15 Best Things to Do in Guilin, China

Guilin, China
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With its scenic Karst mountains and abundance of history and nature, Guilin is fast becoming a popular tourist destination in China for locals and foreigners alike.

Located on the northeast tip of the Guangxi province, visitors can immerse themselves in the vast natural resource and scenic landscapes that Guilin has to offer. One can spend their travels traversing its numerous mountain ranges, traditional palaces and temples, and river trails.

Excited to see what Guilin has in store?

Read on to find out about the 15 best things to do in Guilin, China.

Admire the Gorgeous Limestones at Reed Flute Cave

Majestic view of Reed Flute Cave
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Known as the top go-to destination in Guilin, the Reed Flute Cave highlights the unique natural wonders the town is known for.

Located in a northwest suburb 5 kilometers from the city center, Reed Flute Cave is touted as the “Palace of Natural Art,” with its wide array of stalactites and stalagmites formed over 180 million years ago.

It is said these formations resemble mythical creatures and popular landmarks, with Chinese people naming the figures in a poetic manner.

Stone steps in Reed Flute Cave
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Visitors can take in the wonder of the rock formations, being adorned with nicknames such as Lion Rock and Sunrise, Crystal Palace, Pines in the Snow, and Sky-Scraping Twin.

Some formations are also nicknamed after Western landmarks, such as the Statue of Liberty.

It was widely believed that the cave remained empty and untouched for over a thousand years before being discovered by Japanese troops.

The caves were opened to the public in 1962.

Since then, the attraction has been visited by millions of tourists, as well as international dignitaries such as US presidents Richard Nixon and Jimmy Carter.

Multicolored Reed Flute Cave
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Bask in the History of Elephant Trunk Hill

Scenic view of Elephant Trunk Hill
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Elephant Trunk Hill showcases a natural karst rock formation tucked on the banks of the Peach Blossom and Li Rivers.

The destination is named after its distinct shape, symbolizing an elephant using its trunk to take a drink from the Li River.

Elephant Trunk Hill also has an interesting history.

Apart from its resemblance to the animal, the rock formation is said to be the embodiment of an elephant that lived with the Jade Emperor, often considered to be the first incarnation of a heavenly body in Chinese theology.

People under the Elephant Trunk Hill
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Visitors can also spend a day exploring the surrounding park and attractions to Elephant Trunk Hill, such as the Water Moon Cave, Puxian Pagoda, and Yunfeng Temple.

All these are within walking distance of one another, housed within the complex of Elephant Trunk Park.

Elephant Trunk Hill is a 20-minute walk away from the Guilin Railway Station.

The attraction is also easily accessible through the public bus lines.

Closer details of Elephant Trunk Hill
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Shop for Local Wares at Xicheng Pedestrian Street

Tent shops along Xicheng Pedestrian Street
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Situated five minutes away from the city center, Xicheng Pedestrian Street is a popular destination for local wares and delicious eats.

Visitors can find a vast selection of traditional handicrafts, ranging from fans to homeware and decorative items.

Bamboo is a material abundant and popularly used in Guilin.

One can expect to find a range of bamboo products and carvings in most of the shops in the market.

Night market at Xicheng Pedestrian Street
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After shopping, visitors can also get a taste of local Chinese flavor through the various selection of food available.

One can get a taste of popular fares such as zhongzi (traditional Chinese rice pudding), Guilin rice noodles, and Yangshuo beer fish.

Visitors can also take home bottles of Guilin Three-Treasures Sanhua wine, locally made from the spring water of the Lijiang province.

The best time to visit Xicheng Pedestrian Street is at night, as locals and tourists alike come out to shop, eat, and have a good time.

People strolling along Xicheng Pedestrian Street
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Immerse in Art and History at the Guilin Art Museum

Guilin Art Museum's grounds
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Built in 1997, the Guilin Art Museum is considered the biggest in the area, home to various traditional Chinese landscapes and artifacts.

Located near South Lake Park, its collection has built a reputation with local and international art lovers alike, housing art from artists.  

Its wide assortment of art contributes greatly to cultural education and exchange in the area.

Art on the walls of Guilin Art Museum
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The museum’s complex spans over 20,000 square kilometers, with the building itself dating back to the Song Dynasty.

Its collections contain pieces such as traditional Chinese calligraphy and depictions of Chinese architecture and landscapes.

