Guangzhou may not have the number of markets Shanghai and Beijing can claim, but with its 2,000-year history there are plenty of surprises in store. Within its ancient streets and alleyways are numerous antiques and curio shops, all in easy reach of the White Swan Hotel on the historic European enclave of Shamian. Xiguan antiques market (Feng Yuan North Street, nearest Metro station Changshou Lu). This leafy street was built in the early 19th century in what was once the huge garden of a wealthy salt merchant. The garden was looted in 1856, but opened to the public as Liwan Lake Park in 1958. In recent years the area, Xiguan, has been a popular choice of antiques dealers and those seeking curios of more recent vintage. Shops selling porcelain, furniture and bric-a-brac line the streets. Halfway along, at number 84, is the Liwan Museum and Xiguan Folk Customs House, in what was once the home of a wealthy merchant and comprador of HongkongBank in the early years of the republic. Qingping market (cross the bridge in the middle of Shamian Island over Liu Er San Lu) was once notorious for selling cats, dogs and protected species destined for the cooking pot. The market has been cleaned up and rehoused in a classical European-style building, where vendors sell spices and Chinese medicine. In the surrounding streets are wet markets and several antiques stalls and shops stocked with porcelain, furniture and Cultural Revolution icons, genuine and otherwise. Guangzhou Xisheng antiques market (60 Wencheng Nanlu) is a covered arcade easily recognised by the red lanterns above the entrance. Join the dealers who come to hunt through the dusty stalls for Mao memorabilia, ceramics, stone carvings and old books. While you are here, head for what must be the most popular shopping destination in Guangzhou - the pedestrian streets of Xiajiu Lu and Shangjiu Lu. Fight the crowds in the hundreds of shops selling bargain-priced clothing and accessories, interspersed with restaurants and fast-food chains. The Jade market (down an alley off Shangxiajiu on Hualin Street, near the ancient Hualin temple) was in the centre of a maze of narrow lanes in 18th-century Guangzhou. The area has been rebuilt and the jade stalls housed in dozens of glass-fronted shops selling jewellery, real and imitation, with prices at all levels. Leave the crowds behind and cross the Pearl River for Bai Nan Hao Jia Ju (below; Metro line No. 1 from Changshou Lu, or Huangsha station near Shamian, to Huadiwan; take exit C or D). This is a huge flower and tropical fish market but with much more to offer. In section J, shop 7 has wonderful pottery made for the western market, especially the United States. Choose your Christmas bowls and servers, platters, cake stands and vases, all at low prices. Other stalls sell bamboo furniture, carved items, furniture, pictures and mahjong sets. Want seashells? Try J22 for every variety under the sea. Across Xique Lu, south of the fish stalls, is the flower and plant section. You won't go home empty-handed.