Fuzhou is an old port city and has been an administrative center since the Qin Dynasty; the traditional date for its founding is 202 BC. Marco Polo visited it around 1290. In the era of tea clippers, Fuzhou exported more tea than any other Chinese port. Much of the best tea came from Wuyi Mountain area, up the river from Fuzhou.
Today, it is the provincial capital and administrative center, and also a major center for light industry. Nike has a factory there, and a Taiwanese firm that makes shoes for Adidas, Reebok and others has four. All are large factories, with several thousand employees each. Fuzhou is right across the straits from Taipei, and there is fairly heavy Taiwan investment.
The city is on the Min River, a few km inland from the sea, and the actual port is in the downstream suburb Mawei which has been a center for shipbuilding for several hundred years. In 1884, the French destroyed a dockyard at Mawei, sinking a good part of the Chinese navy and killing hundreds. There is a museum to commemorate this. For a more general view of Fujian's seafaring history, visit the Maritime Museum in Quanzhou.
The Fuzhou region has its own language, called Fuzhou Hua (Fuzhou speech) or Mindong (Eastern Min, where "min" is another name for Fujian). The region also has its own culture and an architectural style distinct from other regions in China and Fujian, which can be found both in the city and in the towns and rural areas around it. The city has the oldest wood structure in South China (Hualin Temple) and has one of the largest historic downtown districts in China "Three Lanes and Seven Alleys" with over 200 residences from the Ming and Qing dynasties.
Fuzhou, and more generally Fujian, has always been outward-looking and some people in more-or-less every overseas Chinese community in the world can trace their ancestry to the area. There is also an enclave of Fuzhou people in Shanghai.
In recent decades, most of the illegal Chinese immigrants smuggled to Western countries and to Japan and Taiwan have come from the Fuzhou region, with Changle, Fuqing and various more rural areas as the main sources. The trade is largely controlled by the region's "snakehead" gangs who are not at all nice people. In 2003, the Taiwan coast guard intercepted a boatload of young women presumably bound for Tapei's brothels; the crew threw them overboard to get rid of the evidence and several died.
The airport is an hour from town in the suburb of Changle, ¥20 by bus. You can get the bus at the Apollo Hotel. Shared taxis also go from there, at around ¥25 a person. A private taxi would be at least ¥100, likely more unless you haggle very well. There are complimentary shuttles from other hotels, such as the Min Jiang, to the Apollo.
Direct overnight buses to/from Shanghai (12h, ¥240), Hong Kong, Shenzhen (12h, ¥280) or Guangzhou(12h, ¥258) exist, with sleeping bunks. ¥220-350, it is usually worth the extra for comfort. Buses from Xiamen (¥85, 3.5h).
The main Fuzhou train station is in the northeast of the city. You can reach it via #5 or #22 city busses, or it is cheap and quick by taxi from anywhere in central Fuzhou. There is also a new Fuzhou South station, located rather inconveniently. A taxi to it will be ¥50 or so from downtown and take about half an hour. The K2 bus runs between the two stations; the cheapest way to the South station if you have time is to go to the main station and take that bus from the parking lot off to your left as you face the station entrance.
There are also fast trains to Shanghai via various towns in Northern Fujian, Wenzhou, Ningbo, and Hangzhou. Around 6 hours, ¥282 for second class, 330 for first. Most of these leave from the South station.
There are five official districts.
- Cangshan District (仓山区; Cāngshānqū) *
- Taijiang District (台江区; Táijiāngqū) *
- Mawei District (马尾区; Mǎwěiqū), the port area, 20 km downstream, covered in a separate article
- Gulou District (鼓楼区; 'Gǔlóuqū) *
- Jin'an District (晋安区; Jìnānqū) *
Taxis are cheap, ¥10+ for short trips and under ¥30 for almost any trip in town. Taxi rates are ¥10 for the first 3 km, and then ¥1.4 per km and one more after 11PM. Since 2010 additional ¥1 fuel charge is added to taxi fare. Taxis are more available in the downtown area, and are often hard to get outside there.
Buses are often crowded, but run often and more-or-less everywhere for ¥1. Most are air conditioned. If the bus you require is packed just wait until the next one, or the one after, it should only take 5–10 minutes, being stuck on a dangerously overloaded bus with several dozen/hundred people sweating all over you is an experience best avoided, especially in the summer months. However, you should be aware that bus service stops at 10pm, so the last buses are often very crowded and sometimes you cannot get one. Taxis and enterprising drivers will offer group rides from crowded bus stops to other parts of town, usually for ¥15.
