Lanzhou lies on the Yellow River and was known as the Golden City back when it was a major stop on the Silk Road. Today, it's an exciting vacation destination with unique attractions and great outdoor spaces.
Learn all about the city's role in the silk trade at this popular museum. Exhibits include relics from the Silk Road and from the Great Wall of China.
See ancient Buddhist architecture or look for the five springs - Ganlu, Juyue, Mozi, Hui, and Meng - in this scenic mountain park.
If you plan to explore the countryside, Lanzhou is a great base. You'll be within easy reach of lots of exciting places, including Tulugou National Forest Park in Yongdeng County and Labrang Monastery in Xiahe.
See Zhongshan Bridge, the first bridge to span the Yellow River, or visit the Waterwheel Garden and the famous Yellow River Mother sculpture. Alternatively, take a trip across the river on a traditional sheepskin raft.
Discover the unique pleasure of shopping after dark at Hezheng Lu Night Market from mid-afternoon till late.
Rising to seven stories and 17 meters in height, the White Pagoda is one of Lanzhou's architectural jewels. Dating from the 13th century, the temple can't be missed as you look across to northern Lanzhou, and getting there is simple via the Zhongshan Bridge. When you enter, you'll be intoxicated by the temple itself, the 8,000 square meter park that surrounds it, and the stunning views to be obtained by scaling the mountain's peak.
Wherever you go in Lanzhou, the Yellow River never seems far away, and dominates the geography of the city. This attractive, sturdily built bridge has a pretty good claim to be the heart of the city, connecting the two banks of the river. Built in 1907-09 and stretching 250 meters, it was the very first bridge across the formidable waterway. But aside from history, it's the position of the bridge that really matters. At night, it's an incredible place to view the White Pagoda Temple and the rolling river making its way across Gansu.
As the name suggests, this picturesque green space is centered around a series of water wheels. These are not simply ornamental, however. In fact, they are remnants from a time when wheels like this powered the city's mills and workshops. For centuries, the Yellow River poured into their buckets, producing huge amounts of energy. Coal and solar may be in the ascendant now, but the park is a fascinating testament to the power of water. These particular wheels have been restored, but are almost exact replicas of those that would have lined the river's banks 800 years ago.
Lanzhou's pre-eminent museum is a vast reservoir of delights that takes hours (or maybe days) to do it justice. The exhibition halls cover over 18,000 square meters and documents the province's history, from neolithic pottery urns to gorgeous silk fabrics (a reference to Lanzhou's position at the end of the "Silk Road"), and written slips from the Han era. There are artistic masterpieces like the so-called "Flying Horse of Wǔwēi", and natural masterpieces, too, including a 4 meter high mammoth skeleton. All-in-all, an absorbing museum.
Lanzhou's escape valve for family recreation, Five Springs Park can be found on the lower slopes of Gaolan Mountain, not far northwest of the city center. Opened in 1955, the park includes a zoo and amusement park that kids will love. However, as the name suggests, it's also full of natural springs, dotted around the slopes. Exploring them all is possible on foot, and they are all achingly photogenic. And, to top it all off, the park also hosts a cluster of Buddhist temples. Definitely an easy place to spend a day.
Summer is hot and humid while winters can be cold. Visit in spring from March to May, or plan a fall getaway from September to October.
Lanzhou Zhongchuan Airport (LHW) is 43.5 miles from the city. Take the airport shuttle bus to your hotel for ¥30 or get a taxi for ¥140.
Take the train from major cities like Shanghai, Beijing, and Nanjing to Lanzhou Railway Station. The station is just south of the downtown district and taxis and buses are readily available.
Several major highways converge on the city. However, you'll need a current Chinese license if you wish to drive to Lanzhou.
Lanzhou is a transportation hub for Gansu Province and buses from over 450 destinations arrive and depart daily. The two main stations are East Bus Station and West Bus Station and both are well served by local buses.
Mid-range hotels like the Crowne Plaza Lanzhou, the Grand Soluxe Hotel Gansu, and the Lanzhou Legend Hotel are ideal for couples or families. Inexpensive alternatives include Home Inn and Hotel Ibis Lanzhou.
Chengguan District - the downtown district and the city's commercial hub, it's noted for its good hotels and restaurants and Lanzhou Railway Station.
Anning District - this northwestern neighborhood has a high student population and is home to Lanzhou Jiaotong University and Northwest Normal University.
Qilihe District - lies on the southern bank of the Yellow River. Attractions include Xihu Park and the Yellow River Mother statue, which is the symbol of Lanzhou.
Buses are frequent and convenient with over 110 routes covering the city. The standard fare is ¥2.
Over 8,000 taxis operate in the city and they charge a starting rate of ¥10 plus ¥1.40 for each additional 1.9 miles up to 10 miles. After 10 miles the rate is ¥2.10 per 1.9 miles.
Rent a car with a Chinese driver and explore the region at your leisure. Rates are from ¥200-400 per day, depending on the destination.
Buy local arts and crafts like engraved pebbles, carved gourds, Tao River inkstone, or traditional clay terrines at Haifu Market or Hezheng Lu Night Market. Visit the Dongfang Underground Shopping Mall or Lanzhou Xidan Mall for clothes and accessories.
Try Beijing Hualian Supermarket or Dongfanghong Square Supermarket for food and basics. You'll pay ¥13 for a quart of milk or ¥50 for 16oz of local cheese.
Noodle dishes are a local staple and you can try some of the best at Mo GouYan LaoZiHao Beef Noddle or JinQiang Beef Noddle. An inexpensive meal costs ¥52 and dinner for two at an upscale restaurant is ¥343.