Chengdu is always on the top list for foreigners wishing to discover China more. It is an important economical powerhouse but at the same time a leisure city in the country, adding more charming to the city. We offer a list of ideas about top things to do in this great city as below.
Before starting, note that this article is trying to help people discover real Chengdu. Some attractive attractions near Chengdu would also be mentioned like the notable UNESCO site the Great Buddha in Leshan and Qingcheng Mountain. Also we would more likely to give ideas about sights more understandable to foreigners. That's why some famous museums boasting many relics are not listed. Instead of speaking something ordinary sites like Tianfu Square which is easy accessible, interesting areas get more attentions such as Langzhong Ancient City and a tiny Tibetan District.
Another thing necessary to mention about is that the best time to travel to Chengdu are between March and June, September and November every year. Date to avoid is the horrible winter from December to February. ©
What to See in Chengdu
Bifeng Gorge Panda Base
Pandas are the main reason for most foreign travelers in Chengdu. In our point, if you are coming for pandas, then make the most of them by being a volunteer in the real wild panda base. On May 12, 2008 during Wenchuan Earthquake, the Wolong National Natural Reserve suffered a lot and more than 50 pandas were homeless. Besides 27 pandas being moved to other cities, the rest of them were settle down in Bifeng Gorge Panda Base, thus adds the fame to the base, too.
Bifeng Gorge Panda Base (碧峰峡大熊猫基地) is actually in Ya'an City with 150 km southwest to Chengdu City, which takes around 2 1/2 hours driving time. While visitors can have a clearer understanding about panda's names and categories in the well-organized Chengdu Zoo, people can enjoy a more real and wild reserve for pandas with tall trees and big enclosures. Moreover, volunteer work in Bifeng Gorge Base is the real highlight. If going with kids, do let them be a panda keeper, this would definitely be an unforgettable experience.
Usually one-day volunteer work is enough to get close to these cute creatures. Visitors will be dressed into work clothes and gloves. Then they will be assigned to certain keepers. Before starting the work, photo taking with pandas are allowed but just for 10 seconds or so. Then here comes the work. Cleaning enclosures like removing their poo, taking out the leftover bamboo and mopping the place. Luckily the area doesn't smell. The process will last about 45 minutes. Then the rest of the day there are three more secessions to feed the pandas (11:30/14:00/15:30), the real highlight of the day. Wandering around the area for the free time you can see some pandas sleep high on the tree which is really cute. Photography opportunities are a lot especially there are only a few people in the wild reserve.
Note that in July and August the base may be closed due to heavy rains. Go early and you will be lucky to pandas being active.
- Add: Bifeng Gorges Scenic Resort, Yucheng District, Ya'an
- Admission: 400-600 yuan/day for volunteer work; 2000-3000 yuan/time for hugging a panda.
- Opening Hours: 08:30am-11:30am and 01:30pm-04:00pm
- Getting there: Take a bus from Chengdu New South Bus Station to Ya'an City within 2 hours and then transfer to Ya'an by a shuttle bus for about 30 minutes. Another 15 minutes for internal bus from HQ to the panda park. Frequent Bus service all day in the large reserve is available for 15 Yuan per day.
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Located in the southwest of Dujiangyan Prefecture, Mount Qingcheng (青城山) is one of the Taoism birthplaces in China and also the center of Taoism. Together with Dujiangyan Irrigation Project in 2000, it was inscribed in the UNESCO World Heritage Sites list. The whole mountain resembles a city shape with lush forests, thus it gets the name Mount Qingcheng (Green City). In total it has 36 peaks and the main peak is 1,260 meters high.
At the foot of the mountain is an ancient town called Tai'an Town. The mountain consists of two parts: the front side and the back side. Each side takes one day trip with lots of walking. The front side is the main part of Mount Qingcheng scenic area with many temples, offering a good opportunity to learn Taoism mythology. The view at the top is great. And the back side has a steeper climb. There are not so many temples but most are natural scenery includes a lot of waterfalls. Though it is renowned as a natural oxygen bar, avoid going there at weekends or holidays since there are numerous tourists and it may lose the charm. Cable cars and boat riding are available in front side. If you are not into temples, we recommend you choose the back side.
