The impressive port city on the Pearl River

Located where the North, East and West rivers converge to forge the mighty Pearl River, Guangzhou is at the epicenter of south China’s Greater Bay Area.

The vast, steamy capital of the Guangdong province has a cityscape that contrasts high-rise towers with palm tree flanked boulevards. It is also practically a buzzword for ‘boom time’ China (the chances are a garment you are wearing or a utensil you are using was made here). Yet Guangzhou’s association with manufacturing and trade belies a rich cultural heritage that informs the character of this ultra-modern metropolis.

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What to see and where to eat in Guangzhou

Before you dive into modern-day Guangzhou, dip into the city’s past with a visit to the Museum of the Mausoleum of the Nanyue King, which houses the 2,000 year-old tomb of Zhao Mo (interestingly, it was not discovered until 1983 when a local farmer unearthed it while gardening).

Equally important is the towering Buddhist Temple of the Six Banyan Trees: do not miss the stunning Flower pagoda (named because the roofs curve upwards like petals).

One great way to get a feel for the city is on a leisurely cruise along the Pearl River. You will pass snap-worthy sights such as the futuristic Guangzhou Opera House – the performance venue was designed by Zaha Hadid Architects and shaped to resemble two pebbles – and the soaring Canton Tower, which is illuminated at night like a 21st-century version of a pagoda.

The landmark building itself offers panoramic views, whether you plump for the Cloud Observation deck or the bubble tram – a series of glass pods which slowly rotate around the outside of the building.

If you have children in tow, head for the Chimelong Paradise, the largest amusement park in China with 70 rides and rollercoasters, an ice rink, 4D cinema and a daily Lumberjack show with whooping yee-ha performances by American cowboys. For something more serene, spend an afternoon wandering the pretty laidback island of Shamian, a sandy outcropping on the Pearl River, with tree-lined boulevards and smart 19th-century European-style mansions originally built to house British and French merchants during the late-Qing dynasty.

The key shopping areas in Guangzhou are Beijing Street, Shangxiajiu Street and several malls in Zhujiang New Town. The latter also happens to be one of the buzziest foodie hubs in the city, where you will find just about anything from a real Italian pizza to a chicken madras curry.

Tellingly there are more restaurants per capita here than any other Chinese city – which is saying something. Dim Sum restaurants (some three-storeys high) are scattered across the city while atmospheric Tea Canteens – the South’s interpretation of Western cafes – offer inexpensive bites like pineapple buns and Cantonese milk tea. Or if you fancy seafood, head to the Guangzhou Restaurant in the Liwan district for the best prawn dumplings around.

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