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Stockinasia / Alamy Stock Photo

In Xiamen, life is lived outdoors. The coastline is kilometres and kilometres long and has countless beaches. Discover the most liveable city in China.

Explore subtropical Xiamen

With its green seafront promenades and beautiful beaches, the island city of Xiamen is viable and thriving. This port city is located on the subtropical southern coast of China and is home to a rich cultural heritage as trade centre and gateway to the Chinese mainland. Thanks to this wonderful mix, Xiamen has its own unique character. Not surprisingly, many Chinese are eager to live here.

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Buddhist beginnings

To explore the Xiamen of the past, start at Nanputuo, an extremely old and very well-known Southeast Asian Buddhist temple surrounded by lush gardens with ponds and pagodas. The year of construction is not known, but the temple dates back to the Tang Dynasty, which was around eleven centuries ago. This is also the home of the first Chinese monk who travelled to the west in 1928 to teach about Buddhism. Admission and incense sticks are free - as are the panoramic views of the city from the nearby Wulao Peak.

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    City beach

    Relax and enjoy the soft sands of Baicheng, the most central and popular beach in town. While street musicians and kiters keep things lively, a steady flow of sun worshippers laze away the day. The nearby stalls rent out not only picnic blankets and parasols, but also shovels for building sandcastles. At the end of the day, the action moves to the local food stands and restaurants, where everyone enjoys a spectacular sunset after getting a bit of colour.

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      Biking along the gold coast

      Along the southern and eastern coasts of the island is a 31 kilometre-long bike and walking path surrounded by greenery called the Huandao Road. According to feng shui devotees, it is perfectly situated between the mountains and sea, but you don’t need to be a follower to appreciate the trail and enjoy the flowers, birds, palm trees and sounds of the sea. At numerous locations along the route, you can rent a bike or tandem for next to nothing.

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        A good place to start is Biacheng Beach for an easy two-hour bike ride to the Xiamen International Conference and Exhibition Center. This section of Huandao Road is referred to locally as the ‘gold coast’ due to all the attractions, including the historic Fort Hulishan, Yefengzhai amusement park and sacred squares devoted to calligraphy and music.

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        Fantastic night market

        Zeng Cuo An is the place to be to sample local delicacies and buy kitschy souvenirs. Little remains of the traditional fishing village that was once located here having been devoured by the ever-expanding city. Nowadays, the neon-filled market is bursting at the seams, especially in the evening, with activity and screaming market vendors. It is heaven for foodies, who will also find plenty of influences from nearby Taiwan.

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        How about some fish directly from the sea to the barbecue, roasted squid satay or oyster pancakes? Mango juice, coconut water or a glass of tea to go with it? Enjoy one snack after the other until you’ve had your fill then relax by the sea to digest it all.

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          UNESCO island

          The charming little island of Gulangyu is located just off the coast of Xiamen, an international settlement for Westerners from the 19th to the early 20th century. The island owes its UNESCO World Heritage Status since 2017 to its multicultural influences, which are primarily visible in the architecture. In China, Gulangyu is famous for another reason. The density of pianos is the highest in the country on the piano island of Gulangyu. Only four square kilometres in size, the island is also the birthplace of two famous pianists. It’s only an 8-minute ferry ride away, but considering its popularity, it’s advisable to buy tickets online beforehand.

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