Best way to spend 3 days in Guangzhou, China

Planning a trip to China and looking to explore the country beyond the usual Shanghai or Beijing basics? Do you have a long layover at Guangzhou Baiyun International Airport? Then, you can consider Guangzhou, the third largest city in China. Known for its breathtaking riverside with towering skyscrapers as the background, Guangzhou also boasts several historical and cultural attractions. It’s a long way to come for just 3 days, but if that’s all you can spare, then this suggested itinerary will be very useful. There are of course numerous other destinations in this city so you might want to mix and match the suggestions below to create your own itinerary.

Things to know before traveling to Guangzhou, China:

Language – Standard Chinese and Mandarin Chinese are the official languages of China. Learning the language is not necessary, especially in big cities like Beijing and Shanghai, but speaking at least some Chinese phrases or attempting to learn is greatly appreciated by the locals.

Currency exchange – Chinese Yuan (also known as Renminbi) is the official currency of China. Exchanging money is easy and follows the same standard to elsewhere in Asia. You can exchange currency at the airport, hotels, malls, local banks, and money changers throughout China. ATMs are plentiful, all accepting international credit cards and debit cards, so it’s easy to withdraw your money in CNY. Credits cards are commonly accepted in most mid-range to high-end restaurants and hotels.

Chinese Yuan currency bills
Chinese Yuan currency bills (Club4traveler/

Tourist visa – Visitors who have a layover in Guangzhou, China are eligible to get a free 72-Hour Transit Visa. Nationalities from Schengen countries (Austria, Belgium, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden and Switzerland), the United States of America, Canada, the United Kingdom, Russia, Ireland, Cyprus, Bulgaria, Romania, Ukraine, Serbia, Croatia, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Montenegro, Macedonia, Albania, Brazil, Mexico, Argentina, Chile, Korea, Japan, Singapore, Brunei, United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Australia and New Zealand are qualified to take advantage of 72-Hour Visa Free Transit Policy.

Getting there – Guangzhou Baiyun International Airport is located 28 km (17 mi) from the city center of Guangzhou and is one of the main air hubs in China, ranked 3rd in passenger volume. The airport serves flights to and from most major and some smaller cities in China, and some international destinations including Amsterdam, Bangkok, Frankfurt, Hong Kong, Kathmandu, London, Paris, Manila, Melbourne, Moscow, Dubai, Kuala Lumpur, San Francisco, Seoul, Singapore, Taipei, and Tokyo. If you are travelling to Hong Kong and you want to experience a little bit of China, then you can take a direct train from Hong Kong’s Hung Hom Station to Guangzhou Station.

Getting around – Getting around in China is very easy thanks to its comprehensive road system and the subway system. In Guangzhou, taking the subway (Metro) is the most convenient and reliable way to get to your destinations. If traveling great distances (ex. Guangzhou to Xi’an or Guangzhou to Guilin), you can take a short commercial flight or take an overnight train. Before your trip, make sure to download a map of Metro/China Railways on your smart phone or secure a paper copy.

Accommodation – There are many types of holiday accommodation in China from luxury hotels to cheaper accommodation like youth hostels and bed and breakfast. In Guangzhou, hotels/hostels nearby subway or railway stations are recommended for travelers. You may also stay anywhere near the Beijing Road to get easy access to tourist attractions and dining options.

Hotel to consider in Guangzhou:

Oakwood Premier Guangzhou

The Ritz-Carlton, Guangzhou

Mandarin Oriental, Guangzhou

Sofitel Guangzhou Sunrich

Four Seasons Hotel Guangzhou

Day by day itinerary: Best way to spend 3 days in Guangzhou, China

Day 1

Depending on your time of arrival, you can both take it easy and soak up the atmosphere in the city or you can begin your tour of its famous attractions. Check into your preferred accommodation and rest a little before you start your walking tour.

