Guangzhou, while indubitably one of China’s first-tier cities, has little to offer the serious sightseer. Sure, the artifacts unearthed at the Mausoleum of the Nanyue King are worth a visit, but the city’s real draw should be its mix of modernity and tradition. On Shamian Island, you can glimpse the architectural legacy of the 19th-century European merchants who set up outposts in Canton, and then you can head over to Xiaobei to explore the “Little Africa” established by present-day traders. You might be tempted to do some trading of your own at Guangzhou’s many market.
As the capital of Guangdong Province, Guangzhou is mainland China’s capital of Cantonese culture, which to me means one thing — dim sum! There are dim sum spots all over the city, so I suggest asking your hotel for a recommendation nearby. A restaurant that serves its dim sum from carts will be easier to manage for non-Chinese-speakers.
Serious shoppers should stay an extra day in Guangzhou in order to make a day trip out to Foshan (about 150 RMB away by taxi, or 20 RMB by bus), where the Foshan Folk Arts Studio sells a fantastic, and fantastically priced, array of papercuts, paintings, embroideries and more.