Gulangyu Island, home to charming colonial villas, good air quality and shady banyan trees, is a lovely and popular Xiamen destination. Wander down car-free lanes, stop in a small restaurant for milk tea and listen to piano music often heard drifting through the streets.
Serving as Xiamen’s foreign concession until World War II, the island was settled by fourteen different countries between the 19th and early 20th centuries. Note the many surviving colonial buildings, which act as visible reminders of the island’s history.
Less than 0.8 square miles (2 square kilometers) in size, this tiny island is a perfect spot for strolling and enjoying a relaxed atmosphere. Fuzhou Lu and Guxin Lu streets are lined with picturesque flowers throughout the year. For a more peaceful atmosphere, walk farther away from the busy ferry terminal.
Moving southeast from the pier, notice the former Japanese Bo’ai Hospital, which dates back to 1936. Walk up Lujiao Lu to see the old Japanese Consulate and the early 20th-century Ecclesia Catholica. Don’t miss Guancai Lou, a Dutch-designed former residence built in 1931. Like many of the island’s buildings, it has not been especially well preserved over the years, but it exudes a weathered beauty and retains many of its original features.
Find out why Gulangyu is nicknamed "Piano Island” by checking out the unique museum found in Shuzhuang Garden. The museum houses more than 30 historic pianos collected from around the world by Gulangyu native Hu Youyi. Look for a 19th-century American Steinway & Sons piano and a piano which is gold plated.
Toward the southcentral part of the island, find Sunlight Rock, which is the island’s highest point. Walk up this 304-foot (93-meter) hill, taking note of the ancient inscriptions carved along the rocky path. From the top of the hill, enjoy striking views over the entire island and across the water to Xiamen.
Gulangyu Island is located off the shore of Xiamen, a short ferry trip from Xiamen Ferry Terminal. Non-Chinese visitors must travel from the Dongdu International Cruise Terminal. Visit mid-week to avoid crowds.