Generally not considered a "must see" destination in China, it does have a number of attractions, an interesting history and is tourist friendly.
Most tourists come to Xiamen to visit Gulangyu Island, a small island which contains some beautiful colonial buildings and is car free.
Until 1840, Western "barbarians" were allowed to trade only in Guangzhou (which they called Canton), and only under strict controls. After China lost the First Opium War, Britain took Hong Kong and China was forced to open five "Treaty Ports": Guangzhou, Xiamen, Fuzhou, Ningbo and Shanghai.
In Xiamen, the island Gulangyu became a foreign enclave with consulates and luxurious homes. Today it is a quiet area (no cars or motorcycles) and five minutes by ferry from downtown, and still quite scenic.
In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, Fujian was a focus of missionary activity. There are still many historic churches in the region.
In the 1970s, Xiamen was made a Special Economic Zone to encourage development and since it has flourished. Xiamen has more Taiwan investment than any other mainland city, partly because the Minnan dialect spoken around Xiamen is nearly identical to Taiwanese. There is also a major influx of other foreign investment.
It is not Shanghai or Hong Kong, but compared to many other cities in China, Xiamen is definitely a very vibrant, affluent and modern place. It got an international award  in a contest for most livable cities in 2002; neighboring Quanzhou won the following year.
Xiamen International Airport (XMN) is conveniently close to downtown, ¥30-40 and 20 minutes by taxi. Xiamen Airlines  use XMN as their hub. They have connections all over China and some international flights. Several other Chinese airlines also fly to Xiamen.
- If you are flying to Xiamen from North America, consider Korean Air. They offer great discounts, and the Seoul Airport is the most user-friendly on the planet, free internet and nice free lounges with couches to stretch out on.
- If you are coming from elsewhere, look for cheap flights direct to Xiamen from Singapore or Bangkok. See Discount airlines in Asia for more information.Tiger Air has cheap regular flights between Singapore and Xiamen.
The train is not a good option for trips along the coast (for example from Fuzhou, Shantou or Hong Kong) because it takes a circuitous route through the mountains. This will be changing in the near future, a new high speed rail line along the coast is under construction, but as of mid-2008 it is not near completion. For now, use the bus from coastal destinations.
Some train times and costs:
- Guangzhou: ¥261 hard sleeper, 14 hours.
Some bus times and costs:
- Quanzhou: ¥35, 1.5 hours.
- Fuzhou: ¥70-90, 4 hours.
- Hong Kong, Guangzhou, Shenzhen or Zhuhai: around ¥200-300, overnight sleeper bus.
- There is a bus direct to Xiamen from Hong Kong airport.
- For trips from Hong Kong, try to choose a bus that goes all the way. With some tickets, you have to change buses at the Hong Kong-Shenzhen border.
You may come across references to a ferry service from Hong Kong. It no longer operates (as of November 2004).
A boat service operates to and from Kinmen in the Republic of China hourly from 0830-1730 every day. Tickets cost NT$700 from Kinmen and CNY 180 from Xiamen. This route has only just been opened to foreign travellers.
Taxis are cheap, starting at ¥8 for the first 3 kilometers. You can go anywhere on Xiamen island, including the airport, for under ¥40.
The local bus system is very good, but the bus routes are listed in Mandarin and do not have English on them.
If traveling to/from Gulangyu you should take the ferry.
You could enjoy Xiamen's unique scenery not only in the day but also in the night. Take a breather and walk beside the Yuandang lake in the evening and you could see how Xiamen transforms into a different setting: lighted artistic sculptures, scent of the sea, and romantic lovers by the lake. Enjoy your stroll and notice that some buildings even have a "light shows" at night, simple laser/light shows that attract attention, which is some form of an "advertisement" mostly done by newly opened commercial buildings and some residential complexes to draw attention to their business.
Be sure to see these places of interest, and compare the differences viewing them during the day versus at night:
- Zhongshan Lu — See the yearly "facelifts" and notice that older buildings are becoming extinct and being replaced by modern ones.
- The night markets — See how smaller businesses trade in the night.
- Public parks — Clean and set with greenery.
- Yuandang Lake — See how the egrets flock in the day and fly home in the night.
- Bailuzhou Park — A large and beautiful park. Go around 8:30PM and enjoy the vendors, music, and dancing.
