9 reasons to visit Chengdu when China reopens

(CNN) – While China still hasn’t announced any solid plans to reopen its border to international leisure travelers, there’s no harm in starting to dream about your next visit now.

There are hundreds of worthy destinations in the country to suit all tastes. Chengdu, the capital of the southwestern Sichuan province and the ideal starting point for those looking for a mix of stunning natural landscapes and wild animals – it is the pandas capital of the world, of course – no doubt appears. at the top of this list. and some of the most amazing foods on the planet.

In recent years, the city has expanded its offering, which includes a number of new projects that tourists will want to experience, including a flashy new international airport and several architectural wonders.

Whether you’re traveling on business or just dreaming of a post-pandemic trip, here are nine reasons why Chengdu should be on your itinerary when China reopens to the world.

It is the happiest city in China

Chengdu has been voted China’s happiest city for 12 consecutive years.

Li Mengxin / Xinhua / Getty Images

If visiting a place with happy locals is a priority for you, there is no better city than Chengdu.

Chengdu has been voted China’s happiest city for 12 consecutive years by an annual survey conducted by Oriental Outlook, a Shanghai-based magazine affiliated with the state-run Xinhua News Agency.
The survey results combine big data, questionnaires, site visits and expert opinions and take into account everything from income and medical services to living standards in the city.

Chengdu pandas have a cool new home

The new panda pavilion at the Chengdu Giant Panda Breeding Research Base will open early next year.

The new panda pavilion at the Chengdu Giant Panda Breeding Research Base will open early next year.

Courtesy of Atelier Ping Jiang / EID Arch

The home of Chengdu’s cutest residents and biggest attraction – the pandas – is getting a major upgrade.

“We are extremely impressed with the natural environment of the site, surrounded by rolling hills and covered with dense, verdant woods,” said Ping Jiang, the mastermind behind the Panda pavilions and design director of Atelier Ping Jiang / EID Arch, during an interview. with CNN Travel regarding his visit to the site.

The cedar-covered and light-flooded spaces are “inspired by the natural landscape of the Chengdu grasslands” and “an animal-friendly environment”.

Panda Pavilions house the bear’s indoor and outdoor activity spaces and living quarters, as well as staff administrative offices and support facilities.

“In addition, the pavilions provide interactive exhibition and education spaces for panda research and preservation,” Jiang said.

There is one of the most beautiful bookstores in China

The stunning new Zhongsuge bookstore in Chengu.

The stunning new Zhongsuge bookstore in Chengu.

Shao feng

Shanghai-based Architecture Studio X + Living is known for building some of China’s finest bookstores and their latest opening in Chengdu is no exception.

The new location in Dujiangyan, in the northwestern part of Chengdu, is the second Zhongshuge bookstore in the provincial capital. The first, which opened in 2017 in central Chengdu, is inspired by terraced fields.

Inspired by the old Dujiangyan irrigation system – the oldest of its kind in the world – the whimsical new bookstore features sinuous walnut shelves from floor to ceiling and high and low arches.

The mirrored ceiling makes the hallways look like a kaleidoscope.

“Dujiangyan is a city of flowing landscapes. The magnificent dam project and the magnificent mountains and waters have become the cultural landscape that I want to express in Zhongshuge,” X + Living founder and chief designer Li told CNN Travel. Xiang.

“I hope that the beautiful environment of the bookstore can attract more people who do not like books and awaken their interest and memory for reading.”

There is a spectacular new mega airport

Opened earlier in 2021, Tianfu International Airport is one of the largest new airports in China.

Opened earlier in 2021, Tianfu International Airport is one of the largest new airports in China.

VCG / Getty Images

Launched in 2021, Tianfu International Airport is the largest civilian airport to open under the country’s 13th Five-Year Plan (2016-2020).

With a total of six runways (only three were completed as part of its first phase), the mega airport is expected to handle up to 60 million passengers per year by 2025.

Travelers can experience an array of cutting-edge technologies in Tianfu, including facial recognition software, self-check-in kiosks, and AI robot concierges.

The shopping and dining options are also amazing.

It is a food capital of the world

Freshwater noodles, a specialty of Chengdu.

Freshwater noodles, a specialty of Chengdu.

Adobe Stock

The first city to be certified as a City of Gastronomy by UNESCO in 2010, Chengdu’s gastronomic prowess is undeniable.

Many flock to the capital of Sichuan for the spicy hotpot that numbs the tongue, but the now famous mapo tofu also comes from here. The addicting dish of minced meat and diced tofu in spicy chili and fermented bean oil is said to have been invented in Chengdu over a century ago.

