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One of the oldest tourist destinations in China welcomes you to a land of calm waters and mist-shrouded hills that has kept its otherworldly charm through thousands of years of civilization. You can admire sights from the limestone karsts that tower above the Li River to the terraced rice fields in the countryside, or try out some of the things to do in Guilin and get to know the food, people, and stories that have helped inspire poets and travelers for centuries.
Guilin’s downtown covers the city’s old historic center, between the Li River’s western bank and a string of lakes and steep hills that stand in between its neighborhoods. Filled hotels, restaurants, and shops line the pedestrian streets and waterfronts, where you can still see remnants of the ancient city walls.
The east side of the Li River is home to Guilin’s new commercial center, where conference centers and shopping plazas anchor a district with all the urban sophistication of a modern Chinese city. The area still manages to preserve some of the most accessible green space in town, with parkland and walking trails reaching out to the river’s edge.
Separated from the city proper by one of the most famous stretches of the Li River, Yangshuo feels like a resort town designed for easy access to the countryside. The 1,400-year-old avenue of West Street is lined with restaurants and chic cafes, and a short walk in any direction can bring you to the towering limestone peaks and hiking trails that have been attracting backpackers to the town for decades.
There’s an old Chinese saying that Guilin has the best scenery in the entire mortal world, and the city has done a good job of preserving the attractions that show you why. Between the iconic stone arch of Elephant Trunk Hill and the famous hollow mountain of Moon Hill, you can find pieces of landscape that look like they’ve been sculpted by ancient giants. Take a walk to Seven-Star Park to see the city’s oldest bridge amid the pagodas and tree-covered valleys, or check out the nightly light show in Yangshuo that uses the hillsides as a canvas for a brilliant display of colors.
The central feature for most of Guilin’s destinations is the Li River, which has been helping people admire the city for millennia. You can take a private cruise out in the evening to check out the city lights, or make a day of it with a scenic voyage that takes you all the way to Yangshuo.
While you’re getting to know the city, you can learn about some favorite spots on a walking tour. Pick up some new insights into the region’s signature cuisine with a cooking class, or visit an outdoor auditorium to see a live performance and spend some time appreciating the arts.
And if you’d like to get a closer look at the countryside and little villages that lie in Guilin’s vast rural areas, you can find some great destinations waiting for you. Join a bicycle tour across Yangshuo County, or head north to Longsheng to see the famous rice terraces and get some of the most beautiful views in China.