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As far as ultra-modern Chinese metropolises go, Guangzhou is one of the most serene. Its forward-thinking modern architecture sits alongside ancient temples nestled in narrow leafy streets. Nature is unusually visible within the city, as the Pearl River gently winds its way through the centre and the verdant Baiyun Mountain is always in view. Coupled with some of the country's finest Chinese and international restaurants, this makes Guangzhou a cutting-edge place where you can still catch your breath.
There are hostels in Guangzhou city centre, right in the heart of the action and walking distance from the major sights. You can find places with games and pool tables or an on-site bar to get to know other globetrotters. A spot with an outdoor terrace is the perfect place for a cool beer in the evening. Many Guangzhou hostels have free Wi-Fi and lots have free linen too.
There are plenty of neighbourhoods to discover in Guangzhou. Yuexiu district is its historic heart. Portions of the old city wall still stand in Yuexiu Park, where you can stroll around three lakes and seven hills, checking out the famous Five-Ram sculpture as you go. Xiatangxi is known as Little Africa for its thriving immigrant population. You'll find an eclectic mix of Chinese-African food stalls and hear languages from at least three continents spoken on the street. For the city's best nightlife, head to Huanshi Lu, where you'll find contemporary bars and nightclubs in historic buildings.
One of Guangzhou's main attractions is the Canton Tower, which has panoramic vistas from its 600-metre height. For a view of the contemporary city, visit Guangzhou Opera House, designed by award-winning architect Zaha Hadid. You can experience late 19th-century architecture and culture at The Ancestral Temple of the Chen Family. Formerly a place to pay respects to ancestors, it now houses a folk arts museum. The 30 peaks of the Baiyun mountain range are a natural oasis just outside of town.
To get to the city, you can fly to Guangzhou Baiyun International Airport then take a bus, taxi or the shuttle. Driving is quickest (around 30 minutes) and you should leave around 90 minutes for public transport. The main train station is Guangzhou Railway Station, around an 8-minute drive from the very centre. There's a bus network to get around the city, although the drivers rarely speak English and signs are in Chinese. Trains and the metro may be easier to navigate.