Meanwhile, Zhong dumplings (meatballs in special chili oil and sweet soy sauce) and freshwater noodles with chili peppers and peanut crumbs are two other local dishes that visitors should try. .

You don’t like spices?

Two other must-haves include the smoked duck with a soft, crispy skin and flavorful meat, and the tofa – a silky, sweet tofu pudding with various toppings.

The art scene takes off

The Chengdu Biennale runs until April 6, 2022.

The Chengdu Biennale runs until April 6, 2022.

Chengdu Biennale

Since the founding of the Blue Roof Artistic Center in 2003, a disbanded artist district, the city has grown into the art and culture capital of the southwest region of China.

Some of the most internationally renowned contemporary Chinese artists, such as Zhou Chunya and Zhang Xiaogang, now have studios in Chengdu.

This year, Chengdu’s art scene will receive another major boost.

The 400,000-square-meter Tianfu Art Park, an art-themed urban park in central Chengdu, will open with two new museums: the Chengdu Tianfu Art Museum and the Chengdu Tianfu Museum. contemporary art from Chengdu.

Both managed by the Chengdu Art Academy, the Tianfu Art Museum will focus on local arts while the Chengdu Museum of Contemporary Art will emphasize avant-garde international work and promote the global development of Chengdu’s art scene.

The kick-off for these events is the Chengdu Biennale (from now until April 6, 2022), which takes place within the park and inside the two museums.

The city comes alive after dark

Chengdu's vibrant nightlife is one of its biggest attractions.

Chengdu’s vibrant nightlife is one of its biggest attractions.

Kiszon Pascal / Moment RF / Getty Images

But the city’s nightlife isn’t just about its famous pub crawls, concert halls and night clubs.

Chengdu residents also enjoy a leisurely evening at a local alleyway teahouse, sipping hot drinks and playing cards while watching Sichuan operas.

It’s a window on ancient China

Pretty Jinli Street is a 550-meter pedestrian street.

Pretty Jinli Street is a 550-meter pedestrian street.

Getty Images

Chengdu may only have been on the international radar for about a decade or two, but it has been a thriving city for over 2,000 years. Fun fact: It claims to be the only city in China that hasn’t changed its name for about 2,300 years.

To travel back in time to ancient China, visitors should head to Sino Ocean Taikoo Li. Right in the heart of the city, it’s a multi-purpose shopping and retail complex centered around the 1-year-old Daci Temple. 400 years.

Most of the gray bricks and tiled roofs of the historic buildings have been restored while the contemporary low-rise architecture naturally blends into the surroundings.

And then there’s Bitieshi, a beautifully restored Qing Dynasty (1644-1912) house with courtyard located inside the Temple House, a boutique hotel that pays homage to the region’s rich history.

For some classic flavors, the recently opened Jinli Ancient Street is a 550-meter pedestrian street filled with shops selling snacks.

With a history stretching back 2,000 years, it was modeled on the architecture of the Qing Dynasty.

It is also a city turned towards the future

Unicorn Island designed by Zaha Hadid.

Unicorn Island designed by Zaha Hadid.

VCG / Getty Images

There are plans to make Chengdu a “Western China Science City,” a leading demonstration area for innovation and entrepreneurship in China, according to a government statement.

Travelers visiting the “City of Science” can expect to see many examples of eco-conscious and avant-garde architecture created by some of the world’s most renowned companies.

Among these is the world’s first “unicorn island”, a complex designed by Zaha Hadid and dedicated to incubating the country’s next high-tech unicorns, private start-ups valued at over one billion dollars. dollars.

There will also be a low carbon Future Science and Technology City, created by the Office for Metropolitan Architecture and Gerkan, Marg & Partners (GMP). Included in the major Science City plan, the high-tech city will have an aviation academy, educational complexes, laboratories and a business center for innovative companies.
After marveling at the modern architecture, take a ride on Chengdu’s fully automated Subway Line 9 and see the stations created by J&A and Sepanta Design, or take the futuristic glass-bottomed panda sky train.

Zhongtang Air Railway, the latter, debuted in June. The train, painted to look like a panda, has a transparent bottom and offers 270 degree visibility (the top is not transparent).

It is the world’s first overhead rail test line for energy tourism (translation: a suspended overhead train using lithium battery power packs for pulling power) and measures approximately 11.5 kilometers (about 7 miles).

Top image credit: Philippe Lejeanvre / Moment RF / Getty Images

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