Two Day Chengdu Itinerary
Spending two days in Chengdu was a breath of fresh air (literally) after being in the capital - Beijing, for a week. Chengdu may not have as many big attractions to offer as Beijing, but if you want a feel for what China is really like, I’d defiantly recommend spending a couple of days here.
Day 1: Tianfu Square & Jinli Old Street Markets
I recommend spending your first day in Chengdu based in the main square - Tianfu Square. Get the metro to ‘Tianfu Square’ station on line one and begin your day at the Chengdu museum. Entrance is free but you’ll need your passport to get a ticket from the booth, just outside the gates. Spend the morning learning about the rich history of the Sichuan region in this huge six floor museum.
For lunch, head back to the square to find market stalls, all selling traditional Sichuan dishes.
After lunch, head towards the huge ‘Chairman Mao’ statue at the end of the square to find the Sichuan Science and Technology museum. Spend the remainder of the day learning why the Chinese people are leading the world when it comes to the Space race and the technology revolution. Inside, there are lots of interaction exhibits when you can even take a ride in the zero gravity simulator. Again, entrance is free but you’ll need your passport to gain a ticket.
In the evening, metro line to Jinli Old street markets. These are one of my personal favourite Chinese style markets in the whole country as they are much more traditional than the ones you'll find in cities such as Beijing and Shanghai. Spend a few hours in the evening getting lost down the cobbled back streets and indulge in some traditional (and cheap!) food. The ideal time to visit is just before sunset. This way you'll avoid the huge tourist groups that arrive just after sunset to see the Chinese lanterns lit up at night.
Day 2: Pandas and Wenshu Monastery
Okay, so the real reason anyone visits this city is to see the Giant Pandas. Chengdu is the home of the panda and there no where else i the world where you can see such a huge collection of them. The Pandas are hugely important to the Sichuan people and the whole city is crawling with every piece of panda memorabilia you can imagine. There are a few panda bases located around the outskirts of the city but by far the largest and most popular is the Chengdu Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding. This world-leading facility is credited with the recent incline in panda numbers thanks to their work on research into panda behaviour and breeding patterns.
Getting to the base is very easy due to it being such a huge attraction in the city. I recommend taking the metro to ‘Panda Avenue’ on line 3. Then take either bus 198 or 198A (2RMB) right to the base of the facility. Tickets to the facility are 60RMB for adults and 30RMB for students and over 60’s.
During summer, temperatures in the city get very high and the pandas are often kept inside to keep them cool. If you want to make the most out of your visit and see the pandas outside, rather than behind a glass screen, you have to get there early. The centre opens at 7.30am and the queues are already huge at this time. By around 9am, the pandas will be inside so its well worth the early start to see these amazing animals. The base itself is huge and holds hundreds of both giant and red pandas. There is a shuttle bus that run through the park (10 RMB) but queues get very lots after about 10am.
You’ll probably need around half a day to see the entire park properly and it gets so busy after midday that you’ll more than likely want to get out after this time anyway. To get back just take the 198 or 198A bus to the metro then hop onto the metro to ‘Wenshu Monastery station’. Leave at exit B and the monastery is a quick 300m walk away from there. After the pandas, Wenshu monastery is Chengdu’s most popular tourist attraction. The complex is quite big and will take you about an hour to walk around. Entry is free but donations are welcome.