A thriving new arts district, an island that made the UNESCO World Heritage List, and a special snack culture: This is Xiamen, China.
Located in the southeast Fujian province, this beautiful port city enjoys a relaxed lifestyle and a mixed culture. Think architecture from the colonial era, cuisine in a Southeast Asian style and a personality like its neighbor Taiwan.
Perhaps this multicultural environment is behind the open-minded and welcoming nature of the people. “For those from Southeast Asia, Xiamen feels like home,” according to Conrad Xiamen Hotel Manager Josan Cheng, who hails from Indonesia himself.
As a native of Dalian, the hotel’s chief concierge, Kevin Yuan, is also impressed with the humble and honest Minnan (southern Fujian) people, who possess a deep appreciation for the simpler life.
Cheng and Yuan share their insider’s guide on how to best explore Xiamen.
A tea pot and a few cups and snacks on a small table surrounded by friends or neighbors—it’s a common sight while strolling the city’s streets and alleyways.
Fujian province is famous for its tea production. Naturally, it’s a big part of daily life in Xiamen. In fact, the city has more than 3,000 tea shops, with up to 20 stores on one street. Lan Fen Tea Shop on Xiaxi Road is known for its Lanhua tea, a Fujian variety that comes directly from the farm.
For an elevated experience (literally), Plush restaurant on the 38th floor of Conrad Xiamen serves up an elegant High Tea ceremony with breathtaking sea views. Be sure to try some tea snacks, such as a South Putuo vegetarian pancake, Huang Yuan Tang pineapple tart and Ah Ji Zai pie.
UNESCO praises Gulangyu Island (also known as Kulangsu Island) as “an exceptional example of cultural fusion” citing architectural styles including traditional southern Fujian, Western classical revival and veranda colonial.
Stroll through this architectural marvel and you’ll hear classical music playing throughout the district, thanks to its numerous musical prodigies and the Gulangyu Piano Museum, the world’s largest of its kind, exhibiting more than 100 ancient instruments. No wonder it’s also called the “Piano Island.”
Accessible only by ferry, the island boasts stellar views at Sunlight Rock, its highest peak, crowned with a Buddhist temple. To avoid the crowds, Conrad Xiamen’s Yuan recommends visiting Bright Moon Garden instead. This statuary garden contains buildings and sculptures unique to the Ming dynasty, with equally enchanting views.
Not far from Conrad Xiamen, an old fishing village called Shapowei has been converted to a new art zone featuring interesting boutiques, galleries and restaurants in former shipbuilding warehouses. For a handcrafted burger, try Loong Cherised, with a view of the port, and for seafood, Li Yuan Restaurant has won awards for its modern minimalist design.
A not-to-miss art gallery in Xiamen’s Xinglinwan, Jimei District, Three Shadows Xiamen Photography Art Centre features an exhibition hall, an independent gallery, an image production department, a photography book store and a café.
It’s hard not to like a place that values a good snack, and Xiamen is famous for its “snack culture.” Notable dishes include Earth Bamboo Jelly (Tusun Dong in Chinese), a local delicacy. You’ll find it on the menu at TianHe XiMen TuSunDong, a family restaurant passed down for generations. However, it’s not for the faint of heart. The “earth bamboo” is not bamboo, but a type of worm. Other less-daring Minnan snacks include Jiang Mu Ya (ginger duck), oyster omelet (an omelet with oyster filling), meat dumplings and Xiamen peanut soup.
But perhaps the most popular dish is salty saté noodles. For a good bowl of it, Conrad Xiamen’s Cheng suggests the nearby stall Wu Tang Saté Noodles. It’s so popular that the noodles often sell out before the afternoon ends.
Like dual sails rising from the waters, Conrad Xiamen soars above the South China Sea with expansive views of Gulangyu Island. Set in the heart of the Siming Central Business District, the hotel occupies the top 18 floors of the Shimao Straits Towers, exuding contemporary flair from its five sleek restaurants and bars to its 37th-floor pool. Located within walking distance of Xiamen’s most popular attractions, the property features direct access to Shimao mall. Perhaps the highlight of Conrad Xiamen’s services is the 1-3-5 Ambassador program, in which you can hire a private bilingual Ambassador for one, three or five hours to give you an authentic insider tour of Xiamen. Contact Chief Concierge Kevin Yuan to connect with an Ambassador.
Book your stay at Conrad Xiamen to visit this beautiful port city and create your own insider’s guide.