Make your way to your first destination, Temple of Six Banyan Trees (Liurong Temple), which is one of the most famous Buddhist temples in Guangzhou. This temple on Liurong Road was originally built in AD 537 during the Liang Dynasty. When it was ruined by fire during the Song Dynasty, it was only until AD 989 that it was rebuilt. You might be wondering why it’s called Temple of Six Banyan Trees? It’s because a traveler in the year 1100 saw 6 Banyan trees in the temple complex. Those 6 Banyan trees no longer existed today.

Flower Pagoda, Temple of Six Banyan Trees, Guangzhou, China
Flower Pagoda, Temple of Six Banyan Trees (Pavel L Photo and Video /

Sticking with the history theme, it is best to squeeze in a trip to the Guangzhou Museum, which houses one of the world’s best collections of Chinese art. The museum has a rich and diverse collections of traditional Chinese art from Ming and Qing Dynasty, ancient halls and other objects of cultural and historical significance. Here, you’ll also learn about Guangzhou’s role as the starting point of the Maritime Silk Road to the South China Sea Route.

In the evening, get a taste of Guangzhou’s nightlife at the Binjiang Lu Bar Street and enjoy a fantastic night view of Pearl River. You may also watch Chimelong International Circus, one of the largest permanent circuses in the world. One of the most jaw-dropping shows in China, this cultural extravagance combines Chinese acrobatics, Chinese martial arts, aerial ballet dance, spectacular visuals and live music into one show. Tickets for the show cost 45 USD and this is money well spent.

Pearl River, Guangzhou, China
Pearl River and Guangzhou’s Business District (zhangyuqiu /

Day 2

A trip to Guangzhou would not be complete without a visit to Shamian Island, an elliptical sandbank island bordering the Pearl River located in the Liwan District. During the late 19th Century, the island was used for trade by the British and French companies. As you take the scenic walk along the island, you’ll notice that most of the structures have European architecture.

Back alley street scene along Shamian Street on Shamian Island, Guanzghou city, China.
Back alley street scene along Shamian Street on Shamian Island (Urban Napflin /

Another attraction you should not miss is the Chen Clan Ancestral Hall-Folk Craft Museum. Also called Chen Clan Academy, the temple was built by the Chen Clan as an offering to their ancestors and as a place for the next generation to study. Aside from its vast array of heritage, the ancestral temple itself has a magnificent architecture with an equally interesting history.

End the day at Xiaozhou Village, a centuries-old village located in Zhuhai district. Located at the southern outskirts of the city, the village has one of the most beautiful canal systems in China. If you would like to get to know the canal area from a different perspective, then you can join one of the guided tours, which will take you past historic buildings, picturesque bridges, local dumpling shops, quaint coffee shops and art shops.

Day 3

Everyone knows that Chinese cuisine is among the oldest in the world. It considered as one of the most diverse culinary heritages with thousands of years of development. On your last day in Guangzhou, join Eating Adventures Food Tour, which is one of the leading food tours offered in the city based on TripAdvisor reviews. This food tour include a service of a knowledgeable tour guide, transportation, 5 to 6 authentic Chinese cuisine locations and morning market tour.

If you still have time before your departure, visit the Qingping Market located between Tiyun and Qingping Streets. You can find almost everything inside its covered market, from traditional Chinese herbal medicines, Chinese herbs, medical supplies and devices, fruits and seafood, flowers, birds and fishes. You might need an extra suitcase though which you can also find here. Don’t forget to haggle to get the best bang for your buck. Aside from shopping, Qingping Market is also a food destination. You can explore its back alleys and interior courtyards to find restaurants frequented by locals. After your gastronomic and market tour, prepare for your departure and check out of your accommodation in Guangzhou.

Qingping Market, Guangzhou, China
Looking for some dried octopus? Oh well, Qingping Market is the right place to find one… or a bunch (Attila JANDI /

Have you been to Guangzhou or anywhere else in China? Do you have any tips or suggestions to share? If so, you can leave your comments below.

Featured image: Guangzhou Central Business District, Guangzhou, China (zhangyuqiu /


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