Looking for the best things to do in Chengdu? Despite having a population of more than 16 million people, Chengdu is one of China’s most lovable, laidback cities. The capital of the southwestern province of Sichuan, Chengdu is known globally as the home of the Giant Panda. But the city’s appeal goes far beyond its cutest inhabitants. Chengdu is a major transport hub and has one of the busiest airports in the world – Chengdu Shuangliu International Airport. The city is thought of as the gateway to Tibet and the beautiful landscapes of southwestern China. With awe-inspiring temples, world-renowned cuisine, and centuries-old teahouse culture, discover why Chengdu is fast becoming China’s must-visit destination. Don’t forget to check out our Chengdu Tours and Chengdu Hotels.
See Chengdu’s World-Famous Pandas
As the city’s most famous residents, you’ll see Giant Pandas wherever you go. From billboards to souvenirs, taxis to airplanes, those adorable, fluffy, black and white faces are painted on everything. But to see the real thing up close, you need to visit one of Chengdu’s panda centers.
The most famous of these is the Chengdu Giant Panda Breeding Center, in the northeast outskirts of the city. With 50 pandas and 250 acres of land, this vast park lets you see pandas in a natural habitat. It also acts as a hub for education and learning. Discover how the center protects the pandas, and how they are successfully breeding one of the world’s most vulnerable species. You can visit the pandas on our Private Half Day Tour.
Witness the Magic of Face Changing
Panda faces aren’t the only kind you’ll see painted everywhere in Chengdu. The city is also famous for the ancient art of Face Changing. Known as Bian Lian (变脸), Face Changing is a highly regarded part of Sichuanese Opera. Performers dazzle audiences with their ability to change brightly colored masks. This usually happens within a fraction of a second, behind the swipe of a hand or a fan. They often do this while carrying out other acts and acrobatics, and while dressed in elaborate costumes. The art of Face Changing is a highly guarded secret, passed down from generation to generation. You can experience the magic of Bian Lian at the Sichuan Opera or in one of the city’s many teahouses.
Best Things to do in Chengdu: Chuan Cuisine
Named as the first UNESCO City of Gastronomy in 2010, Chengdu’s spicy cuisine is famous throughout the world. Known for its rich, spicy flavors – particularly the lip-numbing taste of Sichuan pepper – Chuan cuisine is a favorite throughout China. Curious food-loving travelers will find never-ending options for eats in Chengdu. From roadside stalls serving Chengdu classics like dan dan mian (spicy noodles topped with pork) to seriously spicy hot pot, there are new things to taste around every corner. Look out for delicious chuan chaun, mapo tofu, and twice-cooked pork. Don’t miss a trip to Jinli Street, where some of the best snacks in the city can be found. You can also discover how to cook traditional Sichuan cuisine for yourself on our Private Chengdu Cooking Class.
Enjoy Chengdu’s Teahouse Culture
There’s a phrase in China that roughly translates as: “people from Chengdu just drink tea and play mahjong all day long“. Although not entirely true, the city does have a relaxing teahouse culture. And the locals have made doing very little something of an art!
The ancient teahouses of Wide Narrow Alleys. The garden teahouses in People’s Park. The temple teahouses at the Wenshu Monastery. In Chengdu, you’re never far away from a traditional cha (茶) drinking spot. You’ll see locals (as the saying goes!) playing mahjong or cards, reading the newspaper, and letting the day go by. Teahouses are a wonderful place to experience everyday Chengdu life. They are also some of the best places in the city for a spot of people-watching. For a different, more lively teahouse experience, look for one that offers Face Changing Opera performances.
Best Things to do in Chengdu: Leshan Giant Buddha
An easy trip from the city center, Leshan Giant Buddha is one of the best things to do in Chengdu. Standing at 71 meters high, the stone Buddha is the tallest in the world. To put that into context, his ears alone are 7 meters long and can fit two people inside! The Buddha is part of the vast Mount Emei UNESCO World Heritage-listed site. Construction started during the Tang Dynasty in 723AD. The Buddha was designed and built to calm the frequent floodwaters of the Min, Qingyi, and Dudu River. Visitors to the Buddha can start at head-level and work their way down to his toes. It’s also worth exploring the many other Buddha sculptures throughout the park. Combine a trip to the Leshan Giant Buddha with a visit to Luocheng Ancient Town on our Private Tour from Chengdu by Train.
See the Rainbow Lakes of Jiuzhaigou
Chengdu is also known as being a gateway to many of Sichuan’s and southwestern China’s most beautiful scenic areas. Of these, nowhere compares to the natural wonders of the Jiuzhaigou Valley Scenic and Historic Interest Area. Located on the edge of the Tibetan Plateau, the nature reserve is famous for its incredibly colorful lakes, spectacular waterfalls, and snow-topped mountains. Photographers from all over the world come to Jiuzhaigou to capture the unique blue, green and purple lakes. The park is particularly popular in the spring and fall when the cherry blossoms and leaves change colors. It’s often described as a “fairyland” and is one of the best things to do in Chengdu.
The Best Things to do in Chengdu
This guide covers just a few of the best things to do in Chengdu. But trust us, the city has so much more waiting to be explored! Learn how to make some of Sichuan’s most famous dishes with our tour that includes a cooking class. Or shop for ancient oriental treasures on our tour of an antiques market. Whether you visit Chengdu on its own or as part of a tour of China, we have everything you need to make your trip the journey of a lifetime.