Are you going to China for a holiday or a short getaway with your loved one or with a group of friends? Instead of going to the mainstream Shanghai or Beijing, check out Xiamen instead!
This coastal city is full of western influences due to its history of being a battlefield, playing an important role in resisting foreign attacks. Now, Xiamen has a fusion of Chinese and Western architecture. As a result, it’s a culturally and historically rich destination to visit.
This underrated multicultural city is all encompassing and can cater to your different interests such as arts, nature and most importantly, good food! You can also bring your significant other there for a hot date! Because Xiamen is ranked China’s most Romantic Leisure City! Without further ado, here are some of the best things to do and places to visit in Xiamen!
Located in the city centre, Zhongshan Road is a shopper’s paradise with many stores trying to draw in purchases through negotiations or discounts! The road is littered with various department stores, souvenir shops, restaurants and food stalls for your picking. Many shops within the area are awarded as a trusted enterprise or good-mannered units, so being a foreigner, there is a lower chance of you being scammed.
Additionally, traffic is closed to vehicles in the area so pedestrians are able to walk around with a peace of mind, without the need to dodge oncoming vehicles. Similar to Tokyo’s Shinjuku, it is a must-see shopping district for the experience and to get your souvenirs to bring back home.
China’s Biggest Starbucks
One interesting thing about Xiamen is that the city houses China’s largest Starbucks outlet. The outlet is four-storey tall and offers a breathtaking ocean view at its glass-enclosed patio. So, if you are a coffee fanatic or an all-time loyal fan of Starbucks, be sure to check out the outlet in Xiamen!
Did you know: The Chinese usually see coffee shops or cafes as a destination for get-togethers or business meetings, similar to Singapore.
If you have a day or two to spare in Xiamen, take a short trip to Gulangyu Island – a UNESCO World Heritage site. Still not convinced? Xiamen’s Gulangyu island was also named as the Garden on the Sea, The Island of Music and a World Heritage Expo. With so much praises by trusted professionals, it will be a loss if you did not visit the island!
Entry to Gulangyu Island only takes an estimate of 5 minutes from Xiamen by ferry. Ticket prices are:
Normal ferry: 35RMB per pax
Luxury ferry: 50RMB per pax
This small island has a population of around 16,000 permanent residents. As a result, expect a tranquil, laid back, and friendly experience from your stay there.
Do you know: There is only a sightseeing battery car available for transportation on the island and the main form of transportation in Gulangyu Island is by foot. This is a good time to burn some of those extra calories!
Attractions On Gulangyu Island
Sunlight Rock Scenic Area
If you love nature and would like to go sightseeing on Gulangyu Island, head to the Sunlight Rock Scenic Area where you can climb up the Sunlight rock and take in the beautiful landscape of the island. You can head there via cable car from the Qin Garden, creating a different experience travelling there.
Shuzhuang Garden which is located just behind the Sunlight Rock is also another notable nature attraction within the island that captures the beautiful scenery of the horizon with views that are unrivalled with any other gardens in China.
All music enthusiasts be prepared to be marvel at the sight of the musical attractions located on Gulangyu Island! Gulangyu Piano Museum boasts a display of old pianos where most have survived the two world wars. Pianists can take a look at the attraction and take in the advancement of pianos. There is also the Gulangyu Organ Museum – the largest in the World and the only one in China. The architecture of the building is unique as there are various styles from the ancient Chinese to the Athenian temple architecture. The museum houses the largest pipe organ in China!
One activity not to miss when you are on an island is to munch down on their delicious seafood! Not to mention to feast at the street food stalls or enjoy having afternoon tea in a western coffee shop. Additionally, despite its size, Xiamen’s Gulangyu island has many specialties for you to bring home, try their special Gulangyu Pie and meat floss! Don’t forget to send a postcard home to your family or friends to inform them that you are doing well!
Tip: The best time to head to Gulangyu Island is during Autumn to experience great weather and tea picking!
What better way to spend on a coastal city than to spend time on an island? Even though the Kinmen Island is governed by Taiwan, it is a must-see island while you are in Xiamen as it is easily accessible. The island is only a 30-minute ride away from Xiamen and it is located at the east of the city. Kinmen Island consists of many villages with deep historic architecture that is built around the principles of feng shui. The island also boasts to have the highest concentrations of traditional Chinese architecture in the world. Be sure to take a walk around the villages if you are an aspiring architect or are looking for inspiration!
During the military period, many soldiers planted trees around the island of Kinmen, now it has become a destination full of nature and wildlife. To fully immerse yourself in nature, go to Shuangli Wetland Nature Center, Sun Yat-Sen Memorial Forest, Mt Taiwu, Lingshui Lake or Tai Lake!
Like it or not, the Kinmen Island is full of rich military history and you will be able to see different military remnants all around the island! Some of the few locations consisting of anti-landing metal spikes would be Chenggong Beach, Beishan Cliff and Cihu Embankment.