Summer is the best time to visit Mount Qingcheng when it offers great green view and cool weather to survive the heat. Sunrise, Cloud Sea and Sacred Lights are highlights of Mount Qingcheng. Two days are needed for climbing the back side and front side of Mount Qingcheng.
- Add: 12 Shaocheng Road , Qingyang District
- Admission: 90 yuan; The back side costs another 20 yuan.
- Opening Hours: 08:00am—06:00pm March 2—November 30 and 08:00am—05:00 pm December 1— March 1.
- Getting there from Chengdu:
1. Take high-speed trains at Chengdu North Railway Station from Chengdu to Mount Qingcheng. It takes 15 Yuan for about 30 minutes. It departs every 45 minutes from 07:05 am to 07:25 pm in Chengdu and runs between 08:02 am—09:07 in Mount Qingcheng.
2. Take bus from Chengdu Chadianzi Bus Station (Yangxi Flyover, Sanhuan North Road, Jinniu District) at 16 Yuan. The bus departs from 06:30 am. Or take bus from New South Gate Bus Station (New South Gate, 57 Linjiang Road, Wuhou District)
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Built in 1911, People's Park is also called as Renmin Park (人民公园) , which is rated as one of the most popular parks in the city and also the best place to see locals' life. It is located in the very center of Chengdu, which is only a few blocks away from Tianfu Square. Different from other parks, this park boasts most natural scenery and it is an open-type park.
When going there, one can row on a lake, watch locals dance, play chess and mahjong. It is worthwhile to mention that one of the most famous teahouses Heming Teahouse (鹤鸣老茶社) is also called the park its home. In fact for most foreigners the highlight there is sipping tea in the old teahouse for an afternoon.
- Add: 12 Shaocheng Road, Qingyang District, Chengdu
- Admission: Free
- Opening Hours: 06:00 am-06:00pm
- Getting there: Buses 4,5,13,14,47,29,53,64,78,98 go to Renmin Park Stop (人民公园站) .
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Wenshu Yuan Monaster
Wenshu Yuan Monastery (文殊院) is situated in the very city center and just two stations away from Tianfu Square and very near People's Park. Considering the hustle and bustle life outside the wall, the monastery is really a nice place to enjoy a quiet afternoon for a couple hours. The surrounding shows the charms of ancient feeling (built during 605-617) and monks walking around add the spiritual atmosphere. Photos are strictly prohibited with signs. Monks dwellings are off-limits.
Asides from the tranquil environment, the monastery is the home to many valuable relics and thousands of Buddhists scriptures. Visitors can see "blood Buddhists scriptures" written by the blood of three monks in ancient time. The cassock of thousands of Buddhas that was embroided personally by Concubine Tian, a concubine of a Ming emperor, is also on display. Even a parietal bone of Tang Monk found in Nanjing in 1942 is stored in this monastery.
Outside the temple there are many eateries and interesting trinket for sale. Just wander around and browse them.
- Add: 58 Jiangyuan Gongsuo Street (Renmin North Road) , Qingyang District
- Admission: Free, but it has several boxes for donations.
- Opening Hours: 09:00 am—05:00pm
- Getting there: Take subway Line 1 and take Exit K at Wenshu Yuan Monastery Or take buses 1, 16, 18, 55, 62, 64, 75.
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Dujiangyan Irrigation System
Don't let the not-so-interesting name keep you away from this place. Dujiangyan Irrigation System (都江堰灌溉系统)is an amazing engineering miracle built over 2000 years ago (built in 256 BC) to turn the area usually affected by drought but now can be irrigated. Visiting the area is not only for Libing's great accomplishment but also for the beautiful surroundings with lush mountains and some bridges over the wide Min River (岷江) . Temples are also in the area.
