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Gulangyu — Island of Pianos

Gulangyu — Island of Pianos

Written by Kelly PangUpdated Oct. 13, 2021

Gulangyu is directly off the southeastern coast of China, and the quaint tourist attraction is part of the bustling city of Xiamen. The island is famous for its natural beauty, colonial style architecture and a myriad of interesting museums.

Besides the island's historic significance as an international port, Gulangyu is a great place to escape from city traffic and highrise, though Xiamen has consistently been voted as one of the most livable cities in China, and Gulangyu Island has been recognized as one of Fujian Province's most scenic places.

Here are some of the attractions that make the islet so popular with natives and international visitors, as well as some important information for making one's island adventure enjoyable.

  • Chinese: 鼓浪屿Gǔlàngyǔ /goo-laang-yoo/ 'Drum Wave Islet'
  • Area: 1.8 sq. km. (0.7 sq. mi.)
  • Age: settled in 960 during the Song Dynasty
  • Features: a vehicle-free zone, China National Tourism Administration AAAAA Scenic Area
  • Popular activities: beach water sports, shopping, visiting museums, and viewing dazzling ocean inspired sunrises
  • Must sees: Piano Museum, Shuzhuang Garden, Huaijiu Gulangyu Museum, and Sunlight Rock Scenic Area
  • Suited to: young families, couples and anyone who needs a break from city life and can get around well on foot
  • Time needed: at least 4 hours, and it is ideal for weekend escapes

Best Times to Visit

Gulang Island's sea breezes and tropical temperatures attract visitors year round. Overly crowded beaches and shopping areas are the only complaints that many visitors seem to have when they arrive on Gulangyu. So try to avoid visiting the popular island during China's public holidays (especially May Day and National Day) or on the weekends.

Must Sees on the Island

Shuzhuang Garden

Shuzhuang gardenShuzhuang Garden

Shuzhuang Garden is a tranquil oasis that is a must see for horticulture enthusiasts. The lush garden grounds are a visual feast that artistically melds with natural features like native trees, flowering plants and bushes, cliffs and rock formations.

Shuzhuang Garden is very near the sea, but the layout of the grounds and the customized cupolas, walls and bridges hide the view until one reaches the section of the garden that uniquely frames the seascape for a nice spectator surprise. The dramatic yet peaceful grounds are a must see by all island visitors.

There is a piano museum (钢琴博物馆) inside the garden, which worth a visit for the amazing collection of pianos. Visitors who arrive at the museum at ideal times are treated to free concerts.  

  • Location: 7 Gangzaihou Road, near Sunlight Rock bathing beach 
  • Open: 7:30am – 5:30pm
  • Ticket: 30 yuan

Organ Museum

The Organ Museum (管风琴博物馆, different from the Piano Museum inside the Shuzhuang Garden) is the world's largest organ museum. It has a large number of various styles of organ collections from U.K., Germany, U.S., Australia, Italy, France, etc. In the middle of the museum, stands a Norman & Beard Organ (made in 1909, U.K.), 6 meters high, 3 meters wide, 1350 pipes.  

  • Location: Bagua Building (八卦楼, 'Eight Trigrams Building'), inside Xiamen Museum, northwest of Gulangyu Island
  • Open: 8:15am – 5:45pm
  • Ticket: 20 yuan
  • Good to know: To protect the organs, there's no touching and no photos.

Huaijiu Gulangyu Museum

Huaijiu Gulangyu Museum is the site of an early German bank. The museum highlights the roles played by foreign "diplomats" after the Opium Wars forced a colonial presence on to the vast Asian nation. All 13 foreign consulates were on Gulangyu Island, and Huaijiu Gulangyu Museum captures that part of history with vivid presentations and historic period furnishings.

  • Open: 8am – 6pm
  • Location: 62 Fujian Road
  • Ticket: 60 yuan 

Crag of Sunlight Scenic Area

  • Location: 56–64 Huangyan Road
Sunlight rockBird's-eye view of Xiamen from Sunlight Rock.

