From the vestiges of the city's past to the hints of its ultramodern future, the Pearl River's importance to Guangzhou is evident while walking, cycling and people-watching along its paved and shaded banks.
In times long past, the river was the city's highway, bringing goods from afar and affording transport to citizens. Now, more than 10 bridges span its murky depths, and tunnels for cars and subway lines criss-cross under it. Today the river's significance is in the sights and services along its banks. The entirety of the river bank is paved and landscaped, and early mornings and late afternoons will find crowds of people out getting their exercise along the sides of the mighty Pearl River.
With modernisation, the city's entertainment has largely shifted to shopping malls and indoor amusements, but Guangzhou's riverine culture is starting to perk up with the building of a slew of bars, nightclubs and restaurants along its banks.
1) Bai E Tan bar streetView In Map
In Liwan District, on the west side of Guangzhou, the famous bar street of Bai E Tan lines the bank just north of the Fangcun metro stop. Sip cocktails or beer at the various bars and clubs like Babyface and Amigos while watching ferry buses scoot across currents to Shamian Island, or meander along the paved riverfront pathway seeking out curious sculptures set in the foliage.
Add: Changdi Lu, Liwan District, Guangzhou
Getting there: Metro Line 1, Fangcun Station
2) Shamian Island
Taking the ferry from Bai E Tan to the north bank, visitors can walk in the footsteps of the city's Opium War-era foreign residents. Shamian Island was taken as a foreign concession after the Opium Wars in the 1800s, and some of that old architecture still remains. For that European flavour, elbow through the crowds taking wedding photos to check out the Our Lady of Lourdes Church (built in 1892) set along a tree-lined promenade. To the north of the footbridge separating Shamian Island from the Inner Ring Road, you can find the Huangsha metro station, and also the curiosities in Qingping Market. Here you can find Chinese traditional medicines and some fish, flowers and wildlife for sale.
Continuing eastward on Yanjiang West Road, riverfront strollers interested in architecture will find the Custom House, built in 1914, the wedge-shaped Ai Qun Hotel, built in the 1930s, and the Sun Yat-Sen Memorial Hospital, which Sun Yat-Sen attended in the 1800s.
3) The heart of nightlifeView In Map
More city nightlife hotspots can be found nearing Haizhu Square. After the sun goes down the party heats up at Soho Bar, Bound Club, Windsor Pub, German restaurant 1920 and others, all along Yanjiang West Road.
Add: Yanjiang Xilu, Yuexiu District, Guangzhou
Getting there: Metro Line 2, Haizhu Square Station
4) Night cruises
Before clubbing, Guangzhou partiers can check out the river's many night cruises. Most cruises depart from Dashatou Pier (大沙头码头) and Tianzi Pier (天字码头). Several companies run these cruises, which can offer you anything from a simple sight-seeing evening on the water to a snack of tea and fruit at white-clothed tables to a buffet dinner in style on their top deck. The cruises can be booked in person at the wharves, by the telephone numbers highlighted on the sides of the ships themselves, or through most city travel agencies and hotels. Prices range from 38 to 200 RMB per person.
Tianzi PierView In Map
Add: Beijing Road South, Guangzhou
Tel: 020 8333 0397; 020 8333 6420; 020 8333 6652; 020 8332 8296; 020 8337 7678
Dashatou PierView In Map
Add: 406 Yanjiang Dong Road, Guangzhou
Tel: 020 83833691, 020 83835300
5) Zhujiang New Town
Moving eastward from Haizhu Square, the area encompassing ErSha Island and the Zhujiang New Town waterfront is fast becoming the city's cultural hotspot.
Urban park Ersha Island houses international schools and tiny residences, as well as the Xinghai Concert Hall, which often hosts first-class musical events, and the neighbouring Guangdong Museum of Art.
Meanwhile, Zhujiang New Town's boulevard between lanes of the Zhujiang Dadao, which stretches from HuangPu DaDao to the river, hosts the Guangzhou Provincial Museum, the Guangdong Opera House and Haixinsha Tourist Park.
6) Canton Tower
Across the river from Ersha Island and Zhujiang New Town, tourists and locals alike converge on the twisty curves of the town's ‘supermodel', the 600-meter Canton Tower, in Haizhu District. West of the tower is the Sun Yat-Sen University campus wharf and the Golden Beach Water Paradise water park on Binjiang Dong Lu.
The Canton TowerView In Map
Add: 222 Yuejiang Lu, Haizhu District, Guangzhou
Opening hours: Daily, 10:00-21:00
Getting there: Metro Line 3 or APM to Chigang Pagoda.
7) Ending the day with a nice Zhujiang beer
And finally, what better beverage to drink while looking at the Pearl River than the local brew, Zhujiang (in English, Pearl River) Beer? East of the Canton Tower, past the Liede Bridge, is the burgeoning Party Pier, a beer-focused group of newish restaurants, clubs and bars around the Pearl River Beer brewery. Some of the venues here include Ami's Inn, and Sun's Bar Lounge. There's lots of outdoor seating for clear-day views of the river. The brewery also has a museum explaining brewing history and technology.
Zhujiang-InBev International Beer Museum View In Map
Add: 118 Modiesha Avenue, Xingang Donglu, Haizhu District, Guangzhou
Tel: 020 8420 2521
Getting there: Metro Line 8 to Chigang Station, exit C1, transfer to Bus No. B7 to Yuejiang Middle Road, walk 200m west. Or, Buses No. 779, 765 to Zhujiang-Inbev International Beer Museum Station.
Price: 50 RMB
Hours: 8:30-12:00, 13:00-16:45
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Keywords: Pearl River Guangzhou travelling to Guangzhou things to see Guangzhou nightlife in Guangzhou Bai E Tan Guangzhou
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