The slow, relaxed mentality of Chengdu makes it a popular spot for tourists who are tired of dealing with the fast-paced lifestyle of China's first tier cities. And, while certain tourist attractions in Chengdu are worth visiting, some of the best things to experience in Chengdu are only found by delving into the local culture. Eat hotpot, play mahjong at a teahouse or drink with the locals at a bar. Whether you are a visitor or a resident, these great activities in Chengdu should not be missed. Have a look at the five things you must do in Chengdu.
1) Eat authentic hotpot
This should be at the top of the list for any tourist and is a mandatory duty for any foreign resident living here. Sichuan hotpot, fiery and numbingly spicy, is of utmost importance to Chengdu locals. For those who don't already know, Sichuan hotpot essentially consists of a large, boiling pot of water, hot peppers, and other spices and flavourings in which you cook various vegetables and meat. Eating hotpot represents more than just a good dinner; it is a social activity and key piece of the local culture. So pick out one of the best places to eat hotpot at in Chengdu, and go! Order your dishes, throw your food in the pot and wait for the meat and veggies to cook. Dig in and enjoy! Try something crazy like pig brain to liven up the experience.
Jinli Street. Photo: shangdu
2) Walk around Jinli Street and the Tibetan Quarter
These two activities can be done in the same day since they are right next to each other. This is probably one of the best places to take visiting family to as well. For expats in Chengdu, Jinli Street and the Tibetan Quarter are the perfect places to buy friends and family some cool gifts. There are lots of folk-style artifacts and paintings for sale (the Sichuan opera masks are particularly eye-catching). The snacks here are out-of-this-world tasty! Jinli is full of teahouses and bars as well. Wuhou Temple also sits inside Jinli Street and offers Chinese history fans a chance to learn more about the great strategist Zhuge Liang. The Tibetan Quarter, as the name suggests, is home to many Tibetan people and has a large range of Tibetan art shops, antique stores and eateries. Other than Tibet itself, Chengdu is China's best major city that offers an authentic window into Tibetan culture. If you are visiting Chengdu, put this on your itinerary; if you live here, make sure to visit once or twice.
Jinli Street（锦里古街） View In Map
Add: Wuhouci Dong Lin, Wuhouci Dajie, Wuhou District, Chengdu
3) Play mahjong with the locals
You can see mahjong being played in Chengdu everywhere. Walk into any teahouse or peak into any store and you will likely see mahjong tables out, people smoking and drinking tea and wads of cash on the table. Stay to watch and the game will move so fast, you'll have no idea what is going on. After years of living in Chengdu, I have yet to see a foreigner playing Mahjong at a table with locals, because, sadly, the fact is that most of foreigners just do not know how to play. This is a chance to change that. If you are a visiting tourist, go to a teahouse and take the time to watch this game being played. If you have been living here for quite some time, try learning how to play mahjong yourself. But be cautious; you will most likely lose money the first couple times you play!
4) Visit the Chengdu Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding
I know this may sound a bit on the touristy side, but the truth is that Chengdu's Panda Research Base is the largest of its kind in the entire world. You can watch baby pandas rolling about on their tummies and backs. You can see large adult pandas wrestling around and chomping on bamboo. The bamboo eating truly never stops. And the best part is that you can actually get quite close to these animals. Spectators can get within three meters of the cuddly bears. That's right. But be careful – they may be adorable, but if you stick your hand over the rail or attempt to get closer than is permitted, you'll discover that Pandas are still very much bears and would enjoy the chance to bite off your hand or maul your face!
5) Hit up the local bars and clubs
Bars and clubs spread across the city of Chengdu. The smell of alcohol and cigarette smoke permeate through these streets at night. The city's beauty and charisma really come alive in the evening. There is a reason Chengdu has been dubbed one of China's best party cities. You only need to go out once to discover why. So whether you live here or are just on vacation, you should take a night or two to unload and throw back some drinks. Go bar hopping in Chengdu's best bar areas or stumble about Chengdu's clubs. It will be the greatest night you ever forgot.
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Keywords: Five things you must do in Chengdu Chengdu Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding Chengdu mahjong Chengdu Jinli Street Tibetan Quarter best Chengdu hotpot
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