passageway with 18 wooden boats hooked up afresh every morning and 24 stone piers topped with pagodas. A ticket allows you one crossing. If you want to come back, remember to tell the staff ‘I want to come back’ (我要回来, ‘ wǒyào huílai’) before leaving the bridge.

  • Top ChoiceSights in Shenzhen

    Lianhua Shan Park

    It's an easy half-hour amble up to the top of this tropical hill in the heart of Futian District for Shenzhen's best skyline photographs. Appropriately, you'll be sharing the mind-blowing vistas with Deng Xiaoping (in statue form), whose economic reforms in the 1980s made this whole crazy mess of prosperity possible.

  • Top ChoiceSights in Foshan

    Zumiao

    The 11th-century Zumiao temple is believed to be the site where Cantonese opera flourished. The art is still performed today during festivals to entertain the gods…and the tourists. Sharing the complex are a Confucius temple (c 1911) and memorial halls dedicated to two martial artists born in Foshan – Wong Fei Hung (aka Huang Fei Hong) and Ip Man – and kung fu cinema in general.

  • Top ChoiceSights in Guangzhou

    Qingping Chinese Medicine Market

    Just north of the channel that divides Shamian Island from the city, this tumbledown market is a sensory delight, with open-fronted vendors arranged beneath an arcade and in the tiny alleys behind. You'll find ginseng, goji berries, Sichuan peppercorns, giant mushrooms and countless other restorative tonic essentials.

  • Top ChoiceSights in Shenzhen

    Sunrise Art Center

    Built from the vestiges of a century-old Hakka home, this idyllic courtyard gallery was created by Chen Qiuzhi, a contemporary ink artist from Anhui province. Several galleries display his work, and the wonderful cafe is just the spot to kick back with a tea or coffee after browsing the surrounding Dafen Oil Painting Village.

  • Sights in Guangzhou

    Yuyin Mountain Villa

    One of Guangdong's four famous classical gardens, this graceful property on the outskirts of the city was built in 1871 by an official of the Qing court. It incorporates the landscaping styles of Sūzhōu and Hángzhōu, and the features of Lingnan architecture. The result is a photogenic collection of courtyards, pavilions, terraces, halls and water features. It's a 20-minute walk from the metro station to Yuyin Mountain Villa. A taxi from central Guangzhou should cost about ¥80 to ¥100.

  • Sights in Guangzhou

    Mausoleum of the Nanyue King

    You'll feel like Indiana Jones/Lara Croft (select as preferred) as you descend the two-millennia-old steps into an actual Han dynasty tomb. This was the final resting place of Zhao Mo, second king of the Nanyue Kingdom, entombed here in 122 BC with over a dozen sacrificial servants. The remains of a concubine lies under glass – a shroud of bone dust.

  • Top ChoiceSights in Guangzhou

    Guangzhou Opera House

    Designed by Zaha Hadid, southern China's premier performance venue has transformed the area with its typically commanding, otherworldly aspect. Futuristic glass panels have been woven together to form subtle curves, creating a visual effect that has been described as pebbles on the bed of the Pearl River. As well as opera, dance and classical music, touring international productions, such as War Horse, are staged here. You're free to stroll around the architecturally interesting exterior, which is lit up at night.

  • Sights in Shenzhen

    Dapeng Fortress

    This Ming dynasty walled town was erected 600 years ago to shore up the coastline against marauding Japanese pirates, and later became embroiled in the Opium Wars with the British in the 19th century. Old houses in narrow alleyways (some operating as restaurants and shops), fortress gates, temples, wells and other relics are the main attractions, many spruced up for visitors.

  • Top ChoiceSights in Shenzhen

    Design Society

    China's first dedicated museum of design, this architectural landmark opened with media fanfare in 2017 on the Shekou shore with its famous founding partner, London's V&A Museum. A focus on contemporary concerns is present in shows that have included the story of China through comics and cutting-edge local designers. The fabulous building, designed by Japanese architect Fumihiko Maki, has plenty of room for humongous exhibitions, an excellent cafe (plus a small rooftop coffee kiosk with ocean views) and a dim sum restaurant.

  • Sights in Guangzhou

    Canton Tower

    Built for the 2010 Asian games, this 604m tall tower was designed to look 'female' by its Dutch architects, earning it the nickname 'slim waisted' (小蛮腰, xiǎo mányāo). Most visitors flock here after dark to ogle the rainbow-lit exterior. Good views can be had from the grassy plaza south of the tower or across the river north near the museums area.

  • Sights in Shenzhen

    Museum of Contemporary Art & Planning Exhibition

    One of those thrillingly space-age, 'only in China' architectural projects, this gargantuan exhibition space designed by Coop Himmelb(l)au anchors Shenzhen’s Fútián Cultural District. Opened in 2016, the exterior is a vast curve of chrome planted among the city’s high-rises, while the entrance hall is a soaring atrium with a cloud-like mirrored art installation (perfect to take selfies in). Gallery spaces within house temporary exhibitions with an emphasis on contemporary art and design.

  • Sights in Guangzhou

    Dōngshān

    Tree-lined streets Xinhepu Lu (新河浦路), Xuguyuan Lu (恤孤院路) and Peizheng Lu (培正路) in the historic Dōngshān area offer a welcome respite from the city. Here you'll find schools and churches raised by American missionaries in the 1900s, and exquisite villas commissioned by overseas Chinese and military bigwigs of the Kuomintang.

  • Sights in Guangzhou

    Temple of the Six Banyan Trees

    This Buddhist temple complex was first built in AD 537 to enshrine Buddhist relics brought over from India and placed in the octagonal Decorated Pagoda (Huā Tǎ). The temple was given its current name by the exiled poet Su Dongbo in 1099, who waxed lyrical over the banyans in the courtyard. Though not the original trees, the current banyans are over 170 years old. You can see the character's 'six banyans' (liùróng) that Su wrote above the gates.