The city of Guiyang (贵阳) is the capital of Guizhou province, a true hidden gem in Southwest China. Despite being a huge city with a population of almost 5 million people, Guiyang is a far less popular destination for international tourists than China’s other large cities such as Beijing and Shanghai.
Full disclose – I definitely hadn’t heard of Guiyang either before this year and the reason I initially decided to go was to visit my cousin who is teaching English there for a year.
After having spent 2 months getting to experience this exciting city, I couldn’t wait to share all the amazing things there is to see and do to encourage others to visit too, from giant pandas and wild monkeys to colourful neon-clad skyscrapers dominating the modern skyline.
In my opinion, a trip to Guiyang is an absolute must for anyone wanting to experience a real Chinese city without being surrounded by millions of other tourists.
To help you plan your trip to Guiyang, this article is split into five main parts:
- Top things to do in Guiyang
- Trips in Guizhou province from Guiyang
- Important things to know before visiting (Q&A’s)
- How to get from London to Guiyang
- Where to stay in Guiyang
Top things to do in Guiyang China:
Explore Qianling Park
Qianling is a huge park located on the inner-city mountain with the same name. Also known as ‘Monkey Park’, it is the city’s most popular tourist attraction and is definitely one of my favourite things to do in Guiyang. The park is filled with beautiful forests, lakes, wild monkeys, a Buddhist temple, a zoo and plenty more which could keep you occupied for at least a couple of days.
Entry to Qianling Park is just 5yuan (around 50p) and tickets can be brought at the South Gate entrance. The ticket covers the park and zoo. Entrance to the temple, boat hire and the cable car are extra (but also extremely cheap).
Here are a few of the things you can do in Qianling Park Guiyang…
Take the cable car to the top of Qianling Mountain
If you really love walking, you can walk to the top of Qianling Mountain and take in all of the sights on the way, however, be warned that it’s a pretty long and steep treck, especially in the hot and humid Chinese summer.
Alternatively, you can catch the cable car to the top of the mountain then walk back down – this is the option I’d advise.
Not only are the tiny two people pods fun to ride, but they also give some of the best views back over the city. Once you’re at the top of the mountain the thick forest restricts the views considerably.
Close to the cable car station at the top, you’ll find Hongfu temple and the majority of the monkeys, then you can walk back down the mountain to explore the zoo and other attractions in the park.
Feed the wild monkeys
As is probably obvious from its nickname ‘Monkey Park’, Qianling Park has an absolutely huge wild Macaque population which you’ll find causing chaos all over the park.
The monkeys are very much used to humans and are friendly enough as long as you approach them sensibly, however, these cheeky chappy’s certainly aren’t afraid to take food out of your pocket or bag if they catch a glimpse so just be careful where you keep things.
If you want to feed the monkeys, buy a bag of nuts before you enter the park (it’s cheaper outside of the main gate than in the park itself). Place some nuts in your open palm and let them take it from you. Just remember to hide the bag unless you want to be robbed by a gang of monkeys – I learnt this one the hard way!
Embrace Buddhist traditions at Hongfu temple
Hongfu Temple is a beautiful Buddhist temple at the top of Qianling Mountain. Surprisingly quiet and serene compared to the rest of the park, the large temple has a number of pavilions, altars and small koi ponds to explore.
It’s also an amazing experience to take part in all of the traditional activities happening at the temple alongside the locals.
When first entering the temple you’ll find a woman sat at a small table with handfuls of red ribbons. Pay a few pennies, pick a random ribbon and make a wish. Each wish ribbon has a Chinese word written on it such as ‘happiness’ and ‘health’ which should correspond to your wish.
Despite being apprehensive at first, the ribbon I picked translated to ‘travel safety’… how perfect for someone who travels as a job?
Then you take the ribbon away (wear it or keep it at home), and once your wish comes true you must bring it back to the temple and hang it somewhere such as on the branch of a tree.
When buying your ticket to enter the temple, make sure to also go to the window next door which you can buy sticks of incense to burn inside.
Incense is thought to purify a space, and in a temple, it is also seen as a sign of respect to offer it to the Buddha.
