Explore Xiamen's Colonial Past on a Car-Free Island
Gulangyu (鼓浪屿) is Xiamen's most popular tourist destination. Expect to spend the better part of a day exploring this island just off the coast of downtown Xiamen—along with throngs of Chinese tourists. But don't be put off—once you get away from the area around the docks there are plenty of back lanes where you can enjoy the scenery in (relative) quiet. Gulangyu is a living museum of mid-nineteenth century architectural styles, having once been home to foreign traders, diplomats, and missionaries from a dozen western countries.
Today Gulangyu is off-limits to cars; they wouldn't fit on its steep, narrow streets anyway. Visitors can take golf-cart sightseeing cars around the island but the best way is to explore it on foot. Many of the old colonial buildings are private residences by now, but several are open to the public as restaurants and B&Bs. Entry to island itself is free, but several on-island attractions charge entrance fees (a multi-entry pass to all costs around 100 RMB). The most interesting is the Piano Museum (30 RMB) on the southern side of the island. A private collation of hundreds of pianos from around the world spanning three centuries, including failed designs, such as a corner piano. Most visitors arrive in Gulangyu by the 10-minute ferry, which costs 8 RMB roundtrip and departs from Lundu Pier on Lujiang Road. Much more expensive speedboats are also available but really only make sense on weekends when waits for the ferry can be excessively long.