Fuzhou and the surrounding area have a local language called Mindong (literally Fujian East) or Fuzhou Hua (Fuzhou speech). This is not mutually intelligible with Mandarin (standard Chinese) or any other Chinese dialect, not even other Min (Fujian) dialects.
As everywhere in China, Mandarin or standard Chinese is widely spoken. It has been the only language used in government and education for decades and acts as the lingua franca for Chinese from different regions to communicate. Fuzhou, like any prosperous coastal city, has many migrants from poorer provinces who have come seeking work; nearly all of them speak Mandarin but not Fuzhou Hua.
- West Lake Park (西湖公园, Xihu Gongyuan) (Walk over a causeway to this park on an island in West Lake). Attractive urban lake in the center of Fuzhou. Rent paddle or electric boats and explore the lake. Walk over the arching footbridge to the Fuzhou Science Museum, a small but nice museum featuring dinosaurs. Or walk around the lake itself; it is surrounded by sidewalks and a boardwalk. They also have some pandas in an enclosure where you can see them. There is also an area with some fine bonsai.
- Wuyi Square (五一广场, Wuyi Guangchang). A central square with a huge statue of Mao. Visit at dawn or dusk to watch the ceremonial raising or lowering of the flag by highly trained and immaculate soldiers. Or visit at 6AM-8AM or later on weekends to watch at least half a dozen styles of martial arts, both armed and unarmed, being practiced. The founder of Uechi-ryu karate, Uechi Kanbun, spent 13 years in Fuzhou, from 1897 to 1910. There are a group on the East side of the park who say their style is what he studied.
- Gu Mountain (鼓山, Gu Shan; lit.: Drum Mountain) (20 minutes bus ride from town). A Taoist temple houses nationally important archives written in monks' blood as well as superb veggie restaurant. It is a 1,900 meter climb, or a 20-minute cable car journey to the top.
- Baiyun Mountain (Near Gu Mountain). Less heavily trafficked than Gu Mountain. After the grueling top section, you will be rewarded by some genuinely beautiful hospitality and refreshing tea in a cave! Magic. Plus some great views over the city.
- Wu Mountain (乌山, Wu Shan). Overlooking the main square, a short walk to the hilltop which houses a pretty average temple. However, on the way up there is plenty of entertainment in the form of musicians and singers who congregate here to practice. The White Pagoda is also accessed by the same road behind Mao Tse Dong's statue and worth a look. There are several very good arts and crafts shops at the base of the hill. Haggle for all you are worth to obtain good prices. There is also an excellent Xinjiang restaurant near the top of the road up the hill.
- Qi Mountain (旗山, Qi Shan). A ¥5 bus ride from Fuzhou plus the last stage in a mian bao chi up the winding 17km road to the site. A forest park with big, waterfalls and stunning views over receding mountain ranges from a vertigo-inducing suspension bridge. All this and monkeys to feed.
- Three Lanes and Seven Alleys (三坊七巷) (a block West of Dong Jie Kou). This historic district in the heart of the city is one of the largest historic downtown areas in China, boasting about 268 ancient residences dating from Ming and Qing dynasties (1368-1911). Most of these residences feature the typical Foochow architectural style, which can only be found in the Eastern and Northeastern part of Fujian. The area was extensively restored around 2007, and as of 2012 additional work in neighbouring areas is still going on. Since 2011, ten of the finest residences require admission fees of ￥15 or ￥20 per person. A combo admission ticket including all ten is available for ￥120 (valid for 2 days). Many of the residences in the area are private homes, so tourists need permission from the residents to enter them.
- Hualin Temple (华林寺), 78 Hualin Road, Fuzhou. Hualin Temple is a Buddhist temple in downtown Fuzhou, which currently functions as a small museum and no longer provides Buddhist services. Built in 964 AD and survived over 10 centuries, this is the oldest wood architecture extant in South China (south of Yangtze River). The temple has a typical Tang dynasty style with simplicity and elegance. Despite its great historic and architectural importance, the site is rarely visited, but it is truly a hidden treasure for serious lovers of ancient Chinese architecture.
- Statue of Commissioner Lin (in a small park in the Southeast of the city). Lin Zexu (林则徐, 1785—1850) was a Fuzhou native who did brilliantly on the Imperial Examinations and became an official. Lin was appointed as an Imperial Commissioner to clean up the opium trade in Canton, where he seized and burned a large supply of opium. This provoked the First Opium War, which China immediately lost. Lin was blamed for some of this, despite his orders, and exiled to Xinjiang. Later, his reputation was restored and he is now considered a national hero. There are still officials surnamed Lin in Fuzhou, some of whom say they are his descendants.
