Free Chengdu Travel Guide 2023 (Updated with More Tips!)
As the capital of Sichuan Province, Chengdu is an important place to visit for any traveler to China. It has a fascinating history as the Capital of the Shu which was one of the 3 kingdoms of Ancient China, and was, and still is an important city for trade in China. While it used to be a bit off the beaten path, Chengdu is fast becoming a hotspot for tourists and business travelers to China. Let’s take a look at why.
A sprawling metropolis with a long and great history, Greater Chengdu is home to over 14 million people, which makes it even bigger than Istanbul or London. To make things even better, Chengdu is only now maturing into a proper tourist destination, so now is the time to go if you want to see both the old and the new.
As with any major city, there are countless things to do. Here are some of the top sights in both Chengdu City and the Greater Chengdu region.
- Tianfu Square
Tianfu Square is the largest public square in Chengdu and Southwest China. As such it’s an ideal place to begin exploring Chengdu. In fact, many tourist attractions such as the Imperial Mosque and the Chengdu Museum are located within walking distance. If you only have one day in Chengdu, be sure to visit Tianfu Square. You won’t regret it.
- Imperial Mosque
While Islam isn't the first thing that many people think of when they think of China, the Imperial Mosque of Chengdu is one of the most stunning mosques in all of Asia. While the original mosque dates back to 1666, the current version was built more recently, and in the same fashion as the original. Muslims historically have been prominent citizens and traders in Chengdu, and it is no different today.
- Sichuan Opera Theater
No trip to China is complete without seeing a traditional Sichuanese Opera performance which is actually slightly different than the regular Chinese Opera performance. One of the best places to see one is at the Sichuan Opera Theater in Chengdu which is located in a historic building in central Chengdu. It’s a once in a lifetime experience and you definitely should go if you have the chance to.
Sichuan Opera Theater
- Wuhouci Temple
Going to a local temple is a great way to experience Chinese culture. In Chengdu, one of the best places to do this is the Wuhouci Temple which was built in memory of the Zhuge Liang, a great Government Minister from the 3 Kingdoms Era. What really makes the Wuhouci Temple special are its Gardens, which are some of the nicest in Chengdu.
- Jinsha Archaeological Site
As a country with a great past and culture, it is unsurprising that the Chinese really honor their history. This is evident by the amount of archeological sites you find all around China. Chengdu is not any different. One of the best places you can visit while you’re there is the Jinsha Archeological Site. It was actually uncovered a few years ago by accident and relics from the site date back over 1000 years ago. If you have time to kill while in Chengdu, you should definitely go and visit.
- Liujiang Old Town
While not exactly in Chengdu City, a trip to Liujiang Old Town is a must-do if you want to see what life was like in China before they started erecting the massive skyscrapers you see today. A trip to Liujiang is a trip back in time, and as one of the largest towns in Sichuan Province, Liujiang is a great place to learn about Sichuan culture and eat some amazing food. It is not a place you should miss.
Liujiang Old Town
- Mausoleums of Princes of Shu of the Ming Dynasty
There are many places to see traditional Chinese burial tombs, but if you are in Chengdu, you should definitely go have a look at the Mausoleums of Princes of Shu of the Ming Dynasty. It is one of the most fascinating places you can see in Chengdu, which at one time was actually the capital of the Shu Kingdom, one of the famous 3 Kingdoms of Ancient China. Go have a look.
- Du Fu Cottage
Every society values its authors and intellectuals. For English speakers it’s William Shakespeare, but for the Chinese, it’s Du Fu. Du Fu is considered to be one of the greatest Chinese writers of all time and spent much of his life in Chengdu. In fact, the house where he lived in is still standing after over 1000 years and has beautiful gardens. It is definitely a must see attraction to anyone interested in Chinese culture and literature.
Du Fu Cottage
- Chengdu Botanical Garden
The Chinese have some of the most beautiful gardens in the world. Everywhere you go, from the smallest of villages to the largest of cities, you will find a botanical garden. Chengdu is no different, and as one of the biggest and most important cities in all of China, its garden is also one of the prettiest you can visit. If you need some time to think or if you just want to go see the flowers, you definitely need to have a look.
Chengdu Botanical Garden
- Chengdu Museum
Located right off of Tianfu Square, the Chengdu Museum is a great place to visit if you want to learn more about the history of Chengdu, but are strapped for time. Spend a few hours here and you will definitely leave more knowledgeable about Chengdu and Sichuan Province. It is possible to accidentally spend your whole day here so plan accordingly.
- Qingyang Temple
As with any city in China, there is always more than one temple. While the Wuhouci Temple is famed for its gardens, the Qingyang Temple is one of the oldest and most famous Taoist temples in China and it was first built in the Tang Dynasty. This means that it is over 1000 years old. That alone should be a reason to go have a look. The Qingyang Temple is located in Chengdu City so that makes it easier to get to than some of the other places on this list.
