One of the three most populous cities in Western China, Chengdu is home of the country's national treasure, the Giant Panda. It is also a thriving cultural hotspot that mixes rich history, literature and fine art with scientific innovation and technology.
Tours and activities in Chengdu
There’s so much to see and do in Chengdu that you should consider booking a guide or taking one of the many organized tours available. Whether you want to experience the fairy-tale surrounding of Jiuzhaigou, the Giant Pandas or the ancient history of the area, a guide with local and historical knowledge will only add to your enjoyment.
A guide will also help you to book tickets for the Chengdu Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding, a night of opera or a visit to one of the many beautiful tea rooms in the city.
Best time to visit
Chengdu has a mild, humid climate throughout the year, but the best time to visit would be March-June when you’ll experience pleasant spring conditions. September to November are cooler but are also pleasant, while the rainy season in July and August usually brings storms, so you might want to avoid that time of year.
Top Attractions in Chengdu
Chengdu is packed full of cultural activity, so it’s worth drawing up an itinerary if you plan to make the most of your stay there.
Getting here and getting around
Chengdu boasts the busiest airport in Central and Western China and has flights from more than 70 domestic cities and 20 international cities. Only 16km from the center of the city, perhaps the easiest way to travel from the airport is by train; routes lead to two stations in the city, and your journey will take only 10-15 minutes. There are also shuttle buses that regularly run to downtown Chengdu.
If you’re arriving in the city from elsewhere in China, the train is once again your best bet, with a total of three railways (and a fourth under construction). However, Chengdu has a well-developed transport network, with several large-scale road projects in development; when completed, it will take only half an hour to get from Jintang or Heilongtan to Chengdu.
Traveling within the city itself is easy. Four metro lines are currently in operation with another two under construction and more to follow, while city buses are widely available, charging only ¥1 for most trips. There are hundreds of taxi stands across the city, with flag-down rates starting at ¥12 or ¥13 depending on the time of day, but it’s recommended that you discuss fares with drivers in advance for journeys to and from bus and railway stations: they’re liable to switch off their meter.
Eating and drinking
Sichuan cuisine is famous in its own virtue. Piquant and with complex flavors, this style of cooking has evolved and developed over time, with typical dishes like Ma Po Tofu, Kung Pao Chicken and Twice Cooked Spicy Pork Slices all considered specialties. Be warned that much Sichuan cooking is hot; however, the complex flavors intermingle making them unique.
If you’re adventurous and would like to try some of the best Sichuan cuisines in the city, try the Piaxoue Sichuan Cuisine Restaurant, Shizilou or Baguio Biyi. Alternatively, the city is lined with all manner of snack bars and street foods.
Nightlife is diverse in Chengdu, with teahouses, bars, and guesthouses opening late. You might also like to sample some of the areas rich operatic culture. The Bianlian or Changing faces can be seen in the Sichuan Opera Theatre on Zhuangyuan Street.
Getting a good night's sleep
Even the most expensive hotels in Chengdu are relatively well-priced. Top of the list of high-end places to start is the Ritz-Carlton. This fairly new hotel with a familiar name offers great service, rooftop dining and a range of spa treatments.
If you’re traveling on a budget, check out the Dragontown International Youth Hostel, but if you can afford mid-range prices, you’re spoiled for choice. The Sofitel Chengdu Taihe and the Crowne Plaza Chengdu City Centre both offer great value, with excellent service and good locations.