Guangzhou Travel Guide

Discover Guangzhou Self Guided Book is written by Janvi Tours, formerly Guangzhou Private Tour Guide Janvi or Guangzhou Tour Guide Janvi

Written by J. C.
Published August 2018

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Home Tour Options Guangzhou Walking Tours Sai Kwan Walking Tour

Sai Kwan Walking Tour with Unique Food Tasting

On this Guangzhou walking tour, leave modern Guangzhou behind and dive deep into the heart of Old Canton. Sai Kwan, Mandarin pinyin know as Xiguan, it was also sometimes simply translated as Westgate of Guangzhou.

Guangzhou (called Canton by Europeans), an ancient city and the largest in South China, had already flourished as administrative and trading center for over 1000 years before the Westerners arrived. Arab and Persian traders had lived in its foreign quarters under the Tang dynasty since the 8th century. Like most traditional Chinese cities, Canton had a large wall surrounding the central districts, major avenues within the wall, extensive market districts outside the wall, and constant contact by riverboats with the surrounding countryside and distant ports. Canton was the final destination for Western merchants, who could only live there during the four-month trading season. Called the “Canton System”, this trading system lasted from 1700 to 1842 on China’s south coast.

Guangzhou Walking Tours of Sai Kwan | Guangzhou Food Tours | Guangzhou Day Tours

View of Canton c. 1800 © Peabody Essex Museum 2006 Photo Sexton-Dykes

This view shows some of the foreign quarters, called factories or hongs, which included living quarters, warehouses, and offices for trade. These factories did not manufacture anything; the name comes from “factor”, an older English word for “commercial agent”, while the Chinese called them “hongs” or merchant shops. The factory buildings lined up along the waterfront, each with its distinctive national flag. The British were the first to arrive, soon followed by the Austrians, Danish, Dutch, French, Spanish, Swedish, and Americans. The entire quarter acquired the name “Thirteen Factories.” Fires frequently struck the foreign hongs and the city in general. The foreign quarter burned down in 1822 and 1841, but in 1856 another fire destroyed them completely, just as the Chinese and foreigners began mobilizing for the Second Opium War. After their loss in this war, China had to open more treaty ports and allow foreigners access to the interior, but the foreign enclave in Canton still attracted a majority of the foreign traders. The entire trade area first moved to temporary quarters on Honam Island across the Pearl River, and then to a man-made island further up the river named Shamian Island. Shamian Island was entirely cut off from the local population, accessible only over two guarded bridges.

Guangzhou Walking Tours of Sai Kwan | Guangzhou Food Tours | Guangzhou Day Tours

Site of foreign district on Shameen Island, Canton, 1850s, lithograph based on photo by John Thomson

Each hong merchant had to take responsibility for a particular foreigner, and the hong merchants faced constant scrutiny by officials to make sure the foreigners remained under control. Many of the hong merchants were not native Cantonese but rather immigrants from Fujian. Like their English and American counterparts, they had left their homes to make a fortune in commerce. The hong merchants and the high-ranking officials, or mandarins, lived in opulent style.

Itinerary of Sai Kwan Walking Tour

A short walk takes us to Xidi (the West Bund, also known as Changdi). During the period of the Republic of China (1012-1049) there is a saying that “Shanghai has the Bund, Guangzhou has Xidi.” In recent decades Xidi witnessed ancient Guangzhou giving way to modernization and architectural evolution, an important symbol of the contemporary construction development in Guangzhou. Then we walk to Shamian Island, which was the concession of Britain and France in the 19th century with European style and features.

Guangzhou Walking Tours of Sai Kwan | Guangzhou Food Tours | Guangzhou Day Tours

Moving on, you'll explore one of Sai Kwan's residential districts with its old granite streets and lanes. The Sai Kwan civil house, where hundred years of history has been preserved, is unique to Guangzhou. This style of housing with its elaborate decoration blends Western and Chinese architecture. The Fengyuan Community with its grey bricks and pebble doorsteps is a fascinating neighbourhood to visit. You'll have the chance to step into one of these ancient buildings: the former residence of Dr. Jeme Tien Yow - known as the "Father of China's Railroad". You'll also wander through a typical Chinese Medicine open air market and pet street to give you a true dose of local Guangzhou culture.

Besides this historic residential area, Sai Kwan attracts tourists for its traditional food: the most authentic Cantonese food and snacks can be found here. You'll stop off at a popular street restaurant to sample some of Guangzhou's famous snacks before hitting up Lychee Bay, where you'll see some magnificently restored mansions dating back to the early 1900s. The areas around Litchi Bay are typical examples of Lingnan water towns, enriched by a great culture that spans thousands of years. Further along the road, you'll have the chance to step inside a Southern Chinese Garden and watch some Cantonese Opera (depending on availability). Before finishing the walking tour, we will visit the Taoist temple, getting you to know our traditional religion and belief.

Guangzhou Walking Tours of Sai Kwan | Guangzhou Food Tours | Guangzhou Day Tours

If you're lucky enough to be here, you will see the traditional Cantonese opera performance.

At the end of your tour, we give you a list of our favorite places, shopping areas, local restaurants, and food stores to enjoy during the rest of your time in the city.