- Xiamen University — Beautiful campus with old traditional buildings and a tranquil lake outside the foreign language department.
- Jiageng Park — A beautiful park in memory of Chen Jiageng, founder of Xiamen University.
- Nanputuo Temple — A big Buddhist temple outside Xiamen University at Xiada (short for Xiamen University) Street, and if you're interested there is an old nun there who is good at acupuncture.
- There is a whole strip of cafes and bars along the lake next to the Marco Polo Hotel, more-or-less all with patios and/or balconies that give a view of the lake.
- Geo Geo Cafe — Furthest from the hotel in the strip, serves good Italian and American food and coffee. The food is excellent. Having tried all of the cafe's along "Coffee Street" this is easily the best
- On the side street off the lake by the hotel are several more places.
- Tutto Bene — A very good Italian place.
- Javaroma — Good coffee, run by an Aussie. Very quiet except for Tuesday Night "two for One deals" on pizza's.
- Local Chinese Restaurants:
- Little Chili's — Offers excellent Chinese food at an affordable price. The menus are in English.
Generally speaking the western food restaurants in Xiamen are not very good, or perhaps better described as disappointing. You can perhaps forgive Chinese owned and run restaurants which try to offer "Western" food when it turns out to be not quite as expected but it is quite a different matter when western owned and/or run establishments turn out average or below average meals.
- Old House. Really good steak here amongst other equally good items on the menu. All food well presented by good, attentive staff in very pleasant surroundings. Despite the many large adverts seen for the restaurant we found it quite difficult to actually find but it was well worth the effort.
- Coyote Cafe & Cantina, Yuan Dang Lu, Gan Long Hua Yuan 58-2, ☎ 504 - 6623, . Lunch and dinner. Tex-Mex made with fresh ingredients. Come visit us online at coyotecafe.asia!
Tea Houses are popular in Xiamen. You'll see relaxing people making tea in front of their house in daytime.
This lists accomadation in Xiamen only. For accomadation on Gulangyu island, see Gulangyu.
- Xia'men International Youth Hostel, 41 Nanhua Road, Siming district, ☎ 0592-2082345(email@example.com, fax: 0592-2199876), .
- Millennium Harbourview Hotel Xiamen, No. 12-8 Zhen Hai Road, ☎ 86-592-202 3333, . Located in downtown Xiamen which is a major shopping and business district, the hotel is only minutes away on foot to the ferry to Gulangyu Island. It features a 22-story building that houses 352 rooms that include various business facilities including a work-desk and high speed internet access.
- Gem Hotel. Beautiful Japanese-style rooms overlooking much of downtown Xiamen. Includes (Chinese) buffet breakfast and free (wired) internet access. Most of the staff speak English well and are extremely helpful.From ¥140/night.
- Lujiang Harbourview Hotel(Xiamen Lujiang Hotel), 54 Lujiang Road((100 metres North of the ferry station)), ☎ (0592)2022922, . checkin: 3pm; checkout: 12noon. A grand old place, very central on Beach road. The restaurant has excellent dim sum.
- Sheraton Xiamen Hotel, 386-1 Jiahe Road, ☎ (0592) 552 5888, . The latest international chain hotel to grace Xiamen's shores. It's very plush, and the Waves Pan Asian buffet is excellent.
- Sofitel Plaza Xiamen. A super modern hotel, the rooms use a lot of glass and modern design techniques. The hotel also has an excellent ¥100 lunch buffet.
- Marco Polo Hotel. This hotel is in an excellent location, and offers a wonderful international buffet and a great atmosphere.
- Riyuegu Hot Springs Resort. One of the most beautiful resorts in Xiamen. Besides the regular accommodations, the resort also contains an exotic hot springs park. They have all sorts of flavors (like milk, rose, tea, etc.) mixed into their natural hot springs water. They also have a fantastic spa. It is worth a trip.
- Best Western Xiamen, 158 Yuhounanli Road, Siming District, ☎ 86-21-61226688 Ext. 7800., . A 4-star business hotel offering 490 lavishly-furnished room, first-rate amenities and services, function rooms, gym, and spa.
The area code for Xiamen is 0592. When calling from overseas, dial +86 592 XXXX-XXXX
- Hakka Tulou - In Yongding County, 3-5 hours from Xiamen, are the amazing tulou, structures where a number of residences are built inside a single fortified compound.
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