15 Best Things to Do in Chengdu, China
See also: Where to Stay in Chengdu
The capital of southwest China's Sichuan province, Chengdu is a city that has played a significant role in China’s growth through the years.
It is easily one of the country's breeding grounds for trade, commerce, industry, and tourism.
A UNESCO City of Gastronomy, Chengdu is also hailed for having birthed a number of culinary traditions.
As of late, Chengdu is undergoing an intensive sightseeing blitz and is fast metamorphosing into a dynamic city with numerous jumping-off stops for you to explore.
Interested in finding out what else this bustling city has to offer?
Here's a list of the best things to do in Chengdu, China:
Shop Around and Explore Kuan Zhai Alley
There's no better place for shopping in Chengdu than Kuan Zhai Alley.
If you're interested in immersing yourself in Chengdu culture, you will undoubtedly enjoy this tourist attraction also known as Wide and Narrow Alley.
A majority of the shops here are either long-standing remnants of the Qing dynasty or newly renovated stalls that sell an array of goods ranging from snacks to antiques.
The alleys are lined with almost everything you would need: houses, shopping arcades, eateries, and bars.
It does not matter if you are there to splurge or experience the antiqueness of the place—whatever it is you're after, be assured that you'll feel fulfilled by the end of your visit.
If you are an art lover, be sure to stay long enough to witness Sichuan opera performances.
Be Awed by Pandas at Chengdu Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding
Chengdu Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding is a spot that lures thousands of tourists from all over the world.
This non-profit research center was founded in 1987 and is home to over 100 pandas.
The base also serves as a breeding facility for these giant pandas.
They stand to render a top-notch exploration facility, along with the conservation of these animals and over 2,000 species of plants.
They are constantly looking to expand into a world-class educational tourism destination.
If you are planning to visit, you are highly encouraged to arrive early, as this spot is quite popular and tickets sell like hotcakes.
Once you are inside, you can see the pandas engaging in fun activities such as tree climbing, playing with each other, nursing, and a lot more.
Witness the Keepsakes at the Jinsha Site Museum
Now, this spot is for the true culture vultures.
The Jinsha Site Museum offers a telling of ancient history like no other.
The discovery of the Jinsha Site has an interesting story up its sleeve.
According to the story, its unearthing was rather accidental and was encountered during a real estate construction.
A few years down the line, the Jinsha Site Museum was constructed to feature the definite dig site.
The museum is now lined with the objects discovered and symbolic recreations of life reimagined.
Quite a number of exhibition halls feature interesting antiquities, such as elephant tusks that were primarily offered as penances to their divine power.
In addition, you will also get to see several jade artifacts, striking bronze figurines, gaudy ornaments, and carved stone objects.
As a matter of fact, the museum itself is quite vast, and you will need to do a lot of walking to explore its entirety.
The estimated time for a full tour of the museum is about two hours.
So, make it a point to wear comfortable footwear to enjoy a good stroll around the site at your leisure.
Wander around the Dujiangyan Irrigation System
This UNESCO World Heritage Site was built thousands of years ago to prevent swamping.
This unique irrigation system has been standing in all its dotage and prosperity.
This no-dam system has completely prevented flooding around the Chengdu Plain.
But its antiquity is not the sole reason you should visit the Dujiangyan Irrigation System—the scenery here is to die for.
With their verdant vegetation, the luscious mountains will soothe your senses.
The turquoise waters are strikingly beautiful, so you might want to have your camera ready.
Pay Your Respects at Erwang Temple
Erwang Temple was erected to honor the primeval Shu King.
Later, when the temple had to be relocated, it was renamed to grace the contributions of Li Bing and his son, who were instrumental in the construction of the irrigation system that prevented yearly flooding of the plain.
It is now known popularly called the Two Kings Temple to honor the legacy of these noblemen.
The temple itself is a part of the irrigation system, so if you are visiting Dujiangyan, make it a point to tour the temple.
The best time to visit the temple would be early morning since you can pay your respects peacefully.
Erwang Temple is a marvelous sight to behold because of its exquisite embellishments and overall design.
The spectacular Chinese architecture will leave you absolutely spellbound.
Go Back in Time at the Chuancais Museum
If you thought that the hype around Chengdu, China was solely about giant pandas, you couldn’t have been further from the truth.
After all, the city was designated a UNESCO City of Gastronomy.
That said, it would come as no surprise that there is a whole museum dedicated to Chengdu's Sichuan cuisine.
The museum stands out for being one of its kind, exhibiting the original authentic cooking culture to its visitors.
Visitors are provided with an opportunity to experience the technique, procedures, and skills that it takes to prepare traditional Sichuan dishes, all under the supervision of a qualified chef.
Join Your Hands in Prayer at Wuhou Temple
Wuhou Temple, also known as Wuhou Shrine Temple of Marquise, is renowned for its rich history and legendary architecture.
It is, without doubt, an important shrine that highlights Sichuan’s bygone Shu heritage and honors the men that were instrumental in the formation of the celebrated Shu kingdom.
Spanning a massive 37,000 square meters, this temple is dedicated to Zhuge Liang, a diplomat during the Three Kingdoms Period.
The trail leading up to the temple is breathtakingly gorgeous and is laden with bamboo trees.
The alluring backdrop, remarkable history, and time-honored architecture have made this temple quite a catch among tourists.
If you want to have a brief stopover for shopping, the temple complex alley has everything you’ll need—arts, crafts, food, and more.
Watch a Performance by the Feng Ya Yun Sichuan Opera
When you are in Chengdu, it would be quite a disservice if you returned home without witnessing the marvelous Feng Ya Yun Sichuan Opera.