The Crag of Sunlight Scenic Area is composed of the Sunlight Rock and Qin Garden (琴园 'piano garden').

Sunlight Rock (open: 7am – 6pm, ticket: 60 yuan) is at the south side of Gulangyu Island, it's the highest point of the island. With rocks and stones of strange shapes, natural stone caves, cliffs, verdant trees, and fragrant flowers, the scenic area give off a subtropical and romantic flavor. You can climb up the ladders to the summit so as to have a bird's-eye view of the whole landscape of Xiamen, Gulangyu, as Dadan, and Xiaodan islands.

Qin Garden (open: 9am – 5pm, ticket: 20 yuan) is connected to Sunlight Rock by cable cars. It has newer tourist projects, including Aviary Garden, Cinema, and Hero Garden, which form a combination of dynamic and static, modern and ancient. The scenic area places emphasis on environmental protection.

Travel Essentials

Transport from Xiamen City to Gulangyu Island

Piers Departs Yuan
Xiagu–Neicuo'ao (厦鼓码头–内厝澳码头) Winter: 7:20–17:20 Summer: 7:20–18:20 50
Xiagu–Sanqiutian (厦鼓码头–三丘田码头) Winter: 7:10–17:30 Summer: 7:10–18:30 35
Songyu–Neicuo'ao (嵩屿码头–内厝澳码头) Winter: 7:30–17:50 Summer: 7:30–18:50  30
Lundu–Sanqiutian (night cruise) (轮渡码头–三丘田码头) Winter: 17:50–23:45 Summer: 18:50–23:45 35

Touring and Transport on Gulangyu

  • Purchase a tour pass ticket for 100 CNY at the International Ferry Port's terminal to save on the cost of visiting multiple attractions. Note that it's only valid for 1 day.
  • Stop by the Gulangyu Visitor's Center for more information on preferred self guided tour routes.  
  • While there are no vehicles or bicycles allowed on the island, a select few electric golf carts carry visitors in a circuit around the island's coast line.

Public Restrooms

There are about 21 public restrooms sprinkled throughout Gulangyu Island, and more are planned for construction for this picturesque travel destination. Currently, some of the restrooms are at Lujiao, Fuxing, and Zhonghua roads. Additional restrooms are expected to be built soon at Gangzaihou Bathing Beach, along Fuzhou Road and Bishan Park. Please be aware that the large crowds at Gulangyu translate into very dirty restrooms; cleaner facilities may be found at local restaurants or hotels.

Dining and Refreshments

Seafood Seafood

Restaurants, cafés and tea houses abound on Gulangyu Island. For example, one can visit the Shirley Valentine Restaurant for fresh seafood, noodles and great sea views. Milk tea shops such as Tea and Times and Zhang Sanfeng are welcome attractions for weary island visitors who have hiked most of the day on foot.

The Black Cat Dining Room on Yongchun Road also offers a mix of classic Chinese stir fry dishes made from fresh, local produce and Western dishes like flavorful salads and steaks. Besides the good food, people visit the Black Cat to informally tour the historic mansion in which the restaurant resides.

  • Mind that some shops and food markets are operated by non-English speakers.


Lodging on the island can range from deluxe to budget and everything in between. For instance, visitors can catch a glimpse of the island's heritage by staying at the Consulate Inn on 14 Lujiao Road which is housed in the renovated, 19th century British consulate. Alternately, the Bayview Inn which is on 17 Longtou Road provides basic, clean accommodations that include free wireless internet and friendly, English speaking staff.

What to Bring

  • Wide brimmed hat provides protection from sun and bird droppings at the aviary
  • Sunscreen
  • Mosquito Repellent
  • Comfortable hiking shoes
  • Water bottle for all day hydration

Recommended Gulangyu Island Tours


If you are planning a tour to Gulangyu Island, or Xiamen city, please see our popular tours below for inspiration:

Not interested in the above tours? Our tours can be tailor-made. Just tell us your interests and requirements, and we will create a perfect Gulangyu/Xiamen tour for you.

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