A Walk around Shamian Island in Guangzhou

Since I am still in China and memories of my lovely walk around Shamian Island in Guangzhou are fresh in my mind, I decided to share some nuggets of information and a stunning photogallery with all of you.

Guangzhou, on the whole, was such a lovely surprise for me. This metropolis is very modern and charming, plus there are plenty of things to do in the Rice City.

My first real experience exploring Guangzhou was a couple of hours lazy walk around the aesthetically designed Shamian Island.

History of Shamian Island

There is so much history and interesting stories attached to this lovely landscaped colonial colony.

In the mid 19th-century this foreign enclave cropped up due to rising trade demands and Guangzhou was literally the only city willing to trade with rest of the world. Portuguese and middle eastern merchants had been trading since the 7th century, however British and French arrived later and things got complicated.

Since China was the main supplier of tea and Qing emperors has strict rules of trade where in, traders could only pay in silver; British came up with a plan to save their dwindling silver stocks. They started offering opium in exchange to China in the 18th century. The opium addiction in turn led to the Opium wars and since China needed modern weapons to fight the war, they signed off Shamian island to them.

Shamian Island

Navigating Shamian Island

That’s when the island got revamped and has the swanky yet charming look which you can still see in today’s modern era.  Shamian is also home to the first joint venture 5 star hotel of China – White Swan.

Exploring Shamian Island, Guanzhou

A look around Shamian Island

A look around Shamian Island

Shamian Island is a melting pot of history, culture, art and architecture in Guangzhou. The beautifully paved paths lined with trees on one side and ancient colonial style buildings on the other, makes up most of this pretty district.

ancient houses shamian

Ancient trees lined up right along with the old houses – how interesting!

The “sandy surface” (literal translation of Shamian from Chinese) is brimming with parks, statues, restaurants and statues with bridges and waterways on all sides. It even has a tennis court for recreation (For members only).

shamian street

A walk around the streets of Shamian

This upscale island is like a mini Europe in China, however with an “Asian influence”. It reminded me of the Old Town in Hoi Ann which was quite similar and also pretty amazing to walk around. I even saw a colonial style Starbucks here – how amazing is that?

Starbucks at Shamian Island

Well designed architectural delight – Starbucks at Shamian Island

You can even rent bikes and explore this charming island. I preferred to walk, especially since there are so many cute benches to relax.

sitting at shamian island

Many places to sit and relax at Shamian , making it ideal for all ages

Cute bronze statues are scattered all around the area and they depict life and culture of the golden era on the island. They showcase Chinese and western trends and way of living in a fun, quirky way.

Bronze statues shamian island

Bronze statues telling stories all around Shamian

I noticed this place was quite popular, even though I didn’t see any westerners around. Shamian island is an excellent spot for photography in Guangzhou and almost everyone had a camera or was taking selfies. There were a few pre-wedding and fashion photoshoots going on as well, adding to all the dazzle.

shamian island china

These buildings seemed to be a hot spot for photographers

How to Reach Shamian Island

Since metro connectivity, service and infrastructure is amazing in the city, I would highly recommend taking the Line 1 to Huangsha station. Take the Exit D and once you are outside, simply follow the overhead bridge to an adjoining pedestrian pathway on the opposite side. If you get lost or are unsure of which way to go, just show this to anyone on the street – “沙面岛)” (This is Shamian Island in Chinese).

Tip – Always keep destination names and common phrases in Chinese saved beforehand. Sometimes your internet won’t work at all, so taking printshots or downloading important info is highly recommended. Also keep this survival guide handy!

Overall, roaming around Shamian island was an absolutely delightful experience and I would recommend it to anyone who is visiting Guangzhou.


  1. Hey Jo,
    Thanks for the post. I’ve only been to Guangzhou on a stopover for a night and ended up couch surfing and got a pretty good experience. However, I didn’t realize that Shamian Island even existed. Guangzhou is a pretty large city so there ’s tons of space for surprises. Thanks for showing this part of China.

    • Karen, I know what you mean. My first two days in Gz, I was pretty spaced out and wasn’t sure if there was anything interesting at all – I am glad I found some great stuff though. Happy to share and do visit if you are headed there again.

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