What to See and Do in Chengdu

Chengdu is the place to see the Giant Panda in China, but there's a lot more to Chengdu than just cuddly bears. It's a laid-back place full of parks and teahouses, and perfect to just kick back for a day or two. Once you've recharged, it's a convenient travel hub to easily get to Lhasa, the capital of Tibet.

01 of 07

Go See the Giant Panda

An endangered Giant Panda cub (Ailuropoda melanoieca) eating bamboo
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Called the "Chengdu Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding" the park covers a very large area and includes a Giant Panda nursery, cub, adolescent and adult enclosures as well as enclosures for the red panda, another endangered species in China. There's also a museum, research center, restaurant and large lake to enjoy strolling around. The best time to go is between 8:30 and 10 a.m. to view the panda feeding.

02 of 07

View Ancient Relics at the Jinsha Site Museum

Relic Hall in Jinsha Site Museum.
Getty Images/Diana Mayfield

This large museum situated in an expansive park is interesting for those who love learning about ancient civilizations. Archeologists have unearthed an ancient village of the Shu kingdom who were dominant during the Three Kingdoms period (220-280 AD) between (221-263). Aside from the massive pits, gold, jade, pottery and other objects are viewable in separate exhibition halls

03 of 07

Visit Rulers of Yore at the Wuhou Shrine

Wuhou Shrine, Walkway with bamboo canopy
Getty Images/Peter Adams

At Wuhouci, "woo hoe tsuh" or the Wuhou Memorial Temple, you'll see shrines to the ministers of the Shu Kingdom (221-263, a part of the Three Kingdoms period 220-280 AD.) The park is large and interesting architecturally. Originally built in 223 AD, the place is steeped in history but is also nice to simply wander around and explore.

04 of 07

Snack Like a Local and Enjoy a Stroll Down Jinli Alley

Teahouses of Jinli Street
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Just east of Wuhouci (you can exit the temple complex and you'll be on Jinli Alley) is a pedestrian alley lined with Sichuan snack stalls, teahouses, souvenir shops and inns. The architecture has been restored to look like ancient Sichuan. It's the perfect place for a pit-stop after a few hours in Wuhouci.

Continue to 5 of 7 below.
05 of 07

Witness Devout Buddhists at Wenshu Temple

People worship at Wenshu Temple, Chengdu
Getty Images/Peter Stuckings

Wenshu Buddhist Temple is Chengdu's liveliest and largest Buddhist complex. Founded in the Tang Dynasty, the temple buildings date from 1691. There are a number of interesting bronze Buddhist statues, most from the Qing period but also some from the Song. The large complex also hosts a lovely teahouse where visitors can relax with tea and snacks. The alleys outside the complex are a maze of souvenir and local curiosity shops.

06 of 07

Wander Around People's Park

People's Park in Chengdu, China
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Renmin Gongyuan, or People's Park, is a large public park with a few attractions. There's a great teahouse where you can sit for hours people watching and sipping Sichuan's finest, a playground, the Monument to the Martyrs of the Railway Protection Movement and a bizarre underground museum and funhouse.

07 of 07

Watch Sichuan Opera at Shunxing Ancient Teahouse

Scene from Fu Rong Guo Cui, a variety show with actors from Sichuan Opera, held nightly at 54 Huaxing Zheng Street.
Getty Images/Diana Mayfield

A neighbor of the Intercontinental Hotel, dinner and the show at the Shunxing Ancient Teahouse makes for a fun evening. The restaurant is a cavernous space with walking entertainment. Chinese traditional masseurs walk around offering massage and ear cleaning (!) and men carrying teapots with spouts over a meter long pour tea. The food is delicious; try many Sichuan specialties. After dinner, move along to the Sichuan opera house where you'll enjoy more tea, snacks and an hour of traditional dancing and singing. The finale includes the famous “changing faces” dance where masked dancers change their masks as if by magic.