DISCOVER GROUNDBREAKING ARCHITECTURE
If you’ve visited Guangzhou before—say, 10 or 15 years ago—you’ll now hardly recognize its fast-evolving skyline, which has been utterly transformed in the last decade. Among the many new additions to the cityscape, the most dramatic is just a quick walk from the Conrad: the Guangzhou Opera House, designed by the late, great Iraqi-British architect Zaha Hadid and constructed between 2005 and 2010. In the heart of the CBD, Hadid’s monumental granite-and-glass edifice draws inspiration from the nearby Pearl River, with organic contours resembling giant rocks worn smooth by the current. Inside is a 1,804-seat auditorium with a boldly aerodynamic design and sensational acoustics. Ticket holders can explore the building before and during performances; otherwise, the opera house is open to the public only on weekends, via hourly group tours. You’ll find numerous art and sculpture installations scattered throughout, as well as a collection of boutiques on the lower level, and a charming wooden sculpture of a laughing Buddha. For a delicious respite, stop into Water Drop, a vegetarian restaurant and teahouse with an impressive social mission: the servers here are mostly deaf and mute. The kitchen specializes in Buddhist temple cuisine, with vegetarian renditions of classic dishes (roast mock duck; crisp-edged, juice-filled mushroom buns) as well as exquisite Chinese teas, served in delicate, traditional gongfu cups.