- Riley's Club, Yangqiao Road. If pool is your game, you would be hard pushed to find better tables anywhere in China than here. Cheap drinks and open very late too.
- Fuzhou Fighting Ferrets Football Club. A motley assortment of nationalities who play at Jinshan Wentizhongxin every Sunday at 9:15AM. Like football, only funnier!
- Paintball (In Jinjishan Gongyuan, right on top of the hill). Great fun for those masochists among us who enjoy being hit by high velocity projectiles in delicate parts of the body. Not to be attempted in summertime!
- Walk in traditional architecture street, Nan Hou Jie (South of Xi Hu). Freshly renovated pedestrian street, back into time atmosphere, lots of small alleys to stroll by, great for shopping but avoid overpriced restaurants and bars.
- Sauna/SPA. Fuzhou is famous for its hotsprings; many hotels have a sauna and spa. They often have three different pools, one hot, one boiling (by western standards), and a normal one. Sauna and Turkish bath used to be available, staff gives you all you need. Most of the saunas have massage center with different services.
- Wu Qingyuan museum, Wushan Lu (in a small park, north side of street, half a block west of Bayichi Lu). The board game called Weiqi in Chinese or Go in Japanese and English is quite popular throughout East Asia; there are professional players and the better ones are major celebrities. Wu Qingyuan (吳清源, 1914—) is considered by many to be the best player of the 20th century and one of the greatest of all time. He has lived in Japan most of his life and is generally known in the West by the Japanese name Go Seigen. A film biography is The Go Master and the wiki on the game has an online biography. The site has a small museum, some shops and a hall for playing the game.
The most famous handicrafts of the area are:
- Shoushan stone (寿山石). A unique variety of alabaster found only in Shou Shan(寿山) (about 40km from Fuzhou) used to make name chops and all types of beautiful carving.
- Lacquer work (漆器). Especially the Fujian bodiless lacquerware (脱胎漆器), considered one of the three treasures of Chinese arts and crafts. It is lightweight, durable, and often lovely. There is a factory on Wuyi Road (五一路).
There are also carvings in wood and jade, paper umbrellas and combs made of ox horn.
You may be offered ivory. Most nations have banned ivory to protect endangered species; do not buy it unless you are certain it is fake. In China, this is quite likely, but it is hard to be certain and it might be harder yet to convince customs officials if you try to bring it home.
- Electronic Market, Wuyi South Road (In front Apollo Hotel). 9-18. Hundreds of little shops plenty of mobile, Mp3, Mp5, Fake ipod, Fake iphone... Bargaining is recommended, but the first price is not as far off the real price as in Shanghai. There are also some big stores with real stuff.
- Powerlong (Baolong) (Just take taxi and say Bao-long). Big mall in Fuzhou, more than 200 shops and a cinema. Premium brands are in first floor and have direct access to the street. Inside the little shops have fake items and Chinese low-cost brands. There are many restaurants like McDonald's, KFC, Jazzy pizza ...in the rear part there are small traditional Chinese restaurants, all staff speaking in Chinese, so difficult to communicate with them. Cinema (last floor) and Carrefour (second floor) are available in this mall. There is also a Warhammer hobby store in the lower level B1 with an English-speaking owner
Local specialties include:
- Yu Wan (鱼丸). fish balls, a Fuzhou delicacy, minced beef and pork inside a fishy flour ball of dough in a thin broth, excellent. Also just called 肉丸 (rou wan) but check they are fish nonetheless.
- Ban Mian (拌面). noodles with peanut sauce, a roadside cheapy but not very filling which explains the ¥4-6 price tag
- Bian Rou (扁肉). a small boiled dumpling, under ¥2 a portion
- Guo Bien Hu (锅边糊). large steaming hot soft rice noodles inside soup of rice powder and water, hint of shrimp or oyster, under 2 yuan a bowl. Only eaten for breakfast.
- Oyster Pancake (海蛎煎饼). a tradition food in Fuzhou Kind like a pancake but with fly oyster and leek in it. Native people usually eat it in breakfast and prepare in various styles so if you do not find the exact name do not be surprised.
- Wai Bo Tai (Just off Yeshan Road). Good menu, cheap, great fresh seafood.
- Hao Shi Jie (好世界) (on the corner of Ring Road Two (Er Huan Lu) and Yangqiao Road). Very expensive if you go upstairs, but stay on the ground floor and eat the dim sum which is cheap (under ¥250/head) and delicious.
- Moby Pizza (On the second floor, northeast corner of Jintai Road and Bayiqi Road opposite McDonalds).
