It’s Friday afternoon and you only have one weekend to explore Chengdu. What do you do? Don’t panic, that’s what we’re here for. Though Chengdu has much to offer and one weekend isn’t nearly enough time to fully explore the city, you can definitely mark off the “must see” attractions in a few days. Listed below is a good itinerary for those who only have one weekend in Chengdu.
Day 1 - Friday
Check into your hotel or hostel then pass the rest of the afternoon at Wuhou Temple. Entry into the temple is 60 RMB and there’s a spiritual bonsai garden, Zen inspired park and ancient historic monuments honoring figures from the Three Kingdoms period that are all worth checking out. Afterwards, go next door to Jinli Street (锦里古街) and take a look at some traditional Chengdu goods and products. They have everything from snacks to Chinese clothing and artwork. There’re even a few bars serving tea and beer if you fancy some people watching.
With night approaching you’ll probably be getting hungry, and what better way to curb the stomach growls than indulging in some traditional Tibetan food. Wuhou Temple is also right next to the Tibetan Quarter so there are tons of traditional Tibetan dining options. Go to Kampa Tibetan Restaurant located at 246 Wuhou Ci Dajie (武候词大街246号，康巴藏餐) and be sure to try the yak butter tea, yak dumplings and, you guessed it, yak curry! They also serve other traditional Tibetan and regional Chinese dishes in case you’re yaked out.
It’s now Friday night, and Friday night in Chengdu is party time. Head to Shamrock at 15 Renmin Nan Lu Section 4 (人民南路4段15号), which is Chengdu’s most popular expat bar. They’ve got a pool table, flat screen TVs with sports, Guinness on tap, a live band and large bottles of locally brewed Blue Sword beer for 15 RMB. Shamrock can become as crazy or as relaxed as you make it, but just remember your time in Chengdu is limited so you don’t want to be too hung-over the following day, especially when you’ve got a lot to do on Saturday.
Day 2 - Saturday
It’s essential to see the pandas while in the Panda City. Not only is it Chengdu’s most popular tourist destination, it’s one of the most renowned attractions for any outsider or native to see in all of China. The panda is a national symbol, and due to their close call with extinction, the government has taken measures to repopulate the panda population by creating the Giant Panda Breeding Research Base. The entrance fee is 60 RMB but for about 100 USD you can actually go inside their habitats to hold them and take pictures. You can also take a look at the red pandas, and there’s even a special area for the adorable baby pandas. Keep in mind that the best time to visit is during the morning because that’s when the creatures are most active; they tend to sleep after lunchtime.
After spending a few hours with the pandas, head back to the city center to Wenshu Monastery, the largest and best preserved Buddhist monastery in all of Chengdu which was established during the Tang Dynasty more than one thousand years ago. Apart from strolling around the temple grounds, lighting incense and finding your “inner peace,” you can take a walk around the neighborhood which still resembles a classical Chinese village for great restaurants, tea houses and shopping.
By the evening, you’ll probably be ready for a drink. Good thing Chengdu isn’t short on bars and clubs. The best and largest bar street in the city is Jiuyan Qiao Bridge Bar Street (九眼桥酒吧街). Jiuyan Qiao Bar Street is situated on the banks of the Jinjiang River and has 30 bars to choose from, each possessing a different theme, music genre and crowd. Some bump hip hop, others have karaoke, a few have live bands and others blast rock n’ roll. Most bars on the strip have a 12 beer special for about 180 RMB which is a pretty good deal if you’re really thirsty or with a group.
Once you’re done with the pre-game, cross the elaborately decorated bridge and head to Lan Kwai Fong (兰桂坊成都). This is Chengdu’s number one clubbing area and it’s about 18 times bigger than Hong Kong’s Lan Kwai Fong. LKF is a bit upscale and packed to the brim with bars, high-end restaurants, luxury stores, clubs and beautiful people looking to party hard and dance the night away. CC’s is a good option especially since they give free bottles of vodka or whisky to foreigners. The Emperor Club located downstairs is another good choice since they spin the best music.
Top the night off the Chengdu way and grab some BBQ off the street to absorb all those green tea whisky shots. Chengdu is famous for spicy treats and perhaps the best time to eat such a snack is late night right off the street vendor’s grill. Shaokao is found everywhere after 22:00, so all you have to do is walk out on the road and you’re bound to see several stalls.
Day 3 – Sunday
After such a busy Saturday, relax and sleep in. At noon head to People’s Park just a few blocks west of Tianfu Square (天府广场), which is also worth checking out if you have some time to spare. People’s Park is tranquil and spacious with various nature paths and a lake, so take an hour or so to walk around. Next head to Heming Tea House (鹤鸣茶馆) in the center of People’s Park to sip China’s favorite beverage and hang out with the locals. While drinking your tea you can also get your ears picked, get a back massage and watch quirky performances from street entertainers.
Finish the day with a spicy, glutinous hot pot, easily Chengdu’s most famous culinary art. A hot pot is basically a bowl of flaming soup on your table along with various raw veggies and meats. Take one of the raw foods, dip it in the boiling liquid to cook it, dunk it in your personalized sauce and enjoy the incredible taste. Remember that hot pot is traditionally served spicy so ask for “ma la de” 麻辣的 if you’re interested in a mouth numbing experience! If spicy isn’t your thing, be sure to specify non-spicy by saying “bu la de” 不辣的. The best hot pot establishment in my opinion is Lao Ma Tou, located at 27 Yulin Zhong Lu (玉林中路27号，老码头) since they have reasonable prices, a classic ambience and a huge selection of good quality meats to choose from.
By this time, especially if you ate your hot pot nice and slow with a good conversation over several beers, it should be late and, unfortunately, the end of your Chengdu weekend. You depart early Monday morning, so go back to your hotel or hostel with your mouth still on fire and mind filled of great memories from one of China’s most vibrant cities.
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It is the best article meant for foreigner's visiting Chengdu for the first time. I have not found such a good article in TA, Lonely Planet or elsewhere. I would love to correspond with the writer as we are visiting Chengdu for 3 days from 6 May fo 3 nights and would appreciate tips on hotel, restaurants, live music, events, etc. Thanks
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