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Shamian Island is Guangzhou's scenic foreign settlement, and ranks as one of the best tourist attractions in Guangzhou and is a treat for fans of architecture and history alike. Tree-lined quiet pedestrian-only roads make for a wonderful place to visit for a stroll, and the area is a quiet reminder of Guangzhou's colonial European period.
Sightseers will notice that structures in one area of the island have more of an English style and that one area has more of French style, which is a result of Guangzhou's tumultuous history on this island.
While walking around Shamian Island, there are lots of incredible buildings to be seen, and there is a lot of opportunity to try different cuisines including the local Cantonese cuisine. It's a great place for a stroll, and you'll find many old official embassy buildings, cathedrals, churches, as well as shade walking along the greenery.
Lady of Lourdes Chapel, a big French cathedral, stands out as one of the most interesting buildings on the island. It was built in 1892. There is also the British Protestant Church, Christ Church Shameen, which was built in 1865 and makes for an interesting sight.
Tourists appreciate the island as a quiet place to get away from the crowds and noise of the city, and you'll find various bronze statues around depicting life on the island in earlier times. Traffic is controlled to keep the island quiet, so it is partly pedestrian only.
You will find plenty of shops around if you are looking for some souvenirs to take home, and there is a row of bars and cafes on the southwest side with views over the Pearl River serves visitors; Guangzhou has great nightlife!
Shamian Island has been an important trading port from the Song Dynasty onwards, but was originally not an island. The river that divided this land from the rest of the city was dug by the British in 1859.
From the early 1700s to 1859, foreign companies and governments built offices on the island in order to trade with the Qing Empire. In 1859, European governments, especially the British, wrested the territory from the Qing imperial government.
In 1859, during the Second Opium War, the territory was divided between the French and British; approximately two-thirds of the island was the English concession and one-third was the French concession. Both of these areas had a bridge to the mainland, and these would usually shut at 10pm for security reasons. Many embassy buildings were built on the islands then, and many European countries' trading companies built their mansions along the waterfront.
Today only the government of Poland has an embassy on the island.
Today, travel to the island is convenient because it is near the center of Guangzhou, about 6 kilometers west of the popular tourist area Tianhe Zhujiang New Town. There are no bus stops on the island itself, but the bus stops are nearby.
Scenic walk: You can take a scenic walk there along the north side of the Pearl River by getting off of Line 3 at Zhujiang Station or the APM Line in Zhujiang and walking westwards along the river.
By subway: Take Subway Line 1 to Huangsha station. Get out from Exit F and walk via an overpass to reach the island.
By ferry: From Huangsha Pier to Fangcun Pier is only 0.5 RMB without a bike or 1 RMB with a bike. The ferry goes every 10 minutes.
Need more ideas of things to do in Guangzhou? We recommend these top Guangzhou must-do's!
As with most of China, Chinese public holidays are the busiest times to visit Shamian Island. Check ahead on China Highlights' Public Holiday calendar to ensure you're not surprised! Weekends tend to be busier than weekdays here too.
Guangzhou itself is extremely hot from May through to early October, so it might be better to visit outside those months if you aren't good at coping with tropical heat. The best time to visit Guangzhou, as well as the South of China, is from October until March. If you want to come during a localfestival, check out this article on Guangzhou Festivals to help you plan your date around a more special occasion.
We can take you to Shamian Island, as well as through a tour of Guangzhou.
All you have to do is let us know your preferences and we will tailor a trip for you.