BRIGHT LIGHTS, BIG CITY
Huacheng Square—aka Flower City Square, the city’s largest public gathering space—is impressive at any time of day, but it truly comes alive after dark, when hundreds of thousands of sparkling lights and LEDs set the square and its surrounding towers aglow in vibrant, pulsing rainbow hues, making it look like a landing strip for arriving spaceships. The graceful feng shui alignment of the square also offers the most dramatic vantage of the iconic Canton Tower (see the 3-hour itinerary “Get Way Up, Then Get Down”), rising directly across the Pearl River and perfectly framed by Huacheng’s allée of skyscrapers. Below the square is a vast underground shopping mall; at street level, there’s a surprising amount of greenery in the park like square itself, including peaceful ponds and lush gardens. But to our mind, one of the highlights of Huacheng is the Guangzhou Library, which happens to be the largest municipal library in the world. Located near the southern end of the square, the library is open until 9 p.m. six nights a week (closed Wednesdays), so make time for a walk-through before or after you revel in the glitz and glitter outside. The building’s glass-walled center “seam” is cleverly designed to resemble the curving pages of an open book. A state-of-the-art storage-and-retrieval system—including sterilizing cabinets for books—provides super-efficient access to nearly 7.33 million titles. (The collection is open to foreigners as well as to Chinese.) With 4,000 seats and just as many wired Internet nodes (as well as fast Wi-Fi throughout the building), it’s become a popular all-ages gathering spot for Guangzhou residents and visitors alike, and is affectionately known as the city’s living room.