Guilin is a popular holiday destination for Chinese and foreign tourists alike. Its beautiful and bizarrekarst peaks, like severed summits of mountains, scatter the broad plain upon which the city is built, the inspiration behind much of Chinese traditional art through the centuries.
While much of China submerges itself in its quest for modernization those hills, with their associatedlakes and caves, remain as a testament to those natural beauties that have inspired the nation since its inception and which continue to make the Chinese experience unique.
Though beyond the cosmopolitan rush of larger cities, Guilin's hotels cater well for all budgets. These are the pick of what Guilin has to offer.
The Shangri-La Hotel is perhaps the most popular of Guilin's five star hotels. Overlooking theLi Riverand withlandscaped gardens, it lies a kilometre or so north of the city center. A variety of rooms are available, from the onepresidential suitedown todeluxe roomswith or without a view over the river,449 roomsin total.
Visitors find particularly praiseworthy the service, the standard of the food and attention to detail.
- Cost:850-2500 RMB per night.
- Address:111 Huan Cheng Bei Er Lu
Sheraton Guilin Hotel
Sheraton Guilin Hotel isa well-located five-star hotelon the west bank of the Li River, 10 minutes walk from Elephant Trunk and Seven Star Park (see below).
Its magnificent Romanesque hall and luxurious transparent elevators combine perfectly with elegant rooms and exterior.
There are 430 roomsin Sheraton Guilin Hotel, including deluxe suites and deluxe single rooms. Each room is equipped with satellite TV, refrigerator, and electric safe.
Facilities:Two restaurants, a coffee shop and the lobby lounge cater to clients’ cuisine and beverage requirements. There is also a beauty salon, a recreation center, and a disco hall. Transport booking and tourist services are offered in the hotel.
- Cost:660–2,200 RMB per night
- Address:15 Binjiang Road, Guilin
Lijiang Waterfall Hotel
More than just a pretty name, the Lijiang Waterfall Hotel is listed in theGuinness Book of Recordsfor the spectacular artificial cascade that falls from its roof on the city-square side of the edifice, some 75 meters wide and falling 45 meters. However, it tends to be turned off more often than it's turned on.
The opposite side of the hotel looks out over Guilin's exquisite city-centerShan Lakewith its twinsun and moon towers, highlighting one of Guilin's main attractions – the sense of being in the midst beautiful scenery even while in the center of the city itself.
Built around a huge, multi-story open space, the hotel is majestic indeed.646 rooms include a presidential suite,22 deluxe suites and 20 deluxe single rooms.
- Cost:680-1700 RMB per night
- Address:1 Shan Lake North Road
Guilin Bravo Hotel
Again located near Shan Lake and Rong Lake in the city centre, the Bravo has attractive views from its deluxe rooms and provides a solid four-star service.Western-style and Cantonese-style meals are a speciality. There are bars, a coffee bar, a swimming pool, a gym, a beauty salon, a sun lounge, and currency exchange.Conference roomsare also available.
There are 329 rooms in total including one luxury suite. Other rooms are classified as deluxe should they have a lake view, standard if not.
- Cost:400-2000 RMB per night
- Address:14 Ronghu South Road
A very popular mid-range hotel, the Lakeside Inn is situated near Shan Lake in the city center, close to the Lijiang Waterfall Hotel. It's a great place to meet fellow travellers from all over the world and the hotel owner is particularly accommodating. There's hotel-wide Wi-Fi, a bar, a laundry service and they rent bicycles. The staff are particularly helpful with ticket-booking and trip advice, a useful service for the independent traveller. Many of the staff speak English.
However, be warned. This popular hotel has few rooms — book in advance.
- Cost:Approximately 200 RMB per night.
- Address: 1-1-2 Shan Lake Building, Shan Lake North Road
City Comfort Inn
Located in the area of thecoach and railway stations, this is the most convenient of two branches of a small hotel chain in Guilin. It offers LAN internet access within the rooms for those with their own computers and Wi-Fi access. A self-service breakfast and laundry service are also available. This hotel, though basic and with small rooms, has proved popular with budget travelers for the service it provides, its reliability, its comfort and convenience.
- Cost:150-300 RMB per night.
- Address:51 Zhongshan South Road
Throughout China western cuisine is available if that is your preference, but in Guilin you may find it more difficult to come by. Be prepared for it to be served with Chinese overtones. However,Rosemary'sis used to dealing with foreign customers, whileCharlotte, with an angle towards fusion cookery, has a wonderful atmosphere.
Located off Guilin's central Zhengyang pedestrian street, Rosemary's is a lively but relaxing place to eat. It focuses almost exclusively on foreign customers and, in catering to their tastes, is second-to-none. The staff speak good English, and a wall decorated with customers' photographs and comments emphasize this as a foreigner hang-out where you can not only eat but also meet fellow travelers.
There are English books and works in other languages on hand, a wide selection of western means, desserts and side-dishes to choose from and occasionally their baker cooks up an excess batch of loaves so you can buy one and take a taste of home away with you.
- Pricesare mid-budget.
- Address: 1 Yiren Road
- Opening hours:10:00am – 23:00pm
Charlotte is particularly to be recommended for its ambiance. (Not wishing to spoil the surprise of its decor, a visit to the WC while you are there is highly recommended).
Located just off the central Zhongshan Road, Charlotte nestles in a quiet corner at the side of the Rong Lake. In spite of its substantial size it has a cozy feel, the chairs are of the kind you can sink into after a day's walking around the city and it is popular with Chinese and foreigners alike.
Water flows around the restaurant in artificial rivers populated with fish and there's a warmth about the place that is welcoming.
