UPDATE on coronavirus in Wuhan/Hubei Province (February 2020): Due to the current outbreak of novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV), countries and health agencies across the world have advised that people should avoid travel to Wuhan and the province of Hubei.
Wuhan is essentially the crossroads of China, located right in the centre of the country. With trains and planes constantly darting in and out, travellers often find themselves with a day to spare in the city. It may not have Shanghai’s reputation, or its own Great Wall, but Wuhan is much more than just a stopover. Resist the urge to linger in your hotel; grab your camera, map and phrasebook and head outside!
Unfortunately for any late risers, an early start is non-negotiable. However, there is no better way to blow off the cobwebs than some quality Chinese food. For Wuhan’s biggest selection of traditional breakfast snacks, head to Hubu Alley. With over 100 stalls, there’s certainly a wide selection to choose from. If you’re feeling particularly indecisive, head straight to the stall marked 热干面. The dish served here is a local sesame-infused breakfast speciality, which directly translates as ‘hot dry noodles’. Locals regularly pair their noodles with a 豆浆 – a warm, sweet soy milk. It may not be your typical morning latte, but it is delicious and filling.
Now you’ve lined your stomach, it’s time for a culture hit. Conveniently, the crème de la crème of Wuhan’s tourist attractions is just a short walk from Hubu Alley. The Yellow Crane Tower (黄鹤楼) was originally built as a watch tower. The top of this picturesque pagoda is the best spot in town for an aerial view of the city. Enjoy a couple of hours perusing the grounds, have a go at ringing the big bronze bell and read up on the tower’s intricate history.
Feeling tired yet? Good, because it’s time to visit Tan Hua Lin walking street (昙华林) for a mid-morning coffee. From the Yellow Crane Tower, it’s a 25 minute walk or alternatively you can take bus number 573 or 717 to Minzhu Lu Yanzhi Lu. Bursting with boutiques, street art and coffee shops, Tan Hua Lin is Wuhan’s creative quarter. Once you’ve had a wander around and hunted down some souvenirs, pick a café and recharge your batteries.
Hungry? On your way to the bus stop, grab a bite from the selection of street-vendors in the area, or take your pick from an array of restaurants. After lunch, take the 573 to Li Yuan Guang Chang bus station, which is right beside East Lake. As the largest inner-city lake in the whole of China, East Lake has plenty on offer. You can walk, cycle or boat your way around the park. Depending on time and preference, pick and mix from the lakeside cultural attractions. Wuhan University campus, Hubei Provincial Museum and Hubei Museum of Art are all within a short walking distance.
From East Lake, take the 411 or the 电8 to Chuhe Hanjie bus station. Han Street (汉街) is a modern, picturesque street in Wuhan’s new cultural zone. The street is adjacent to the Chu River, packed with eateries and dessert stands. If you’re looking for more entertainment, there’s the Chinese equivalent of Madame Tussauds, an arcade and an open-air performance stage.
Right at the end of Han Street, you’ll notice a rather magnificent red-lantern shaped building. This is where you’re heading next. Home to Franco Dragone’s The Han Show, this is a must-visit site of Wuhan. The aquatic, acrobatic extravaganza starts at 8pm, Wednesday through Sunday. For guaranteed entry and first choice of seats, it may be worth booking in advance.
You might be exhausted and ready to hit the sack, but for the night owls out there; head straight for Chuhe Hanjie subway station because it’s time to head across the river to Hankou. Get off at Wuhan Tiandi station for rooftop drinks in a bustling bar or head to a club for late night dancing. If a lakeside Belgian beer or glass of wine sounds more appealing, take the train to Wangjiadun East and walk to Xibeihu Road, where you’ll find a selection of chilled waterfront bars that are open until the early hours.