Shamian Island, Guangzhou [Plus where you need to stay]

Guangzhou, also called Canton, is the capital city of Guangdong Province. It’s a hotbed for entrepreneurs and traders as it has been for much of China’s history, but it’s also very well known for its culinary creations.

The bus from Humen to Guangzhou takes about 90 minutes and costs 40RMB (5aud) and terminated at the Guangzhou Railway Station, which is huge, and being Golden Week there are people everywhere! So, now it’s off to a Shamian Island, which is a bit strange because Guangzhou is an inland city…..

Getting there was easy, the subway is right there at the railway station, simply take line 2 to Gongyuanqian station, then swap onto line 1 to Huangsha Station. A quick taxi ride for less than 20RMB and we are at Shamian Island.

As it turns out, the island is bordered by the Zhujiang River on its southern side and to the northeast and west, it’s separated from land by a canal, officially making it an island joined to the mainland by a few bridges. It’s only about 1km long and 300m wide.

What makes the place special is it’s European architecture, and it’s peaceful leafy green pedestrian streets.

In the mid-1800’s British and French settled here and turned it into a foreign enclave packed with churches, banks, schools, offices and foreign consulates. After the British and French were kicked out or left , I’m not sure which,  in around the the 1950’s many of the buildings became factories and offices. Today, it’s been restored to it’s former glory and is a peaceful oasis within the busy city.

It’s a great place to take a relaxing stroll, enjoy the old western buildings and even just sit by the river. It’s very tourist focused, there’s plenty of shops selling trinkets and curios, several (overpriced) restaurants, cafes and few hotels. There’s a 7-eleven, several boutique clothes shops and a museum of sorts selling ancient Chinese artifacts. It’s also where the US consulate is located.

It’s a hugely popular place to get wedding shots, note I said shots and not weddings, apparently many in China simply rent the dress and suit, race off with the photographer and get the happy snaps, hand all the clothes back and it’s job done. I admire their practical nature and high level of efficiency.

For accommodation, we stayed at the Guangdong Victory Hotel which is on the island and also has a great western restaurant on the bottom floor. There are a bar and grill over by the river too, but it might be worth heading inland for something even tastier and much cheaper, see the following post about Shangxiajiu Pedestrian Street.

Building and Scenic Map – click image for larger version

 

Map featuring Shamian Island and my top picks for nearby hotels