August 10, 2020
Guilin is one of China’s most beautiful locations. In fact, an ancient Chinese proverb claims “Guilin’s mountains and rivers are the best under heaven” (桂林山水甲天下, Guìlín shānshuǐ jiǎ tiānxià).
With magnificent karst mountains reflecting on its many rivers and lakes, Guilin has a breathtaking mystical allure that attracts millions of local and foreign travelers every year. Being both a countryside and a city, Guilin maintains China’s rich traditional culture, making it a great place to learn more about Chinese culture as a whole.
Here are our top 10 recommendations for things to see and do in Guilin:
1. Try Guilin rice noodles
Guilin rice noodles, or 桂林米粉 (guìlín mǐfěn), are a breakfast staple of the local diet and renowned throughout China. For just 6 or so RMB, you can get a bowl of freshly cooked noodles. Add a splash of chili, pickles, and some chives and coriander to bring out the full flavor.
Rice noodle shops can be found all over Guilin. When you see one, just walk right in! There will likely be an attendant sitting at a table or desk at the front of the rice noodle shop. Just show the attendant this text to order a bowl:
- 请来一碗米粉，二两！(Qǐng lái yī wǎn mǐfěn, èr liǎng) – One bowl of rice noodles, please!
A classic bowl of Guilin rice noodles typically comes with noodles, garlic, a few chopped chives, roasted peanuts, and sliced beef and pork. To further customize, point to the following while ordering:
- 加个卤蛋 (jiāgè lǔdàn) – add a hard boiled egg
- 加个豆腐皮 (jiāgè dòufupí) – add tofu skin
- 不放肉！(bù fàng ròu) – no meat!
- 不放猪肉！(bù fàng zhūròu) – no pork! (the order should thus still come with beef)
Once you pay, the attendant will likely hand you a ticket. Just walk up to the counter where they prepare the rice noodles, hand the cook your ticket, and retrieve your beautiful bowl of authentic Guilin rice noodles!
Once your bowl of magnificent noodles is in hand, head to the fixins table and load up on additional toppings—all included in the original price.
You are now upon the second-to-final step! Near or on the fixins table, find the large container with pork broth and drench your noodles in this delightful final ingredient.
Final step: enjoy!
2. Hike Guilin’s karst mountains
Guilin has long been renowned for its karst topography and many outdoor sports enthusiasts love to explore the area by hiking or rock climbing. In fact, Guangxi Province has become so renowned in outdoor sports that the China-ASEAN Mountain Outdoors Tourism Conference held its rock climbing masters tournament there in 2018.
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3. Enjoy a scenic sunset
Head over to the Sun and Moon Pagados in the evening to experience the true beauty of Guilin. As the sun sets, the lights from the pagodas and the many Chinese lanterns reflect on the calm waters, creating an air of romanticism and allure. There are many restaurants and food stalls in the area so you can get a late-night snack while savoring the surrounding beauty.
4. Attend a Guilin opera (桂剧 guì jù)
Guilin opera dates back to the Qing Dynasty (1644-1912) and reflects the daily life of everyday people. Swing by Dongxi Xiang (东西巷) in downtown Guilin to catch a free show every evening. You can also always enjoy the full spectacle and purchase a ticket to see an in-house performance with Chinese tea and local snacks.
5. Sample Guilin’s local delicacies
Guilin literally means “Forest of Osmanthus”, due to the large number of osmanthus trees located throughout the city. You can smell this sweet fragrance everywhere in mid-autumn and it is an added ingredient in many local delicacies.
Although located throughout the city, there is a concentration of 土特产 (tǔ tèchǎn) or “souvenir shops” in Dongxi Xiang (东西巷) where you can taste test many of the osmanthus flavored cakes, spirits, and teas.
Guilin chili sauce 桂林辣椒酱 (Guìlín làjiāo jiàng) is also a famous staple in local cuisine. In the downtown district, you will find many stores where the fresh chilies are cut on the spot and packaged for sale.
6. Cruise down the Li River
The Li River connects Guilin and Yangshuo County, and a river cruise is one of the best ways to experience the breathtaking landscapes of the province. Check out our comprehensive guide to exploring all the different cruise options!
7. Try Oil Tea
Traditionally also a breakfast food, oil tea (油茶 yóuchá) is another local delicacy that you must try when in Guilin! As the name suggests, it is made by frying tea leaves in a mixture of oil with flour, chili, garlic, and salt. As a famous local food, it should be served with the following condiments:
|油果||yóuguǒ||A small brownish ball, fried and made of flour|
|米花||mǐhuā||A small white "Krispie" made of rice|
8. Visit Reed Flute Cave (芦笛岩 lúdí yán)
Did you know that Guilin’s largest karst cave is 180 million years old? This spectacular scenic spot takes you back to prehistoric times with its magnificent natural limestone formations highlighted by multicolored lights.
Some of these natural rock formations look like figures, such as mushrooms, snowmen, and towers and there are over 70 ink inscriptions dating back as far as the Tang Dynasty (618-907 AD).
During a visit to Guilin, Henry Kissinger famously described this site as “poetic”. Reed Flute Cave lives up to the hype.
9. Relax in Seven Star Park (七星公园 qīxīng gōngyuán)
Guilin’s largest park offers a glimpse into the daily life of everyday people. Here, you will find young and old doing their daily exercise routines, square dancing, playing, and singing.
It is a beautiful park that embodies Guilin’s natural scenery, and inside you can see other attractions such as a cave, a Buddhist temple, and an artificial waterfall. You may also find a few small monkeys swinging in the trees!
10. Study Chinese
Last but not least, taking Chinese classes is the best way to fully experience local life and enrich your travel experience.
Whether you are just visiting for a few days and only want to learn the basics or looking for a more robust, longer-term program, CLI can tailor a course and schedule based on your unique language learning needs. Contact us now to begin your Chinese language learning adventure in Guilin!