The 2000-foot Canton Tower rises over the waters of the sprawling Pearl River Delta in the heart of present-day Guangzhou. Perhaps no other image so embodies the soaring aspirations of this city standing as a centerpiece of China’s newfound economic might. But this striking structure, the second-tallest such tower in the world, is more than a monument to modernity; its location on the river and indeed its very name reflects both the past and the future of Guangzhou’s historic role as a global trading center.
In fact, Guangzhou – Canton as it was known in the past – has been one of the key stopovers along the world’s trade routes since ancient times. As a consequence, when a visitor looks past the dazzling modern façade, Guangzhou holds a wealth of experiences for both business travelers with a weekend to spare and vacationers seeking to reconnect with the past and the present.
The city’s magnificent parks and public gardens were created over the centuries beginning at the height of Canton’s early trade with the West. One of the largest, Yuexiu Park and the surrounding area also feature a number of historical sites as well. Just below the park, the Sun Yat Sen Memorial Hall, completed in 1931, was commissioned to honor Guangzhou’s favorite son, the Founder of Modern China.
Tucked away among more modern developments, impressive landmarks from centuries past remain to be discovered. Among the most remarkable are the Flowery Pagoda, also known as the Six Banyans Temple, and the nearby Guangxiao Temple, or the Temple of Bright Filial Piety, which dates back to the 3rd century AD. A short walk away, an 8th century mosque stands as a reminder of Guangzhou’s early global trading connections to the Arab world and beyond. From the times of the ancient Maritime Silk Road to its modern One Belt, One Road descendants, Guangzhou has always been a key link in the chain of international commerce.
Along the Canton Bund, the architecture mostly dates from the first three decades of the 20th century when the city sought to rival Shanghai in terms of riverfront grandeur. Bund-front buildings include the old Post Office, the Customs House with it clock tower and the city’s first high-rise building, the Oi Kwan Hotel, which is still in operation as a hotel.
To be sure, throughout its history Guangzhou has played host to the world’s business travelers from the early Romans to today’s tech gurus. Increasingly the city is attracting an abundance of hospitality investment, with the result that new properties are springing up all over providing guests with an array of choices for their stays.
Among the most recent openings:
Opened: May 2017
One of the latest luxury international brands to open in Guangzhou, this 309-room property stands behind the towering new Guangzhou CTF Finance Centre one block back from the Tianhe CBD’s central park quadrangle. The wide range of rooms and suites are all furnished and decorated in modern chic style. The hotel has nearly 20,000 square feet of meeting space, with an Executive Lounge on the 27th floor. A comprehensive health club and spa facility includes an indoor heated pool and outdoor whirlpool, a variety of workout zones in the fitness center, and steam baths, ice fountains and herbal and hot stone saunas. conradhotels.com
Aloft Guangzhou Tianhe
Opened: May 2016
The city’s second Aloft property is also the largest in the world for this Millennial-focused brand. Located within walking distance of Guangzhou East Railway Station, it boasts 498 rooms all featuring the SPG Keyless mobile system. The fast-moving, hip and trendy atmosphere is augmented by its W:XYZ bar, which features the signature “Live at Aloft Hotels” music programming. A total of 10,000 square feet of event space includes unique “Tactic” meeting venues, all furnished with state-of-the-art AV technology. starwoodhotels.com/alofthotels
Hampton by Hilton
Guangzhou Zhujiang New Town
Opened: March 2016
This is the flagship property for the Hampton by Hilton brand in China, which treads the line between offering a relaxing haven for business travelers and an enjoyable environment for families. Its 223 guestrooms all contain beds with signature Serta mattresses, and there’s a moveable desk and ergonomic chair so you can create the right working environment to suit your own tastes. Free WiFi is available throughout the hotel, as well as a 24-hour snack bar. hampton.com
Park Hyatt Guangzhou
Opened: Dec 2015
This 208-room, design-led luxury hotel is the brand’s sixth in China. It combines all the requisite modern amenities – from technological gadgetry to top-quality dining and leisure offerings – with a stylish aesthetic that manifests itself through a host of diverse artworks and installations scattered throughout the hotel. What’s more, it’s all located at the top of a skyscraper in the new Tianhe CBD, with superb views south to the iconic Canton Tower and west towards the original city center. guangzhou.park.hyatt.com
Old Friends, New Arrivals
Worth noting are some major renovations to classic Guangzhou accommodation favorites. The White Swan Hotel on Shamian Island spent three years and $123 million on a full renovation and facelift completed in 2015, reducing its room count from 843 to 520 in order to increase average room size, and modernizing many of its public areas.
The landmark LN Garden Hotel, meanwhile, completed a major renovation of all 828 rooms, along with a facelift for the restaurants and other F&B areas.
The Grand Hyatt Guangzhou was one of the first hotels to open in the Zhujiang New Town business district in 2008 (soon after the Ritz-Carlton). After nine years and despite its matchless location, the competition is so fierce it now needs to upgrade and refresh its rooms, and the plan is for refurbishing to begin this summer.
The LN Garden Hotel, Nansha is open in the Bin Hai Park area of the Nansha Free Trade Zone outside the city. A resort-style property is designed to look like a cruise ship, offering 365 rooms and suites, indoor and outdoor pools, tennis courts and a billiards room.
A marquee opening is scheduled for this winter, when Rosewood Guangzhou will debut in the top 16 floors of the new Guangzhou CTF Finance Centre – Guangzhou’s tallest building and one of the ten highest towers in the world – which faces the International Finance Centre across the Tianhe CBD’s main park. The luxury property will offer 251 guestrooms and 355 Rosewood Residences (for long-staying guests); The Manor Club, a residential-style executive lounge; and a double-level spa and health club. Event space will cover 7,382 square feet and include The Pavilion – a residential-style function space; a 3,182-square-foot grand ballroom; three function rooms; two VIP rooms; and a Sky Mansion on the 108th floor featuring a show kitchen terrace.
The New World Guangzhou has opened as part of a mixed-use complex located in the Baiyun district just a 20-minute drive from Baiyun International Airport, offering 279 rooms, a rooftop pool and four F&B outlets including an “Asian tavern,” as well as the brand’s signature Residence Club executive floors. A substantial 30,000 square feet of event space will include a large ballroom and a lawn for outdoor venues.
Also coming soon to Baiyun International’s new Terminal 2: Plaza Premium Group will launch its first Aerotel-brand airport transit hotel in China in the second quarter of 2018. Designed for departing and transiting travelers, the property will feature 57 guestrooms situated within the terminal’s secured area at the international departure level.