These days, it would seem, one can hardly have a conversation about Xiamen without mentioning the word “chill.” The idyllic coastal city in China’s Fujian Province has endeared itself to many with its unpretentious nature—residents and tourists are often found strolling along its boulevards and beaches clad in casual wear and flip-flops.
Formerly known as Amoy, Xiamen was a centre of British trade in the 1800s, and some of its Western-style colonial buildings are still in existence today. Language and culture wise, it is said to have commonalities with the nearby Taiwan. For one, residents in both regions speak versions of the Min-nan (Southern Min) dialect.
Xiamen’s laid-back ethos coupled with the city’s medley of Chinese and European influences give it an identity distinct from its workhorse counterparts Beijing and Shanghai. The Lonely Planet describes Xiamen as a “wonderful oddity,” but notes that it could very well be southern China’s “most sophisticated city.”
Below is our suggested itinerary for a short stay in Xiamen:
1. Top Xiamen Attractions
A must-visit in Xiamen is the Nanputuo Temple, also known as the South Putuo Temple. There, you can request a free tour to better understand the Buddhist temple’s symbolism and history, admire lotus blossoms at the temple lake, sample the highly rated fare at the Nanputuo Temple vegetarian restaurant, and take a 40-minute hike up the nearby Wulao Mountain for a scenic view of the city and its neighbouring islands.
To relax by the sea, head to the accessible Baicheng Beach in downtown Xiamen, which is frequented by students from the nearby Xiamen University (also worth a stroll through its leafy grounds.) You may also wish to visit the lesser-known and hence less populated Huangcuo Beach. The latter beach is so tranquil that a recent visitor claimed there was “no one else around in sight” when he spent an afternoon there—a rare occurrence for any major Chinese city. Unlike at Baicheng, beach vendors are nonexistent at Huangcuo, so bring your own supplies.
If you only have time for a single attraction, make it the intriguing Gulangyu Island, which is a 10-minute ferry ride from Xiamen’s Lundu Pier. The island is considered to be a time capsule of Xiamen’s colonial past, and it is also known as the “Island of Music.” Visitors will be transfixed by the Gulangyu Piano Museum, where pianos that have survived both world wars have been put on proud display.
2. What to Eat in Xiamen
Seafood reigns supreme in Xiamen, and the city’s best-rated seafood restaurants include Xiao Yan Jing Seafood Da Pai Dang and Shu You Seafood Restaurant. For local favourites, refer to Chinese app Spoonhunt’s “best of” guide, which lists Lao Xiamen Tesecai and Qing Cai Jia as choice spots to savour classic Fujian dishes. For Western and fusion cuisine, the South China Morning Post’s top picks are the Marble Steakhouse at Pan Pacific Xiamen, the Jacky Angela Steakhouse, and F Bistro.
For an award-winning experience, book a table at Hai Tien Lo, where an indulgent spread of traditional Cantonese favourites such as dim sum (bite-sized portions of food served in steamer baskets) and fresh seafood awaits you.
To fulfil your daily caffeine needs, make a trip to Xiamen’s Xidi Coffee Street (along the bank of Yundang Lake, and a 10-minute walk from Pan Pacific Xiamen) and take your pick from the dozens of cafes and restaurants that have set up shop there.
3. Unique Things To Do in Xiamen
If you are part of the bicycle revolution, be sure to take in the city sights while cycling on the world’s longest elevated cycling route—the 7.6km Xiamen Bicycle Skyway. The skyway was opened to commuters in 2017, and you can traverse its expanse by renting a bicycle in Xiamen using a bike-sharing app such as ofo, Mobikes, Hellobike, or Baicycle.
Here are the entry and exit points for the Xiamen Bicycle Skyway:
- BRT洪文站 (BRT Hongwen Station)
- 瑞景中学 (Ruijing Middle School)
- 忠仑公园 (Zhong Lun Park)
- BRT蔡塘站 (BRT Caitang Station)
- 后坑天桥 (Hou Keng Overpass)
- BRT金山站 (BRT Jinshan Station)
- 乐购-天虹 (TESCO)
- 市政务中心 (Municipal Administrative Center)
- 双十中学 (Double Ten Middle School)
- 枋湖北二路（BRT双十中学站） (BRT Double Ten Middle School Station)
- BRT县后站 (BRT Xianhou Station)
Note: “BRT” refers to Xiamen’s Bus Rapid Transit. The Xiamen Bicycle Skyway is open from 6:30 a.m. to 10:30 p.m. Refer to the Xiamen Bicycle Skyway Map.
Partial to felines? Set aside an afternoon for Ding’aozai, Xiamen’s unofficial “cat street.” Here, you will find cat cafes, cat sculptures and wall art, and cat-related merchandise. The street’s crowning glory is its Cat Museum, where you will find an entire section dedicated to cat memes.
Culture buffs will find themselves at home in the art studios and coffeehouses of bohemian neighbourhood Shapowei; it is also where local artists congregate to sell their works on weekends. Schedule a stop at the nearby Thank You cafe and bar, set up by fashion designer Cotton Yu and rumoured to be a go-to haunt for industry regulars.
4. What to do in Xiamen at Night
For a post-dinner amble, proceed to Zhongshan Road Walking Street for local snacks, drinks, and Xiamen souvenirs, or simply to soak up the irrepressible energy of a Xiamen night market. The street is a 10-minute drive or cab ride away from Pan Pacific Xiamen. A less crowded option is a night cruise, where you can enjoy a different perspective of the cityscape.
To take in the nightlife alongside the city’s trendsetters on your Xiamen holidays, head to Muse and Revolucion for cocktails, or hit the dance floors at the Gothic-style Club Louis 1 and the steampunk-themed 1801. You will find expat-friendly bars along Guan Ren Lu, which is a 10-minute walk from Pan Pacific Xiamen.
Welcome to Xiamen! Speak to our team at Pan Pacific Xiamen to enquire about Xiamen places of interest, as well as accommodation options.