Guangzhou's grim reputation as a crowded, hazy and fast-moving city can quickly disappear within its many parks and river walks. This southern metropolis does have its forest cover, and is in fact one of the greenest cities in the southern region. Having a long, lazy meal in the open air then becomes a fantastic getaway from the urban avenues, if you can choose the right spot and pleasant weather. Even in some of the city's most central areas, the curbside trees are abundant enough to make the enormous roads disappear as you watch from your table several stories up. While Guangzhou may not have the outdoor cafe culture of Europe, or nearly the number of small street-side stalls as Southeast Asia, it does offer more than a few garden dining areas, rooftop sections and patios on which to have a meal in tranquility.
This list of nine outdoor eateries in Guangzhou includes a few of the city's famous establishments along with a few you probably haven't heard of. It does not attempt to cover every zone of the city, and goes heavy on the riverside and the Shamian area. A few notable restaurants which have been left off, but which deserve mention are The Carousel, Garden Hotel's 30th story dining area (which is actually indoors), and Lucy's at Shamian Park. You can also find outdoor restaurants and tea houses within many of the city's parks, including smaller ones such as the Orchid Gardens across from Yuexiu Park and even little-known, neighborhoody Xiaogang Park.
1) Qi Lin Xuan Restaurant 琪林轩View In Map
Nestled in Guangzhou's Botanical Gardens, alongside a lake and surrounded with trees, Qi Lin Xuan provides one of the nicest outdoor environments in Guangzhou and a reasonably-priced menu as well. During peak hours, it's often packed, but get there early or during off hours, and you have the relaxing setting mostly to yourself. Not only that, but you're just a few-minutes' walk away from the park's various gardens, including the lovely Medicinal Herb Garden and the Orchid Garden. Qi Lin Xuan serves mostly Cantonese food, with its most popular dishes being fish, chicken, goose, tofu and beef ribs. Their menu has items from between 15 and 160 RMB, but many dishes hover around 30.
Outdoor capacity: About 100 people
Best time to get a seat: Anytime Monday to Friday, but before 11:30 am on weekends
Reservations: Yes. One day ahead
Does the outdoor section close?: Nope. Open all the time.
Well-covered?: Yes. Covered with a roofing made of plastic, wood and dry grasses. Good for summer and winter.
Address: South China Botanical Garden, 1190 Tianyuan Lu, Tianhe District (inside the park), Guangzhou
Telephone: 020 8523 1931
Directions: Take metro Line 3 to Tianhe Coach Terminal. Use exit B, cross the street and head to the bus stop to the left. Take bus 235, 28, 28A, 30, 39, 84,534, 535 or 564 about ten minutes and get off at South China Botanical Gardens bus stop (Huananzhiwuyuan). Once inside the park, you'll see a map with the location of the restaurant, which is along the right side of the lake.
2) Liuhua Congee House 流花粥城View In Map
Liuhua Congee House in Liuhua park is one of the more central and lovely outdoor eateries. Add to that spacious as well. Liuhua's expansive corridor and outdoor section include two fish ponds, a multitude of plants and a view of the beautiful surrounding park environment. Liuhua is most known for its dim sum and congee, but also impresses visitors with its sashimi, grilled items and Cantonese food. Expect variety here, especially in their dim sum and congee. Most plates are between 25 and 80 RMB, but their sashimi starts at 60.
Outdoor capacity: Corridor 50, Outdoors 70; the corridor seats are indoors and with a view
Best time to get a seat: Monday to Friday before 6 pm for dinner. On weekends and holidays, before 11:30 am for lunch and before 5:30 pm for dinner.
Does the outdoor section close?: It is closed when it is raining.
Well-covered?: Outdoor seats only use big umbrellas for the sunshine
Address: Liuhua Park, 903 Renmin Beilu, Yuexiu District (inside the park), Guangzhou
Telephone: 020 8668 0108
Directions: Take bus 181, 186, 31, 251, 260, 33, 38, 518 or 823 and get off at Liuhua Gongyuan bus stop. The sign by the gate should show you how to walk to the restaurant, which is about five minutes away.
3) 136 Sleeping Wood Café 枕木136 View In Map
This eclectically-decorated bar features a small, outdoor riverside section and a menu assortment of pizzas, pastas, steak and baked rice. They even serve up burritos. Popular mostly at night, when they light candles and have music, the outdoor tables and their wood surroundings make for a relaxing lunchtime spot also, if you're not bothered by the traffic noise. Because it is primarily a bar, drinks are much more expensive than many restaurants, unless you arrive at happy hour. Depending on your tastes, you can drop between 30 and 300 RMB for a meal.