Look at What Our Customers Are Saying our walking tours on their blogs…

Tour of Old Canton After two days of following Michelin, it was time for a change and we enlisted the aid of Janvi, a local tour guide, to take us on a Guangzhou city and food walk.

Janvi pointed out lots of historic sights and architecture, told us about the history of the area and took us to the largest medicinal market in Southern China. We saw so many interesting things.

And along the way, we saw seamstresses, cabinetry makers, and food stalls. Loud chirps echoed in the bird and herb markets. We saw people at play, rest and everything in between. And it was a great opportunity to see everyday life in Guangzhou.


Highlights of Sai Kwan Walking Tour

  • Visit the old bund of Canton;
  • Taste some traditional Guangzhou snacks;
  • Discover one of our traditional religions: Taoism;
  • Intriguing history, the rise and fall Thirteen-Trades Monopoly;
  • Explore street markets, a park and architectures along the tour;
  • Experience an authentic Chinese tradition tea ceremony in Guangzhou;
  • Explore the backstreets in Old Canton, a truly important part of Guangzhou life;

Information of Sai Kwan Walking Tour

Type of Tour: Private Tour -- Just for you and your travel mates

Tour Departure Date: Available year round on request

Duration: Approx. 3 hours OR 5 hours;

Price of 3-Hour Sai Kwan Itinerary

1 Guest 2  Guests 3~4 Guests 5 Guests & above
USD $60 USD $80 USD $100 Price available upon request
  • ★ The price is the total amount for your group and not per-person charge;
  • ★ This tour will finish at metro line 1 Changshou Lu station;
    This 3-hour itinerary can be blended with the Rural Hakka Village Tour with Local Family Visit, please email us to get a favorable quotation.

Price of 5-Hour Sai Kwan Itinerary

1 Guest 2  Guests 3~4 Guests 5 Guests & above
USD $90 USD $110 USD $130 Price available upon request
  • ● The price is the total amount for your group and not per-person charge;
  • This tour will finish at metro line 5 Zhongshanba station;


Tour Starting Time: The best time is at 11:30 am (5-hour tour) OR 1.30 pm (3-hour tour)

Walking Distance
3-hour walking tour: Approx. 3 km (1.74 mi)
5-hour walking tour: Approx. 6 km (3.73 mi)

What's Included:
1. Meet and greet at the downtown hotel;
2. Unique souvenir produced by us;
3. Professional guide;

What's NOT Included:
1. Additional costs for food and personal expenses;
2. Transportation to and from the tour's starting/ending point;

Who May Attend
We highly recommend this tour to anyone visiting Guangzhou for the first time. This experience is not recommended for young children or people who find it difficult to walk for long periods of time.
We are also able to provide a driver and a vehicle to reduce the amount of walking distance.

Private Tour
This tour can be enhanced with a variety of local food. We will have chances to try the Yum Cha & Dim Sum, bamboo-pressed noodles, Double Layer Steamed Milk and other Cantonese style desserts as well as Cantonese style salty pancake and multi-layer Chinese pancake along the journey. To keep your tour cost low, we have not included entrance fees, food, drink and transport in your tour price, they are usually very reasonable, so that you have more options according to your needs and budget. Please cover our expenditure on the tour (tickets, meals, transports – except for the transportation fee between hotel and tour starting point). However, based on our experience these will be minimal. Usually, the additional cost is as follows:

  1. Dim Sum at local tea house, it costs around CNY¥35 per head;
  2. Bamboo-pressed Noodle, it costs around CNY¥10~16 per head;
  3. Cold Crispy Fish Skin, it costs CNY¥24;
  4. Double Layer Steamed Milk, it costs CNY¥14 for a bow;
  5. Multi-layer Chinese pancake, it costs CNY¥2;

Booking Process
To complete your Private Guangzhou Sai Kwan Walking Tours booking, a 30%~50% deposit is required via Paypal or telegraphic transfer after we set the tour date and tour duration with you. We will send you a PayPal invoice, you will have the option to use your credit card or deposit card to complete the payment process (even if you are not a PayPal account holder). Note: A 4.7%~5.79% Paypal transaction fees will be charged on the total amount of the transaction when the deposit is made by Paypal. Once payment is made, the booking of your Private Guangzhou Sai Kwan Walking Tour is confirmed. The remaining balance is payable in cash only on tour day with us, you can pay in either U.S. Dollar or Chinese Yuan, whatever is convenient for you. We prefer U.S. Dollars without any damage and stain, otherwise please provide Chinese Yuan.

Covered Areas For Meeting Up and Greeting
Please note that hotels located in the area longer than 40 minutes by public transport from Beijing Road metro station (Subject to the Google map) will incur USD$20 extra for meeting up charge; No extra charge when meeting at tour starting point (Beijing Lu metro station); No meet up service for  hotels located in Nansha District, Conghua District and Zengcheng District. We would recommend that you book your hotel in the downtown areas (Yuexiu district, Liwan district, Haizhu district and Tianhe district). Meet up service only goes with the tour without stoppage time. We don't provide return service, but we will help you to call a taxi and ask the driver to send you back to your hotel.