XIAMEN city guide
A favorite of Chinese tourists for its famed Gulangyu Island and nearby Tulou (rural dwellings unique to the Hakka minority), both listed as UNESCO World Cultural Heritage sites, Xiamen is emerging as one of southern China’s most hip cities, with cycling paths, boutique hotels and cafés along its seaside promenades and narrow alleyways. The city has recently become home to China's independent fashion scene (Sankuanz, Ms Min, Vega Zaishi Wang, Wan Yifang, Deepmoss). Prominent schools like Xiamen and Jimei Universities make it popular with students and young generations. Historically an open trade port, Xiamen’s later status as one of the first Special Economic Zones initiated as part of Deng Xiaoping’s Opening Up Policy in 1980, allowed the city to develop while maintaining a certain cosmopolitanism. With a population of 4.5 million and mild climate, it is ranked among the most dynamic and livable Chinese cities.
The Xiamen island is divided by the Huli district in the north, and the Siming district in the south. Bridges connect Xiamen to the mainland, where Jimei District is located. Xiamen’s rich past is filled with imperial Ming and Qing dynasties, pirates, and colonial crusaders from Portugal, the Netherlands, and Britain, who called the port “Amoy” (based on the city name’s pronunciation in Hokkien dialect).
Here is a few recommendations from the Jimei x Arles team for travelers coming to Xiamen for the festival.
Gulangyu Island 鼓浪屿 A short ferry ride away from downtown Xiamen, Gulangyu is a pedestrian-only island famous for its beaches, seafood dining, and old, colonial-style architecture mansions.
Nanputuo Temple 南普陀寺 A Buddhist temple founded in the Tang Dynasty, Nanputuo is located on the southeast of Xiamen island, near Xiamen University.
Sha Po Wei Art Zone 沙坡尾艺术区 Formerly an old fishing port facing the South China Sea, Sha Po Wei (literally meaning « end of the jade beach ») in the Siming District is now an area filled with independent stores, local food shops, live music, bars and small cafés.
Zhongshan Road 中山路 Xiamen’s most famous pedestrian shopping street in the old city center.
Bashi / The 8th Market 八市 The biggest and oldest market in Xiamen, located near the Lundu Ferry Terminal. Go there for fresh seafood, local snacks, and a glimpse at local life, among some of Xiamen’s oldest buildings.
Xiamen University site 厦门大学 Xiamen was the first university in China founded by a member of the overseas diaspora, in 1921. It has now become one of the top universities in the country, with almost 30,000 students. Its picturesque campus in Siming District stands at the foothills of mountains, facing the ocean and surrounded by Xiamen’s bay - making it popular with young people and tourists alike.
Jimei University site 集美学村 Jimei University was founded by the famous patriotic overseas Chinese leader Tan Koh Kee in 1918. Its original campus is famous for its beautiful scenery and « Jiageng-style » design, with eight buildings listed as heritage architecture.
Ding’aozai Cat Street 顶澳仔猫街 Located near Xiamen University, this short stone-paved street is a favorite photoshoot spot with its colorful cat graffiti and murals. In the middle of the street lies the Cat Museum (400 South Siming Road, Door 5), with its decorated walls and cat-related gifts, pastries and home decor.
RESTAURANTS & CAFES
Chaofu Cheng Tea Restaurant 潮福城 Cantonese and Chaozhou-style dishes. Try the shrimp dumplings (虾饺), chicken claws (凤爪), crispy durian cake (榴莲酥), roast young pigeon, steamed vermicelli rolls (肠粉), mango pudding (芒果布丁), minced pork congee with preserved egg (皮蛋瘦肉粥) and barbecued pork pastry (叉烧酥)... 28 Hubin North Road, Siming District
Lujiang Hotel Ocean View Restaurant 鹭江宾馆观海厅 Views of the ocean and Gulangyu Island can be enjoyed from the terrace and through the restaurant’s large windows. Hong Kong and Xiamen style food. Try the Xuemeiniang wrapped with durian (榴莲雪梅娘), shrimp cake (虾饼), fried oyster (海蛎煎) and Mianxian paste (面线糊, Xiamen-style snack, the main ingredient is sweet potato powder and vermicelli). Floor 7, Lujiang Hotel, 54 Lujiang Avenue, Siming District
Shuyou Seafood Grand Restaurant 舒友海鲜大酒楼 Fish, shrimps, crab, lobster, scallops, abalones and all kinds of fresh seafood! Try Xiamen’s n°1 delicacy, sandworm jelly (土笋冻). 97 Hubin North Road, Siming District
At Café Xiamen branch of Beijing 798 Art District’s At Café, opened by artist and Jimei x Arles consultant Huang Rui. Seafood pasta, pizzas and salads. Building 2, Xinglinwan Business Center, Jimei District (near Three Shadows Photography Art Centre)
Thank You Café Down the street from Sha Po Wei, this coffee shop, a favorite of the city’s creatives, serves craft cocktails and delicious snacks, in a laid-back atmosphere. Opened by Dave Situ, aka DJ Dfu, who often plays tunes from his extensive vinyl collection. 211 Daxue Road, Siming District
Boiler Café Set up in an old factory near the D.HOUSE creative complex, Boiler serves freshly brewed coffee. 2F, Building B2, Lianfa Huamei space,132 Huachang Road, Huli District
The Age of Paper 纸的时代书店 Open 24 hours on the weekend, with its walls lined with bookshelves and reading space, this bookstore is a bookworm’s paradise. F2 Aluohai City Plaza, Hubin North Second Road
atBetween Local skateboard and streetwear brand inspired by Xiamen, with patterns featuring Gulangyu and Amoy bridge, near Shapowei Art Zone. 14 Daxue Road, Siming District
Antique shop 不辍旧物馆 Vintage furniture, dishes and street signs can be found at this charming store in Shapowei. 122 Minzu Road, Siming District
Xiamen Cycling Skyway Xiamen has the world’s longest elevated cycling path. Completed in 2017 by Danish design firm Dissing+Weitling Architecture, the Xiamen Cycling Skyway stretches 7.6 km and runs 5m above ground. A cool (and eco-friendly) way to see the city!