Go over to the large alters and hold your sticks of incense inside until they start burning then pull them out. If the sticks are on fire, wave them to put the flames out – don’t blow them as this is seen as disrespectful (yes we made this mistake at first). Take several bows while holding the sticks and finally throw them into the alter.
While exploring Hongfu Temple you might also run into one of the monks who call the temple their home. Just like many people in this region of China, the monk we ran into was just as amazed to see us as we were to see him. He insisted on painting pictures of us (which he gave us as gifts), then proceeded to get out his smartphone and ask for a photo with us (oh modern technology!).
There is also a room with a large number of Buddhas which you must count until you reach your age, note the Buddha’s number, get a card at the counter and have a monk tell you about your future – however, the monks don’t speak English so it’s only worth doing this if you’re with a Chinese speaker.
For 10yuan you can also have lunch with the monks. Take a paper bowl and choose from a buffet of vegetarian dishes with plenty of rice and fruit.
See the Giant Pandas
A big reason many people visit China each year is for the endangered giant pandas, and Qianling Park’s zoo is one of the places where you can see them. The two male giant pandas, Haibin and Xingbao, are in Guiyang for 3 years from April 2018 for “scientific education”.
Qianling Park’s small zoo has many animals including tigers, bears, red pandas and many amphibians, but the giant pandas are by far the zoo’s most popular animals.
Want to see more giant pandas in China? Check out this guide to the Chengdu Panda Base.
Hire a boat on Qianling Lake
At the bottom of Qianling Mountain is a large lake with boats which are available to rent. When the sun’s out, it’s a relaxing way to get away from the hustle and bustle of the rest of the park for a little while.
Boat hire is just 15yuan for paddle boats (fits up to 6 people) and 30yuan for the pedal boats (fits up to 4 people). You’ll also need to give a 100yuan as a deposit which you’ll get back when you return. You can take the boat out for as long as you want.
Visit Jiaxiu Tower
Jiaxiu Tower is a grand three-story wooden tower built on a rock on the Nanming River which goes straight through the centre of Guiyang city. It was initially built in the Ming Dynasty (1368 – 1644) but has been renovated several times since.
Also known as ‘the First Scholar’s Tower’ due to being frequented by a number of famous scholars over the years, Jiaxiu Tower has become a cultural symbol of Guiyang and is now probably the image most associated with the city, making it one not to miss for any visitor.
There are three main things to do at Jiaxiu. Walk across Fuyu Bridge (also the longest bridge in Guiyang) to reach the tower, wander around Cuiwei Garden to the south, and head inside to see the exhibit which is home to historic works such as calligraphy pieces, woodcrafts and stone tablets inscribed with poems.
Entry to the tower is just 5yuan.
See Huaguoyuan by night
Huanguoyuan is an extremely modern, built-up district in the west of Guiyang. Located in an area of the city which used to be an underdeveloped slum, it is currently the largest urban redevelopment project in China. The redevelopment has been going on for quite a few years so the district is already filled with towering skyscrapers which really come into their element at night.
Visiting Huanguoyuan at night is like stepping into a futuristic movie, with the huge buildings and skyscrapers draped in bright neon lights dominating the skyline in all directions.
Keep an eye out for the twin towers, which occasionally flash ‘ I <heart> GY’, and the Huanguoyuan White House, a spectacular government building sat on the edge of the central lake (it’s pretty impossible to miss it!).
There’s plenty to do in Huanguoyuan to fill an evening. Wander around the lake, grab some street food and sit on the grass while watching street performers.
Enjoy a coffee by the river in Future Ark
‘Future Ark Tourism Complex’ is another relatively new district in the east of Guiyang on the Nanming River. Down by the edge of the water you’ll find a number of restaurants, cafes, coffee shops and bars with terraces overlooking the river.
Despite being close to the main city centre, Future Ark is less busy than other parts of Guiyang and therefore is a nice spot to sit and enjoy a drink or meal in peace. The views down the river are also rather pretty on a sunny day.
