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Guangzhou 2014

Originally published on 28/08/2014 - Filed under: Home » City Guides » Home » City Guides » Asia Pacific »

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Reggie Ho checks out the Chinese city’s new central business district of Pearl River New Town

Guangzhou map

1. Guangzhou New Library

Start your tour of Guangzhou’s new central business district (CBD) at its recently opened library, which faces Flower City Square. Built to look like books leaning against bookends, it provides an airy interior for reading and education.

Short-term visitors should check out the eighth and ninth floors, which house exhibitions – the permanent Library of the People and Culture of Guangzhou, on the ninth, is particularly worth a visit.

While all of the books are in Chinese, there are enough artworks and pictures to keep one intrigued, not to mention exquisite rosewood furniture. If you need to catch up on news, head to the first floor, which stocks a diverse range of international newspapers.

Other levels also have an abundance of English tomes. Non-Guangzhou residents can get a two-month library card for free, which enables them to use the wifi as well as borrow books.

2. Guangdong Museum

A five- to ten-minute walk south, across Xing’an Lu, the new Guangdong Museum opened in 2010 to coincide with the Asian Games, which took place on nearby Haixinsha Island.

The facility replaced the previous building and houses 160,000 artefacts across 21,000 sqm of space. Permanent exhibitions include “Guangdong History and Culture” and “Natural Resources in Guangdong”, while there are more specialist displays on Tang Dynasty ink-stones, Chaozhou wood carving, pottery and porcelain.

Admission is generally free (some exhibitions have an entry fee), but you need a valid ID to get a free ticket. It gets crowded on weekends, so you should allow for queuing time and be aware that there is a daily quota of 5,000 tickets.

English guided tours can be booked by calling +86 20 3804 6888 and cost 200 yuan (£20) for two hours. Open 9am-5pm, closed Mondays.

3. Guangzhou Opera House

Across Flower City Square to the west, this Zaha Hadid-designed landmark, open since 2010, is well worth a wander around.

Modern art peppers the building, and on weekends the performance venues are open to the public for viewing, including the 1,804-seat “encircling” auditorium designed by Australia’s Harold Marshall.

The opera house does not have a resident company, but big international names do grace its stage. This month, Shakespeare’s Globe delivers A Midsummer Night’s Dream to mark the Bard’s 450th birthday, while another UK company, the Paper Cinema, interprets Homer’s Odyssey. Check the website for dates and times.

4. Hua Spa

If you are here around lunchtime, consider taking advantage of the “Lunchtime Escape” package offered by the Four Seasons hotel, located a few minutes’ walk north of the Opera House.

For 680 yuan (£66) you get a 45-minute facial or body treatment, as well as a light lunch and juice in the Atrium lounge, which looks over the city from the 70th floor. On the menu are Hainanese chicken, rice dishes and salads.

As part of the deal, you also get access to the gym and swimming pool – which offers a similarly commanding view. Four Seasons, 5 Zhujiang West Road;

5. W Guangzhou

Walk back through the library to Xiancun Road, then walk north (away from the river) for ten minutes to the new hipster hangout that is the W hotel.

The Woobar, part of the Living Room on the lobby level, is a great place for a drink amid a surreal ambiance of illuminated walls and abstract artworks. When I popped in, Casablanca was being projected on to the wall to the sound of live jazz.

Besides the molecular W cocktails (from 100 yuan/£10), another reason to visit is the “Play Time” afternoon tea (from 208 yuan/£20), and the weekend buffet (from 128 yuan/£12). The psychedelic Fei bar offers good live music and DJs from 9pm. W, 26 Xiancun Road; 

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