Lanzhou is the capital city of Gansu province and is regarded as one of the most Muslim-friendly cities in the country. Why you may ask? Because Gansu is where the Eastern routes of the Silk Road used to run through, and is seen as one of the birthplaces of Islam in China!
If you’re eager to discover the rich Islamic history of this area, then Lanzhou is definitely the place to be. ? Here are 8 tips for exploring this iconic city and immersing itself in the best sights and culture Lanzhou has to offer!
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1. Try an authentic bowl of halal Lanzhou Hand-pulled Beef Noodles
The moment you reach the city, having a hot steaming bowl of hand-pulled beef noodles is a must-do. For many of us, “Lanzhou” has become synonymous with these spicy bowls of hand-pulled noodles topped with generous servings of beef and freshly sliced radish ? These noodles were first popularized by Hui Muslims from Qinghai but have become synonymous with this city. Beef noodles are a citywide favourite, and are even a popular breakfast food!
While many of these eateries have not been certified by a governing body, they have been run and operated by Muslims for many years. Many halal restaurants in China may also serve alcohol on the menu as it’s part of the local culture, including most of the eateries on this list, so we advise that you dine at your own discretion.
The words “清真” (qing zhen) mean halal, and most halal eateries will display them outside of the storefront. Do enquire with the shop owners if you have further clarifications.
马子禄牛肉面 (Ma Zi Lu Niu Rou Mian)Credit: @rika_freebird on Instagram
Mazi Lu has been one of the most famous beef noodle eateries within the city ever since its opening in 1954, and is a must-visit in this city! They serve up large bowls of warm noodles with a side dish of roasted beef that you can dip into the soup for even more savoury goodness ? The queues here can get pretty long, so make sure to get there early!
P.S. Mazi Lu is so in-demand they even opened an outlet in Tokyo in 2017!
Try them out at:
大众巷86号 (No. 86 Da Zhong Xiang)
清真·松鼠家牛肉面 (Qing Zhen Song Shu Jia Niu Rou Mian)Credit: @kervin_seo on Instagram
Songshujia is another beef noodles restaurant worth trying out if you can’t get enough of this savoury meal. What sets Songshujia apart is its chic interior and the fact that it’s open 24/7! Now you can treat yourself to a bowl of warm noodles no matter what the time is ?
Try them out at:
白银路街道甘南路861号 (No. 861 Gan Nan Lu)
24 hours daily
清真谢赫经典牛肉面 (Qing Zhen Xie He Jing Dian Niu Rou Mian)
Don’t forget to stop by Xiehejing for even more beef noodle goodness during your trip. Located just a short walk from the iconic Zhongshan Bridge, this medium-sized restaurant’s beef noodle bowls are loaded with bright red chilli oil toppings that are sure to give you that kick of spice you’ve been craving ?
The Lanzhou Bridge Gate Mosque is located right behind the restaurant, which makes this a convenient stop to both pray, and grab a bite after!
Try them out at:
中山路273号桥门大厦一楼 (1F No. 273 Zhong Shan Lu)
2. Rediscover centuries of Silk Road history at the Gansu Provincial MuseumCredit: @maydaygrey on Instagram
Did you know that the Silk Road was over 1,600 kilometres long within Gansu province itself? While we might associate the famous trade route more with central Asia and the Middle East, the Eastern regions of the road were deeply important and treasured for their contributions of silk and porcelain. The Silk Road was also one important way in which Islam was introduced to China, and the lingering effects can be seen in the Muslim ethnic groups clustered around this Northwest Chinese province ?
Credit: @youngpop_p on Instagram
To rediscover this Islamic history, there’s nowhere better to go than the Gansu Provincial Museum! Located in the heart of Lanzhou, the museum houses many relics dating all the way from the Neolithic Age, up to the time of Mao’s Communist China. There’s even an entire floor dedicated to relics excavated along the Silk Road! ? One of the country’s most prized artefacts resides here – a bronze statue of a horse being shocked stepping on a swallow. The statue is famous for how animated and expressive the animals seem to be, marking it as one of China’s most prized national treasures.
3. Pay a visit to the beautiful and historic Xiguan MosqueCredit: @ryantwu on Instagram
Lanzhou’s Islamic history isn’t just in its museums but is woven into some of its mosques and buildings too. The Xiguan Mosque is also known as the Guest Mosque, after the fact that it was first funded by donations from Silk Road travellers! The mosque was first built in 1368 and rebuilt in the Qing dynasty with the addition of another Arabic-style dome in 1990. The mosque is regarded as one of the most beautiful mosques in China, and its towering minarets are a comforting sight to the Muslim community in the city. ☺️
P.S. The tree in front of the mosque is said to be over 100 years old, and has withstood numerous historical events!
[Get to see this historic monument in-person with AirAsia!
4. Sail down the banks of the Yellow River in a traditional raftCredit: @galsan on Instagram
Huang He, also known as the Yellow River, is one of the most important rivers in China’s history, having nurtured hundreds of towns, cities, and civilizations on its banks. Lanzhou is actually the only provincial city it passes through, the iconic yellow tint of the river unmistakable even from a distance. Don’t be fooled into thinking it’s that way because of pollution – it’s actually dyed yellow from the rich loosened soil that flows through it!
