Guangzhou City at a Glance

Guangzhou is home to one of the world’s best subway systems, and good thing because without it I’d be at a loss for how to wander this sprawling city with its seemingly endless population (somewhere between 12 and 16 million, give or take a million).

Fortunately, the well-planned underground tram is labeled in English and each line is colored and numbered for ease of remembering. My paper map is dotted with my favorite places at each stop, though I still have many more to explore before I’m through with China.

At the Chigang Pagoda stop, Downtown Guangzhou is home to high-rise buildings not unlike those in Los Angeles or Seattle. They even have their own version of the Space Needle, called the Guangzhou Tower, which is the world’s tallest T.V. tower at nearly 1,970 feet, according to this website.

On my subway map alone I count four parks, but there are surely many more. Chinese people love their parks, and they actually utilize them. A stroll through any one of the lusciously landscaped areas will lead you to families playing games, students studying, couples taking a romantic boat ride and many others having a picnic.

Unlike parks in The States, which are large grassy areas where one can go to find a peaceful place to read or relax, the parks in Guangzhou have paved pathways, hard benches and very little grass for sitting. I found myself intrigued by the amount of people in Yuexiu Park, but disappointed that I couldn’t find a comfortable, quiet spot to finish my book.

This photo was taken at Yuexiu Park, the same name as the subway stop.

In between the massive parks and skyscrapers are long, narrow alleyways booming with locally owned fruit stands, cake shops, clothing stores, butcher shops and vegetables for sale on the sidewalk. I walked down several of the interconnected pathways for what felt like miles, allowing me to forget I was in the middle of one of China’s largest and most developed cities and feel as if I had returned to the villages of ago, where people simply go about their daily shopping without the crowds.

Eventually, I turned onto a lane that spit me back onto a loud, packed motorway and I felt like Alice, returning from Wonderland with a hard slap of reality to remind me I was still in the city.

Well, I thought, I might as well go to a mall. I got back on the subway and picked a random stop (Tiyu Xilu) where I found more adorable (and tiny) Asian shoes and clothes than I could have wished for, as well as brands I recognized from home.

A girl can find almost anything she wants in Guangzhou, whether it’s food, culture, fashion or entertainment, she just needs to know where to exit the metro. However, if a silent place to be alone is what you’re looking for, it’s worth researching where to stay in Guangzhou because certain areas are more quiet than others. I’m still marking up my map, but would love to hear about your favorite spots in this sprawling city.

Is there anything I must see or do next time I’m in Guangzhou? Which subway stop is your favorite?

Guangzhou City at a Glance
Written by:Jessica Hill


  1. feyoung1906 says:

    Hi Jessica, very interesting and hope you can write soon about your trip to Hong Kong.


  2. nicole says:

    sounds great!

  3. You make GZ seem amazing! Perhaps a few years after I’ve left, when I am no longer jaded by years of negative experiences, I’ll remember the way I saw GZ when I first arrived – somewhat similar to the feeling in this post (although in 2002 the current CBD consisted of dirt roads winding through land overgrown with grass and weeds scattered with a few villages). Thanks for reminding me it’s not so bad here (and nice photos, by the way)!

    • jessicajhill says:

      I’m happy to help, Adam! I do like GZ on the surface, but you’ll find in my latest post, that it irritates me each time I visit. I give you props for lasting more than one year. There’s no way I can handle it for longer than that. Have you really been here since 2002?

      • I’ve kinda been back and forth between China and Australia, but I guess it’d be about 8 years altogether in China, 6 1/2 years of that in Guangzhou. I’m hanging in there until mid-next year and that’s it – any longer and I’d seriously be beyond the point of no return psychosis-wise, not to mention the damage breathing in all this pollution must be doing! If the VPN holds out long enough, I’ll head across to check out your latest post right now…

        • jessicajhill says:

          Whoa – good luck to hanging in there for another several months. At least that exciting book opportunity will probably haul you through the bitter winter months quite easily!

  4. Thanks! And my main hope for the book is that it’ll help open some new doors – fingers crossed. You’re right, the hope a new opportunity brings helps a lot.

  5. Whitney says:

    It’s fun to find someone else blogging about Guangzhou. We’ve been here for about 8 months. We’ve been to Zhujiang Park a few times and it’s much quieter than Yuexiu. I think it’s off the Liede exit. If you want to go somewhere that feels western try Shamian Island if you haven’t been there yet. Lots of western-style buildings, lots of expats, and not too much chance of getting run over by a car.

    • jessicajhill says:

      Hi, Whitney! I went to Shamian for the first time last weekend and enjoyed the peacefulness of it (and watching all the wedding photo shoots), but it felt a bit fake or unnatural at the least. I’ll definitely try Zhujiang Park next time I venture into the city – thanks for the tip. I can’t wait to check out your blog…

  6. Hannah says:

    So excited to read these posts on China; I’m moving to Guangzhou in August to teach English. Thank you for a [Southern] American’s prospective on the city!!

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