Although it is a large and thoroughly modern city, Chengdu retains a quaint charm that makes it a very enjoyable destination. It would have to be the most laid-back city of such a size in all of China. People in Chengdu never seem to be in a hurry. Parks brim with the elderly playing cards and board games, families on an outing and young couples on a stroll. Backstreets are filled with all sorts of vendors hawking everything from handicrafts to local snacks. There is a strong teahouse culture in Chengdu which, by the nature of tea culture, slows down the pace of life. Chengdu has its share of traffic problems and overcrowding, but this never seems to irritate as it can in other cities.
Chengdu’s surrounding topography also enhances its charm. Not only is it a green and fertile city, but it also benefits from regular mists which create a strong sense of mystique about the place. Chengdu’s has some interesting temples that justify visits in their own right, but with a heavy mist hovering over them and dewy shrubs decorating the grounds they appear infinitely more atmospheric. Chengdu sports a number of other tourist attractions, but they are generally of more interest to Chinese tourists than foreigners.
For most foreign tourists Chengdu is synonymous with the panda. Sichuan Province is home to the majority of the world’s giant pandas and the Giant Panda Breeding Research Base is definitely the major attraction in Chengdu. It’s a first-rate zoo and Chengdu’s fogs provide the same atmospheric benefits here as they do at the temples.
With the development of a number of high-tech industries in the city, Chengdu has become quite a prosperous place. This has also drawn a sizeable expat community to the city. As a result, Chengdu is endowed with some very nice restaurants and a friendly and quite lively western-style nightlife scene.
While Chengdu doesn’t boast the longest list of tourist attractions or the most quaint buildings, it does have enough great attractions to justify a visit. In the process of modernization Chengdu has retained many vestiges of the past. Along with its relaxed vibe and convenient amenities, Chengdu should be given consideration in any tourist itinerary.
Who should travel to Chengdu?
Chengdu is most commonly visited by tourists who want to see the pandas, or by travelers en route to Tibet. Chengdu is one of the best places to arrange the Tibet Travel Permit and many tourists will only stay in the city for as long as it takes to obtain. However, the city deserves more attention than that and should be considered for inclusion on any itinerary that goes beyond the big three cities (Beijing, Shanghai and Xian). Guangzhou and Guilin might feature on many itineraries before Chengdu, but it should be considered nonetheless.
How long is needed to see Chengdu?
You could cover the major attractions in two full days so allow a minimum of three days to give yourself time to soak up the atmosphere of the city.