Credit: @yuhongyuanyhy on Instagram
To try out something unique to Lanzhou, rent a sheepskin raft from vendors on the river and sail around for a bit. It’s a traditional Gansu custom that’s been preserved and continued till today, even though there are now speedier alternatives such as speedboats and ferries. ?
5. Cross over a piece of history on the Zhongshan BridgeCredit: @oh_ye225 on Instagram
You might wonder: what’s so historic about a bridge? ? Well, Zhongshan Bridge is actually the first permanent bridge to have been built across the Yellow River! Earlier floating bridges were unsafe and unpractical until this German-designed bridge was built in 1907. It’s an important marker of Lanzhou’s growth and development and is one of the city’s most treasured relics.
6. See the city with fresh eyes at the White Pagoda Hill ParkCredit: @papsjamie on Instagram
Baita Park, also known as the White Pagoda Hill Park, will give you some of the most breathtaking views of the city you’ll ever get. Though there is a cable car option to take you straight to the top of the hill, if you’re able to take a slow trek up the path you’ll pass lots of temples and pavilions to stop at, as well as small craft shops. The view of the traditional-style pagodas against the rising metropolis of the city will encapsulate the ever-changing diversity of Lanzhou itself and truly leave you in awe. The view from the top of the pagoda of the Zhongshan Bridge, Yellow Bridge, and Lanzhou’s mosque domes in the distance will really remind you of the rich diversity in this city.
7. Treat yourself to even more authentic Gansu cuisine
Hand-pulled beef noodles aren’t the only Gansu dish you can get in this city ? Gansu cuisine is known for its strong spicy and sour flavours, and has been heavily influenced by Muslim populations from Ningxia and Xinjiang too.
Credit: @phanricher on Instagram
Shou zhua (手抓羊肉) or “grabbing mutton” originated as a popular roadside snack where slices of lamb meat would be quickly stewed and ‘grabbed’ up by customers for an easy and convenient snack. Now you’re likely to find it in restaurants across Lanzhou as well, where it can come served in huge communal servings and is served with a sour or spicy dipping sauce. Diners are expected to just take a slice from the communal plate to eat!
Try it out at:
清真·海大爷羊羔肉 (Hai Da Ye Muslim Restaurant)
农民巷东郊巷26号 (No. 26 Dong Jiao Xiang)
Credit: @chinesefoodblog on Instagram
Niangpizi (酿皮) is a Gansu dish eaten throughout the region. Made from steamed strips of flour and baking soda, the snack is then topped with a savoury and sweet garnish that can contain sesame paste, chilli oil, garlic, vinegar, soy sauce, and other condiments. There are so many variations of this dish that each time you order it, you’re sure to taste something completely new and different! ?
Try it out at:
清真·七祺祥 (Qi Qi Xiang)
庆阳路88号东方红广场 (No. 88 Qing Yang Lu)
Credit: @laurieliu on Instagram
Sanpaotai (三泡台) is Gansu’s own regional tea variety, set apart from other Chinese teas by its rich use of flowers and fruits to give it a distinctly sweet taste. Sanpaotai is often brewed with fruits such as chrysanthemum, longans, raisins, and jujubes – all of which are popular fruits in Lanzhou – creating a beautiful and fragrant cup of tea.
Try it out at:
阿西娅羊羔肉 (Axiya Gourmet House)
甘肃省兰州市城关区109国道 (No. 109 Guo Dao)
P.S. Axiya Gourmet House also sells other halal Lanzhou delicacies such as whole roasted lamb, roasted meat buns, and griddle cooked potato slices so you can chow down before you finish your meal with a warm cup of tea!
BONUS: Zhengning Road Night Snack Market
Night markets are a common sight across China, but Lanzhou’s local version along Zhengning Road is, of course, chock full of unique local delicacies and flavours, and charged with an exciting energy ?
Credit: Siti Noormala on Facebook
The Muslim stall owners can be easily identified through the traditional caps or headscarves that they wear, and they spend the night cooking up Hui and Uighur dishes such as yoghurt topped with fresh pistachios, piping-hot nan bread, and griddle-fried potatoes topped with spices. Some of Lanzhou’s local fruits and produce are also readily available, with everything from peaches, grapes, and walnuts in huge displays.
Find it at:
甘肃省兰州市城关区正宁路 邮政编码: 730030 (Zhengning Road, Chengguan Qu, Lanzhou, 730030)
24/7 but we recommend you visit in the evening as some stalls only open after 4.30pm
8. Have a refreshing escape from the concrete jungle to Xinglong Mountain ParkCredit: @xiangxieziyan on Instagram
Located about 90 minutes outside of Lanzhou itself, this park area is perfect for enjoying untouched nature with its hundreds of varieties of flora and fauna. The two hills within this area – Xinglong Hill and Qiyun Hill – are separated by the Xinglong Valley and Yunlong bridge. A cable car will take you between the 2 hills, but if you’re able to walk up the winding paths on your own you’ll find yourself amazed at the ancient pine trees, temples, and pavilions that lie waiting for you. ?
If you’re visiting in autumn, the beautiful carpet of oranges, and greens that you’ll see before you will surely take your breath away.
So are you ready to give Lanzhou a shot? ? This gorgeous city is full of rich Islamic history, sprawling natural spaces, and so much local Muslim culture – all just waiting to welcome you to its busy streets! Remember to book your ticket with AirAsia to get the best deals to visit this beautiful and historic city
This article is brought to you by AirAsia.