Amidst the unsettling events unfolding in the city – heck, even the whole province – it’s easy to forget that not too long ago, millions of tourists would flock to Wuhan, one of China’s largest cities and an important center of commerce, every year to enjoy its famous sights and cultural attractions. The capital of Hubei Province is a must-stop when cruising along the Yangtze River, teeming with temples, traditional art, street food, and flower gardens.

When eventually life goes back to normal, you’ll want to think of Wuhan as what it really is – a charming city with an incredibly rewarding tapestry of history and culture. Here’s a virtual tour of Wuhan for you to do in real life once the coronavirus becomes history.

Climb the Yellow Crane Tower

Photo courtesy of Meraj Chhaya

The Yellow Crane Tower is arguably the city’s most revered landmark, but while the current building was erected in 1981, the historical structure, originally a military watch tower, has been torn down and rebuilt twelve times over. The five-storey pagoda is now the pride of Wuhan and the single largest tourist attraction in the city, boasting a large entrance hall with decorative lamps, traditional Chinese paintings and calligraphy, a souvenir shop, and even a showroom modelled after ancient Chu-style sitting rooms. Entrance to Snake Hill — where the tower sits — cost CNY80 but you’ll also be able to access the nearby Mao Pavilion, where poems from Chairman Mao are etched into stone for your viewing pleasure.

Get cultured at Hubei Museum of Art

Need some art in your life? The Hubei Museum of Art is a non-profit cultural institution with a staggering 10 exhibition halls over 5,000 square metres. Its expansive galleries are home to classic Chinese watercolour and surreal oil paintings as well as more avant-garde pieces from contemporary artists. What’s also great is that explanatory notes are available in both Chinese and English. Be sure to check out their website for visiting exhibitions as the gallery frequently hosts an array of international showcases. The coffee shop offers overpriced drinks, but it’s still a relaxing place to chill over conversation or a good book.

Have a snack in Hubu Alley

Photo courtesy of Brian Godfrey

Positioning itself in the shadows of the nearby Yellow Crane Tower, Hubu Alley is an important attraction in its own right. As Wuhan’s most visited snack street, the alley brings in hungry locals and tourists alike to dine from over 100 seasoned vendors holding permanent spots. Also known as the “First Alley for Chinese Snacks”, you’ll find things like Hot and Dry Noodles (a traditional Chinese breakfast), Chinese doughnuts and soup dumplings, pork sandwiches, and tofu skin — many of which are local specialities. And yes, you’ll find the infamous stinky tofu as well. There’s no better place to taste authentic local food and experience the local culture.

Shop in style at Jianghan Street and Jiqing Street

Photo courtesy of David Baron

Jianghan Street is often compared to Beijing’s Wangfujing shopping district, and you could say it’s a symbol of modern Wuhan. Famed for both its colonial past and metropolitan present, this street combines old European architecture with the glitziness of Chinese consumerism. By day, you’ll find a long pedestrian mall with every manner of up-market shops, cafes, and international restaurants, while from 7pm onwards, either side of the stretch is expanded a few blocks with a marvellous night market featuring thousands of little stalls hawking makeup, clothing, houseware, souvenirs, and street food

Similarly, the seemingly-ordinary Jiqing Street transforms by night into a maze of roadside restaurants and buskers performing everything from song and dance to opera and stand-up comedy. It’s a unique experience, as performers rove from table to table entertaining diners — expect to pay about CNY10 per act performed, or more for a more daring and elaborate routine.

Get your fortune told at Guiyuan Temple

Photo courtesy of Gary Todd

A temple with over 500 Buddhist saints statues? Yes please. Built in 1658, Guiyuan Temple is Hubei Province’s first Zen temple. The complex itself is huge, but the most famous and impressive building here is the Arhats Hall. When you enter (CNY10 entrance fee), count the arhat statues up to your current age, then write down the number above the statue that you stopped on before presenting it to the small shop outside to purchase golden card with your fortune. You’ll also receive a description of that statue, as each of them are quite different and intricately designed. Another tourist-friendly temple is Baotong Temple, where you can watch a mass chanting session by monks from other Wuhan temples on Sundays before climbing up the seven-storey octagonal Hongshan Pagoda.

Go flower viewing at Moshan Hill

Photo courtesy of Meraj Chhaya

Moshan Hill is first foremost a hill, but it’s also a large park area filled with Instagram-ready monuments, temples, and various shops. The ¥40 entrance fee leads you to a great place for hiking and enjoying the natural scenery, and is a particularly good place to view flowers. There is a botanical garden in the vicinity that’s rich in variety, along with a Japanese-style Sakura Garden, Chu-style buildings, and over 200 varieties of plum blossoms near the China Plum Blossom Research Centre. Moshan Hill is also one of the most popular spots in Wuhan during the Cherry Blossom Festival at the end of March.

Swim in the East Lake

Photo courtesy of simplethrill

Wuhan’s East Lake is famed for being the largest inner-city lake in the whole of China, with numerous parks all around the perimeter. In the summer, this is a popular swimming getaway for youths and families, particularly the swimming area at Liyuan Park on the northwestern side of the lake. There are also fancier beaches where admission fees go up to CNY60. Besides swimming, you can visit the numerous teahouses and restaurants near the lake, get on a boat, or rent a bicycle and pedal your way around.

Top Image: Hubu Alley by Brian Godfrey