Be sure to walk on the clean sandy beaches and spot the Blue-tailed Bee Eater bird or experience the “sea sparkle” phenomenon that is caused by bioluminescent sea planktons! You can also try fishing or the traditional clam raking on the island, living life like a local Kinmen fisherman. Additionally, don’t forget to visit museums or temples to unravel the local’s culture that is uniquely Kinmen.
Wutong Ferry Terminal Prices From Xiamen:
A round trip ticket would cost approximately 160RMB
For more information, check out the official site of Kinmen here.
Tip: Be sure to have a few days reserved for Kinmen Island as 1 day won’t be enough!
Visit Xiamen’s Jimei district, one of the six administrative districts located at the center of Xiamen city. It is known for its academic atmosphere and cultural relics. Jimei was founded in 1913 by Mr. Tan Kah Kee and was home to schools that caters to different ages from kindergartens to universities. Simply put, it was a district for educational needs. It is now home to institutions of higher learning and scientific research, becoming a key area for China’s economic development.
One of the key attractions for foreigners to visit would be Jimei University – Jimei Study Village for their combination of western and eastern architecture and picturesque scenary of the shores of Xiamen. Another nearby attraction to visit would be Ao Yuan – translated to Turtle Garden, it is the former residence and the resting place of the founding father of the district, Mr. Tan Kah Kee. It holds the Jimei Liberation Monument and the two-story building of the late Mr. Tan Kah Kee that has carvings inscribed within the walls of the corridors. Various stone inscriptions can also be found around the garden. Along with Jimei University / Jimei Study Village, these locations in Xiamen has become a protected cultural relic of China just recently.
Other attractions to check out nearby if you have extra daylight to spare would be the Xiamen Jimei Dragon Boat Pond. Visit Jiageng Park as well, built in the memory and final wish of Mr. Tan Kah Kee before his passing.
Xiamen Science & Technology Museum
What’s a city of academia without a visit to the science center? If you love science or are travelling with kids, be sure to check out Xiamen’s Science & Technology Museum for a family bonding activity. It is a fairly modern museum with 5 different sections that contains plenty of attractions to occupy you and your child. A few of the attractions would be the typhoon experience, artificial auroras, mirror maze and the 4D cinema experience! The museum will be open from 9am – 6pm and costs only 80 RMB to enter.
Jimei Yanping Old Fortress
Yanping Gulei – Yanping Ancient Village is a popular sightseeing spot for tourists in Xiamen. The remnant of a stone gate is once the glorious Yanping Fortress where troops where trained in preparation for battle against the Qing Dynasty. This is also the home of an ancient banyan tree which peers through the gates of Yanping Gulei. After it’s fall, Mr. Tan Kah Kee rebuilt the fortress. A huge lighthouse was installed for fishermen to find their way back to Xiamen.
With just an entrance fee of only 25RMB, the Hulishan Fortress is famous for its display of cannons and some of the world’s most preserved artillery. It is one of China’s national historical and cultural site with one of the cannons listed in the Guinness World Record. Overlooking the sea, the breathtaking view from Hulishan Fortress would be a highlight for Instagrammers. The banyan trees around the fortress is no exception as well with its gigantic roots perched on the stones.
One of the highlights of the experience is the welcome ceremony. Armed guards dressed in traditional costumes will welcome your entry to the fortress every day at 8.30am. There will also be a 16-minute Army Training Performance where actors don themselves in red and yellow at 10am and 4pm every day.
7.30 am – 6 pm during summer
7.30 am – 5.30 pm during winter
The temple is one of the famous ancient temples of Xiamen that prays to Guanyin and Bodhisattva. Spanning a huge 25.8 hectares, the buildings of the temple are spread all over a mountain slope, creating a tranquil and solemn atmosphere. If you are interested in religions and cultures, this is a great location to visit.
Must-Try Foods In Xiamen
Lastly, what’s a list of recommendations if there are no recommendations on foods to indulge in? Be sure to try Xiamen’s specialty – spring rolls, also called Bobin in Xiamen. Satay noodles is a must eat breakfast as well if you like spicy and savory food items. The satay sauce in every shop is unique which makes every experience consuming it special.
Another specialty of Xiamen is their oyster omelette. It has satay sauce and comprises of the freshest oysters. One of Xiamen’s famous desserts would be the peanut soup. Finally, don’t forget to try a famous Fujian snack dish – the Xiamen Fish Balls. They have a golf ball shape with generous fillings inside. They will definitely give you an explosion of delightful flavours.
If you will be in Beijing or Shanghai on a vacation, here are a few transportation options for you to choose from to get to Xiamen. Travelers can either opt for the plane or a train ride as listed below.
From Beijing to Xiamen:
The travel by plane lasts approximately 3 h 5 min
The duration to travel by a normal train is approximately 18 h 30min – 29 h
A bullet train ride is approximately 10 h 30 min – 11 h 30 min
From Shanghai to Xiamen:
The travel by flight is approximately 1 h 50 min
The duration to travel by a normal train is approximately 5 h 30 min – 8 h 30 min
A bullet train ride is approximately 23 h – 24 h 30 min
We recommend doing some proper research on transportation before heading to Xiamen.
Like our suggestions? Comment your experience in Xiamen below!