Chengdu, the capital of Sichuan province in China, has emerged as a popular tourist destination for foreigners.
While pandas are its main attraction, Chengdu offers so much more.
From stunning architecture to delectable Sichuan cuisine, this city deserves a spot on your travel list when visiting China.
Now, let’s get to the most interesting part and discuss the must-see places in Chengdu.
Explore the Chengdu Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding
No visit to Chengdu is complete without a trip to the Chengdu Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding.
As the most important tourist attraction in Chengdu, this base offers a unique opportunity to observe these adorable creatures up close.
The base, founded in 1987, is home to over 100 giant pandas, as well as other animals such as red pandas, black-necked cranes, and white cranes.
While you won’t be able to hug a panda anymore (to minimize human interaction), the experience of seeing them in their natural habitat is truly unforgettable.
Be Impressed by the Sichuan Opera
Attending the Sichuan Opera is a must when in Chengdu. Unlike Western opera, the atmosphere here is relaxed, with people sitting on bamboo chairs, sipping tea, and enjoying sunflower seeds.
The opera consists of various acts, including traditional dances, musical performances, theater, and even shadow puppetry. It’s an incredible cultural experience that shouldn’t be missed.
Take a Day Trip Outside Chengdu
If you want to venture outside Chengdu, consider taking a day trip to explore the surrounding areas. The Dujiangyan Irrigation System, the oldest no-dam irrigation system in the world, is a marvel of Chinese engineering.
Combine your visit with a trip to Qingcheng Mountain, one of the birthplaces of Taoism, for a truly immersive experience.
Other day trip options include visiting Mount Emei or the Leshan Giant Buddha. These destinations offer a chance to explore the natural beauty and rich history of the region.
Visit Tianfu Square
Tianfu Square, the largest square in southwest China, is a must-visit attraction in Chengdu. Surrounded by towering skyscrapers, this square is located in the heart of the city.
From above, it resembles a giant yin and yang symbol, representing the harmony of opposing forces.
At the center of Tianfu Square, you’ll find the symbol of Chengdu – a golden plate with the Golden Sun Bird pattern.
The Sichuan Science and Technology Museum and a marble sculpture of Mao Zedong waving his hand to visitors are also located here.
Explore People’s Park
To get a glimpse into the daily life of the Chinese people, head to People’s Park. This public park, built in 1911, is a popular spot for locals to relax and socialize.
While strolling through the park, you’ll come across the Singing Crane Teahouse, where you can enjoy a cup of tea and immerse yourself in the local culture.
Don’t miss the “Love Wall,” where people write descriptions of themselves in the hopes of finding a partner. You can even try your luck if you’re single!
Marvel at Wuhou Shrine
The Wuhou Shrine is famous for its stunning red walls and is a perfect spot for photography enthusiasts. Built-in 1672 and dedicated to Zhuge Liang, a prominent figure in Chinese history, this temple offers a glimpse into ancient Chinese culture.
While exploring the shrine, take a short walk to Jinli Street, a vibrant alleyway filled with souvenir shops, street food stalls, and traditional restaurants.
Don’t miss the opportunity to try the local rice cookies or watch the making of Shu embroidery.
Wander Through Jinli Street
Jinli Street is a must-visit destination in Chengdu, boasting incredible architecture, numerous souvenir shops, and delicious street food.
This twisting street is a treasure trove of traditional handicraft shops and authentic restaurants.
One unique aspect of Jinli Street is the small alley where locals hang colorful bags, symbolizing good luck, safety, and happy marriage.
Don’t hesitate to try local street food like Gou Zi, Liang Gao, Liang Fen, and Fen Zheng Rou. For a more authentic souvenir, consider buying Shu embroidery.
Shop Till You Drop at Taikoo Li & IFS
If you’re a shopaholic, don’t miss the opportunity to visit Taikoo Li and IFS, two of the trendiest shopping districts in Chengdu.
Taikoo Li, with its unique Sichuan architecture and modern twist, offers a wide range of retail outlets.
IFS, on the other hand, is known for its luxury brands and features a giant panda climbing on the mall, which is a sight to behold.
The Yongling Museum and Mausoleum
Explore the Yongling Museum, also known as the Eternal Mausoleum, and discover the well-preserved tomb of Wang Jian, the ruler of the Early Shu Empire.
Located in the northwest section of Chengdu, this museum houses a 15-meter-high building with 14 impressive archways.
Inside, you’ll find the beautifully decorated sarcophagus of Emperor Wang Jian and murals depicting ancient Chinese history.
Discover the Daci Temple
Located near the Taikoo Li shopping district, the Daci Temple is a tranquil place to escape the city’s hustle and bustle.
Built-in 618, this temple was once the largest Buddhist monastery in Sichuan.
Apart from its beautiful architecture, the Daci Temple is known for its cute statues representing the Chinese zodiac. It’s a great place to explore and learn more about Chinese culture.
Indulge in Spicy Sichuan Cuisine
No visit to Chengdu is complete without trying the famous Sichuan cuisine. Known for its bold and spicy flavors, Chengdu is a foodie’s paradise.