The English-language menu doesn't seem to offer all the dishes available, focusing rather on those more western, so if you want to take a chance on their fusion-style cookery take a look at their Chinese menu, find a photo of a dish that looks interesting and point.
Prices are reasonably mid-budget and you will find everyone in there from families on an evening out to business people who find it a pleasant place to meet.
- Address: 1 South Rong Hu Road
- Opening hours:10:00am – 22:00pm
Though Guilin is not the best city for nightlife, the local population like to let their hair down here as anywhere and, while you'll find little that caters specifically for western tastes in music and drink, there are places worth going to if you fancy a night out on the town. Most of these center upon the central pedestrian street,Zhengyang Road.
Zhengyang Pedestrian Street
This busy, late-night walking street runs for some 600 meters parallel with Guilin's central Zhongshan Road, from Shan Lake's Lijiang River end to Jiefang East Road, half-way between the Zhongshan Lu crossroads and the Liberation Bridge.
Though predominantly a shopping street, it is populated withbars and nightclubsmaking it particularly vibrant in the late-evening and at night. Exploring it and mingling with other walkers makes for a good evening out as you check out bakers with western-style bread, souvenir shops, foreign delicacies unavailable elsewhere in Guilin and other delights. Some of the particular attractions along its length and in its wider vicinity include:
If it's flashing lights and a decent-sized dance floor you're after, then Baidu Bar is the place for you. The most popular of the Guilin nightclubs with local youth, Baidu has three levels featuring KTV rooms and a KTV club as well as the dance floor area itself with featured DJs. (KTV is the Chinese term for karaoke, something of a national obsession). A view out over the Li River from the KTV area adds to the atmosphere.
Though a mid-price establishment, Baidu may become considerably more expensive if you decide to take advantage of the wide range of Chinese and western liqueurs available.
- Address: 18 Binjiang Road
Back Garden Irish Pub
The Back Garden Irish Pub is home away from home on the corner of one of the side streets off Zhengyang Road. This has proved a popular haunt with foreigners, both expats and tourists alike, for the care the manager has taken to make it foreigner-friendly, the reasonable prices and the friendly atmosphere it offers.
With live folk music on offer from 9.00am, there's plenty of seating out on the street as well as inside. Tea and coffee are available. If you get peckish, the food on offer is reasonably priced, much of it catering to western tastes.
- Address:Ming Chen Hotel, 6 Zhengyang Road
Just over the side street from the Back Garden Irish Pub, the Paulaner Bar offers a more earthy atmosphere, particularly good for a lads' night out. It specializes in imported beers, wines and spirits and charges extra for such exotica, but in providing a wide range you should find something familiar.
There is some exterior seating, but this is mainly an indoor bar with a focus on sports, a favorite destination for those keen to see a football (soccer) match on the many wide screen TVs scattered around amongst football memorabilia. In the absence of a match, there's live music in the evenings.
- Address:2 Zhengyang Road
Shangshui Street is a lot on Binjiang Road, just off Zhengyang Road. Constructed in the style of traditional streets in the villages north of Guilin, Shangshui Street is a bustle of small eateries and food stalls catering for a wide range of tastes. Very popular – and very crowded – much of the eating is done on small tables arranged outside the dozens of specialist booths and shops that line the pavement.
This is an excellent place to come if you want to sample food from all around China as well as Guilin's own specialties, but you can also find hamburgers, pizzas and other traditional western snacks and meals along with one of Guilin's very few Indian restaurants.
- Address: 15 Binjiang Road
Guilin may not seem ideal for shopping, located as it is in China's backwoods, but there are local crafts and artwork not available elsewhere that serve as a unique attraction... if you know where to look.
Most of Guilin's allure focuses on the hills that are its trademark attraction. Beyond the peaks, however, Guilin has much to offer in its many parks, a museum and a cruise around the city's lakes and rivers.
The Li River
The Li River boasts the biggest karst landscape scenic area in the world. The Li is like a green ribbon winding among the green peaks, with its highlights concentrated on the 52-mile-long stretch from Guilin to Yangshuo, along which pinnacles, ponds, waterfalls, fishing villages are scattered.
It’s praised as a 100-li (50-kilometer) gallery by artists. The scenery of the Li River is characterized by its green hills, clear water, pretty rocks, and grotesque caves. The most famous attractions are Nine-Horse Fresco Hill, Yellow Cloth Shoal, One-Side Ferry, and Crown Cave.
Longji has a magnificent momentum of flowing cultivated curves and minority ethnic culture.
Initially built in the Yuan Dynasty (1279–1368) and taking their present form in the Qing Dynasty (1644–1911), Longji’s terraced fields cover 60 square kilometers (23 square miles) with an altitude ranging from 300 to 1,100 meters (984 feet to 3,609 feet). The rice terraces are just like the scales of a huge dragon’s back (Longji means ‘Dragon’s Back’) as they proceed in tiers down the mountain ridges.
Longji is home to the Zhuang and Yao ethnic groups, who live in Ping’an Zhuang Terraced Field Scenic Area and Jinkeng Red Yao Terraced Field Scenic Area. It’s an ideal place for you to experience authentic ethnic minority customs during your Guilin tour.
- Location: Longji Scenic Area, Longsheng County, 80 km north of Guilin
Yangshuo Countryside Scenery
Yangshuo is known to the world for its beautiful, idyllic landscape, especially its mountain and water scenery. Yangshuo’s Li River scenery was described as “The river is like a green ribbon, while the hills are emerald hairpins.” by Han Yu from the Tang Dynasty (618–907).