Due to the Panda Research Base as well as the region's food, Chengdu, the capital of China's Sichuan province, is one of China's hottest tourist cities - and for good reason. Despite Chengdu being home to around 7.8 million people, the vibe is a lot more laid-back compared to other Chinese hotspots.
So, if you're thinking of visiting, here is a quick guide on how to spend a weekend in Chengdu.
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Visit the Pandas at the Research Base
I mean, how could visiting the Pandas not be at the top of any Chengdu itinerary? Housing red pandas as well as the more recognizable black-and-white ones (not to mention a section just for seeing Panda cubs), the base is a must-see Chengdu attraction.
Wuhou Shrine - Chengdu's most instagrammable spot?
With red stone walls, tall bamboo shoots, and a mausoleum of an ancient emperor, Wuhpu Shrine is exactly the kind of place that entices travellers to China. Dedicated to Zhuge Liang and the Kingdom of Shu from the Three Kingdoms Period, Wuhou shrine feels like an escape from the hustle-and-bustle of modern city life. Plus, the red walls and bamboo make for probably one of the most instagrammable places in Chengdu, if we do say so ourselves, but be sure to get there early before the temple gets busy and takes away from the aura.
Wander back in time down Jinli Ancient Street:
Right next door to Wuhou Shrine, Jinli Ancient Street is a nice place to explore and pretend that you've fallen through a portal back in time. With a street there dating back to 221 BC, the area has attempted to preserve this feeling of history. As you wander through the area, you'll be greeted by tea houses, traditional architecture, Sichuan street food, as well as the occasional musical performance. Oh, and for all you photographers out there, Jinli Street is a popular place for locals to get portraits taken in traditional Chinese clothes and are usually happy to pose for some photos if you ask nicely.
Explore some of the best temples in Chengdu!
For an urban metropolis, Chengdu has a surprising amount of historic temples that are ripe for an afternoon's exploration.
Situated in northern Chengdu, Zhaojue Temple is a great place to start. One of the oldest temples in western China, Zhaojue dates back to the 7th century and has played a key role in the development of Taoism throughout Asia.
Once that one has been ticked-off, hail a DiDi (Chinese Uber) and head across to Qingyang Palace - a place often hailed as the 'number 1 Taoist temple in Southwest China'.
Find the best coffee in Chengdu:
Chengdu's burgeoning coffee scene deserves a post in itself, but for the purpose of this quick 48-hour guide to Chengdu, we'll keep it short enough to cover the caffeine cravings for a weekend.
'The Sense' is easily one of the best cafe's in Chengdu. With a wide variety of beans to cover the whole range of taste paletts, not to mention some pastries, this place is the perfect spot to stop and recharge your batteries after a morning of exploring. Oh, and the guy who opened it, Jeremy Zhang, won the China Barista Championship in both 2014 and 2016 - so you coffee-holics are in great company!
Similarly, 'Let's Grind' is a great spot for a quick 'pick-me-up' when around downtown Chengdu. It may be small, but what Let's Grind lacks in floor-space, they make up for in quality coffee. Don't trust us? Go check it out for yourself!
DuFu Thatched Cottage
Dedicated to the Tang dynasty poet Du Fu, this park and museum complex is another escape from the hectic Chengdu city life. As you wander through the park surrounded by bamboo shoots you could almost forget that you are in the middle of a bustling metropolis. For those interested in Chinese poetry, the 4 years that DuFu spent at the cottage in 759 are believed to be his most productive with over 240 poems written!
Day trips from Chengdu:
If you're staying in town for longer than a weekend, then why not take advantage of the city's location to head out of the city?
The Leshan Giant Buddha is a 71-metre tall statue constructed in 713-803 AD by Hai Tong in an attempt to calm the water spirits whom locals believed were at fault for multiple shipwrecks in the area. Nowadays, the image of the Leshan Buddha has become synonymous with China and is well worth the visit if you're in the area. That said, if you're travelling during the busy Chinese holiday periods, it may be best to avoid the park as it often becomes uncomfortably busy!
If you're looking for something a little different, then Mount Qingcheng is definitely worth the trip! Located a short train-ride from Chengdu, Qingcheng is considered a cornerstone site of Chinese Taoism. With an elevation of over 1,200 metres, and a stairway dotted with caves, temples, and palaces, the area is a welcome break from city-life.