These operas derive inspiration from Chinese classic novels and take after traditional folklore.
They combine solo performances with the splendor of acrobatics and masquerade.
A majority of these shows make use of stick puppet shows and hand shadowing to capture the audience’s attention.
There is a good chance that the performers will leave you spellbound by their (quite literal) "fire-spitting" performances.
As you watch the astounding displays, you will be provided with complimentary drinks and may purchase light snacks.
Unwind at People's Park
Once you set foot inside People's Park, you will instantly understand the hype around it.
It can easily become one of your favorite places in all of Chengdu.
This serene slice of nature is found in the very heart of the city.
If you are tired of all the buzz of the city, People’s Park will provide you with the much-needed breather you are longing for.
As soon as you arrive you will be greeted by a delightful array of activities, people strolling around, stretching, and engaging in animated conversation.
If you are looking for a picnic spot, this would be a great option.
Bring some cards and frisbees along with you if you're traveling with kids—they'll surely have a grand time here.
If you end up feeling the need to sip on a hot cup of coffee or tea, the park houses Tenmen Tea House, a famed cafe that serves fantastic beverages.
After having a break, consider taking a boat onto the lake.
Try Chengdu's Delectable Hot Pot
There is a good chance that from the moment you set foot in Chengdu, you will be whipped around by the mention of the famed hot pot.
For those of you who have not heard of it, this dish involves a big pot that is filled with broth and spicy, peppery oils.
Vegetables, meat, rice cakes, and dumplings are added to the broth and are paired with dipping ingredients.
Traditionally, you must add the meat and vegetables into the broth and wait until it soaks up all the flavors.
Once that is done, you dip it in the sauce, and voila.
If you want your sauce or broth to be less spicy, you’re in luck, because most restaurants also offer a non-spicy variant.
The best place to satisfy your hot pot craving is Shu DaXia Hot Pot.
Word has it that they serve the best hot pots in the city.
They stand out not only because of their flavourful servings but also their interesting and varied menu.
Shop till You Drop at New Century Global Center
Whether or not you're interested in shopping, the New Century Global Center is worth stopping over.
Boasting an array of shops, this center proudly stands as the world's largest building in terms of floor area.
It’s not only the shopping that lures tourists here, as visitors also enjoy witnessing the work culture.
Atop the building, you will get a glimpse of office spaces, conference rooms, and a university complex.
For more entertainment, visit the center's IMAX cinema or the Olympic-size skating rink.
You can also head to Paradise Island Water Park, an indoor attraction decked with an artificial beach.
Experience a Slice of Chengdu Nightlife
Over the years, a lot has changed—and continues to change—in terms of Chengdu nightlife.
You will see a massive shift in the way more Western-inspired bars and nightclubs are popping up around the city.
The nightlife scene is still primarily dominated by theater and open-air markets, with more restaurants are springing up as well.
If you are looking for some fantastic places to visit, check out the following recommendations.
First and foremost, you may enjoy the Beer Nest.
This bar is hugely popular both among locals as well as tourists.
It offers a wide range of wines, whiskeys, cocktails, and more.
Head to New Little Bar to enjoy some indie rock.
Moreover, Jellyfish is another favorite among expats.
With its blaring music and jam-packed dance floors, you're in for a fun time.
For excellent drinks and live concerts, do consider the New Machu Picchu Bar.
Other Things to Do Nearby
Hike Mount Qingcheng
Have you ever been awed by the concept of yin and yang?
If so, you won't want to miss out on the opportunity to visit Mount Qingcheng, which is famously recognized as the origin of Taoism—the religion of unity of opposites.
While you are here, prepare to be met with a whole lot of grace, history, beauty, and astuteness.
Standing 68 kilometers from Chengdu, Mount Qingcheng is replete with attractions.
The mountain has a handful of famous Taoist temples.
In addition, you can indulge in the beauty of waterfalls and shop in the many shopping stalls.
For a unique hiking experience, consider paying a visit to the backside of the mountain.
If you are an amateur who wants to save time and cut some corners, it would be advisable to take a table car up to the halfway mark.
Once you reach the top, you will reach Chaoyang Temple.
For a fun activity, you can try to tie a red ribbon to the courtyard.
Legend has it that the wishes you write on them will be fulfilled.
Tour the Leshan Giant Buddha
Although it is not exactly in Chengdu, you should definitely visit this UNESCO World Heritage site if you have the opportunity.
It's only about 20 minutes away from Chengdu and is easily one of the most toured scenic sites in the neighboring city of Leshan.
The enormous statue is that of Maitreya in a seated position and is completely carved out of stone.
Standing 71 meters tall, this charming statue been named the largest Buddha and the tallest pre-modern statue in the world.
It is not only its height but also its artistry that gives it quite the edge.
Stairs have been provided for the visitors to climb to the head of the statue or down towards its base.
Climb to the Top of Mount Emei
At almost a three-hour ride from Chengdu stands Mount Emei, which offers a cool, hazy break from Sichuan’s temperature.
What makes it really special is its stature as one of China’s four sacred Buddhist mountains.
Even though quite a number of temples were erected in the mountain, only a few of them survived fires and looting over the centuries.
Out of them, Wannian Temple is the oldest standing temple.
Notwithstanding its culturally liberal heritage, the mountain has served as the home to a varied range of flora and fauna.
All of this aided in placing it on UNESCO’s list of World Heritage Sites.
You can hike the all way to the top of the mountain, but depending on your speed, it can take you about two days.
If you want to stay overnight, you can find shelter in any of the monasteries or temples.
However, if you want to reach the summit faster, you can try boarding a bus to the halfway mark and hiking up from there.