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Lanzhou - City and Sightseeing Guide for Visitors


Lanzhou - City and Sightseeing Guide for Visitors

Driving into downtown Lanzhou

© 2012 Sara Naumann, licensed to About.com.


Lanzhou (兰州) is the provincial capital of Gansu Province. It has a population of 3.2 million people including many Chinese ethnic minorities. Over 100,000 Lanzhou residents are Muslim as can be seen from the many mosques there. Lanzhou is an industrial city with many oil refineries and chemical companies. While known today as a heavily polluted city, local government is supporting a major environmental campaign that includes planting thousands of trees. The tree-planting efforts can be seen now on the terraced hillsides that stretch between Lanzhou city and the airport.

History in Brief:

Lanzhou was a stop on the Silk Road that started its way west from Chang'an, the ancient Han Dynasty capital (present-day Xi'an) around 100 BC.

Lanzhou then served as a center for trade and industry throughout the dynasties and continued to be an important center for commerce.

City Features:

Lanzhou sits on the upper Yellow River and it is this river and the Lanshan mountains to the south that define the landscape of the city.

Sightseeing in Lanzhou - What to See & Do::

By far, the best thing to do in Lanzhou is to visit to the Gansu Provincial Musuem. The museum was closed for a four-year renovation and re-opened in 2010 to showcase its incredible collections that include the Silk Road, Neolithic Pottery and Buddhist Art. The museum is small enough to see all of it within a half-day but not so large that you become overwhelmed. The famous Flying Horse of Gansu is housed here.

One should also sample a bowl or two of Lanzhou's famous Lanzhou Beef Noodle Soup or 兰州牛肉汤面. This cuisine has been exported all over China as fast/street food but you should be sure to try them in their birthplace. Lanzhou's most famous outlet for these yummy noodles is Mazilu. But don't expect to find them for dinner. Lanzhou locals eat noodle soup for breakfast and lunch but not dinner.

Walking the Yellow River is another something to do in Lanzhou. There are several parks along the banks, including the Waterwheel Park. It's a good place to see local residents relaxing and strolling.

Most people find themselves in Lanzhou for business or on their way to other Silk Road destinations, such as Dunhuang. If you do find yourself in transit there, make sure you visit the museum and then don't feel bad about moving on.

An excellent source for more detailed sightseeing as well as general city information is this website: Redefining Lanzhou. It is one of the best in-depth city guides (outside of Shanghai or Beijing) for China that I have encountered. The site recommends a number of sights and walking tours, none of which I had time to do while I was there (but wish I had!)

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