Outdoor capacity: Around 10 to 15 people
Best time to get a seat: Arrive a little earlier than mealtime on weekends. Because ti is a bar, the busiest hours are after 9 o'clock.
Does the outdoor section close?: Yes. It closes in the rain.
Well-covered?: Only with sunblocking umbrellas
Address: First Floor, 195 Yanjiang Zhonglu, Yuexiu District, Guangzhou
Telephone: 020 8318 1198
Directions: Metro: Take Line 2 to Haizhu Square. Take exit A, walk twenty yards to the road by the Pearl River and turn left. About ten minutes walking should take you to the restaurant on your left.
Bus: Take bus 1, 183 or 544 to Nanguan bus stop. Walk towards the river, turn right, and five minutes more should find the restaurant on your right.
4) Rendezvous (Rendez遇Vous)View In Map
Not far out of the way of Haizhu Square or Shamian Island, Rendezvous overlooks the Haizhu bridge from the south bank of the Peal River. This French and Vietnamese restaurant features a third-floor rooftop section which overlooks the bridge, and offers an especially attractive view after 7 pm, when the riverside lights go on. Rendezvous' look is classy and elegant, and it mostly follows through with quality in its dishes as well. The imaginative menu, featuring more than one French-Vietnamese fusion, also offers several pages of Asian and Western desserts. Expect to spend between 30 and 108 for a main dish.
Outdoor capacity: Can seat around 35 guests
Best time to get a seat: Get there before 6 pm for dinner on weekdays. On weekends come early for lunch or dinner or make a reservation.
Does the outdoor section close?: No
Well-covered?: It is covered with a roof, but will get a little hot during the summer.
Address: 272 Binjiang Zhonglu, Haizhu District, Guangzhou
Telephone: 020 8922 8169, 3146 9973
Directions: Metro: Take metro Line 2 to Haizhu Square, take Exit A and cross Haizhu bridge. The restaurant is on the corner of Binjiang Zhong Lu and Jiangnan Dadaobei, just to your left crossing the bridge.
Bus: Take bus 121 or 131, get off at Haizhuqiaodi bus stop and walk towards the bridge about 3 minutes. The restaurant will be on your left.
5) Zhangji Lamb Restaurant 张记清补羊肉城View In Map
I discovered this little Cantonese restaurant just walking along the south side of the river and it quickly became a favorite. Like Rendezvous, it's right by the Haizhu Bridge and up close to the water. Though its bamboo fence doesn't allow as fine of a view, its second-story balcony section is a refreshing and peaceful place to eat when the weather allows it. Zhangji Lamb Restaurant is most known for its hotpot, but carries a full array of Cantonese cuisine along with a variety of fruit-flavored flat breads, which you will find being cooked outside the front door. Dishes range between 20 and 70 RMB, with most close to 30.
Outdoor capacity: About 25 people
Best time to get a seat: At lunch, aytime. For dinner, get there around 6 pm.
Does the outdoor section close?: In the rain
Well-covered?: No covering
Address: 270 Binjiang Xilu, Haizhu District, Guangzhou
Telephone: 020 8444 6202
Directions: Metro: Take metro Line 2 to Haizhu Square, take Exit A and cross Haizhu bridge. Turn right and the restaurant is immediately on your left.
Bus: Take bus 121 or 131, get off at Haizhuqiaodi bus stop, walk toward the Haizhu bridge, go under the bridge and you will find the restaurant on your left
6) Hongxingyidu Seafood Restaurant 鸿星艺都海鲜酒家View In Map
Though you might not know the name, or be able to pronounce it, Hongxingyidu is one of Guangzhou's most well-known restaurants and is featured in nearly every guide to the city. It's long riverside corridor, busy and overflowing at night, is practically a local sight in itself. Just five minutes on foot from Haizhu square and next to one of the riverside piers, Hongxingyidu offers every kind of seafood and a wide selection of Cantonese cuisine. You can even pick your own seafood from the restaurant's indoor tanks, which are large enough to fill up much of the first floor and could probably function as a city aquarium. You'll have difficulty eating on a budget here, but you can find some 20-30 RMB dishes if you have a sharp eye. Pricier offerings run into the hundreds.