- Cafe Forum (on the corner of Ring Road Two and Wushi Road). Good quality meals in a box and reasonably priced coffee, but the service can sometimes be atrocious. Hit it on a good day, it is great. On a bad day, it is dire.
- Ajisen Japanese Noodles (味千拉面) (Next to bus 8 stop on Bayiqi Road). A great range of noodles and tasty side dishes. Friendly service and pictures in the menu for those who can not read Chinese which is a real Godsend.
- Lemon leaf, 5F, 66 Hubin Road (opposite the front door of West Lake). Very good Thai food. Featured dish: lemon fish and curry crab. Not cheap, ¥50 per person on average.
- Roman Holiday, Jiao Tong Road, by the Hong Yun Xing Cheng Apartments (when you arrive near the apartments, there will be an alley on the right side of the street with advertisements of Italiand food, follow them down the alley until you see Roman Holiday on the left), ☎ 88902217. 11AM-10:30PM. Likely the best Italian food in Fuzhou. Excellent Pizza, pasta. Also, some good fusion Japanese/Italian/Chinese dishes. Not cheap, ¥50 per person or more if you get drinks.
- Jazzy pizza, Many locations. Chinese alternative to Pizza Hut, good pizza and cheaper, salads and pasta are ok, too. ¥50-100.
- Bullfighter, Many locations (In Powerlong (Baolong) mall there is one, other in front of Shangrila). Steak house, you choose one steak and can use the salad and dessert buffet. ¥60-120/person.
- Panevino, Wenquan Park Road (In front of a new (2010) Best Western hotel in Fuzhou, very near to HotSpring Hotel.). Italian food, very good quality for Fuzhou standards. They have a set menu for lunch and dinner. Upstairs there is a good Japanese restaurant. Can communicate in English, in which the menu is also written. ¥200-300/person with drinks..
- Korean restaurant (in Ramada Hotel). One of the best Korean restaurants in the city. BBQ in the table and good quality. Try the meat selection and the vegetables. More than ¥200/person.
Restaurants near the white pagoda (behind Grand Ocean Mall) (on a pedestrian-only side street running west off Baiqi Lu, a bit north of Gutian Lu). More than a dozen restaurants, mostly upmarket.
- Bambino. Good Italian restaurant, cheaper than Panevino. You can also find some Chinese food among the Italian dishes. ¥150-200. Menu in English.
- Taiyro. Japanese food buffet. Free flow of drinks, sushi, sashimi and teppanyaki for ¥150/person. The sashimi used to be served frozen, not so good but sushi is acceptable and teppanyaki is good.
- Venue. French restaurant in Fuzhou, and perhaps the only one. More than ¥400/person
- Mamamya. Another Italian restaurant but not so good, pizzas are small and expensive, salads no good. ¥100 or more per person.
- Old Shanghai. Typical Shanghainese food, menu only in Chinese but with pictures, less than ¥100/person.
- The Party Bar, Tonghu Road (About 50 meters south of the main gate of West Lake Park). Has cheap beer, free pool table and live music. Popular with locals, sometimes quite crowded or noisy on weekends. Foreigners have stopped going since the tragic murder of Richard Gribble, a 23 year old Australian, by patrons of this bar.
- Shao Yuan Yi Hao (Baima Road). Has a host of foreign beers, British, German and Belgian as well as fine wines, a few single malts, and beautiful decor and people. Bit pricey, but worth it for the music and atmosphere. It is a beautifully remodelled warehouse, the sort of design you might expect in a Western city or perhaps Shanghai, but unique in Fuzhou.
- 1-2-3 Bar, Baima Road (Almost opposite Shao Yuan Yi Hao). Cheap beer, convivial atmosphere, sometimes live music, stays open as long as you are drinking/semi-conscious. The sign says 1-2-3, but Chinese pronounce it "do-re-mi" for reasons that are not at all clear.
- Club Blog Club, 136 Hubin Road. A coffee shop managed by a Western resident that overlooks West Lake.
- The Pure Drop, Hubin Road (Near West Lake). A lively and convivial atmosphere, cheap, cold beer, live music every night.
- The Bamboo Bar (About 200 metres from Shao Yuan Yi Hao nearer to Yangqiao Road). Cheap beer, waterside tables, live football games on TV. Pushy owner, but easily ignored after a couple of beers!
- Saint Nobody, Beida Road (Near Guxi Church). The most mysterious club in fuzhou with cheap beer and good indie music. An anti-fuzhou look which makes you feel like a traveler lost in an unknown city.