On the museum’s second level houses an “Artists Gallery,” wherein up-and-coming artists are given a venue to showcase their distinct, one-of-a-kind work.

Collectors are also welcome to purchase artwork housed in the museum.

Chinese letters on a rock at Guilin Art Museum
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Take a Snapshot at Two Rivers and Four Lakes

A bridge over Two Rivers and Four Lakes
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Nestled in the heart of Guilin are the rivers Li and Taohua, and lakes Rong, Shan, Gui and Mulong, making up the namesake attraction of Two Rivers and Four Lakes.

Covering an expanse of over 380,000 square kilometers, visitors are given a visual treat of the picturesque surroundings, coupled with the scenic waterways of the rivers and lakes.

Elephants sculptures on the shore of Two Rivers and Four Lakes
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Two Rivers and Four Lakes is a popular nighttime destination, as the evening lights better reflect the beauty of the traditional buildings and pagodas.

Visitors can choose to walk to take in all of the sights, or take a cruise across the rivers.

Brightly-lit tourist boats on Two Rivers and Four Lakes
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Observe Buddhist Customs at Riyue Shuangta Cultural Park

Night lights of Riyue Shuangta Cultural Park's pagoda
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Riyue Shuangta Cultural Park is the first of its kind in China, integrating different facets of Chinese culture into one tourist destination.

Located in the Shanhu Lake area, the park highlights two pagodas nestled on the water.

Named the Sun and Moon pagodas, visitors are in for cultural education as they ascend every floor.

People in Riyue Shuangta Cultural Park at night
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In the 9-layer Sun pagoda, visitors can partake in traditional customs, such as ringing the copper bell for Buddhist blessings.

They can also take in a panoramic view of the city on the top floor and enjoy traditional teas available for service.

The seven-layer Moon pagoda features statues of philosophers Lao Tzu and Confucius, as well as remnants of Bhaisajyaguru, Sunlight Bodhisattva, and Moonlight Bodhisattva, all located at the underground museum inside.

A person taking a picture of Riyue Shuangta Cultural Park's pagoda
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Experience a Slice of Hong Kong at the Little Hong Kong Market

Located in an underground expanse in the heart of the city, Little Hong Kong is a treat for both local Hong Kongers living in Guilin, as well as tourists wanting to experience a taste of the small Cantonese city.

The expanse of busy walkways lined with shops selling various fares closely resembles the hustle and bustle of the Ladies’ Market in Mong Kok.

Visitors can buy items such as souvenirs, handbags, and t-shirts, as well as Hong Kong street food fare like curry fish balls and clay pot rice.

Take a Hike on Moon Hill

Scenic view of Moon Hill
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Moon Hill is one of the peak highlights of the Yangshuo countryside.

Named after a rock with a moon-shaped hole in the center, Moon Hill is a popular destination for outdoor activities.

Visitors can partake in activities such as hiking, rock climbing, and cycling along the expanse of the park.

Closer view of Moon Hill
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Visitors can also swing by Moon Hill Village located at the foot of the rock and grab a few refreshments before partaking in the attraction’s activities.

Moon Hill is easily accessible by public transportation.

There is even an option to rent a bike and cycle out an hour from the city center.

Sunny day at Moon Hill
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Enjoy Traditional Buddhist Fare at Nengren Temple

With locations in most parts of Mainland China, Nengren Temple in Guilin does not fall short and is a must-visit destination in the area.

Located in the Xiufeng District, the temple is open to Buddhists for prayer and worship.

A vegetarian restaurant is also open on-site, catering to not only the temple’s monks but also to visiting tourists.

Visitors have a chance to partake in the traditional Buddhist fare, with various options served in a buffet-style manner.

Take in the Traditional Architecture at Shiwai Taoyuan

Calm waters of Shiwai Taoyuan
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Touted as “the peach blossom land,” Shiwai Taoyuan is a park located in the Yangshuo countryside.

The park features traditional village architecture crossed with natural lush flora.

Visitors can enjoy the various tours available in the park, highlighting the tradition and culture of Guilin.

Beautiful structure of Shiwai Taoyuan
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A walk around a park is a must, with visitors having plenty of opportunities for picture-perfect landscapes of the traditional buildings.

Traversing by water is also an option, as visitors can opt to take a boat to go around the expanse of the park.