Visit Qingyan Ancient Town
Qingyan Ancient Town is a historical town in the very south of Guiyang. Dating back to 1378 during the Ming Dynasty, it was originally built for military purposes. The charming traditional town has been well preserved over the years and is now an important cultural artefact for remembering the Ming and Qing Dynasties.
Visitors can enter the town to marvel at the ancient architecture such as the traditional wooden houses, stone gates and beautiful temples and churches belonging to Buddhism, Taoism, Catholicism and Christianity. And don’t forget to try the delicious food here, including the local delicacy of pigs trotters!
While in Qingyan Ancient Town, don’t miss Guiyang’s very own version of the Great Wall winding its way up a small hill on the outskirts of the town. The stairs up the wall are steep and will definitely have you a little out of breath, but the views from the top are certainly worth it!
The ancient town is located in a southern suburb of Guiyang and is around a 45 minute-1 hour bus or taxi ride from the very centre of the city.
Spend a day at the mall
Is it just me or does anyone else love going to shopping centres in other countries? I personally feel like they give you a real insight into the local culture and a feel for what it would be like to really live in a city.
But whether this is something you usually do or not, I would still highly recommend visiting a shopping mall in Guiyang. Chinese malls are crazy worlds of neon lights (much like the rest of the city), extreme fashion, freaky mannequins, great food and fun amusements.
Hunter Plaza (Wenchang Nan Road) – a modern complex full of local brands as well as many well-known international shops. The upper floors have a number of Chinese and Western restaurants, whilst the lower floor is home to a fun arcade in which you could easily lose a couple of hours.
Estee (Shi’nan Road) – plenty of fashion, beauty and technology brands, as well as a lower floor full of great restaurants and ‘Olé’ supermarket which is one of the best places in the city for imported Western foods.
A Mall Shopping Center (Jiefang Road) – as well as being a huge shopping centre with plenty of shops and other cool amenities such as a children’s amusement park and turtle pond, the main reason to visit A Mall is for the long street food market which wraps itself around the outside of the building.
Flora Plaza (Zhonghua Middle Road) – a mall mainly aiming at younger people with its large selection of multinational fashion brands.
CC Park (Jingyang) – one of Guiyang’s most unique shopping malls, designed to look like Venice in Italy with a man-made canal flowing through the entire mall, a number of Venetian bridges and real gondola rides (picture the Venetian hotel in Vegas).
Take some Insta-worthy photos at the 5D Star Art Museum
Somehow it took me until my last day in Guiyang to find this amazing museum, considering it’s an Instagrammers dream!
Based on the work of Van Gogh and other impressionist and contemporary artists, all of the art in the museum is completely interactive and every room is filled with fun photo opportunities. There’s even an infinity room (which you don’t have to queue for hours for like elsewhere in the world) and a pastel pink ball pit.
Whatever you do, don’t forget your camera!
Treat yourself to a Chinese Massage
One of my favourite things about Guiyang is how affordable everything is, including many beauty treatments including hair salons, nail parlours and massage houses. So it’s only fair to treat yourself to a little pampering, right?
Head to a massage parlour in Guiyang to experience an authentic Chinese massage. Massage has been a central part of Chinese medicine for thousands of years and is unlike anything you will experience elsewhere in the world.
Unlike Western massage techniques, Chinese massages aim to promote overall health by easing the flow of energy, or “qi”, around the body. The practitioner’s aim is to release both physical and energetic tension, in order to restore a sense of balance and kickstart the body’s own healing process. This involves kneading, chopping, stretching, pinching and pressing to relieve sore points and blockages in the muscle tissues.
Massages can be a little on the rough side in China and the masseuses don’t hold back with the amount of pressure they apply, however embrace the experience and you’re sure to be feeling refreshed and relaxed the next day.
Note: Massages are more of a social experience in China. It’s unlikely that you’ll be in a private room with low light, candles and relaxing music. But rather, your group will be escorted to a room together where both guests and masseuses will converse during the massage experience (although you’re not obliged and you can always put on your own music and enjoy in silence).
