DIG INTO DONGSHAN
In the first half of the 20th century, the Dongshan neighborhood (just west of Guangzhou’s new downtown) was one of the first enclaves in the city to modernize, thanks to foreign missionaries who built Western-style houses and schools here, followed by returning expat Chinese, who continued the trend, lining its tree-shaded lanes with elegant red-brick-and-ocher mansions. (One famous former resident: Mao Zedong, who briefly lived in a house that’s now a history museum.) Decades after Dongshan’s first heyday, its architecture is being given new life, with disused houses now occupied by stylish boutiques, galleries, bars, and restaurants—which makes Dongshan’s leafy, meandering avenues and flower-fringed canal an ideal area to spend a few hours. Some mansions are known for their magnificent gardens; one of the most exquisite is Kui Yuan house (built in 1922), where rotating exhibitions are held in the ground-floor gallery. Upstairs, a warren of rooms is given over to a quirky furniture collection, along with a chic café—if the weather’s nice, opt for a balcony table and sip your coffee while overlooking the sun-dappled streets below. Just a short walk from Kui Yuan, Art23 is a new community-conscious center for artists, offering exhibition space as well as continuing art education. The Conrad concierge can give you information about what’s on at Art23 and other galleries around Dongshan, as well as restaurant and bar recommendations for the neighborhood.