One can't see its essence only from pictures or the system outside until he gets in and know how the irrigation system works. Different with most contemporary dams with a huge wall to block the water, Dujiangyan Irrigation System allow the water flows naturally. This attracts many scientists from the world to see it. Since finished, besides no more droughts, the systems also made Sichuan become a productive agricultural place. No wonder people made a sculpture of Libing to commemorate him.
In the park, there are min-bus taking visitors to the top of the system where offers many photo opportunities. Best time to visit the system is Spring and Summer when the water are a lot.
- Add: Gongyuan Road, Dujiangyan Prefecture
- Admission: 90 yuan;
- Opening Hours: 08:00am—06:00pm between March 2 and November 30; 08:00am-05:30pm for the rest time.
- Getting there from Chengdu:
1. Take high-speed trains from Chengdu North Railway Station (06:32 am—08:17pm) to Dujiangyan Train Station (07:15am—09:16pm) at 15 yuan. It takes around 40 minutes and runs every 30 minutes. One can take the ticket at the railway station. When reaching Dujiangyan Station, a taxi ride of 5 – 10 minutes will get you to the destination.
2. Take bus from Chengdu to Dujiangyan at Chadianzi Bus Station (Yangxi Flyover, Sanhuan North Road, Jinniu District) at 16 Yuan. Buses are available from 06:30 am. Or take bus at West Gate Bus Station (22 West Annan Road, Jinniu District) between 06:30 am—08:30 pm and it departs every 5-10 minutes. It costs from 6.5 Yuan -11 Yuan depending on which kinds of buses you take. New South Gate Bus Station (57 Lianjiang Road, Wuhou District) also provides bus service from Chengdu to Dujiangyan from 08:40 am at 25 Yuan.
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Jinli Pedestrian Street
If you have limited time in Chengdu, Jinli Pedestrian Street (锦里古街) is the perfect place to get a glimpse of Chengdu local culture and delicious food and even get a package of trinkets back home.
The street is 550-meter long in the Qing Dynasty style with antique buildings standing at both sides, showing the three kingdom culture (220－280). It has been renovated in 2004 and now there are many tea-houses, hotels, bars, restaurants and stalls selling souvenirs and local food. All are in traditional style giving a feeling of ancient times. One can spend a couple hours there to enjoy the scene of street vendors selling local trinkets and silk-making process, playing ancient repeater arrow. For ladies, you can even dress like China 80's film style. Digging one's ears by a tiny spoon is also one of the most popular things to do there.
If time allowed, go there before sundown to wander around and enjoy the brilliant night atmosphere by having your dinner there.
- Add: 231 Wuhouci Avenue, Wuhou District, Chengdu City
- Admission: Free
- Opening Hours: All day long
- Getting there: Buses 1,57,82 stop at Wuhoucit Station (武侯祠站) or buses 82, 109 serve Nanjiao Road Stop (南郊路站) . Subway line 1 goes to Huaxiba Station (华西坝) .
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Leshan Giant Buddha
As the biggest Carving Sitting Buddha in the world with a height of 71 meters (233 ft) and carved out during 713-803 of the Tang Dynasty (618-907AD), Leshan Giant Buddha (乐山大佛) was listed in UNESCO World Cultural Heritage site in 1996. It sits at the confluence of Min River, Qingyi River and Dadu River, looking over Leshan Prefecture across the river.
Most travelers combine the Buddha visit with Mount Emei scenic area as they are close. When getting there, sounds of "aah" and "wow" will be everywhere in the air, especially standing at the feet of the Buddha. It takes about one hour to descend the stairs to the feet of the Buddha. Ancient carvings on the wall are interesting along the way. But during weekends and holidays, it may incredibly take 2-3 hours to reach the bottom. So avoid those days. Luckily there is another visiting way—taking a ferry on the river and view the whole image of the Buddha from the river, which lasts about 15 minutes and one does not need to wait for a long time before boarding the boat. Note that passengers on the boat cannot get to the feet of the Giant Buddha.