It’s difficult to recommend what you should eat in Guiyang because there wasn’t a single thing that I didn’t enjoy during my entire trip. Every street in Guiyang is filled with cafes, restaurants and street food stalls selling amazing food pretty much 24 hours a day
Chinese BBQ is a must, in which you cook your own meats and vegetables on a grill in the centre of the table, while Hot Pot is also extremely popular with the locals and consists of a large pot of soup on a hob in the middle of the table in which you boil a selection of meats and vegetables.
And be sure not to miss the local speciality of sweet sausage – one of my absolute favourite foods in Guiyang!
You’ll also find a number of Western fast-food chains around the city such as McDonald’s, KFC and Pizza Hut, as well as many international restaurants serving everything from Mexican tacos to proper Italian pizza. You certainly won’t be missing any home comforts.
Experience the city’s amazing nightlife
I have to admit, the thing that surprised me the most about Guiyang was the amazing nightlife.
Around almost every corner you’ll find another bar or club open until the early hours of the morning and rammed with people partying 7 nights a week.
Uptown is about as close to an English pub as you’ll get, with a chilled-out atmosphere, good drinks, pub grub and a pool table. It’s also where you’re likely to run into Guiyang’s expat population most nights of the week. Uptown is the place to start a night out in Guiyang.
South Park is another chilled out pub/bar which hosts regular Latina nights. So if you love a bit of salsa after a few drinks, this is the place for you.
For big night clubs, head to the likes of Playhouse, Excess, CCL and Max. All of the clubs have a very cool and modern vibe, with groups of young locals hanging out sipping cocktails and taking shots while live DJs play house and techno music in large neon light-filled rooms.
Also, be prepared to party until 6-7 in the morning, most places in the city don’t shut until the last person decides to go home!
Hire a KTV for a private karaoke experience
KTV’s are one of the most popular pastimes in Guiyang amongst the locals, and it’s hard to miss the bright neon signs advertising them all across the city.
A KTV is a venue with a large number of rooms, ranging in size, which can be privately hired from the daytime until late into the night (we didn’t leave ours until almost 5am). The rooms always feature screens and microphones for karaoke plus a private bar, while larger rooms can have all sorts of additions including a pool table and mahjong table (a popular Chinese game).
Large rooms are popular for events such as birthdays and can be extravagantly decorated with balloons and flowers, while smaller rooms are often hired for more casual nights out with a small group of friends or family.
Room packages also come with a set amount of beers and food, making them great value for money! You can’t take in your own alcohol, but if you do run out there is a shop within each building where you can purchase more beers, wine and spirits.
Trips within Guizhou province from Guiyang:
Other than the exciting city of Guiyang, wider Guizhou province is predominantly filled with beautiful natural landscapes, including the largest waterfall cluster in the world and extensive cave systems. It is also home to 48 of China’s ethnic groups, the second-highest concentration of any province in China, some of which you can visit in their traditional villages.
Most of the most popular attractions in Guizhou province are accessible as either a day trip or overnight stay from Guiyang city.
For more information on what to do in Guizhou province, check out:
Important things to know before visiting Guiyang China (Q&A):
A few important things to know before visiting the city as a tourist…
Do people in Guiyang speak English?
No, very rarely.
One of the major difficulties of visiting Guiyang is probably the language barrier. The majority of locals don’t speak a word of English, while every now and again you’ll come across someone who can say a few sentences. If anything, the people who know most English are usually young children due to the growing recent popularity of English language schools in the city.
In the more modern parts of the city and places such as the malls, many of the signs and menus are now translated into English. However, if you go to the smaller, more local spots, this is highly unlikely so might require some guesswork and a lot of hand gestures.
There are a few ways to make the language barrier easier. Firstly, have google translate on your phone -this isn’t a perfect solution as Guiyang dialect is slightly different from ‘Chinese’ on the app, however, it is better than nothing. Secondly, use google maps to point to the location you want to go to when getting taxis – this managed to get me to the right place every time.
Are there other foreign tourists in Guiyang?
Once again, very few.
Although you’ll see a number of tour groups from different regions of China coming to visit Guiyang, you’ll very rarely see another Western face in this part of the country. So much so that many of the locals do tend to stare (in a curious way, they’re not being rude) and will even come over to say hello and take a photo with you. Being a foreigner in Guiyang is probably the closest most people will come to feeling like a celebrity!
