I’m Ruixi, born and raised in Chengdu and I started Lost Plate in 2014. As a Sichuanese, eating delicious food is in my blood and I want to share the amazing food China can offer visitors who aren’t from the area.
I love discovering local cuisine while traveling. Every time I travel, whether it’s in China or overseas, my favorite thing to do is scour the city for exciting food and restaurants…especially the small family-run restaurants that have been serving the same food for generations. It’s the best way to see the city and get to know locals that you wouldn’t meet otherwise. I still remember the time I went to Guangzhou for 3 days to meet some friends. They know how much I love food and all we did was eat in different areas at 5-8 places every day! It was 30,000 steps per day and I’ve never been that full before.
When you ask a tourist what they know about Chengdu, their answer will be that it’s where pandas are from. When you ask a Chinese what they think about Chengdu, there are always a few things on their mind. I put together five things below to show you why you need to visit Chengdu and how you can fully explore Chengdu like a local!
For a foodie, Chengdu is paradise! It isn’t the biggest or the richest city in China, but with over 15,000 restaurants it is known as having the most restaurants in China. From high-end fine dining to the hidden holes in the walls, there’s always something just a street away. Chengdu people have so much passion for food that it’s completely normal to wait 30-60 minutes to eat at your favorite restaurant. Sometimes you’ll see restaurants offering snacks, beverages, and even playing a movie while you wait. This is exactly how I was inspired to share the amazing food and culture of my hometown with the world. There are so many mouth-watering foods here hidden in the city, and as much as they have been attracting the local crowds for decades, they are so easy to be missed by travelers. If you are drooling for some authentic Chengdu foods already, check out our Chengdu food tours now!
When you say “let’s grab a drink” in Chengdu, it could equally mean a cup of tea or a cocktail in a club. As a famous local saying goes “The mountains are high and the emperor is far away.” This motto has created a distinctly laid back and open way of life compared to the rest of China. People in Chengdu love to eat out, hang around in teahouses, and enjoy hotpot for hours while socializing with their family and friends – not in the same hurried and hectic way you might see in Beijing or Shanghai. Go to a local park any time of day and you’ll find teahouses packed with people sipping tea, playing games, and socializing with friends.
On top of the relaxed vibe, Chengdu is also more inclusive and welcoming of ethnic minority groups and alternative lifestyles. Chengdu has the largest Tibetan community outside of the Tibetan plateau and has a very accepting LGBTQ+ community. Furthermore, local people are open-minded and welcoming about different lifestyles that might be a bit taboo in other more traditional parts of China.
Check out some of these spots to experience it for yourself:
Name: Arè Tibetan Restaurant (阿热藏餐) (average ¥97/ person)
Open Hour: 9:00-22:00
Address: 234 Wuhouci Street
What to order: Beef Covered with Thin Pancakes(牛肉盖被), Baked Bread with Yak (牦牛肉烤饼), Yak Buns (牦牛肉包子), Yak Yoghurt(牦牛酸奶); English menu available.
Show your taxi driver: 阿热藏餐，武侯祠大街234号，近南郊公园
Maps: Google Map (VPN required in China), Chinese Map
Name: HUNK SKY (gay club) (average ¥158/ person)
Open Hour: 19:00-4:00
Address: Floor 4 Future Center, 26 Dongfeng Road.
Show your taxi driver: HUNK SKY酒吧，东风路26号未来中心
Maps: Google Map (VPN required in China). Chinese Map
Name: Selene Bar 月恋花 (lesbian pub) (average ¥44/ person)
Open Hour: 19:00-2:00
Address: 37 Shui Nian He Nan Road.
Show your taxi driver: 月恋花酒吧，水碾河南三街37号U37号仓库
Maps: Google Map (VPN required in China), Chinese Map
Chengdu has several fantastic museums that are not to be missed for history buffs. The Jinsha Site Museum is close to the city center and the Sanxingdui Museum is about one hour drive from the city. Seeing relics from 3000 years ago really shapes one’s understanding of how human civilization has evolved, and provides context for modern-day China.
Chengdu has a modern, big city vibe too. Tai Koo Li is one of the city’s newest developments and a hot spot for people to dine and shop. From luxury products to boutique cafes to micro-breweries, you name it – this mall has it. Don’t miss the international grocery store and upscale movie theater all underground. Next door, the IFS mall has a Singapore-style food court above an ice skating rink and a rooftop sculpture garden.
The city also has two big busy bar streets, Lan Kwai Fong and Jiu Yan Qiao, both of which offer a vibrant nightlife for residents and tourists alike. The comprehensive (yet still growing) metro system with English signage and announcements can get you almost anywhere within city limits.
Name: Tai Koo Li (太古里)
Things to do: See the Daci Temple and explore the outdoor shopping area. Check out Starbucks Reserve, The Abbye Restaurant & Brewery, and trendy Beijing chain Moka Bros.
Address: Taikooli, Jinjiang District.
Show your driver: 师傅您好，请带我去，成都远洋太古里，谢谢。
Maps: Google Map (VPN Required in China), Chinese Map
Most people don’t realize that Chengdu is situated at the foothills of the Himalayas and is a major gateway to the Tibetan Plateau. This means that there are endless opportunities to see some of the most beautiful places in nature not only in China but arguably in the world. The Chengdu International Airport has daily flights to Lhasa in the Tibetan Autonomous Region, as well as Jiu Zhai Gou, a nature reserve and national park in northern Sichuan province.
We have plenty of recommendations depending on how much time you have, keeping in mind that most of the best scenic areas can take 4-8 hours by car/bus from the city.
Songpan with Adventure Access
Whether it’s staying in a Tibetan village, hiking around glacier-capped peaks & crystal clear lakes, or mountain biking down 1000s of meters, the team at Adventure Access has you covered. They’ll even sort out your transportation to/from Chengdu which is a huge benefit. Check them out for the best mountain adventures in China.
Siguniang Mountains (四姑娘山)
The Four Sisters Mountain area includes four peaks over 5000 meters with incredible opportunities for hiking, backpacking, and horseback riding. Some areas are only accessible by shuttle bus, which makes it easy to explore. All hiking, including a peak summit, requires a local guide that can be hired locally. English services are very hard/impossible to come by so come prepared for a true adventure.
How To Go: Public buses leave from Chengdu’s Cadianzi bus station and take 4-6 hours. This blog has a good overview of the area.
Qingcheng Mountain (青城山)
A bit closer to the city, decent hiking is available, and don’t miss a visit to the Dujiangyan Irrigation Project if staying overnight.
How To Go: Take Subway line 2 to the last stop at Xipu Station, then take a train to Qingcheng Mountain Station (trains go frequently, tickets are normally available on spot).
I love our guests! I have hosted so many wonderful people on our tours and they have made it so memorable for me. I still keep in touch with our first-ever Lost Plate Food Tour customer and every time she is in China we will meet for a meal.
I once led a tour for an expat couple who had been living there for two years but had never eaten any street food until they joined my tour. Two months later they came back to the tour with their friends who were visiting them. He told me that until he took our tour, he never felt comfortable going to local restaurants because it was too stressful for him to understand what to do or what to order. After joining, he said he had the confidence to give it a try and he now has a favorite noodle joint in his neighborhood. He actually said our tour changed his life in China, and that comment really made me happy.
Everyone knows that they need to try hotpot when visiting Chengdu, but few people know about the different types of hotpot the city has to offer. Take a look at our list of the best hotpot in Chengdu and the different ways locals enjoy this insanely spicy soup and the best places to find it!
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