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Xiamen, or Amoy, is located in the south of Fujian Province. It is regarded as an international garden city. If you do not want to rush to see attractions or go to Gulangyu Island, there are some free places to visit.
Xiamen University (厦门大学, Xiàmén Dàxué /sshyaa-mnn daa-sshwair/) is one of the most famous free attractions of Xiamen. It is one of the prettiest universities in China.
The architecture is quite spectacular, combining Eastern and Western styles, as well as modern and traditional styles. It is described as "wearing a suit with a bamboo hat".
The old trees and beautiful flowers make the university seem like a garden. There is a beautiful Lotus Lake on the campus, which is flanked by trees. If you visit at the right time, you will see all kinds of flowers in spring and red leaves in autumn.
There is another free place to go just outside Danan Gate — Nanputuo Temple — where you will see lots of pilgrims paying their homage.
Nanputuo Temple (南普陀寺, Nán Pǔtuó Sì /nan poo-twor srr/) is the oldest Buddhist temple in south Fujian. It was built in the Tang Dynasty (618–917) and is next to Xiamen University.
There are three halls inside and every hall has a number of Buddhas. Around the temple, there are lots of stone carvings. The big Buddha character on the cliff at the back of the temple is 4.7 meters high and 3.3 meters wide.
You can also hike up the hill behind the temple, which gives you a great view of Xiamen.
It is a big temple and popular among pilgrims. It can be very crowded on the 1st and 15th of each month of the Chinese lunar calendar. You will see many devoted pilgrims who are there to pay their homage.
Bailuzhou Park ('Egret Island Park' 白鹭洲公园, Báilù zhōu gōngyuán /beye-loo-joh gong-ywen/) is a good place for leisure and games and is located in the downtown area. Tall palm trees line the lakeside. You can see egrets flying freely, walking on the ground, or standing by the lakes.
There is a sculpture of the Egret Goddess. It is a good place to shoot photos. Visitors with children can feed the pigeons with bread in the square, fly kites on the lawn, or walk dogs. On holidays, when the fountains are on, you can enjoy the music show.
Haiwan Park (海湾公园 Hǎiwān Gōngyuán /heye-wann gong-ywen/ 'Sea Bay Park') is an inner city lake park, and is a good place to enjoy the sea and the wind. There are seven parks inside: the Sky Park, Earth Park, Wood Park, Grass Park, Water-Flower Park, Seaside View Area, and the Avenue of Stars.
The Avenue of Stars is the highlight. It is 300 meters long and 40 meters wide. There are 2,076 LED lights, controlled by a computer, which can change into different displays. The displays sometimes lead you to the sea, sometimes they change into the shape of waves, and sometimes into other styles. There are a lot of outdoor bars for you to enjoy a relaxing evening.
Hongshan Park (鸿山公园 Hóngshān gōngyuán /hong-shan gong-ywen/ 'Big Hill Park') is an excellent place to get a bird's-eye view of Xiamen City and Gulangyu Island.
On Hong Hill, three sides are surrounded by the city and the other side is backed by the mountains. The highest point is 125 meters, which is higher than the Sunlight Rock on Gulangyu Island, on the opposite side. You can get a view of Wanshi Mountain to the east, Gulangyu Island to the west, Dadan, Erdan, and other islets to the south, and the whole of Xiamen City to the north.
The entrance of the park is a bit narrow. However, several meters after you enter and begin walking, you will see ponds, waterfalls, white pond lilies, and narcissi. Walk up the stone stairs until you reach the highest point.
Zhongshan Road Walking Street (中山路步行街, Zhōngshān Lù Bùxíngjiē /jong-shan loo boo-sshing-jyeah/) is the most famous street of Xiamen.
The buildings along both sides of the street are beautiful and European looking. There are nice shops, especially the tea sellers situated at every corner. You can buy some souvenirs there. In the main street there are lots of food stalls selling tasty snacks, and it can get quite crowded.
As a southern Chinese city along the coast, Xiamen gets a lot of rain. Most of the street has a large overhang so that you can walk along it without getting wet.
Jimei Academy Village, or Jimei School Village (集美学村 Jíměi Xué Cūn /jee-may sshwair tswnn/) was built with the money endowed by an overseas Chinese person, Tan Kah-kin. It is quite popular with visitors to Xiamen.
It is a nice place to wander around. There is a meeting hall, library, gymnasium, music hall, swimming pool, dragon boat pond, hospital, and navigation club. Some halls require tickets that cost 10 yuan per person.
The buildings combine Chinese and Western styles, typical of the south of Fujian. No matter whether there are tall dormitory buildings and halls, or exquisite pavilions, corridors or sheds, or whether they all have glazed roofs, dragon sculptured ridges, and phoenix sculptured brims, none of them are the same.
Kulangsu Huandao Road, or Amoy Circular Road (环岛路 Huándǎo Lù /hwan-daoww loo/) is a ring road starting from Xiamen University and continuing along the coastline to Wuyuan Bay.
There is a wooden trestle, which is about six kilometers long, starting from Xiamen University Baicheng. You will see Hulishan Cannon Platform, and see people sailing or playing beach volleyball. You can also have a rest at the bar or pavilions along the roadside. If you like biking, this is also a popular biking route. It is very easy to rent a bike.
Taiwan Snack Street (台湾小吃街 Táiwān Xiǎochī Jiē /teye-wann sshyaow-chrr jyeah/) is the first Taiwanese food street in mainland China.
It is a popular place that is full of delicious snacks, seafood, and souvenirs at reasonable prices. The 208-meter long street assembles all the famous local snacks from the Shilin Night Market in Taipei, the Fengjia Night Market in Taichung, and the Liuhe Night Market in Kaohsiung.
It can be very crowded at night, so keep your belongings close to you.
If you are planning a trip to Xiamen, please see our recommended tours below for inspiration:
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