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Have you heard of Chongqing? Chances are that you haven’t, and that will come as a surprise once you start to learn more about this vibrant, sprawling city. Chongqing is one of the most important cities in China’s west and has a history stretching back over 3,000 years.
The city is also known for is its unique landscape. Chongqing is located on the intersection of the Yangtze and Jialing rivers and is surrounded by the Daba, Wushan, and Wuling Mountains. This gives it a hilly landscape that has to be seen to be believed.
All the streets may look straight on the map, but in real life they’re just as likely to suddenly soar high into the air!
As you might expect from a massive city, Chongqing sometimes has a problem with air pollution. You can check pollution levels for Chongqing here.
In a city known for its restaurants, it can be difficult to choose just one place to eat. But there’s an easy way to solve this problem. Just eat in as many local restaurants as possible!
This is where the locals eat and it offers incredibly spicy dishes, so be prepared. You can get hot pot, which is served on one side of the restaurant, or other Sichuan food, in which case you’ll sit in the other side of the restaurant.
The food is affordable and if you get hot pot then you’ll be able to choose your ingredients.
Address: Sanxia Square Pedestrian Street, Shapingba, Chongqing
This is another hot pot place and one that the locals recommend. The food is high quality, and you can either brave the super spicy broth or try a plainer broth that won’t set your mouth on fire.
Address: Xiao Tian E, 78 Jianxin N Rd, Jiangbei, Chongqing
If you need a break from the spicy local food, then why not try spices of a different kind? Popular among expats, this restaurant serves tasty Thai specialities, and the menu has pictures, which means you shouldn’t have any trouble ordering.
Address: 68 Zou Rong Lu, Jie Fang Bei Shang Quan, Yuzhong Qu, Chongqing
This restaurant is located in a former bomb shelter and it’s always packed. That tells you that the food is really good. This restaurant isn’t all about hot pot either, in fact its signature dishes are spareribs and fish.
Address: 220 Changjiang Binjiang Lu 长江滨江路220号
If you’re sensitive to spicy foods, then start out slow with the food at this popular restaurant. It’s Chongqing cuisine light basically, and you can order from a set menu or try several small dishes.
Address: Riyueguang Zhongxin Guangchang, 4th Floor, 89 Minquan Lu 民权路89号日月光中心广场4层
In a city known for its food, you’ll find lots of food streets offering stalls selling regional delicacies and deliciously hot snacks. And a long day of sightseeing, there’s nothing better than munching on some delicious Chinese street food!
Here’s where to look for street food in Chongqing.
Located in the Nan’an District, this food street is on the Yangtze River and offers beautiful views. It also has the hottest collection of tea houses, bars and restaurants in town.
This famous food street has everything from spicy Sichuan to western dishes. So, if you’re looking for something that won’t sear off your taste buds, head over to Jiulongpo District for a meal.
If you like some atmosphere with your food, then spend some time in Ciqikou Ancient town. This part of the city is thousands of years old and is located on the Jialing River.
You’ll be able to wander along ancient stone streets while you eat fried peanuts, boiled blood curd, and other strange sounding snacks like these ones.
Location is most important when it comes to finding a hotel in Chongqing.
The city is so huge that you don’t want to be away from the attractions you most want to see, so choose your Chongqing accommodation close to the middle of the city unless you’re willing to spend a lot of time on public transport.
The Fangorn International Hostel is ideal if you’re traveling to Chongqing on a budget. It’s close to the city center and to transport options and has its own restaurant and bar. Rooms come in a variety of sizes and there’s also shared spaces where you can swap stories with fellow travelers.
The Chongqing CCHome Hotel offers metro access and is close to the city center. Some of the rooms have amazing city views and there’s also a garden at the hotel for a touch of greenery.
If you want to exercise during your visit, then spend time in the hotel pool or fitness center. The hotel also offers an airport shuttle for your convenience.
You can’t get any more central than this luxury hotel. The Westin Chongqing Liberation Square is two minutes’ walk from the famous monument and five minutes from the local train station. It has two restaurants as well as elegant, spacious rooms with private bathrooms and satellite TV.
As a big, modern city, you shouldn’t have any trouble getting into or around Chongqing. Just remember to always have your destination written down in Chinese characters, because the level of English can vary widely throughout the city.
It’s a good idea to have your translation and map apps handy. Check out the best apps for traveling to China.
Chongqing connects eastern and western China, which is why it’s one of the most important transport hubs in the country. This is why all the different forms of transport in the city are well developed, fast and modern.
Chongqing has numerous airports, but you’ll probably arrive at Jiangbei International Airport, which is the busiest. You can get flights from this airport to all major and provincial cities in China and international cities too.
The airport is around 20 km (13 mi) from the downtown area, and you can reach it by airport shuttle bus or using subway line 3.
The other airports are:
Chongqing’s train system is modern and extensive, with more than 100 trains each day traveling to cities all over China. There are two main railway stations, though a third is meant to open in 2022.
Trains are the best way to travel from Chongqing to other parts of China as they’re fast and relatively inexpensive.
Long distance bus travel is very important in Chongqing. It’s also much cheaper than the train, so if you want to explore other cities, then take the bus.
There are stations through the city’s districts and the buses travel to a huge variety of cities in China.
Chongqing’s subway is fast, almost always on time, and easy to use. Just make sure that you avoid it in peak times, as it can get incredibly crowded.
You can get almost anywhere in the city using the subway and the tickets are fairly inexpensive.
