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Visiting Canton Tower: Guangzhou’s Beacon of the Future

KL Yong earned a bachelor's degree in communication studies in 1999. His interests include history, traveling, and mythology.

Canton Tower in Guangzhou is the tallest tower in China.

Canton Tower in Guangzhou is the tallest tower in China.

Visiting Canton Tower (广州塔) is nowadays a must-do for many visitors in Guangzhou.

Soaring a stunning 604 meters into the sky and illuminated at night in rainbow colors, Guangzhou’s futuristic spire doubles as a telecommunications tower and sightseeing attraction, and was the showpiece of the metropolis during the 2010 Asian Games.

As of 2021, it remains the second tallest tower in the world, marginally surpassed only by the Tokyo Skytree. The following is a guide to visiting the spire on your own. A typical visit, without meals, requires at least 90 minutes. To this, add another hour, if you intend to have a go on the Canton Tower Sky Drop and Bubble Tram.

A. Getting to Canton Tower

Canton Tower is one of the easiest Guangzhou attractions to reach.

It is but a few minutes’ walk from Canton Tower Station (广州塔站) on Line 3 of Guangzhou Metro. (Line 3 is the orange line and the one connected to the Guangzhou Baiyun International Airport)

At the station, numerous signs point the way, or you could simply follow the crowds. Take note, though. Line 3 tends to be extremely crowded throughout the day. Depending on where you board at, you could experience a few stations of “face-to-face” sardine situation.

Alternatively, you could use the APM Line if you are coming from the north. This requires a change at Linhe West Station (林和西), an interchange hub that also serves Line 3. Note that this route requires more time as the APM Line passes more stations before reaching Canton Tower. In comparison, there are only four stations between Linhe West and Canton Tower on Guangzhou Metro Line 3.

Guangzhou Metro is clean, efficient and easy to use.

Guangzhou Metro is clean, efficient and easy to use.

B. Canton Tower Ticket Packages

Reaching Canton Tower is no issue for most international visitors to Guangzhou. On the other hand, buying the right ticket package could be a bit of a challenge. This is because different ticket packages grant access to different observatories and attractions of the tower.

Furthermore, affiliated tour operators offer a variety of combination deals, such as a tower visit bundled with a night-time cruise on the Zhujiang River. Naturally, details of such bundles could significantly vary.

For ticket packages sold by Canton Tower itself, there are five packages as of early 2021.

  1. 433M Sightseeing Observation Decks: This ticket package grants access to the 428M Cloud Observation Deck (428米白云观光大厅) and the 433M Star Observation Deck (433米星空观光大厅). These are enclosed levels and the lowest of the observation decks.
  2. 450M Look Out: This package grants access to the 428M Cloud Observation Deck, the 433M Star Observation Deck, and the 450M Look Out Deck (450米塔顶户外观景平台). Note that the 450M Look Out Deck is open-air.
  3. 460M Bubble Tram Combo: Similar to the 450M Look Out package but includes a ride on the atmospheric 460 M Bubble Tram (460米摩天轮), slow-moving and serene ride in an enclosed carriage around the top circumference of Canton Tower. This Canton Tower bubble tram ride is arguably the top attraction of the tower. Probably one of the most unique and unforgettable Guangzhou attractions too.
  4. 480M Sky Drop: Similar to the 450M Look Out package but includes a ride on the heart-stopping 480M Sky Drop (480米极速云霄).
  5. 488M Tower Glamour Pass: This is the all-in-one supreme package. It includes everything mentioned above, as well as access to the 488 M Look Out (488米户外观景平台).

To put it candidly, visiting Canton Tower is akin to experiencing modern Chinese capitalism. The more you pay, the higher you get to go. The more fun you can have as well.

To highlight too, prices vary greatly between the ticket packages, though they have largely remained the same over time. As an indication, the cheapest pass is ¥150 for adults as of Mar 2021. The supreme pass is more than twice of that at ¥398.

The 460M Bubble Tram Combo is at ¥298 for adults. (Child tickets are roughly half-priced for all packages)

The official brochure provides a comprehensive listing of what to do at Canton Tower. Indispensable, if you are purchasing tickets at the tower itself.

The official brochure provides a comprehensive listing of what to do at Canton Tower. Indispensable, if you are purchasing tickets at the tower itself.

C. Regarding Air Pollution

Before continuing, it’s only fair to highlight the one thing that will dampen any visit to Canton Tower.

Smog. In other words, China’s notorious air pollution situation.

Unless you are very lucky, there is a significant possibility of Guangzhou being smothered by smog during your visit. At night, this appears like fog or mist. During daytime and especially on overcast days, this resembles a brown-yellow cloud hanging over the city.

With China’s air pollution situation unlikely to go away anytime soon, you should be prepared for smog when visiting Canton Tower. (The same applies to most other Guangzhou attractions) While the haze isn’t going to entirely obscure your view of the Guangzhou skyline, you will notice it and it will affect your photography attempts.

Fortunately, there are other activities within the tower to enjoy other than panoramic views, such as the Sky Drop and numerous shops and restaurants. On better days, some skillful tweaking in photo editing programs might also be able to improve photographs. That is, to a limited extent.

As inappropriate as it is to include such a picture, it is only ethical to highlight the situation most adversely affecting tourists in China.

As inappropriate as it is to include such a picture, it is only ethical to highlight the situation most adversely affecting tourists in China.

D. Pictures From October 2017

The following are pictures from my visit to Canton Tower in October 2017. It was an evening visit between 5.30 pm and 8 pm. I paid for the Bubble Tram Combo and reached the tower using Guangzhou Metro.

Canton Tower at 5.30 pm. The hyperboloid design is mesmerizing!

Canton Tower at 5.30 pm. The hyperboloid design is mesmerizing!

The ground floor lobby after ticket and security checks.

The ground floor lobby after ticket and security checks.

Important note for smokers: Not only is smoking completely disallowed within the tower, even lighters are not permitted. Visitors with lighters are required to surrender them during ticket checks and “randomly” collect another one when leaving the tower.

To put it in another way, if you use an expensive lighter for your habit, please do not bring that to Canton Tower.

By the way, the Star and Cloud observation decks are connected by a staircase. Visitors can freely move between them.

The same staircase also has lifts for visitors heading to the 450M Look Out. You must show an appropriate ticket to enter the lift.

Last but not least, there are numerous eateries within and around Canton Tower. For the more expensive ones located on floors 103 to 106, reservations can be arranged at a designated counter on the ground level.

© 2017 Yong Kuan Leong

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