Wall details of Shiwai Taoyuan
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Discover the Biggest Royal Mausoleum at Guilin Jinjiang King Tomb

Located in the Guilin Yao mountains covering an expanse of over 100 square meters, the Jinjiang King Tomb is a popular destination in the area.

Built for the Jinjiang Royal family of the Ming Dynasty, over eleven generations of their lineage are buried in the confines of the mausoleum.

There are over 300 tombs located here – the biggest group of well-preserved tombs in southern China.

Apart from basking in the history of the family, visitors also have access to a cable car connecting both ends of the park’s expanse, offering a scenic view of the surrounding natural skyline.

Roam the Campus at Jinjiang Princes’ Palace

The gate of Jinjiang Princes’ Palace
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Built during the Ming Dynasty, the Jinjiang Princes’ Palace is one of the most important historical artifacts in Guilin.

The palace was previously the residence of Zhu Shouqian, the great-nephew of the first Ming Dynasty emperor Zhu Yuanzhang.

The palace took over 20 years to build and is older than the famous Forbidden City in Beijing.

Front exterior of Jinjiang Princes’ Palace
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With the local government wanting to preserve the palace’s symbolism in Chinese history and culture, the palace is now a popular tourist destination for travelers in Guilin.

It is also the new home of Guangxi Normal University.

Visitors can traverse the campus and go to the different cultural structures such as the Zhuangyuan Jidi arch, Study Cave, Examination House, Couple Tree, and Fortune Well.

Each artifact contributes a unique story that shaped Chinese culture dating back to the Qing dynasty.

Exterior of Jinjiang Princes’ Palace
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Catch a Show at the Linjiang Theater

With its reputation as a cultural hotspot in China, Guilin is also home to Linjiang Theater, headlining shows that pay homage to traditional folklore.

“Fantastic Guilin” highlights the unique folk customs of the Miao, Dong, and Zhuang nationalities.

The performance combines traditional Chinese songs and dances with elaborate costumes and dazzling background landscapes.

Visitors can also watch the grand acrobatic show “Dreamlike Lijiang.”

Praised as “not a show to be missed,” it combines acrobatics and ballet in a performance that captures the history of Li River.

The high-tech lights and sounds, combined with the romantic performances of the artists, draw numerous locals and tourists alike.

Conquer All Peaks at Seven Star Park

Lush landscape of Seven Star Park
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Taking its name from the seven peaks located in the expanse of the park, Seven Star Park is the biggest park in Guilin.

It is located on the east of the Li River in central Guilin, offering numerous attractions for locals and visitors alike.

Within the park, visitors can go to the Guilin Seven Star Zoo, the only one located in Guilin City.

The zoo is home to some of the oldest living pandas in the country.

Meimei the Panda has set a new record for the zoo, holding the title for the longest living panda raised in captivity at 36 years.

The zoo has been raising and caring for animals since the 1960s.

A sleeping panda at Seven Star Park
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Visitors can also cross over Flower Bridge, the main entrance to the park.

Built in the Song Dynasty, it was named after the lush expanse of flora and fauna surrounding the bridge in those years.

The blooms were most prominent in the late spring season leading up to summer.

Visitors can also take in the natural structures of Seven Star Cave and Camel Hill also located in the expanse of the park.

With so many historical and modern attractions, one can spend a whole day exploring the wonders of Seven Star Park.

Seven Star Park's camel hill
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Take a Sip at the Guilin Tea Science and Research Institute

Located northeast of Guilin is the Tea Science and Research Institute, a must-visit place for tea lovers.

Founded in 1965, the institute is home to over 250 varieties of tea plants.

The area was a former tea garden for the royal family back in the Ming Dynasty.

Visitors can take a tour of the grounds and see the process of how tea is made, from picking the tea leaves to brewing, drying, and processing for consumption.

They even get to experience a few steps in the process, such as sorting dried tea leaves for brewing and sampling freshly picked batches of jasmine, oolong, and traditional green teas.

Apart from the tea education, the institute also features a picturesque landscape away from the hustle and bustle of the city.

It is definitely the perfect location for a day of rest and relaxation in Guilin.

Final Thoughts

With its rich history, abundance of natural landscapes, and preservation of Chinese culture, Guilin is a gem to be discovered in mainland China.

With its close proximity to tourist hotspots Guangzhou and Hong Kong, there is definitely great potential for this city to be put on the map as the next hot destination for locals and foreigners alike.

So check it out and plan your travel to Guilin today!