By Elaine Pang ,

Rampant inflation has been sweeping across China's megacities and Chongqing has certainly not been spared. However, clichéd as it may sound, the best things in Chongqing are indeed free. In a mountain city at the confluence of the Jialing and Yangtze rivers, mountain treks and romantic riverside strolls top Chongqing's free list. Parks on the free list range from quaint neighborhood parks to sprawling affairs undertaken as part of the Eco-Chongqing movement spearheaded by disgraced ex-mayor, Bo Xilai. Ironically, newer free parks are better maintained compared to those with entrance fees. An oasis of calm and a great place to experience the local culture, head for the nearest park when life in the crowded metropolis of Chongqing is no longer a walk in the park.

Chongqing:  A Walk in the (Free) Park
Chongqing's Liangjiang Xingfu Guangchang. Photo:

1) Liangjiang Xingfu Guangchang  View In Map
Newly-built Liangjiang Xingfu Guangchang's claim to fame is the largest musical fountain in West China whose displays reach a height of 60 meters. With Zhaomu Shan as a backdrop, this sprawling park is flanked by skyscrapers on three sides. On fine days, wedding couples can be seen posing around the lake amidst beautifully manicured landscaping. Should you forget your picnic basket, dining options ranging from posh restaurants to laid-back Dicos are in the pipeline. A final amazing feat this park pulls off is an underground car park, with a staggering capacity of 1,225 cars, completely hidden from view. A wonderful testament to Chongqing's urban planning.

Add: Xingguang Dadao Zhongduan, Beibu Xingqu, Chongqing
地址: 重庆市北部新区星光大道中段, 两江幸福广场
Opening hours: 24 hours

2) Eling ParkView In Map
Nanshan may be famed as Chongqing's Victoria Peak, but Eling Park on the Yuzhong Peninsula is far more accessible. Slopes steeply contoured like the nape of a goose inspired a visiting Qing dynasty calligrapher to name it such. At pavilions near the peak, savor the breathtaking panorama of the majestic Yangtze amidst the urban landscape and, as the sky darkens, await the pretty lights that dot the city like stars. Wander through winding corridors, over pathways and bridges built over lotus ponds, reminiscent of elegant Suzhou gardens. Originally home to a rich Qing businessman, as well as Chiang Kai-shek during World War II, Eling Park is now open to all for free.

Add: 176 Eling Zhenjie, Yuzhong District, Chongqing
地址: 重庆市渝中区峨岭正街176号, 峨岭公园
Opening hours: 24 hours

3) Nan'an Binjiang Park View In Map
Flanking the Yangtze, Binjiang Park is the place for a romantic riverside stroll following dinner at a swanky Nanbin Lu restaurant. A memorable 3,333 meters long, it is also perfect for working off those after-dinner calories. Various pavilions and a statue of Qu Yuan (of the Dragon Boat Festival) line the way. During the Spring Festival, it is a favorite destination for setting off fireworks and viewing elaborate lantern displays. Recently, to cement its romantic reputation, a vivid “I love you” zebra crossing has been added to remind star-struck lovers to look both ways before stepping onto the road.

Add: Nanbin Lu, Nan'an District, Chongqing
地址: 重庆市南岸区南滨路, 南岸滨江公园
Opening hours: 24 hours

4) Sha-ping Park View In Map
Tired of the concrete jungle? Head for Sha-ping Park near the Three Gorges Square – an older park harking back to the days when Chongqing readily embraced Western culture. Wander around the lake with a replica of the Statue of Liberty and stumble upon miniatures of famous buildings, such as the Parthenon and Mount Rushmore. In Bo Xilai's heyday, organized red-singing (singing of Mao songs) took place here every morning, remnants of which may be seen as old folks gather spontaneously for singing. Sha-ping Park is a place to experience the heartland, especially for those staying in the Shapingba area.

Add: 52 Tianchen Lu, Shapingba District, Chongqing
地址: 重庆市沙坪坝区天陈路52号, 沙坪公园
Opening hours: 24 hours

5) Longtousi Park View In Map
Another new addition during Bo Xilai's reign, Longtousi Park is a beautifully manicured new park about a kilometer from the Longtousi Train Station. Parks in mountainous Chongqing typically feature lakes and hill slopes, and this one is a classic example with colorful flowers and young trees. The main feature of this park is a long stone-carved wall, complete with statues of China history greats, chronicling China's past and present. Popular with nearby residents, this park is another good place to experience the local culture of red-song choirs and street-dancing groups. Not suitable for those looking for peace and quiet, however, as radio-toting locals blaring Chinese evergreen songs are a common sight (and sound).

Add: Wuhuang Lu, Longta Jiedao, Yubei District, Chongqing
地址: 重庆市渝北区龙塔街道五黄路, 龙头寺公园
Opening hours: 24 hours

6) Yueliangwan Park, Dongbu Park View In Map
China has always prided itself in doing things in a big way, but small can be beautiful too, as in the case of Yueliangwan Park and Dongbu Park. The first, suitably named after a crescent moon – a sliver of a neighborhood park and a hidden gem for Yubei residents. Perfect for those who love having the whole place to themselves, with the occasional gardener as company. Past the bridge over the small lake is a path with benches amidst the greenery, suitable for enjoying a novel or a sandwich. Across the road is better-known Dongbu Park, an active destination with exercise facilities like jogging tracks, tennis courts and outdoor exercise equipment. Entrance to this park is 2 RMB but admission appears to be free from a side entrance in the evenings.

Add: Xingguang Dadao, Yubei District, Chongqing
地址: 重庆市渝北区星光大道, 月亮湾公园、动步公园
Opening hours: 24 hours

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Keywords: Chongqing summer activities parks nature free entrance

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