Amoy Circular Road 环岛路 Another cycling route is the Amoy Circular Road facing the sea. It stretches over 43 kilometers along the coast, with palm trees, bronze statues, beaches, and the South China Sea. It’s also where the annual Xiamen International Marathon takes place.
Xingbowan (Tianmu) Hot Spring Resort 厦门杏博湾(天沐)温泉度假村*** In addition to a full-service spa, Xiamen Tianmu Hotspring Resort features hot springs and an indoor pool. It is located in Jimei District, near the festival’s main venue. 89 Boxi Road, Hotspring Island, Xinglin Garden, Jimei District
HITEL Hotel Xiamen 厦门 HITEL 酒店*** Newly opened design hotel, located near Huli Park. 132 Huachang Road, Huli District
Ciao Camellia Ciao山茶花民宿 This modest bed and breakfast on Dongping Mountain, not far from Xiamen’s botanical gardens, has terraces overlooking green hills and tranquil waters. 62 Dongpingshan Road, Siming District
Lujiang Harborview Hotel 鹭江宾馆 **** Open in 1960 and renovated in 2015, theLujiang Hotel (LujiangBinguan) is situated in the southwestern part of Xiamen overlooking one of Xiamen's most popular attractions: Zhongshan pedestrian road. It is located near the local ferry station to Gulangyu island. Bicycle rental available. 54 Lujiang Road, Siming District
Marco Polo Hotel 厦门马哥孛罗东方大酒店**** Located in the centre of Xiamen's economic and entertainment area, Marco Polo offers accommodation with sweeping views of the city or Yuandang Lake. Just steps from the coffee and bar street, this hotel offers an outdoor swimming pool, 4 dining options and airport transfers. Minibars are offered in all rooms. Outdoor swimming pool. 8 Jianye Road, Hubin North, Siming District
Kempinski Hotel Xiamen 厦门源昌凯宾斯基大酒店 **** Kempinski Hotel Xiamen, ideally located in the heart of the city overlooking the scenic Yundang Lake, features 460 luxury rooms and suites including Kempinski Executive Floors with 24 hour butler services, 5 innovative Food and Beverage options, plus over 2,600 square metres of meeting and banqueting facilities, a chic Wellness Centre that includes a gym with state-of-the-art equipment and a large indoor pool, a Business Center, branded retail space, and the exclusive K SPA with 13 luxury treatment rooms providing unique Tea Inspired therapies. 98 Hubin Middle Road, Siming District
The PuShang Hotel and Spa 厦门璞尚酒店 ***** Open in 2018, nestled between Xiamen's magnificent oceanfront and its most vibrant business district, The PuShang Hotel and Spa draws its inspiration from water, light, the interplay of shadows and Fujian province's famed stones. Architecturally rooted in the rich heritage of the province the 188 rooms and suites afford unprecedented views across the property's magnificent landscape and the ocean, while being only minutes away from the capital's economic hub. Two restaurants, bars and lounges, meeting spaces for up to 500 guests, and a comprehensive wellness offering are sure to redefine the standards of luxury hospitality in the region and beyond. 277 Penang Road, Huli District
Conrad Xiamen 厦门康莱德酒店***** 241 spacious and stylish guest rooms and suites with incredible sea views. Three executive floors with exclusive Conrad Executive Lounge on the 54th floor, which offers complimentary breakfast, afternoon tea, cocktails and canapes. Average room size of 60 sqm with floor-to-ceiling windows.Large flat-screen television, Wi-Fi Internet access, relaxation area and walk-in wardrobe in every room. In Shapowei Art District. 186 Yanwuxi Road, Siming District
Fujian tulou 福建土楼 Literally "Fujian earthen buildings", the tulou are Chinese rural dwellings unique to the Hakka in the mountainous areas in southeastern Fujian Province. They were mostly built between the 12th and the 20th centuries. A total of 46 Fujian tulou sites were inscribed in 2008 by UNESCO as World Heritage Site, as "exceptional examples of a building tradition and function exemplifying a particular type of communal living and defensive organization [in a] harmonious relationship with their environment". 2 to 4 hours from Xiamen by car or bus.
Mount Wuyi 武夷山 A UNESCO World Heritage Site, Mount Wuyi is the most outstanding area for biodiversity conservation in south-east China and a refuge for a large number of ancient, relict species, many of them endemic to China. The serene beauty of the dramatic gorges of the Nine Bend River, with its numerous temples and monasteries, many now in ruins, provided the setting for the development and spread of neo-Confucianism, which has been influential in the cultures of East Asia since the 11th century. In the 1st century B.C. a large administrative capital was built at nearby Chengcun by the Han dynasty rulers. Its massive walls enclose an archaeological site of great significance. About 3 hours from Xiamen by high-speed train.