3 Hour Activities


QINGPING MARKET
Liuersan Lu, Liwan district
+86-020-8122-9988
清平市场:荔湾区六二三路清平市场

YOULIAN CAIGUAN RESTAURANT
163 Shanmulan Lu, Liwan district
+86-020-8187-6751
友联菜馆:荔湾区杉木栏路163号

A TASTE OF TRADITION

  • Discover one of Guangzhou’s most authentic local markets
  • Shop for only-here souvenirs, exotic spices, and herbal medicines
  • Explore the stately time-capsule architecture of Shamian Island

Qingping Market has played a vital role in Guangzhou’s commercial life for decades, serving the agricultural and herbal-medicine trades from its sprawling quarters on the western side of the city. In earlier days Qingping’s meat and fish vendors were famous (or notorious) for selling much of their product live or freshly butchered; a few visitors surely converted to vegetarianism after wandering through those market stalls. In the 2000s, however, Guangzhou began imposing stricter sanitation measures, cracking down on vendors’ more, er, visceral practices. The atmosphere is much tamer now, but Qingping remains a favored haunt for home cooks and restaurant chefs alike—and, not least, for devotees of Traditional Chinese Medicine, whose staple ingredients are sold here in vast quantities. And the market offers a glimpse of a China less seen today, as you stroll among rows upon rows of exotic spices, dried mushrooms, goji berries, and ginseng.
After you’ve roamed the stalls and worked up an appetite, head to the award-winning YouLian CaiGuan restaurant nearby, celebrated for its delectable Qingping chicken, a more tender breed from a nearby mountain town. Baiqie ji (白切鸡), or “white cut chicken,” gently poached in brine, is a hallmark of Guangzhou’s subtle yet flavorful cooking style. Order a small portion, served bone-in with a dish of ginger-scallion oil for dipping, and pair it with a side of tender mustard greens with pork cracklings. The no-frills dining room has as much character as the stern ladies taking orders from ravenous crowds.
Ready to walk off lunch? Head south, cross the main road, and take the pedestrian bridge to charming Shamian Island. Once given over to foreign concessions, Shamian still houses the American consulate and other well-preserved examples of stately Western architecture. There’s not a whole lot on this narrow sandbank island beyond the odd shop and café, but it’s great for people-watching: Chinese folks love taking selfies with Shamian’s broad lanes and green foliage for a backdrop.

Qingping Market and Shamian Island are in the Liwan district, about 25 to 30 minutes west of the Conrad by cab. (The concierge can assist with taxi directions, or arrange a car and driver for the excursion.) Wear comfortable shoes and dress accordingly—the seafood market can be a little wet. And if you’re planning to take back souvenirs, check your home country’s customs restrictions before making purchases.

QINGPING MARKET
Liuersan Lu, Liwan district
+86-020-8122-9988
清平市场:荔湾区六二三路清平市场

YOULIAN CAIGUAN RESTAURANT
163 Shanmulan Lu, Liwan district
+86-020-8187-6751
友联菜馆:荔湾区杉木栏路163号

KUI YUAN GALLERY AND CAFÉ
9 Xuguyuan Lu, Yuexiu district
+86-020-8765-9746
lwz9.com
逵园艺术馆:越秀区恤孤院路9号

ART23
23 Qiming Sanmalu, Yuexiu district
+86-2882-980-5355
art23gz@136.com
越秀区启明社区启明三马路23号

DIG INTO DONGSHAN

  • Stroll a leafy neighborhood where historic mansions are converted into shops and galleries
  • Visit a rotating exhibition space and sip coffee on the elegant balcony
  • Try vegan versions of classic Chinese dishes in a modern setting

In the first half of the 20th century, the Dongshan neighborhood (just west of Guangzhou’s new downtown) was one of the first enclaves in the city to modernize, thanks to foreign missionaries who built Western-style houses and schools here, followed by returning expat Chinese, who continued the trend, lining its tree-shaded lanes with elegant red-brick-and-ocher mansions. (One famous former resident: Mao Zedong, who briefly lived in a house that’s now a history museum.) Decades after Dongshan’s first heyday, its architecture is being given new life, with disused houses now occupied by stylish boutiques, galleries, bars, and restaurants—which makes Dongshan’s leafy, meandering avenues and flower-fringed canal an ideal area to spend a few hours. Some mansions are known for their magnificent gardens; one of the most exquisite is Kui Yuan house (built in 1922), where rotating exhibitions are held in the ground-floor gallery. Upstairs, a warren of rooms is given over to a quirky furniture collection, along with a chic café—if the weather’s nice, opt for a balcony table and sip your coffee while overlooking the sun-dappled streets below. Just a short walk from Kui Yuan, Art23 is a new community-conscious center for artists, offering exhibition space as well as continuing art education. The Conrad concierge can give you information about what’s on at Art23 and other galleries around Dongshan, as well as restaurant and bar recommendations for the neighborhood.

The mansion enclave of old Dongshan is located within the Yuexiu district, a 15-to-20-minute taxi ride from the Conrad, depending on traffic. The galleries below as well as other cafés and boutiques are all less than 15 minutes on foot from the Dongshankou station.

