We asked Kent Li, Chief Concierge at Four Seasons Hotel Guangzhou, to gather the savviest sight-seeing suggestions he could find—not just his own, but also those of other local connoisseurs, including some he works with every day at the Hotel. Formerly Canton, Guangzhou is the capital of southern Guangdong province and is a modern city with an ancient heritage. From its perch along the Pearl River, Guangzhou offers sophisticated arts and entertainment while celebrating Cantonese culture and the city’s famously refined cuisine.
From vantage points throughout Guangzhou, the soaring Canton Tower provides a striking landmark—an architectural exclamation point—along the historic Pearl River. Completed in time for Guangzhou’s hosting of the 2010 Asian Games, this 600-metre-tall (2,000-foot) structure serves as the world’s highest TV transmission tower as well as a tourist observation platform with superb 360-degree views over the Pearl River Delta. The slender structure, which twists on its axis halfway up, has been nicknamed xiao man yao, meaning “young girl with tight waist.” Sitting on top is the world’s highest Ferris wheel. Hop inside one of the enclosed glass pods to enjoy the views during a 30-minute single rotation. The highest observation deck is perched 454 metres (1,500 feet) above Guangzhou—with triangular, protruding glass boxes that give the impression you are floating on air.
Although a vibrant port city and the commercial centre for southern China, Guangzhou is aiming to raise its profile as a destination for performance art. Across the Pearl River from the Canton Tower is another stunning piece of modern architecture, the Guangzhou Opera House. Variously described as a sci-fi oyster shell and a glassy shark’s mouth, it was designed by Pritzker Architecture Prize winner Zaha Hadid. The acoustics are superb, and it’s well worth visiting even if you don’t wish to see an opera or orchestral concert by international performers, or a traditional Chinese theatre production.
Traditional Folk Art
First established in 1894 as the Chen Clan preparatory academy for students taking the Imperial exams, the Guangdong Folk Art Museum is housed in a stunning Chinese courtyard mansion. Created in slate and stone with upturned eaves, ornamental carvings and painted wooden beams, the cultural centre and gallery houses an impressive collection of calligraphy, landscape paintings, jade carvings, porcelain, embroidery and antique Chinese furnishings. Wandering the halls, courtyards and gardens offers insights into traditional southern Chinese architecture—and the gentry who funded and built these magnificent buildings.
Refined Cantonese Dining
Guangzhou citizens love to eat, and no wonder, given that their city is the original home of dim sum plus one of China’s most famous types of cuisine: Cantonese. Located in an old Southern Han dynasty garden beside Liwan Lake, Panxi Restaurant has been a cherished local eatery for more than 60 years. The setting—leafy courtyard gardens with ponds, banyan trees and red lanterns—is almost as pleasant as the refined Cantonese and Chaozhou cooking, with popular dishes including steamed shrimp dumplings, Baiqie chicken, suckling pig and water chestnut cake.