- Add: 2435 Lingyun Street, Shizhong District, Leshan
- Admission: 90 yuan; The ferry costs 50-70 yuan for about 15 minutes.
- Opening Hours: 07:30am—06:30pm from April 1 to October 7 and 08:00am-05:30pm October 8—March 31.
- Getting there from Chengdu:
Take buses at New South Gate Bus Station from Chengdu to Leshan Xiaoba Bus Station (肖坝客运站) at 47 yuan for about 2 1/2 hours. Then take a taxi to the scenic area at about 6 yuan.
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Langzhong Ancient City
There are over 10 ancient towns around Chengdu, but we dare to say Langzhong Ancient City (阆中古城) is the best place to see what a real old town would have been like 100 years ago without over commercialism. It has a history of more than 2300 years with well-preserved antique courtyards, temples and carvings from the Tang, Song, Yuan, Ming and Qing Dynasties. Jialing River adds the charm to this ancient area.
The main street is a little bit commercialized (but it is much better than most ancient towns) and the sides streets are full of ancient and natural feelings. People there are very friendly and wonderful old wooden courtyard-style family hotels are set up along the road.
It is recommended to start the trip from Feng Shui Museum to have a general idea of the culture and let yourself wander around ancient alleys of the Ming style freely. At night, puppet shows are available and songs from the river boat add the ancient and tranquil atmosphere.
- Add: 2435 Lingyun Street, Shizhong District, Leshan
- Admission: 130 yuan for all attractions in the town
- Opening Hours: 08:00 am—06:30pm from May 1 to October 7 and 08:00am—06:00pm for the rest days.
- Getting there from Chengdu:
1. Take buses at Liangjiaxiang Passenger Staion from Chengdu to Langzhong Ancient City from 6:50 am to 6:30. Or take buses at North Gate Passenger Station (First Ring Road, Jinniu District) between 9:20 am and 11:30 am.
2. Transportation means in the ancient city are public bus and taxis with flag down of 4.5 Yuan. Sightseeing buses and some special vehicles are also offered in the scenic spots.
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What to Do in Chengdu
Yue Lai Tea House
Definitely as the best way to present local culture, sipping tea at a local historic tea house is one of must-do in Chengdu. Rated as one of the oldest and best tea houses in the city Yue Lai Tea House (悦来茶馆) gets a lot favors. It is a nice way to join locals when they having tea, chatting and cracking sunflower seeds there. Moreover, every Saturday intimate shows performed by Sichuan Opera Troupes from some big theaters are offered there.
- Add: 54 Hua Xing Zheng Street, Jinjiang District, Chengdu
- Opening hours: 08:30am- 07:00pm
- Costs/person: 5 yuan—10 yuan
- Getting there: Buses 3, 6, 8, 15, 20, 28, 37, 49, 62, 154, and 902 go there.
Sichuan Opera (Shu Feng Ya Yun)
Sichuan Opera is rated as the must-experience after dark in Chengdu and the most popular one is Shu Feng Ya Yun (蜀风雅韵) . It is an old building giving a feeling of ancient China. The show consists of a few short sketches of different genres to give audience an idea of what the opera is. They are acrobatics, hand shadowing, face mask changing and even a comedy show. With English subtitles displayed of both sides of the stages, foreigners can still understand the show. Fire and puppet shows are also included.
It is wise of you to get there early before start when chances of seeing the makeup part of the actors are high. During the show free tea is served. Price starts from 200 Yuan t0 400 Yuan or so.
- Add: 23 Qintai Road, Qingyang District, Chengdu (in the Wenhua Park)
- Opening hours: 08:00pm—09:30 pm
- Getting there: Take subway line 2 and get off at Tonghuimen Station (通惠门站). The theater is in Wenhua Park (文化公园).