There is a very small expat community in the city, the majority of which work in the few English language schools for children. If you’re a foreign tourist in Guiyang, people will often assume you’re a teacher – I got asked on a couple of occasions.
Is Guiyang safe to visit as a tourist?
Before visiting China for the first time, I must admit that I was a little apprehensive about how safe I would feel. However, I can honestly say that Guiyang is one of the safest cities I’ve ever visited.
As someone who still gets a little nervous even getting a taxi alone in London, I was jumping in taxis alone late at night without a second thought in Guiyang. Every person I met in the city was friendly and eager to help me, despite the language barrier. There’s also an extremely low crime rate.
What’s the best way to get around Guiyang?
Guiyang is a large city, so although you can walk around the different districts easily, it’s pretty difficult to get from one place to another quickly by foot. Public transport is available, with one subway line going through the middle of the city and regular buses, however, taxies are so cheap and readily available that personally, I don’t see the point faffing around with anything else.
A 15-minute taxi ride from one place to another within the city centre will probably only cost between £1-2, while I once took a 45-minute journey from one side of the city to another for just £4.50.
Enjoying cycling? Find out more about riding a bike around China here.
How do I pay for things in Guiyang?
In every restaurant, shop, taxi and even market stall, you’ll notice a small plaque with a QR code on it. This is how the majority of the locals pay for things, using WeChat Pay or Ali Pay on their mobiles (yeah, it’s super high-tech!). However, it’s only possible to set up mobile payment with a Chinese bank account. As a tourist, you’ll be completely fine paying for everything in cash. Just make sure to get some out before you arrive in the country in case your card doesn’t work in China.
Do I need a visa to visit Guiyang?
Just like everywhere in China, you’ll need to have the correct visa to enter the country.
Any other important things to know before I go?
In the whole of mainland China, many western websites and social media are blocked, including Google, Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, WhatsApp, WordPress and several more. In order to be able to access these while away, make sure to install a VPN (Virtual Private Network) before you leave home.
How to get from London to Guiyang China:
Unfortunately there are no direct flights from London to Guiyang, however, you can transfer within China to arrive at Guiyang airport, or fly direct to one of the nearby airports then get the train into the city…
London -> Beijing -> Guiyang
Fly from London Heathrow to Beijing Capital (10.5h) followed by an internal flight from Beijing Capital to Guiyang (3.5h).
London -> Guangzhou -> Guiyang
Fly from London Heathrow to Guangzhou (12h) then take a short internal flight to Guiyang (1.5h).
London -> Chongquing -> Guiyang
Fly from London Heathrow to Chongqing (11h) then take a train from Chongquing railway station to Guiyang (2.5h). This is the route I took, flying with Tianjin Airlines, and would definitely recommend.
It’s around a 40minute taxi or bus from Chongqing Airport to the railway station so be sure to factor this in.
London -> Shenzhen -> Guiyang
Fly from London Heathrow to Shenzhen Bao’an International (12h) then a train (5h) to Guiyang.
London -> Hong Kong -> Guiyang
Fly London Heathrow to Hong Kong (12h) then take the train (6h) across the border to Guiyang.
Where to stay in Guiyang China:
- Atour Hotel Guiyang Future Ark – A modern hotel with large clean rooms, a gym and a restaurant, located in Future Ark. £50-60pn.
- Ramada Plaza Guiyang – Luxury hotel in the north of the city, easily accessible to main attractions. £45-50pm.
- Pullman Guiyang – 5* hotel with swimming pool, located in the south of the city next to ‘A Mall Shopping Centre’ and a great street food street. £85-95pn.
- 7Days Inn Qianling Park – Fairly basic but nice, affordable hotel very close to Qianling Park. £15+pn.
- 7Days Inn Guiyang HuaGuoYuan – Same brand as above but in modern Huaguoyuan district. £15+pn.
Cheap Hotels & Hostels:
- Y.T Studio Space Hostel – A chic, modern hostel close to Huaguoyuan. £8pm for a bed in a dorm room, £20pn for a private room.
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