Like Macao, Zhuhai punches above its weight.
Macao’s immediate neighbour is the smallest of the nine mainland Chinese cities in the Greater Bay Area (GBA), but its GDP per capita in 2022 was 160,400 yuan – in Guangdong province, that made it second only to high-tech metropolis Shenzhen. With a population of over two million people, Zhuhai has also been named one of China’s most liveable cities multiple times by the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences. It appeared at number four on the 2022 list, where it beat popular contenders such as Chongqing and Xi’an.
It’s not only the robust local economy that earns Zhuhai plaudits, but also its 690-kilometre coastline, good climate and air quality, as well as a mix of historical and modern attractions.
Seeing as Zhuhai’s skyscrapers are almost close enough to touch, there’s no excuse for not getting to know the “Pearl Sea” (to use the literal translation of Zhuhai). This doesn’t pretend to be a definitive list, but here are some attractions to check out in Macao’s next door neighbour.
1. Zhuhai Port Plaza (珠海口岸购物广场)
The Zhuhai Port Plaza – or the Gongbei Underground Shopping Plaza, as it is colloquially known – is every shopaholic’s dream, thanks to its roughly 2,000 stores and restaurants, spread across two subterranean floors.
Established in 1999, it’s located right in front of the Border Gate, which means pedestrian traffic can reach several hundred thousand people per day. You can literally find every product under the sun here, although the most popular items are unquestionably clothing, shoes, snacks, consumer electronics, watches and phone accessories.
If you’re looking to grab a bite, you’ll find a wide selection of restaurants and food stalls, from big fast food chains to local style eateries.
Pro-tip: some of the goods sold here are counterfeit, so buy with caution. As well, it is standard practice to bargain with sellers as prices are wildly inflated. Start by asking for a price that’s half of what you were first quoted.
Opening Hours: 10:30 am -10:30 pm
Location: 1003 Yingbin South Road, Xiangzhou, Zhuhai, Guangdong Province
2. Chimelong Ocean Kingdom (長隆海洋王國）
Located on Hengqin island, Chimelong Ocean Kingdom is the world’s biggest marine theme park and one of Zhuhai’s star attractions.
When it first opened in 2014, the park broke five Guinness World Records by having the world’s largest aquarium, largest aquarium tank, largest aquarium window, largest underwater viewing dome, and largest acrylic panel.
Visitors are able to explore eight different zones – from the thrill rides in the Rainforest Flight area to the more tranquil exhibits of the Ocean Beauty area zone, where a massive 22.7 million litre aquarium holds a range of aquatic species such as whale sharks and manta rays.
Performances involving dolphins, sea lions and belugas are scheduled daily, and there are seven restaurants, including the Underwater Restaurant, which allows you to take your meal while enjoying the aquatic spectacle of the whale shark aquarium.
Chimelong Ocean Kingdom has been voted as one of the world’s top 25 amusement and theme parks, with visitor numbers totalling over 11 million people in 2019.
Opening Hours: 10:00 am – 7:30 pm
Location: Fuxiangwan, Hengqin New Area, Zhuhai, Guangdong Provinc
Ticket Prices: 395 patacas (adult) 280 patacas (child)
3. Zhuhai Lovers Road（情侶路）
Named after the countless couples who have strolled there, Lovers Road is a 28-kilometre coastal promenade divided into southern, central and northern sections. The middle portion tends to attract the most visitors as it features some of Zhuhai’s most iconic attractions such as the Fisher Girl, a 8.7-metre statue based on a mythological character.
This stretch of the road also features Xianglu Bay Beach; the Zhuhai Grand Theatre; and Shijingshan Park, where you can hike or jump on a 350-metre-long cable car ride up the hill. You can either choose to walk back down or take a 650-metre-long coaster ride to the bottom.
The other two sections of the Lovers Road are less busy, but are still worth checking out, especially if you are looking for a relaxing walk and coastal scenery. There are fabulous views of the Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macao Bridge, the Macao Peninsula and surrounding islands.
Lovers Road is also perfect for cycling, with dedicated bike lanes. You can rent Meituan Bikes and Hellobikes for this purpose using the relevant bike sharing applications.
Opening Hours: 24 hours
Location: Jida Residential District (coast), Zhuhai, Guangdong Province
4. New Yuanming Garden (圓明新園)
Established in 1997, New Yuanming Garden is a mini reproduction of the now derelict Old Summer Palace (Yuanmingyuan) in Beijing. The original palace had one of the most exquisite imperial gardens in Chinese history, but the complex was ransacked by European forces during the Second Opium War in the late 18th century.
Although the 1.39 square kilometre replica is nowhere near as big as the original, covering only a sixth of its predecessor’s area, it still manages to faithfully recreate 18 of the scenic areas to scale.
Some of the notable reproductions include a version of the Zhengda Guangming Hall, where the emperor worked, and the famous fountain whose 12 bronze zodiac heads were looted. A copy of the biggest lake in the original palace, the Sea of Good Fortune (Fu Hai), also sits right in the centre of New Yuanming Garden and is the perfect place to enjoy the view or paddle a boat.
Multiple performances are scheduled daily. The Royal Ceremony, for example, takes place each day at 3:30 pm and features a welcoming ritual performed by an actor playing Emperor Qianlong of the Qing Dynasty.
If you feel like cooling down after all the sightseeing, you’ll find an aquatic theme park called Lost City on the west side of New Yuanming Garden, with waterslides, a man-made beach and rafting.
Opening Hours: 9:00 am-5:30 pm
Address: Lanpu Road, Xiangzhou, Zhuhai, Guangdong Province
Ticket Prices: Free (performances are charged)
5. Macao Island Tour Cruise (澳門環島遊)
If you’re frustrated by the relative lack of opportunities to see Macao from the water, Zhuhai can help. For a reasonable 108 yuan and up per ticket, the Macao Island Tour Cruise offers passengers the opportunity to view some of Zhuhai’s and Macao’s most iconic structures from a unique vantage point.
