Two thousand-year-old Guilin is one of southern China's prettiest towns, lying as it does on the banks of two rivers surrounded by amazing scenery. The city was named after the osmanthus fragrance due to the area's profusion of these trees and its oddly-shaped hills and karsts are the star attractions.
There are hills and water all around, while urban Guilin is a modern metropolis that boasts a great deal of shopping and eating, although not to the extent of the more in-your-face cities of the east. There is also a good deal of western-style hotels in town and plenty of Western eateries for those who haven't got to grips with Chinese food.
The city is split into five districts and several counties that spread a fair way out, yet it is the central areas and the river that appeal to tourists the most. In addition, while here, it is worth exploring the region at large as it is supremely beautiful. One particular must-see is Longsheng, another river town 50 miles northwest of Guilin that is famed for its Longji rice terraces.
Zhongshan Nanlu is the main artery of Guilin and one which has the majority of tourist hotels in the city center. Its cuts through central Guilin and features the likes of the upscale Baileman Jiudian hotel and the backpacker-style Overseas Chinese Hotel, as well as a great deal of shopping.
Zhongshan Zhonglu is another major shopping area in Guilin, teaming up with Central Square to offer the best collection of shops, eateries and hotels. The area becomes a market at night where tourists can pick up souvenirs and knick-knacks, including osmanthus tea and umbrellas.
Central Square (Zhongxin Guangchang) lies near lakes Shan Hu and Rong Hu and is popular with tourists day and night. Many hotels and shops are located here and the commercial district and Qixing Park are nearby. Lying underneath Central Square is Little Hong Kong, a maze of alleys with some intriguing shopping.
Xiufeng district takes in part of the Li River and is a popular area to find a hotel. It is just north of downtown Guilin and is well served by public transport and sports major attractions such as Elephant Trunk Hill.
The Li River winds for hundreds of miles through many towns and cities in Guangxi (including right through Guilin), revealing a series of impressive monoliths and mountains, caves and forests. Getting on a cruise of the river is without doubt the best way to get the most out this fine region of southern China.
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