With dozens of cities housing populations of over one million people, it's easy for a "small" Chinese city like Xiamen to get lost in the shuffle. The capital of Fujian province, with a modest population of 2.5 million, is the perfect marriage of bit city luxury and small town charm. In a single neighborhood, you might see a high-rise hotel selling genuine Gucci handbags and a sidewalk apothecary selling traditional Chinese medicinal ingredients like snake oil and wild mushrooms. In a city that embraces Chinese and Western fusion with open arms, you'll get to sample a China that only exists in Xiamen.
Just a stone's throw from the island nation of Taiwan, Xiamen has long been China's window to the west. As a frequented European trading port from the 1500s, Xiamen has enjoyed a relationship with the rest of the world that few places in China have. Take a walk through the streets and alleys of Old Xiamen and you'll notice remnants of European architecture in the area's historic buildings. Hop on a ferry to nearby Gulangyu Island and you'll feel like you've been transported to Victorian-era Europe. The quaint architecture and soft piano tunes dancing through the air as you lose yourself on the small island make for a most charming day trip.
Back in Xiamen proper, there's something for just about everyone. With a rich Buddhist history, the island is home to a variety of temples and monasteries. The most popular, Nanputou, meaning "South Putou," temple sits next to Xiamen University in the heart of Siming district. This living, breathing temple offers an escape from the hustle and bustle of the surrounding city as you climb the many meandering trails leading from the temple to the surrounding mountains.
If history isn't your cup of tea, Xiamen has countless malls, shopping outlets and hotels with some of the world's premier brands. Stroll down Zhongshan Lu walking street and you'll find endless knickknacks, local delicacies, jade jewelry stores and sporting goods labels like Adidas and Nike. Head toward the Marco Polo hotel and you can have a suit tailored at Ermenegildo Zegna or pick up the latest Coach handbag. Just down the road on what the locals call "Coffee Street" are several cafes and Italian restaurants where the weary traveler can kick back, relax and caffeinate.
Xiamen is a young and ever-growing city, and as the sun goes down, the youth come out in full force to dance (and drink) the night away. Whether lounging in the quirky Victorian mansion-cum-dance club, Louis I, or sipping a cold Tsing Dao while taking in the city lights at Route 66, Xiamen's nightlife is alive and well.
When you're ready to explore the rest of Fujian province, two hours from Xiamen lay the Nanjing tulou, the earthen roundhouses built by the local Hakka ethnic group that caused panic in the United States when security officials mistook satellite images of them for missile defense systems. The traditional buildings with their busy inner markets and the surrounding vistas of tea plantations make it hard to believe you're in the same world as the nearby city.
Gulangyu Island- Located just off the coast of Xiamen Island's southwestern coast, Gulangyu is arguably the most popular tourist destination in all of Fujian province. Tourists from all over China come here to take in the European architecture and enjoy the surrounding beaches.
Jimei District- Home of Jimei University, the Jimei district is a bit off the beaten path. A stroll around the well-designed university or a visit to Turtle Garden can be a nice alternative to the busier districts of Xiamen.
Huli District- Huli is the industrial hub of the island, chock full of factories producing sporting goods, stone and sheet metal. While the district doesn't offer much in the way of things to do, and the restaurants are largely inaccessible to Westerners who don't speak Mandarin, consider ending your day sipping on locally grown green tea at the top of Huli Mountain.
Siming District- If you're visiting Xiamen, chances are you'll spend a majority of your time in Siming District. Covering most of the southern part of the island, the district includes the ferry terminal to Gulangyu, Nanputou temple, Xiamen University, Zhongshan Lu and many of the commercial areas of the city.
306 Huizhan Road