Chendu, the capital of the Sichuan province of China, is famous for adorable giant pandas, mouthwatering spicy food, and a laidback lifestyle. In fact, many expats decide to stay in Chengdu permanently after visiting. It’s that irresistible! Chengdu is my hometown and hands down my favorite city in China. Every time I come back here, I find it hard to leave. I have put together 10 things to do in Chengdu that are top in my book. You’ll see how easy it is to love this vibrant place!
1. Explore around Wide & Narrow Alleys
Wide & Narrow Alleys or kuan zhai xiang zi (宽窄巷子) is a famous attraction site in Chengdu with a lot of history. It contains three ancient street lanes filled with handicraft stores, restaurants, bars, food stalls, and street performers. You really get a traditional meets modern vibe here. There are tons of things to do and so many amazing photo op spots. It is a popular hangout place for tourists as well as locals. I never get tired of coming here!
2. Night stroll in Jinli Ancient Street
Jinli Ancient Street (锦里古街) is somewhat similar to Wide & Narrow Alleys. It is a popular old commercial street. It has a huge selection of food stalls. Fresh buns, deep fried bread sticks, BBQ skewers…You can find everything here! I always come here with an empty stomach, ready to conquer mwuhaha. It’s also a great place to pick up some traditional handy crafts like Chinese paper puppets. Jinli is absolutely stunning at nighttime lit up by lights. The charming brick walls and narrow streets will have you feeling like you are in an old Chinese movie.
3. Watch a magic face change show
Face change or Bian lian (变脸) is a part of Sichuan opera. The Face change master skillfully changes from one colorful mask to another in the blink of an eye while dancing and interacting with the audience. This traditional performance is fascinating to watch. With just a tilt of the head or a wave of an arm, their mask is instantly different. You will be scratching your head wondering how they did it. Catch one of the shows in Wide & Narrow Alleys.
4. Drink tea
Chengdu people love hanging out at teahouses and drinking tea. It is a big part of the culture here. There are many teahouses in the city, some elegant and quiet, some rowdy and busy. It’s a popular way to hang out with friends. Go to a tea house, order a pot of tea with some fruits and nuts, and chat the afternoon away. Enjoy the slow pace lifestyle of Chengdu.
5. Visit the Chengdu Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding
Sichuan is one of the best places to see pandas in China. The Chengdu Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding is a must visit. It is one of the most important bases in the world dedicated to the protection of giant pandas. The ground imitates the natural habitat of pandas, giving them the best possible environment for living and breeding. You can come watch these adorable pandas eat, sleep and play. They are so fluffy and lazy! You just can’t help but love them. The base also cares for other animals like lesser pandas, peacocks and black neck cranes.
Address: #26 Xiongmao Boulevard, Chenghua District
Opening hours: 08:00-18:00
Ticket price: 58 yuan
6. Go on a hunt for panda motifs throughout the city
Chengdu is truly obsessed with pandas. There are panda elements hidden throughout the city. Panda themed post office, train, bus, restaurant. It’s crazy! The International Financial Square (IFS) on Chunxi road has a giant climbing panda sculpture named “I am Here”. Created by internationally renowned artist Lawrence Argent, it is a 15 meters tall and 13 pounds panda! Don’t miss this adorable installation. Hello Instagram!
Check out more panda motif in Chengdu here.
7. Eat everything in sight
Eating should be high on your priority list in this city. If you love spicy food, you are in the best place in the world. Besides the famous hot pot experience that you can’t miss, Chengdu has many other amazing foods that I cannot list them all here. They deserve a post all by themselves. The obvious solution here is to just EAT EVERYTHING IN SIGHT but here is a list of food you must try in Chengdu.
8. Hike up Qingcheng Mountain
Qingcheng means “Green City.” Qingcheng Mountain (青城山) is one of the most important centers of Taoism in China and an UNESCO World Heritage Site . The mountain is 45 minutes from the city by the new express train, making it easy to access. The hike is not very intense as there are well paved stairs. Qingcheng Mountain is beautiful, serene, and an awesome place to get some fresh air.
9. Take a day trip to Leshan Giant Buddha
Another great day trip from Chengdu is Leshan (乐山), home of the largest sitting Buddha in the world. It was said that the Buddha was created to watch over the river that used to flood the Leshan area. The huge craving took three generations to create. Ever since the Buddha’s creation, the river became safe. Thanks to the new Chengdu-Leshan-Emei high speed train line, Leshan can be reached in an hour from the city. Check the train schedule here. You can choose to admire the Buddha from a boat cruise or climb up the mountain to gawk at the Buddha head up close. After sightseeing, make sure to have a meal in Leshan and try out the famous local Bo Bo Ji (钵钵鸡), which is skewers cooked in spicy sauce, and Qiao Jiao beef (翘角牛肉). Spoiler: They will both blow your mind with flavor!
10. Do a Jiu Zhai Gou & Huang Long Valley Tour
If you have time during your trip to Chengdu, I would highly recommend taking an out of town tour to Jiu Zhai Gou & Huang Long Valley (九寨沟 & 黄龙). These two UNESCO world heritage sites are absolutely stunning. Both sites are famous for their colorful clear waters. The photos speak for themselves! Although there are high amount of tourists year round, the sites are well protected and look just like heaven on earth!
Jiu Zhai Gou is about 1 hour by plane and 10 hours by bus from Chengdu. Between Jiu Zhai Gou and Huang Long, the bus ride is about two hours.There are many organized sight seeing tours that you can join. Most tour companies spend one day at each location. Words of caution: during some seasons, the road to Jiu Zhai Gou is dangerous due to landslides, so exercise caution when booking a bus tour.
*Bonus!* Stay Here
On my last visit back, I stayed in the cutest Airbnb just right outside of Kuang Zhai Alley. Just loved the beautiful and homey décor. It was super convenient and high value for the price too!
See it here.
If you’ve never used AirBnB before, it’s simply the best! You can find all sorts of unique and cool accommodations for a fraction of hotel prices.
Use this link here to get $45 off your first trip! If you do, I can get $20 travel credits as well. Win win!
Allot a lot of time in Chengdu to eat, drink, play, and relax. This place truly has everything. It just takes one visit to fall in love. Have you ever been to Chengdu?