Chengdu, the capital city of Sichuan Province in China, is renowned for its laid-back lifestyle, spicy cuisine, and rich history. For those considering things to do in Chengdu, visiting the Chengdu Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding, a facility dedicated to the conservation of giant pandas, and exploring the Wuhou Shrine, a memorial dedicated to Zhuge Liang, the famous military strategist, are top activities.
The city’s bustling Jinli Ancient Street offers a glimpse into traditional Sichuan culture, with its well-preserved buildings, vibrant shops, and street food stalls. Nearby, the Sichuan Opera, known for its face-changing performances, provides a unique cultural experience.
Beyond its urban attractions, Chengdu is also known for its culinary scene, with numerous restaurants serving Sichuan cuisine, famous for its bold flavors and use of Sichuan pepper. For those seeking the best places to visit in China, Chengdu’s blend of historical significance, cultural richness, and gastronomic adventures makes it a compelling destination.
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Attractions & Things to Do in Chengdu, China
1. Chengdu Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding
A world-renowned conservation center, the Chengdu Panda Base is dedicated to the research, breeding, and conservation of giant pandas. Visitors can observe these iconic animals in a setting that closely resembles their natural habitat.
Travel Tip: Try to visit in the morning when the pandas are most active and feeding, offering the best chance to see them up close.
2. Jinli Ancient Street
Jinli is a bustling street in Chengdu that gives visitors a glimpse into the city’s past with its traditional-style buildings and a variety of Sichuan cuisine, teahouses, and shops selling handicrafts.
Travel Tip: Go in the evening when the red lanterns are lit for an atmospheric walk and try some local snacks from the street vendors.
3. Wenshu Monastery
This serene and well-preserved Buddhist monastery dates back to the Tang Dynasty and houses precious cultural relics and artworks. The surrounding gardens and tea house provide a peaceful respite from the city.
Travel Tip: Don’t miss the vegetarian restaurant inside the monastery for a taste of authentic Buddhist fare.
4. Sichuan Opera
The Sichuan Opera is an extravagant Chinese cultural experience with vibrant costumes, intense drama, and unique local elements like face changing and fire spitting.
Travel Tip: Book your tickets in advance and arrive early to catch the pre-show activities, including makeup application and costume preparation.
5. Dujiangyan Irrigation System
This ancient irrigation system is a marvel of engineering and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Built over 2,200 years ago, it still functions today and helps irrigate over 5,300 square kilometers of land.
Travel Tip: Consider hiring a guide to fully appreciate the historical significance and ingenuity of this ancient structure.
6. Mount Qingcheng
Recognized as one of the birthplaces of Taoism, this tranquil and lush mountain offers numerous temples and cultural relics among its peaks.
Travel Tip: There is a cable car to help navigate the ascent, but be sure to wear comfortable shoes as there will still be plenty of walking and steps to climb.
7. Kuanzhai Alley
Kuanzhai Alley, also known as Wide and Narrow Alley, is a set of three parallel alleys that date back to the Qing Dynasty, featuring preserved buildings that have been turned into trendy shops, bars, and eateries.
Travel Tip: Sample local delicacies at one of the many street food stalls for an authentic culinary experience.
8. Sichuan Cuisine Museum
At this interactive museum, visitors can not only learn about the history and variety of Sichuan cuisine but also participate in cooking classes to make traditional dishes themselves.
Travel Tip: Sign up for a cooking class in advance to secure your spot and learn how to make authentic Sichuan dishes to impress friends and family back home.
FAQ About Things to Do in Chengdu, China
What are must-visit places in Chengdu for a first-time visitor?
First-time visitors should not miss the Chengdu Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding for a close encounter with pandas, the historic Wuhou Shrine, Jinli Ancient Street for a taste of traditional architecture and Sichuan cuisine, and the Sichuan Opera to experience the unique face-changing art form.
Can I see live pandas in Chengdu?
Yes, the Chengdu Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding is the perfect place to see live pandas. It’s one of the best conservation centers where you can observe giant pandas and even red pandas in a habitat similar to their natural one.
Is Chengdu known for any unique culinary experiences?
Chengdu is renowned for its spicy Sichuan cuisine. Don’t miss out on trying local dishes such as hotpot, Mapo Tofu, and Dan Dan noodles. Chengdu is also recognized by UNESCO as a City of Gastronomy because of its rich culinary culture.
Are there any traditional cultural performances to see in Chengdu?
Certainly, the Sichuan Opera is a spectacular traditional performance that includes face-changing, fire-spitting, and acrobatics. It’s a cultural experience that you should not miss while in Chengdu.
What are the best places for shopping in Chengdu?
For a modern shopping experience, visit the Chunxi Road shopping district. For something more traditional, Jinli Ancient Street and Kuanzhai Alley offer a range of local crafts, art, and souvenirs.
Is there any natural scenery around Chengdu?
Yes, for a break from the city, visit the Mount Qingcheng, a sacred Taoist mountain, or the stunning Jiuzhaigou Valley further afield, known for its colorful lakes and multi-level waterfalls.
Can tourists participate in any local festivals in Chengdu?
Yes, Chengdu celebrates several festivals where tourists can participate, like the Lantern Festival at the Jinsha Site Museum, the Chengdu Temple Fair, and the Grand Buddha Temple Fair, among others, featuring traditional performances, food, and games.
Are there any day trips recommended from Chengdu?
A popular day trip from Chengdu is to Leshan to see the Grand Buddha, the largest carved stone Buddha in the world. Another worthwhile trip is to the Dujiangyan Irrigation System, an ancient engineering marvel that is still in use today.