- Jinli Ancient Street
If you want to get some souvenirs or just have a look around, Jinli Ancient Street is a place you can’t afford to miss. You can easily get some great bargains on gifts for friends and family, or you can simply relax and try some local Chengdu street food or even Starbucks if that’s what you’re into, Jinli Ancient Street definitely has you covered. It’s well known in Chengdu as a great place to buy traditional Shu embroideries, and there are great samples to be found here.
- Wenshu Temple
Next up on the temple tour of Chengdu is the Wenshu Temple and Monastery. It is one of the most beautiful Buddhist monasteries in all of China, and has a very impressive Buddha statue. If you’re interested in Buddhism, this is one place that you should go as Chengdu isn’t as touristy as Beijing or Shanghai, so you will get a more authentic view of what Chinese Buddhism really is.
- Luodai Ancient Town
If you’re in Chengdu and would like to see an authentic Hakka village, you should look no further than Luodai Ancient Town. Known as one of the most authentic Hakka villages in all of Sichuan province, Loudai Ancient Town is located 20 minutes from downtown Chengdu, and is so famous for its architecture that people come from all over China and even overseas to have a look. It is a must see place while you’re in Chengdu.
Luodai Ancient Town
- Chengdu Panda Research Base
One of the main reasons that people come to China is to see the wildlife. For most people, this means the Panda Bear. Sadly there aren't many of them left in the wild but one of the best places to go and see them is at the Chengdu Panda Research Base, which is one of the world’s premier breeding and research centers for these fascinating creatures. It is also one of the only places in the world where tourists can play with the baby panda and even take pictures while holding them. It is the highlight of the trip for many of the people who visit China.
Chengdu Panda Research Base
Where to eat
Renowned for its food, specifically the Chengdu Hotpot, there are many different types of foods that you can eat in Chengdu. There is literally something for everyone, including vegetarians, as well as several good western restaurants. Here are some of our favorite suggestions.
- Wenshu Temple Vegetarian Restaurant
Located in the historic Wenshu Temple, if you want to get a good and healthy vegetarian meal, this is definitely the place to go. Run by the temple monks, here you will find cheap and hearty vegetarian food. It’s a great place to eat after a long and hard day of temple hopping, and should not be missed.
- Chen Mapo
Perhaps the most famous restaurant in all of Chengdu, Chen Mapo is rumored to have been opened in 1862. That makes it more than 150 years old, which is astonishing for any restaurant. It is known as the birthplace of Mapo Tofu, and is a place you must eat at least once on your trip to Chengdu. For those of us who don’t like tofu, Chen Mapo also serves a variety of Beef, Chicken, and Pork dishes which means that everyone will leave both full and happy.
- Veranda Bridge Restaurant
One of the coolest places to eat in Chengdu is on the Veranda Bridge Restaurant which is actually located on a bridge. It is also considered to be one of the best restaurants in all of Chengdu. There’s even a chance you’ll see some of the local elite dining there while you eat. It’s the perfect place to experience authentic high-end Chinese food while in Chengdu.
- Chengdu Bookworm
Another awesome place to grab a bit is at the Chengdu Bookworm. In addition to being a coffeehouse and restaurant, the Chengdu Bookworm is also a fully functioning bookstore, so you can also buy some books while getting your munchies. The Chengdu Bookworm is one of the best places to get English and Foreign Language books while in Chengdu. You can easily spend hours here just looking for books.
- Dave's Oasis
Every Chinese city has its place where expats hang out. In Chengdu, that place is none other than Dave’s Oasis. With some of the best burgers in Chengdu, it’s no wonder that expats and foreigners flock to here. Dave’s Oasis gets some bonus points for its pub quizzes, poker games, and is one of the only places in Chengdu where you can watch NFL games. When you go, be sure to try the deep fried tater tots, it's one of the best dishes on the menu.
- Peter's Tex-Mex
If you’re looking to get your weekly burrito fix, look no further than Peter’s Tex-Mex, which is known for having the best burritos in Sichuan Province. If burritos aren't your thing, don't worry because Peter’s Tex-Mex also serves great homemade ice cream, and has something for everyone.
When to go
Spring and autumn are the best times to visit Chengdu. It’s not too hot and not too cold. Travelers to Chengdu should know that the winters are very cold, and the summers are very hot. It’s probably not a great idea to visit during those times.
VPNs in China
It is important to have a VPN in China for many reasons. There is constant government surveillance on the internet, and many foreign websites are blocked (Gmail, Youtube to name a few). For most travelers this is a problem. Every once in a while isn’t it good to watch Netflix or check up on Facebook? Here is our list of the best VPNs for China. Remember you cannot download a VPN from within the country. You have to get one before you travel.
These are the Best VPNs for China:
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