Taxis are plentiful in Chongqing but have your destination name written down in Chinese characters as the drivers often don’t speak English. The taxis are metered as well, so you shouldn’t have to bargain to get a good price.
You could also book a car on the Didi app. But if the driver can’t find you and calls you, they will speak in Chinese.
There are lots of city buses in Chongqing and they go everywhere. They sure beat walking up the steep inclines that the city is known for.
Make sure you have plenty of change when you get on the bus, as the drivers won’t give you any, or use a local transportation card.
Chongqing is huge, but that doesn’t mean you should spend all of your time in the city. If you’re ready to get out of it and see more, then here’s where to go.
Huge cities like Chongqing can get a little overwhelming at times, so make sure you relax in Wulong Mountain. This forested area is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and is filled with waterfalls, bridges and caves.
Located just two and a half hours from the city, you may recognize parts of the landscape from popular movies like Transformers.
The Dazu Rock Carvings are located just under three hours from the city. Mostly created in the Tang Dynasty (618 – 907) and the Song Dynasty (960 – 1279), they’re intricate Buddhist carvings and statues that are strikingly beautiful and unique.
There are several popular areas and carvings to see, but the Beishan Rock Carving and Baodingshan Rock Carving are the most popular.
This is less of a destination and more of an experience. The cruise from Chongqing to Yichang takes between three and four days and takes you past stunning scenery.
On the cruise, you’ll get the chance to see the Wushan Mountains, The Three Gorges, and Shibaozhai, also known as the Precious Stone Fortress. If you have the time, this is a lovely experience and one that you won’t soon forget!
You can buy tickets from the ticket booths down by the river, or arrange it through a travel agent.
Prices and quality vary, so make sure you know what you’re getting for your money. Also check if food is included.
Located just over two hours from Chongqing, Fengdu Ghost City is a large complex of shrines and temples on the Ming Mountain.
This ancient city has been around for 2,000 years and it explores the Chinese ghost culture and the afterlife.
In this city, you’ll find statues and depictions of ghosts and devils as well as artistic renditions of what happens to evil people once they reach the other side.
Basically, the whole city is a big warning about the price of doing bad things and it’s both oddly beautiful and a little bit creepy.
Here’s a great taster video of this mega city.
And here’s a street food tour video including Chongqing’s famous spicy hot pot and fried noodles.
Chongqing is known for its amazing, incredibly spicy food.
Even the locals have learned to be wary of the level of spice in some Sichuan dishes, so it often takes foreigners by complete surprise!
Build up your spice tolerance if you want to try some of the local dishes or choose very carefully to keep your taste buds intact.
Here’s a few dishes you must try in Chongqing:
If you don’t want any chili in your food, just say “bu yao la”. Chances are though, the chef will still throw some in.
There are lots of fun things to do in Chongqing. And if you’re brave, lots of amazing things to eat as well!
This has to be the first item on any list of what to do in Chongqing. This city’s hot pot is absolutely famous in China, so make sure you give it a try.
It’s best to eat hot pot with other people as it’s a community kind of experience. Just make sure that you specify what kind of meat is in it and be cautious if you’re sensitive to spices.
Chongqing is unapologetically modern and yet this tucked away area reflects its past perfectly. Located in the Shapingba District, it was built in the Ming and Qing dynasties and has a long history of creating porcelain objects.
While you’re in Chongqing, make sure that you take the time to wander the ancient streets of Ciqikou. And have a bowl of Chongqing noodles while you’re in the area too.
This monument was built in 1945 and remembers China’s success during WWII. It’s an iconic landmark in the city and a must-see if you’re a history buff.
Admission to the monument is free and it’s located in the Jiefangbei Commercial District, so it’s easy to find and surrounded by other attractions.
The Jiefangbei area is the center of the city and a landmark in itself. It offers amazing shopping, restaurants, people-watching and attractions of all kinds.
If you’re interested in the latest fashion and tasty food, this is where you should spend some time.
This isn’t really a cave. It’s a building complex that’s built on the cliffside facing the Jialing River. The original stilt house complex was built more than 2,300 years ago and was originally a military fortress.
Now, it consists of four streets that showcase the Bayu Culture, one of China’s ethnic cultures.
This area is best seen at night, when it’s lit up against the darkness. You can also wander the four surrounding streets:
You can’t visit China without seeing this adorable animal at the Chongqing Zoo. Located five miles from the city center, the zoo is filled with lush greenery and waterfalls and is a good place to cool down and see some animals.
For the ultimate panda experience, you’d best visit Chengdu. It’s 400 km (250 mi) away, which in a country of China’s size, is only a stone’s throw away!
You would need a lot of time to see all of Chongqing, but you can get an overview of the city from the Yangtze River Cableway.
The cable cars have been running since the 1980s and were once an everyday transport option.
Today, they’re mostly for tourists who want great views across the Yangtze River and the city.
Chongqing isn’t all high rises and metal. There’s also Huangjueping, home to numerous art spaces and one of the longest graffiti streets in the world.
This area is popular among Chongqing’s creative population, so it can be a great place to see a whole other side to this busy, modern city.
It’s easy to forget a thing or two before you head to China.
So, here are a few reminders for you:
Have a wonderful time in Chongqing. And remember to get your VPN so you can stay connected!
Page last updated 19 August 2021. Main image credit: Sharon Ang from Pixabay. Commercial relationship disclosure: The Helpful Panda has commercial arrangements with organizations that may appear on this page, such as affiliate links. See our terms for more info.
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