Shamian Island

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Shamian Island

Top choice in Guangzhou

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.

The island (it's not really; the narrow channel to the north was dug by the British to detach it from the city) was acquired as a foreign concession in 1859 after the second Opium War. At its peak, Shamian was home to consulates, banks and trading firms from all over the globe. Today several of these heritage buildings house hotels, cafes and eateries.

Lonely Planet's must-see attractions

Nearby Guangzhou attractions

1. Church of Our Lady of Lourdes

0.16 MILES

Dating from 1890, this Roman Catholic church marks the edge of the French concession (everything due west of here on Shamian Island was administered by…

2. Shamian Clubhouse

0.22 MILES

The ‘Red Mansion’ (c 1907), once Shamian’s grandest abode, fuses features of British colonial architecture such as colonnades and louvre windows with the…

3. Qingping Chinese Medicine Market

0.25 MILES

Just north of the channel that divides Shamian Island from the city, this tumbledown market is a sensory delight, with open-fronted vendors arranged…

4. Canton Customs Mansion

0.37 MILES

The Guangdong customs building (c 1916) is one of the most impressive concession-era structures remaining along the waterfront. Designed by a British…

5. Shangxiajiu Pedestrian Street

0.51 MILES

Crowds march up and down this kilometre-long shopping thoroughfare that begins towards the eastern end of Dishifu Lu. The early-20th-century buildings…

6. Bahe Academy

0.63 MILES

Formerly a guild hall for Cantonese opera practitioners, Bahe Academy opened in 1889 to provide lodging and other services to opera troupes. It now serves…

7. Ancestral Home of Bruce Lee

0.78 MILES

The last house along the first lane off Yongqing Fang (永庆坊), an alleyway running north under an arch from Enning Lu, was the ancestral home of kung fu…

8. Luányú Táng

0.78 MILES

Luányú Táng is a 200-year-old union for actors playing martial-arts and acrobatic roles in Cantonese opera. The union still gives theatrical martial-arts…