The capital of China's Sichuan province, Chengdu is an exciting city. It has a population of over 10 million people, yet the wider city retains a small-town feel where life moves at a slightly more leisurely pace than in other Chinese cities. Named UNESCO's first City of Gastronomy, Chengdu's iconic, spicy Sichuan cuisine is just as good from hole-in-the-wall eateries as from its restaurants. The gateway to China's southwest, this engaging city welcomes travellers and is surrounded by bamboo forests and soaring mountains.
Hostels in Chengdu tend to be quite stylish with plenty of added extras, while others have quirky panda-themed décor. You can stay in a vintage Sichuanese house, a contemporary Chengdu hostel with an on-site craft beer bar or sleek accommodation with cosy capsule-style dorms. Many hostels offer a free airport transfer and a few have complimentary shuttle buses to get you around the city's attractions. You can make friends in communal areas kitted out with pool tables and board games. Or learn something new with regular free events like Chinese calligraphy workshops and hotpot cooking nights.
Downtown Chengdu is where you'll find most of the city's action, including historic Kuanzhai Alley and Jinli Cultural Street (famous for its local snacks). Head to Jinjiang district for the fashion shops of Chunxi Road, and high-end brands in Taikoo Li plaza. The heart of the city is central Tianfu Square, surrounded by skyscrapers and neon lights. In a city with plenty of green spaces, nearby People’s Park is known for its traditional teahouses. Hejiang Pavilion has lively nightlife along Jiuyanqiao Bar Street, while there are upscale clubs at Lan Kwai Fong.
There's lots to do in Chengdu. You can catch a Sichuan opera performance at teahouses and theatres like Shufengyayun Operatic Circle for opulent costumes and logic-defying dances. Surround yourself with the scent of incense and the sound of prayer at the Buddhist Wénshū Monastery. To explore the region's rich past, visit the award-winning exhibition of ancient state Shu's treasures at Sanxingdui Museum, or take a day trip to the 71m high, 1000-year-old Leshan Giant Buddha.
From Chengdu Shuangliu International Airport, you can take the metro (line number 10) or local buses to the city centre. Its three main train stations (Chengdu North, East and South) are well-connected to cities all over China, and Chengdu is also a hub for buses in the region. Within the city centre, it's easy to get around using buses or the metro.