Be sure to try the Hot Pot or Chuan Chuan, where you can immerse yourself in the local culinary scene. If you’re not a fan of spicy food, dipping it in sesame oil can help tone down the heat.
Take a Day Trip to the Leshan Giant Buddha
A UNESCO World Heritage Site, the Leshan Giant Buddha is a must-visit attraction near Chengdu.
Carved directly from the rock in the 8th century, this colossal statue of Maitreya stands 71 meters high, making it the largest Buddha sculpture in the world.
The statue is located at the confluence of three rivers, creating a mesmerizing backdrop for your visit.
To make your trip to the Leshan Giant Buddha hassle-free, consider booking a private tour like the Day Trip to the Leshan Grand Buddha.
This tour includes an English-speaking guide who will take you to various viewpoints to admire the Buddha, including the option for a river cruise.
You will also have the opportunity to explore the nearby Lingyun and Wuyou Temples.
Wangjiang Pavilion Park and River Watching Tower
Discover the beauty of Wangjiang Pavilion Park and its iconic River Watching Tower. This park is famous for its connection to Xue Tao, a renowned poetess who lived here during the Tang dynasty.
The park features the Tang-era fountain, where Xue Tao is said to have drawn water to make red paper for her writings.
Don’t miss the Tower of Poetic Recitation, the Pavilion of the Washing of Paper, and the Tower of the Washing of Brocade.
See the Dujiangyan Irrigation System
Venture out of Chengdu to explore the fascinating Dujiangyan Irrigation System, located near the town of Guanxian. This ancient engineering marvel, constructed in 250 BC, was designed to prevent flooding and irrigate the fields of the Chengdu Plain.
The system consists of earth dams, canals, and weirs, which have kept the Minjiang River from flooding for over 2,200 years.
While in the area, visit the Cave of the Heavenly Master (Tianshi Dong) on Mount Qingchengsahn. This cave is where Zhang Daoling, the founder of the Taoist religion, taught during the Sui period.
The temple in the cave features a terra-cotta likeness of Zhang Daoling and statues representing three rulers from China’s prehistoric times.
Chengdu Culture Park and the Sichuan Opera
Immerse yourself in Chengdu’s cultural scene by visiting Chengdu Culture Park and experiencing the captivating Sichuan Opera.
The park is home to the old Taoist Qingyang Temple, dating back to the Tang period. Explore the Pavilion of the Eight Trigrams and witness traditional Chinese music and theater performances at the Shufeng Sichuan Opera House.
Take a Side Trip to Mount Emei and its Temples
Embark on a journey to Mount Emei, a sacred mountain dedicated to the Bodhisattva Puxian. Located 160 kilometers southwest of Chengdu, Mount Emei is one of the four Holy Mountains in China.
This mountain offers breathtaking scenery and is home to over 20 temples and monasteries, some dating back to the Eastern Han dynasty.
Visit the Wenshu Monastery
Immerse yourself in Buddhist culture with a visit to the Wenshu Monastery, also known as the Manjushri Monastery. This vast complex consists of five separate temples built from wood and stone.
Originally constructed in 1691, the monastery was built on the ruins of an earlier temple dating back to the Southern Dynasties period.
Explore the Hall of Shuofa Tang, which houses ten iron statues of Buddhist guardian gods from the Song period.
Marvel at the more than 100 bronze sculptures of Buddhas and Buddhist saints from the Qing era, along with other artifacts made from jade and wood. Take a break at the on-site teahouse and enjoy a traditional beverage.
Chengdu Travel Guide
Best Time to Visit Chengdu
Before diving into the top things to do in Chengdu, let’s talk about the best time to visit. Summers in Chengdu can be scorching hot, while winters are extremely cold.
It’s advisable to avoid extreme weather conditions. Spring and autumn are the ideal seasons to explore Chengdu.
Getting Around Chengdu
Public transportation in Chengdu is affordable and efficient. The subway system is the fastest way to travel around the city, with stations conveniently located near major attractions.
Buses are also available, though they may be slower due to traffic. Taxis and tuk-tuks are additional transportation options for shorter distances.
Best Guided Tours in Chengdu
For a hassle-free experience, consider booking a guided tour in Chengdu. These tours offer curated itineraries and expert guides to enhance your exploration of the city.
Some recommended tours include the Essence of Chengdu day tour, the Chengdu evening food and beer tour, and the traditional cupping experience.
These tours provide a deeper understanding of Chengdu’s culture and traditions.
Where to Stay in Chengdu
Chengdu offers a range of accommodation options to suit every budget. For budget travelers, the Together Hostel is a great choice, offering clean rooms and a central location.
Mid-budget travelers can consider the Lia Hotel, known for its spacious and clean rooms. Luxury travelers will enjoy the Minyoun Hotel, known for its elegant rooms and excellent service.
Chengdu is a captivating city that offers a blend of cultural experiences, natural beauty, and mouthwatering cuisine.
Whether you’re visiting the Chengdu Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding, exploring the historic temples, or indulging in spicy Sichuan dishes, Chengdu is sure to leave a lasting impression.
Plan your trip, immerse yourself in the local culture, and enjoy all the incredible things to do in Chengdu.
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