Outdoor capacity: About 15 tables (minimum 480 RMB spending for outdoor table)
Best time to get a seat: For dinner, either make a reservation, or get there before 6:30 pm.
Does the outdoor section close?: No. Always open.
Well-covered?: Most of it is roof-covered
Address: 198 Yanjiang Zhonglu, Yuexiu District, Guangzhou
Telephone: 020 8318 4909, 8318 4901
Directions: Metro: Take Line 2 to Haizhu Square. Take exit A, walk twenty yards to the road by the Pearl River and turn left. About three minutes walking will take you to the restaurant on your left.
Bus: Take bus 1, 183 or 544 to Nanguan bus stop. Walk towards the river, turn right, and ten minutes more should find the restaurant on your right.
7) The Original German Restaurant (formerly Station One) 车卡德国餐厅View In Map
Built inside of an actual train, with nostalgic furniture and lamps, the indoor section of The Original German Restaurant is more popular than the outdoor. However, while not providing much of a riverside view, the fenced open-air section is serene enough lined with flowering potted plants and trees. Besides German food, you can choose between pizza, steak, dessert, wine and beer. Prices range between 35 and 150 RMB.
Outdoor capacity: About 40 people
Best time to get a seat: On weekends, it's better to arrive before 7 pm for dinner.
Does the outdoor section close?: Closes in the rain
Well-covered?: Only umbrellas
Address: 1 Samian Beijie, Liwan District, Guangzhou
Telephone: 020 8121 8882
Directions: Take bus 110, 105, 103, 102, 538 or 81 and get off at Wenhuagongyuan (Cultural Park) bus terminal. Walk toward Renmin bridge, and after you go under the bridge you will find the restaurant on your left. It should take about 5 minutes.
8 ) The Rose Garden Club玫瑰园西餐厅View In Map
The Rose Garden Club in Shamian Park has one of Guangzhou's best riverside views, and the quiet shade of the park's Banyan trees along with it. Their mix of Chinese and international food includes steak, baked rice, seafood, spaghetti and curry. You can drop between 35 to 150 RMB on a dish here, and wine goes for between 150 and 800.
Outdoor capacity: Almost 100 people
Best time to get a seat: Best to make reservation on the weekends
Does the outdoor section close?: When it rains
Well-covered?: No cover
Address: Shamian Park, 3 Shamian Nanjie, Liwan District, Guangzhou
Telephone: 020 8121 8008
Directions: Take metro Line 1 to Huangsha and use Exit D. Cross over walking bridge, continue straight on and turn left after Victory Hotel. You will arrive at Shamian Park with The Rose Garden at its right end.
Bus: Take bus 110, 105, 103, 102, 538 or 81 and get off at Wenhua Gongyuan (Cultural Park) bus terminal. Walk under the Renmin bridge and you will reach the Shamian area. Walk along Shamian Nanjie (South Shamian Street) and you will find Shamian park with the restaurant at its right end. It should take around 15 minutes.
9) Songfeng Xuan Restaurant 松风轩View In Map
Songfeng Xuan Restaurant is one of a few places where you can literally combine eating and sight-seeing and get good results at both. Located about a forty-minute walk from Mount Baiyun's west gate, their second-floor patio section is surrounded by dense trees and a view of the mountain's rippling hills. Even if you dine indoors, you'll find plenty of greenery, along with a colorful carp pond. Song Feng Xuan's cuisine is thoroughly Cantonese, with chicken, pig's feet and tofu among their most popular items. Dim sum and tea are a morning specialty. Most items here go for about 20 to 90 RMB.
**When it's not too busy, Songfeng Xuan Restaurant can send a van to pick you up at the west gate of the mountain. This will allow to enter the park for free, and of course arrive at the restaurant quite a lot faster.
Outdoor capacity: Sight-seeing area on 2nd floor has 24 seats
Best time to get a seat: Get there before 12 pm for lunch and before 6 pm for dinner.
Does the outdoor section close?: Closes in the rain
Well-covered?: No cover
Address: Baiyun Mountain Mingzhulou Tour Area, 1128 Baiyun Dadao, Baiyun District, Guangzhou
Telephone: 020 3620 9288
Directions: Take bus 127, 223, 501, 76A , 885, 265, 36, 38, 76, 891, 265 or 245 to Baiyunshan Ximen (Baiyun mountain west gate) bus stop. Entering the west gate you will see a map showing you how to walk to the restaurant. It may take around 35 minutes.
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