Ferries depart daily from Zhuhai’s Wanzai Ferry Terminal, passing such landmarks as the Hengqin International Financial Centre, A-Ma Temple, Macau Tower and the Kun Iam Statue.
There are two daytime itineraries – one 90 minutes long and the other around 50 minutes.
A nighttime tour is available at 178 yuan per person. There’s also a special tour that lets you get up close and personal with the Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macao Bridge, at 218 yuan a head.
[See more: Zhuhai has dozens of islands. It’s time you started exploring them]
Opening Hours: 9:00 am – 5:30 pm
Address: Nanwan South Road, Xiangzhou, Zhuhai, Guangdong Province
Ticket Prices: Varies depending on route and time of day
6. Zhuhai Imperial Hot Spring Resort (御溫泉）
Zhuhai is normally not the first city that comes to mind when one thinks of hot springs, but it is home to the first Japanese style hot spring resort in China.
Founded in 1998, the 24-hour resort is about an hour by road from the Border Gate, but the drive is worth it. There’s a wide choice of natural hot springs – some scented with the likes of coffee and ginger – as well as saunas, steam baths and an aromatherapy house.
After bathing, you can try out the various restaurants and bars on site. There’s also a “Village Street Food” buffet for 268 yuan per person that lets you graze from various stalls while enjoying cultural performances.
Opening Hours: 24 hours
Address: 333 Doumen Dadao, Doumen District, Zhuhai, Guangdong Province
Ticket Prices: 198 yuan per person
7. Wailingding Island (外伶仃島)
Wailingding is a tiny island that is considered part of Zhuhai, even though it is closer to Hong Kong, with only about 12 kilometres separating it from Hong Kong’s Cheung Chau Island.
The small, four-square-kilometre island is the perfect getaway for those escaping the city, with beaches, an idyllic atmosphere and a host of activities such as scuba diving, canoeing and fishing.
Other attractions include a temple that features a giant bronze bell and a large statue of the Emperor of the North, Pak Tai, who protects fishermen. You can also take a stroll up to the Lingding Peak Rockery Park, which is about 1.8 kilometres from the temple. Seafood lovers will enjoy the local restaurants that serve freshly caught fish, mussels, crabs and so on.
Although it is possible to do the island as a day trip, you will get the most out of your experience if you stay overnight. The island has several hotels. A premier room at a high-end property such as the Four Seasons Anye Hotel will set you back at 898 patacas per night (note that it is not part of the famous Four Seasons chain, merely sharing a name). A standard room at a budget inn, such as Yujia Seaview Apartments, can be had from 225 patacas per night. It’s also possible to rent a tent and camp.
8. Coffee culture
Established by a Macao-born Taiwanese who goes by the English name Alan, Bligh8 Coffee (不赖咖啡珠海) is a local Zhuhai chain that has gained considerable popularity on Chinese social media thanks to its mouthwatering food and drinks and trendy interiors. The store’s English name Bligh8 is a transliteration of its Chinese name which means “not bad.”
Currently, there are eight branches of Bligh8 operating in Zhuhai, with the closest one to the Border Gate located in Huafa Century City. If you’re looking for inexpensive refuelling during your day in Zhuhai, you can do a lot worse than Bligh8’s lattes, bubble teas or – for the brave – pineapple Americanos, while fortifying yourself with cake or a toasted sandwich.
Most items cost between 18 to 65 yuan.
Opening Hours: Varies from branch to branch (Huafa Century City branch: 8:00 am – 8:00 pm)
Address: Varies. The Huafa Century City branch is at Huafa Century City, Qian He Xi Road, Xiangzhou District, Zhuhai, Guangdong Province)
9. Zhuhai Jinwan Civic Art Centre (金灣市民藝術中心)
Designed by Zaha Hadid Architects, the futuristic Zhuhai Jinwan Civic Art Centre opened its doors to the public on 14 November, and features four wings that house a 1,200-seat grand theatre, a 500-seat black box theatre, an art museum and a science museum (although the latter has yet to open). An open-air plaza in the centre connects them all.
One of the most striking aspects of the new civic art centre is its location at the centre of an artificial lake, requiring access by bridges. Also distinctive is the streamlined roof canopy, the design of which is modelled after the chevron-shaped flight formation of migratory birds. In keeping with the principles of sustainable design, the roof is perforated which permits solar shading. Moreover, the building is fitted with systems that reduce energy consumption and help to recover heat.
Various performances are scheduled weekly in the grand theatre, with scheduling and ticketing information to be found on the centre’s official WeChat account.
Opening Hours: The art museum is open from 9:00 am – 5:30 pm. Theatre performance times vary
Address: 1023 Jinfan Road, Jinwan District, Zhuhai, Guangdong Province
10. Xiawan Night Market (夏灣夜市）
Located only 12 minutes’ drive from the Border Gate, Xiawan Night Market is the perfect place to look for an after-hours bite or bargain. Its dozens of stalls serve an epic range of regional cuisines, from fermented Changsha tofu to noodles from northeastern China and Yunnan. Seafood lovers will also be delighted by the abundance of freshly cooked oysters, crabs and prawns on offer.
The market opens every night at 9:45 pm and runs until 5:30 am the next morning. If you arrive prior to opening, you can catch the spectacle of market workers and stall owners setting up shop.
Don’t forget to visit the nearby shopping centre where there are plenty of shops that sell everything from jewellery to groceries.
Opening Hours: 9:45 pm – 5:30 am
Address: 210 Xiawan Road, Zhuhai, Guangdong Province