Surprisingly, Chengdu is not a prominent attraction as a major tourist site, but this is one of the few super-sized Chinese municipalities that most tourists do end up savoring. There’s an unmissable teahouse culture – favorite local institutions have been exclusively serving the same brews for centuries; a lively nightlife that mixes super-hip clubs with Sichuan opera shows and craft beer bars; and delicious food that is popular for its history, heat, and variety even in cuisine-capital China, and very much a point of honor: Chengdu is, after all, Unesco’s first-ever Town of Gastronomy. Oh, and as if that’s not enough, this is the place to come to see China’s more adorable faces – the giant pandas.
What should you know about Chengdu?
Chengdu is situated on the bank of the Red Basin’s fertile plains in China’s Sichuan Province. Due to its agricultural abundance, Chengdu is called the “Land of Milk and Honey.” The Funan river divides the city, although boat traffic, every day until the 1960s, has all but disappeared.
The city area is now split into five urban districts, four suburban districts, and nine countries, home to more than 12 million people. Chengdu has a rep as a very “laid-back” city that emphasizes relaxation and culture, and as a result of this, and much green location is ranked one of the most livable cities in China. It is recognized for a brilliant nightlife scene and contains many new western-style constructions in the large town center.
How to reach Chengdu?
Chengdu Shuangliu International Airport is located 12 miles (20km) outside of Chengdu city center and is one of China’s leading air hubs, recently ranked 4th in passenger volume. It serves flights from/too most cities in mainland China, many smaller towns within Sichuan, and some international destinations including Bangkok, Amsterdam, Frankfurt, Denpasar, Hong Kong, Paris, Kathmandu, Sydney, Melbourne, Osaka, Moscow, San Francisco, Kuala Lumpur, Singapore, Seoul, Tokyo, and Taipei.
Top Attractions in Chengdu:
Giant Panda Breeding Research Base
One of Chengdu’s most famous attractions, this panda park, 18 km north of the city center, is the easiest way to watch Sichuan’s most popular inhabitants. Don’t, however, live in an illusion of thinking you’ll be seeing pandas in the wild. They are kept in spacious enclosures and have a dedicated team of keepers and scientists tending to their every need. Besides breathing, living pandas, there are some fascinating museums and panda information centers explaining panda husbandry and conservation.
Home to nearly 76 red and 120 giant pandas, the base focuses on getting these spectacularly love-adorable mammals to breed and has been exceptionally successful at it. March to May are the ‘falling in love months’ ( 😉 ). If you visit during autumn or summer, you may see tiny newborns in the incubators.
Chengdu Art Gallery
Chengdu Art Gallery is a rotating classical-style Chinese art exhibition in a traditionally styled court structure that’s almost as elegant as the paintings within. It’s a real harbor of calm from the frenetic crowds on the Narrow and Wide Alley pedestrian routes you take to reach it.
Alongside the relaxing Culture Park, this is Chengdu’s most extensive and oldest Taoist temple. Green Ram (Qingyang) Temple records from the Zhou era, although most of what you see is Qing. A highlight is the unusually eight-sided, squat pagoda, built without pegs or bolts. There’s also a famous teahouse inside towards the back that is unmissable.
What to eat in Chengdu?
There is no shortage of fiery and delicious Sichuan food in Chengdu. ALl the meals are extremely spicy, so don’t forget to specify your taste whenever you order
If you are not yet accustomed to it, a bottle of almond, sweetened soy, cow milk, or peanut, or something else sugary will work much better than water to suppress the fire. If you are used to the delicious and hottest of authentic Thai or Indian food, Sichuan food’s spiciness level should be no problem at all. However, Sichuan food also makes substantial use of Sichuan pepper, which looks like but is not an actual peppercorn, and causes your mouth to become slightly numb. Sichuan pepper is mixed in most spicy dishes.
The spiciest food in Chengdu is hotpot (also called steamboat or steam pot), although the belief originated in Chongqing, so it is not an authentic Chengdu meal. Sichuan hotpots are primarily a big pot of soup with spices boiling in a hole in the center of your table. Tourists choose from a large selection of vegetables, meats, and other interesting add-ins. Most popular include: mushrooms, lamb, tofu, beef, potatoes, quail eggs, and various others (green vegetables, pork, carrots, fish balls, and even pig’s big brain!) You can choose a spicy pot or a non-spicy pot. With spicy hot pots, unlike eastern hot pots, the soup is not at all for drinking; instead, fish out your prepared items with chopsticks (do not fish the fluid out with a spoon, it is excessively spicy even for natives to drink; the fished out meat and vegetables will be extremely spicy enough), dip them in the small bowl of virgin oil provided to each hungry tourist and enjoy.