- Prada, 中国福建省福州市鼓楼区余府巷 中福西湖花园北福楼C区1层 (Near Lakeside hotel), ☎ 0591-87110888. 3:00am. The preferred bar for expats in Fuzhou. Local style, people playing dice and live singers. Few staff speak English, try to get a VIP card from the manager. Main drink is beer but you can order some cocktails. Typically a place where a fight or two is likely to break outf. Frequented by gangsters who dislike foreigners
- Lili Marlens, 中国福建省福州市鼓楼区 古乐路117号-2 (In front of Min Capital hotel, mindu fan dian). Similar to prada. Staff dressed in army style clothing. Manager is friendly and speaks a little English
- Wooshie Bar, Wusi Road, Gulou, Fuzhou (Near the McDonalds on the corner. Stairs upstairs non descript entrance), ☎ . Small bar, live music, cheap beer (¥100 for 10), cocktails (¥25 each) and a relaxed atmosphere. Has a country music theme. Great place to go to enjoy something different from the usual fuzhou bar. Couches for free
- B Boss Club.
There are a number of cheap hotels around the railway station.
- Jinjiang Inn (Fuzhou Railway Station (锦江之星（福州火车站店）), 41 Qinyuan Road (Qinyuan Lu). Located at the intersection of Qinyuan Road and Hualin Road, the Jinjiang Inn's full name tells you all you really need to know-the Jinjiang Inn (Fuzhou Railway Station) is adjacent to Fuzhou bus station. (The full name in Mandarin: Jinjiang Zhixing Fuzhou Huochenzhan Dian). The North Long-distance Bus Station is also within a short walking distance from the hotel. Daily rates starts from ￥169.
- Hualin Hotel (福州华林大饭店), 201 Hualin Road (Hualin Lu. The Hualin Hotel (Hualin Dafandian) is within easy reach of provincial government buildings, Wenquan Park and the commercial district. This Fuzhou hotel offers Chinese buffet breakfast, 24-hour access to natural hot springs and free broadband internet. Daily rates starts from ￥155.
- Ju Chun Yuan Hotel (聚春园大酒店), Dong Jie Kou (A central intersection). Very central for shopping and such. Has a well-reputed Chinese buffet, a KFC and a UBC coffee shop. ¥200-odd a night.
There are some nice hotels in Fuzhou:
- Fuzhou Lakeside Hotel (西湖大酒店), 158 Hubin Road, ☎ . Ask for a room with view of West Lake. This was Fuzhou's first five star hotel, now past its prime. Still a lovely location, though.
- Empark Grand Hotel (世纪金源大饭店, lit.: Golden Resources Hotel) (Off Wushi Road, to the east). Good Macau restaurant on ground floor.
- Shangri-La Hotel (香格里拉大酒店) (Corner of Wuiyi Square). 5 star luxury. Try the burger in the lobby if you are tired of Chinese food. Also has a great and (by five-star standards) inexpensive coffee bar with free internet access.
- Golden Resources.
- Howard Johnsons, Mawei District. Don't be fooled by the name - this is not the HoJos you are accustomed to in the US. Very classy hotel with a good western restaurant on the ground floor and an excellent Japanese restaurant on the second floor.
- Best Western, Downtown (Near Hot Springs Park). Nice western hotel with soft beds in a good location. Half block to Panevino's (Italian restaurant) and Hot Springs Park.
- Westin Fuzhou Minjiang Hotel (福州万达威斯汀大酒店) (Wanda Mall, on the bank of the Minjiang River), ☎ . The 5sense Restaurant has high level Chinese cuisine with imported seafood and meat and western touch. Live music in the lobby bar in the evening.
The area code for Fuzhou is 591.
- Mount Wuyi - scenic area famous for tea, ancient cliff burials and relics of the 3000 years old Minyue Culture. The landscapes here are surreally beautiful.
- Xiamen - three hours by bus, an hour and a half on the new fast train.
- Qinyun Mountain - a scenic mountain area about 65 km from Fuzhou near the small town of Yongtai. Lots of great walks through river valleys with tons of sub tropical flora and fauna and those ubiquitous waterfalls. Worth an overnight visit.
- Langqi Island - a 45 min bus ride from Fuzhou, via Mawei. On the east of the island there is a splendid beach with few visitors. Cute old ferry takes you there from the mainland for ¥2.
- Tulou - round earthen houses built for multiple families and easy fortification when two main doors are closed. Southwestern part of Fu Jian Province. Many tourist buses leave out of Quan Zhou and/or Xiamen.
- Quanzhou - old city between Fuzhou and Xiamen, reachable by bus or train. Around the year 1000 this was the main shipping port for south China and Marco Polo wrote extensively about it when he visited. Good temples and a 1000-year-old mosque, recently rebuilt.