GUANGZHOU, once known to the Western world as Canton, was for centuries where China met the rest of the world – commercially, militarily and otherwise. Increased competition from elsewhere in China may have diminished Guangzhou’s role as a centre of international commerce, but with the money continuing to roll in from the industrial and manufacturing complexes which cover the surrounding Pearl River Delta, there is little suggestion that the city is a fading power.

For visitors, however, Guangzhou’s attractions are limited and mainly business-oriented, as the biannual Canton Trade Fair attests. The city is vast, untidy and unbelievably crowded, and actual tourist sights are relatively trivial, though a peek at the European colonial enclave of Shamian Island and the fascinating 2000-year-old tomb prove the city’s lengthy and varied cultural heritage. Often the pervading impression is of endless anonymous blocks of chrome and concrete blurring together as you zip over the multiple elevated expressways in a taxi. Yet there’s something about this chaotic caricature of Hong Kong that somehow manages to be enjoyable. The Cantonese are compulsively garrulous, turning Guangzhou’s two famous obsessions – eating and business – into social occasions, and filling streets, restaurants and buildings with the sounds of yueyu, the Cantonese language.

Book through Rough Guides’ trusted travel partners

China features

The latest articles, galleries, quizzes and videos.

An expert's guide: where to stay in Shanghai

An expert's guide: where to stay in Shanghai

Shanghai has to be a contender for the buzziest city in Asia, a thriving business hub that's brashly modern yet wears its history on its sleeve. Dense with glit…

23 Oct 2017 • Simon Lewis insert_drive_file Article
The best aerial views in the world

The best aerial views in the world

Got a head for heights? If you're craving a new perspective on your travels, the best thing to do is get up high. From mountain-top panoramas to cityscapes, her…

17 Oct 2017 • Olivia Rawes camera_alt Gallery
Budget trips: 20 of the cheapest places to travel

Budget trips: 20 of the cheapest places to travel

That ever-growing travel wish list might be putting some pressure on your pocket – but there are plenty of destinations where you'll get more bang for your b…

11 Oct 2017 • Emma Gibbs camera_alt Gallery
View more featureschevron_right

Weekly newsletter

Sign up now for travel inspiration, discounts and competitions

Sign up now and get 20% off any ebook