Last year I was on my year abroad in Wuhan, China studying Chinese language for a year. Before I left I didn’t really know too much about the city. Wuhan is not very well known internationally, so there are not many guides on what to do there. After living there for a year I feel I know the place quite well, so here is my guide to Wuhan. Maybe it will come in handy for the next lot of CCNU Portsmouth students. 🙂
If you like Chinese history and politics Wuhan is a very interesting place to visit. If anyone has seen the Netflix show Marco Polo, they mention the place “Wuchang” frequently in the first season – there was a great battle there between the Chinese and the Mongols. Today, Wuchang is part of the city of Wuhan. In fact, Wuhan (武汉) is made up of three former smaller cities: Wuchang (武昌), Hanyang (汉阳) and Hankou (汉口), which grew together due to population rise and formed one big city. As of 2013 Wuhan’s population is 10 million, making it the largest city in Central China. It is also the capital of Hubei (湖北) province. The Yangtze and Han rivers intersects in the city, dividing it into three parts all with unique sights. Due to the rivers’ intersection marking the centre of the city, Wuhan doesn’t really have one city centre like most other cities does. Instead everything is kind of spread around, and each area of the city has its own little centre.
Historically, Wuhan was founded more than 3,500 years ago. The Chinese film Red Cliff tells the tale about a battle that happened between three different Chinese kingdoms. This battle happened right outside of Wuhan, in Chibi. Wuhan was the setting for the Kuomingtang’s nationalist opposition lead by Chiang Kai-shek, and it was wartime capital in 1937 when the Japanese ruled parts of China.
So even thought the city is not that famous, lots has happened here!
Possibly the most well-known sight in Wuhan. This area of over 80km² offers beautiful flowers in spring, such as cherry blossoms and lotus. Every spring thousands of people flock to Wuhan University’s campus which is located right by the lake to see streets filled with cherry blossoms. By another part of the lake you find shopping area Chu River and Han Street (Han Jie for short). This is one of the more modern shopping areas in Wuhan, with international brands such as H&M and Bershka. There is even an M&S there, which became my saviour on my year abroad! Han Jie is also home to Wuhan Madame Tussauds Museum.
Surrounding the lake is also many parks with different attributes such as Mo Hill with it’s temple overlooking the lake, Tingtao Scenic Area, Forest Park, and Wuhan Botanical Garden. You can also find fun park Happy Valley and Hubei Provincial Museum next to the lake.
The Yellow Crane Tower (黄鹤楼）
This historic building dating back to year 223 AD (current version built in 1981) overlooks the Yangtze River and has the most famous view of the city. Entering the tower area you pass by the tower park, gardens, statues, and some other pagodas before reaching the Yellow Crane Tower and the view.
The main snack street of Wuhan. Located right next to the Yangtze River bend in Wuchang, one of my favourite things to do in Wuhan was to head to Hankou, take the ferry over to Wuchang and end up right next to the Changjiang Bridge and Hubu Alley. On a clear day the sunset from there is really nice to watch, and you can try all kinds of snacks in the snack street such as reganmian, soup dumplings, frogs, fruit drinks, and more.
Dayu Myth Park and Qingchuange
This part tells the tale of Yu the Great who stopped the flooding of the Yangtze River in Wuhan, and is home to protective animals who will ensure it does not happen again. Qingchuange is an old temple pass, now it stands above a busy road but is still quite an interesting sight.
Like most Chinese cities, Wuhan is home to many Buddhist, Daoist, and Conficuan temples. The most famous temple in Wuhan is Guiyuan Temple in Hanyang. Personally, my favourite temple in Wuhan is Baotong Temple located in Wuchang (not far from CCNU!). It is a lot more colourful, and it is built upwards on a hill, so you can see the view of the area. When you reach the top there is a very old pagoda which you can climb to the top of. The climb is not easy, and when I did it I was scared I was going to fall on my face, however it was such a cool experience.
All state owned museums in China are free (and closed on Mondays). Private museums may charge a fee, but usually not too much. The Hubei Provincial Museum is the most famous museum in Wuhan, along with Hubei Museum of Art located next door. These two are a must to visit, and often have interesting exhibitions on display. Next to Guiyuan Temple lies the Wuhan Stone Museum (private), which has an incredible collection of stones from jade to amber and amethyst. Wuhan is also home to several war memorial museums such as the 1911 Uprising Museum, and Wuhan Museum, but sadly I never got to visit those.
The Chinese love spending their spare time in parks dancing, enjoying the sunshine, and renting boats to go on the lakes. Wuhan has a few parks as well! Zhongshan Park is fun because it has roller coasters you can go on.
Optics Valley (Guanggu)
Located in Wuchang, not too far from CCNU by underground, this is the largest shopping area I have ever been to. One of the shopping centres has several hundred shops. It’s so big if you find something you like I advise you to purchase it straight away, you probably won’t find the same shop ever again. Here you can also find international shops like C&A, H&M, Forever 21, and supermarket chain Carrefour.
Behind the shopping centre are some themed streets like German Street and Spanish Street. They have a model of Notre Dame, and it’s a very cool place!
