One of the picturesque regions in China, Guilin has long been famed as a sedate holiday destination filled with stunning landscapes. Over recent years though, the city has modernised, with a fantastic nightlife and plenty of local cuisine to sample.
For those wanting to see classic Chinese landscapes and picture postcard scenery, Guilin is a strategic base from which to plan some day trips. From here, you can enjoy the glorious rice terraces at Longsheng, the meandering Li River made famous by the ¥20 note, and the popular tourist town of Yangshuo.
Tours and activities in Guilin
With so much to see and do around Guilin, it’s a good idea to plan how you want to spend your time in advance. Navigating transportation, ticketing and other nuances of travel can cause delays, wasting your precious time here in this gorgeous city, so to really maximise your experience, book a local tour guide to help.
Local guides are extremely knowledgeable and can really bring to life the history and stories behind the attractions and buildings you’ll see. They can negotiate favourable rates on transport and accommodation, and can often secure tickets to shows, concerts and events more easily than if you tried to do it yourself. Check out our selection of great value tours below, or get in touch to find out more.
Best time to visit
Guilin has a fairly mild climate, with four distinct seasons. Springtime is vibrant and sunny with a foggy, wet summer and a cool, mild autumn. The best months to visit are between April and October, however it’s worth keeping in mind the Chinese National Day Holiday from October 1st to 7th, as during this time Chinese people will holiday all over the country, and Guilin can become very busy.
Top Attractions in Guilin
Getting here and getting around
Guilin Liangjiang International Airport services flights from 12 airlines, with flights from domestic cities and foreign countries too. Frequent connections are available to Hong Kong, Bangkok, Kuala Lumpur, Singapore and Seoul amongst others. An airport shuttle bus provides a convenient service and costs just ¥20. However, the bus drops off to the south of the city at the Aviation Hotel, where a taxi will be needed to take you the rest of the way. With traffic, you should allow two hours for travel to and from the airport.
The city has two main passenger railway stations that let you travel across town as well as take the train to many major cities in China. If you’re looking for sleeper tickets, be aware that these are not usually available on the day of departure because Guilin is often a mid-route stop. Book in advance to be sure.
City buses are plentiful and probably your best bet when travelling across the city. They usually cost ¥1.2 without air conditioning, rising to ¥2 for buses that are air conditioned. You can also take one of almost 200 taxi cabs in the city, with flag-down rates starting at ¥9/¥11 depending on whether you’re travelling by day or night.
As Guilin is so compact, many locals opt to travel by bicycle and if you’d like to do the same, you can hire bikes from ¥15.
Eating and drinking
Guilin cuisine is diverse, with influences from Canton, Sichuan, Hunan, Zheijang, Jiangxi and Fujian. Popular dishes include stewed duck with gingko, thought to help problems with the lungs, Lipu taro pork, stewed clams and chicken and Lo Han boiled rice.
Local snacks include rice noodles and soup – made from pork, steak, Lo Han Kuo and a variety of seasonings. Horse meat noodles are famed in Guilin.
Popular restaurants include Tong Lai Guan in Zhongshan Middle Road which serves local snacks and Lao Xiang Qin Restaurant, serving Beijing and Tianjin cuisine. There are also plenty of western restaurants, including Sharon’s Coffee on Chaunshan South Road which offers German and Western dishes including burgers, schnitzel and pizza as well as, of course, coffee and espresso.
Nightlife in Guilin is truly buzzing, with the Li River Folk Customs Centre famous for singing, dancing and performances in traditional costume, as well as plenty to eat and drink. Ghuishan Zhi Xiu (the Beauty of Guishan) is a typical performance that explores traditional ethnic life including the Yao wedding dance and the harvest dance. There are also nightclubs across the city providing performances and Karaoke.
Getting a good night's sleep
For luxury, opt for a stay at the Guilin Golden Oriole Hotel, opposite the iconic Elephant Trunk Hill. This high-end hotel offers free pick up services for guests, exquisite rooms and a scintillating laser and lighting shows in the garden in the evenings.
A fantastic mid-priced hotel that receives excellent reviews from travellers is the Guilin Zhongshui International Hotel. Free pick-up service and a tour desk are provided, and the hotel serves a mix of local cuisine and Hunan dining. The location is ideal for those who’d like to enjoy some nature walks or riverside tours.
Despite its budget prices, Junshe Boutique Guest House is a bestseller in Guilin, and incredibly popular with shoestring travellers. You can choose from guestrooms or dormitory accommodation with air conditioning throughout. A restaurant, bar, reading area and games room means there’s plenty to do in the evenings, and plenty of opportunities to make new friends.