KUI YUAN GALLERY AND CAFÉ
9 Xuguyuan Lu, Yuexiu district
+86-020-8765-9746
lwz9.com
逵园艺术馆:越秀区恤孤院路9号

ART23
23 Qiming Sanmalu, Yuexiu district
+86-2882-980-5355
art23gz@136.com
越秀区启明社区启明三马路23号

YUEXIU PARK
988 Jiefang Beilu, Yuexiu district
+86-020-8666-1950
越秀公园,越秀区解放北路988号

BEIYUAN RESTAURANT
202 Xiaobeilu, Yuexiu district
+86-020-8356-3365
beiyuancuisine.com
北园酒家:越秀区小北路202号

ESCAPE THE CITY

  • Leave the urban grid behind and retreat to Guangzhou’s largest park
  • Float across the lake in a paddleboat
  • Feast on amazing dim sum in a Chinese garden

Crowned by seven hills and extending across 212 acres, Yuexiu Park is the sprawling centerpiece of Guangzhou, the city’s beating green heart at any time of year. In spring, fragrant blossoms perfume the air. At the height of summer, families rent paddleboats for lazy rides around the park’s three lakes. Even in winter, given Guangzhou’s mild climate, you’ll find plenty of locals enjoying a respite from the city just beyond the trees. Whatever the season, Yuexiu Park is the perfect place to witness a day in the life of Guangzhou. Come before sunrise to join the early-rising faithful for tai chi, or return at sundown to witness the charming spectacle of communal line dancing, a national pastime. Up the hill you’ll find the iconic Five Rams Statue, a tribute to what local folklore calls “the guardians of Guangzhou.” Throughout the park, the mix of professional and amateur entertainment varies daily and unpredictably, whether it’s an ad hoc performance by a group of opera singers, or a group of kung fu students decked out in Feiyue sneakers, practicing their moves.
Once you’ve walked enough to work up an appetite, hop in a taxi to Beiyuan (near the park’s southeastern edge) for one of the great dim sum experiences in Guangzhou. An institution since the 1920s, Beiyuan is known not only for its extensive menu of local specialties—including a fine version of Dongjiang salt-baked chicken, and some traditional herbal-medicine-based soups—but also for its splendid garden, complete with elegant topiary and a carp pond.

Yuexiu Park is open from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily; it’s about a 25-minute taxi ride from the Conrad, depending on traffic. Beiyuan is just a quick taxi ride (or a longer walk) from the southeastern edge of the park.

YUEXIU PARK
988 Jiefang Beilu, Yuexiu district
+86-020-8666-1950
越秀公园,越秀区解放北路988号

BEIYUAN RESTAURANT
202 Xiaobeilu, Yuexiu district
+86-020-8356-3365
beiyuancuisine.com
北园酒家:越秀区小北路202号

FLOATING OPERA AT ZHUJIANG RED BOAT PIER
Cruises depart from a dedicated pier at East Zone, Haixinsha Asian Games Park, Tianhe district
+86-020-8558-8772
珠江红船《船说》: 珠江新城临江大道海心沙东区红船码头

RIDE THE RIVER

  • Enjoy a nighttime cruise on the majestic Pearl River
  • Watch a contemporary spin on Cantonese opera, with state-of-the-art stage effects
  • Stroll back to the hotel and take in skyline views from the riverbank

Find an elderly person on the streets of Guangzhou and you’ll probably hear the trebly wail of Cantonese opera playing somewhere in the background. For a certain generation, it’s the most beloved—and ubiquitous—music there is. And while Cantonese opera’s pageantry is mesmerizing—all opulent costumes, bedazzled headdresses, and portrait-like face painting—the genre’s high-pitched, often shrill singing style (interrupted with bouncy strings and gong blasts) has lost its allure among the younger generation. Its continuation as a living art form is in jeopardy. And so the Floating Opera, which combines narrative elements from Cantonese opera with contemporary stage effects (and a more up-to-date delivery), has set out to rescue this vaunted tradition. Set on a retro riverboat, it’s an interactive performance that sends audiences moving from one stage to another, complete with holograms, lasers, and state-of-the-art special effects. Kitschy? Most certainly. A revealing glimpse of Chinese tradition in the 21st century? No question. We can’t assure you’ll come away a fan of Cantonese opera (past or present), but we guarantee you’ll be entertained and edified.

The Conrad concierge can book tickets to the Floating Opera cruise (aka “A Tale of Cantonese Opera”), which departs at 8 p.m. Tuesdays through Sundays, returning approximately 90 minutes later. You can walk from the Conrad direct to the pier, which is located on nearby Haixinsha, a tiny island developed for the 2010 Asian Games.

FLOATING OPERA AT ZHUJIANG RED BOAT PIER
Cruises depart from a dedicated pier at East Zone, Haixinsha Asian Games Park, Tianhe district
+86-020-8558-8772
珠江红船《船说》: 珠江新城临江大道海心沙东区红船码头