Hankou is home to the largest pedestrian street in Wuhan. We would always go here for SUPER CHEAP EVERYTHING SHOPS Miniso and Mumuso. These shops became my life. From this area you can easily get down to the river and take the ferry across to Wuchang, very nice thing to do!
Suggesting restaurants in China is very difficult for three reasons:
1. Places look so dodgy.
Me and my friends’ favourite restaurant whilst we were there was in a place very difficult to come buy, and we only knew about it because our friend lived right next to it. I don’t even know the name of the street, and even if I did, nobody would ever believe it was the best place ever because it looks like a place you should never even go in to. But it had the best home made Chinese food I have ever tasted. But even if I told you it was great, and you went there, and saw what it looked like, there is just no way you would go inside, haha.
Like, this is it….:
2. Restaurants come and go so quickly. A place that was there yesterday can easily be gone tomorrow, so it is very difficult for me who is not there now to say what will be there in a week.
3. I don’t know any restaurant names. We would refer to them as “the dumpling place” and “the ramen place”. Seriously.
But, I will do my best and recommend some that I do know!
On the CCNU Campus
On campus is a place called Cultural Street, which is packed with places to eat. Since we didn’t have proper kitchens in our dormitory, this is where we ate most of meals. In the morning I would go down the hill and buy reganmian or dumplings from the women selling breakfast. And for lunch and dinner we would go Kebab Kingdom when we wanted something very savoury (my usual was the chicken shish kebab), or “the ramen place” next to Kebab Kingdom. There is also a dumpling place with the loveliest dumpling guy ever, and I could never even understand what he was saying, but he would always smile and wave and after being there twice he knew our order.
The food halls
Food halls are a big thing in China. They are usually a bit hidden places, where you go inside and you come to a massive hall with tables in the middle, and many mini kitchens around cooking everything you can imagine. These places are great. You can get so many nice things here, for very cheap. In Wuhan, there were two main ones we would go to regularly.
The closest one to CCNU lies next to Guangbutun underground station Exit J. When you walk out of the exit, keep going straight ahead. Go past the McDonalds, past the Bank of China, and shortly you see some stairs going down into a hall and you can see the chairs. It’s behind a bus stop, if I remember correctly. They serve the best vegetable dumplings down there, and it is soooo cheeeeeeeap.
The next one is in Zhongnan Road and it’s a bit fancier. Get out at Exit D2, and walk straight ahead until you see a shopping centre called Suning, next to a cake store. There is a side door with some stairs going down. Here you can get proper meals like rice bowls with meat and veggies, noodle soups and other stuff. I used to go to this one place where they had little bowls of sides, and you’d get some rice with it. It was yummy.
“The Pork Place”
Like I said… I don’t know many names of places. This place is in Jiedaokou. From the CCNU campus, walk straight ahead past Exit B of the underground station, cross the road so your are in the Exit C side, but don’t go towards Exit C, just keep going straight for a few minutes and then you find this place. You can recognise it because it has a little kiosk right inside the door to the right, where they sell bottles of Coke and stuff. It has the best guobaorou I have ever eaten. Guobaorou is pork fried in sticky rice flour and has a slight corianderish flavour to it. It’s very tasty! They also have other classic Chinese dishes.
In China, you can go to restaurants where they have barbecues on the tables, and you just go grab whatever you want and grill it on your table, buffet style. It is so much fun, and very social. If you are at the CCNU campus, walk towards Guangbutun, and cross the first walking bridge you come to. Take left, and you will see a red door with a lift. Take the lift upstairs and you hit a massive BBQ buffet place. You pay close to £4 and you can eat and drink as much as you want, including meat, veggies, cut fruit, cake, ice cream, and alcohol!
This place is quite far away, but it’s super nice. It’s located in Hanyang, and I’m not so sure that many students from CCNU knows about this place. Aloha is run by a woman from Hawaii and they serve proper American food. It is definitely the most expensive place I have been to in Wuhan, and I’m talking England prices here. But it was worth it. It is located in French Street, which I believe will be a quite up and coming area in the city once the new tube opens. (When I left Wuhan summer 2015 you could not really get to it because the main road was closed off since they were building a new underground. Hopefully it is open now!)
Belgian bar and restaurant in Hankou. Has the best steak I had whilst in Wuhan!
Chicony is a shopping centre in Jiedaokou, next to the CCNU campus. Inside the shopping centre you can find many nice places to dine such as Bellagio which serves Chinese food, Grandma’s Kitchen which has the best American style burgers, and the best Indian place in Wuhan on the top floor.
Getting around in Wuhan is quite easy once you know where you are going. They are currently extending the underground lines every day, and in the not so distant future you will be able to go all the way to the airport by tube. The underground currently has three lines, which can take you pretty much anywhere. The underground has information in English and is very international friendly.
Going by bus is easy if you know where you are going, but only if you speak Chinese. There is no information in English of the bus routes. Whilst in China I only knew about three busses, and they kept changing them all the time. The good thing about the bus is you get to see more of the city than if you were on the tube.
Going by taxi is very cheap, however you need to have the address of where you are going in Chinese. Many drivers don’t speak English!
Hope this made you want to visit Wuhan! Sorry it became so long. Any questions I will try and answer to my best abilities ^_^