What to Eat in Chengdu
Local Street Food
In 2011, Chengdu was awarded as Asia’s First City of Gastronomy by UNESCO. Food takes a very important role in Chengdu culture from a variety of street food to speicla Chuan dishes. Popular local food include Dandan Noodles (担担面), Clear Noodles in Chili Sauce (川北凉粉) , Braise Pork Guokui (卤肉锅盔), Mao Xue Wang (毛血旺) and Chen Mapo Tofu (陈麻婆豆腐). The price is reasonable and travelers can try them in Jinli Pedestrian Street (锦里古街) or Kuanzhai Alley (宽窄巷子) nearby. Yi Pin Tian Xia (一品天下, 131 Yi Pin Tian Xia Avenue, Jiniu District ) is also another popular area to taste local food. There is another high-end restaurant to taste these street foods — Chengdu Taste (828 W Valley Road,Alhambra) . Its owner helds that "It's not just about having good food. It's about having delicious, authentic food that properly reflects the culture and tastes of Chengdu."
Yulin Chuan Chuan Xiang Hot Pot Restaurant
Yulin Chuan Chuan Xiang (玉林串串香) is a very popular hotpot restaurant with several chain stores in Chengdu and some cities in China, offering “pick-and-choose” ordering. Customers can choose whatever they want at a price of 0.2 yuan to 1.5 yuan per string. Note that all hotpots include chili oil which means they are spicy.
- Add: 26 Yunlin Street, Wuhou District
- Tel: 028 8558 0723
Xiaojing Sifang Cai
Xiaojing Sifang Cai (小景私房菜) is very near Wuhou Temple and it is hidden in an private apartment, adding private and quiet ambience. The private restaurant is good at local Sichuan food and new-style Sichuan food. The menu is set for different price from 150 yuan-300 yuan per person. Try its self-made wine, too. Make reservations two days in advance.
- Add: Room 902 Unit 2 Building 11 2 Qi of Luofu Shijia, Gaoshengqiao Road, Wuhou District
- Tel: 18613219449
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Yu's Family Kitchen
Owned by the chef Yu Bo, Yu’s Family Kitchen is more than a mere restaurant for Chuan dishes. It is located in a traditional Sichuan lane house, providing an enticing dining experience. A meal usually includes starters, additional courses and main dish, which is rarely seen in other restaurant. The amazing part is that all ingredients are carefully chosen by the owner and most are organic products, making even no two meals are the same in this place.
- Add: 3 Zhao Xiang Zi, Xia Tong Ren Road
- Tel: 028 8669 1985
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What to Buy in Chengdu
Songxian Qiao Antiques Market
Songxian Qiao Antiques Market (送仙桥艺术桥) is definitely worth visiting as it is ranked #2 of Top 10 Antique Markets in China. The top one is in Beijing. It is surrounded by Dufu’s cottage and Wenhua Park, opposite to Sichuan Museum. The design of the market is a perfect mix of modern buildings and local western Sichuan residential houses, offering a variety of antiques ranging from calligraphy, currency, stamps to jewelry, embroidery and antique furniture. A couple hours make a good visit.
- Add: 22 Wanhua North Road
- Opening hours: About 10:00am-18:00pm
Wuhou Tibetan Area
If you do not have enough time to fly to Tibet, you may get a glimpse of Tibetan culture by visiting the tiny Tibetan district (西藏一条街) near Wuhou Temple (武侯祠) . The area shows a totally different culture from outside. You can even talk with monks or some nomads from the Himalayas. Tibetan clothing and art includes some religious things like Tibetan scrolls and prayer flags. Salty yak milk tea is also on sale in the area.
- Add: Wuhouci East Street, Wuhou District
Shu Brocade Institute and Factory
Shu Brocade Institute and Factory (成都蜀绣厂) is rather good at quality Shu brocade with different themes like flowers, birds, natural scenery and people. Embroidered pandas and carps are best-sellers.
- Add: 15 Caotang East Road, Chengdu
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