How To Spend 24 Hours Eating Your Way Through Chengdu

Chengdu is known as a foodies paradise
Chengdu is known as a foodie's paradise | © LEJEANVRE Philippe / Alamy Stock Photo
Megan Eaves

Chengdu is a city with a long and rich culinary history, but it’s cosmopolitan enough to have a huge selection of restaurants, from little dives to gourmet tables. If you’ve only got a day spare in Chengdu, you can spend it gobbling down every possible treat, from morning to night. Here’s how to eat and drink your way through Chengdu in a day, with a few cultural stops along the way.

Sichuan might just be the provincial queen of Chinese food. Though every region of the country has its own unique and wonderful flavours, Sichuan encompasses one of the eight major styles of cooking in China, one of the four most beloved, and easily the single most exported style of Chinese food. You’ll find Sichuanese restaurants the world over, from New York City to small towns in Turkey and side streets in Kyrgyzstan.

In 2011, Sichuan’s capital – Chengdu – was designated a UNESCO City of Gastronomy, itself hosting a recognised subgenre of Sichuanese cooking. Food is life in Chengdu – locals love to eat and eat well. Spice and heat are used liberally here thanks to the native Sichuan peppercorn, which produces a mouth-numbing sensation known in Chinese as mala.

A city of more than 16 million, Chengdu is stacked with enough food outlets selling Sichuan’s most famous dishes, that a full lifetime wouldn’t be enough to sample them all. If you have a spare day in the Sichuanese capital, there’s only one thing to do: eat eat eat (with a few historical stops for digestive purposes, too). Here’s how.


Gobble down dumplings and explore serene Wenshu Monastery

The early hours of a morning foodie tour of Chengdu are of course about breakfast. There are two ways to find your breakfast in this city. One is to pop out onto the street and wander until you see a vendor cooking up something enticing. It won’t be long – breakfast is a street food affair in China, and you’ll easily run across little carts selling all sorts of steamed buns, dumplings and noodles. The other option is to head to Xi Yue Cheng Tan Dou Hua, which opens at 7.30am, for a classic Chengdu breakfast staple: Zhong’s dumplings. These are boiled pork dumplings slathered with soy sauce and chilli oil, and they make a perfect awakening fuel for a day of food and historic sights.

From here, hail a taxi, summon a Didi (China’s Uber) or hop on the number 52 bus to Wenshu Monastery. This working Buddhist temple – Chengdu’s largest and most well preserved – is thick with incense smoke and worshippers making offerings to various golden deities. If you are ready for a snack, nip into the popular temple restaurant onsite for a vegetarian meal, or grab a bowl of liangfen (chilled mung-bean noodles in spicy vinegar sauce) from Dongzi Kouzhang Lao’er Liangfen, across the street at the southeast corner of the temple.

Start the day with street food


Sample Chengdu’s most classic dish, mapo doufu

You really can’t visit Chengdu without sampling what is arguably the city’s most famous dish: mapo doufu. The dish consists of fresh tofu cooked in a thick, spicy sauce of mince pork, Sichuan peppercorns and chilli oil. The most famous place to sample mapo doufu in Chengdu is Chen Mapo Doufu, an upmarket local chain with multiple outlets around the city. Conveniently, one is situated across from Wenshu Monastery, at the southeast corner, so you won’t have far to waddle from your morning explorations to lunch.

Try mapo doufu for a taste of Chengdu


Snack through the Wide and Narrow Alleys and have tea in People’s Park

Full up, grab a taxi or Didi to the Wide and Narrow Alleys (宽窄巷子), a series of restored Qing-dynasty alleyways full to the brim with shops, bakeries and street food stalls, and visitors elbowing one another for a piece of the action. You can walk off your breakfast exploring hipster art stores and beautifully presented bookshops. Make sure to sample some snacks along the way – look for jiandui (煎堆), deep fried glutinous rice balls covered in a sweet glaze and sesame seeds.

From here, it’s a pleasant 20-minute saunter east to People’s Park – Chengdu’s finest green space. It’s a local gathering point, and a perfect place to walk off the final remnants of your mapo doufu. Once your feet tire, settle in for the most classic of Chengdu experiences: an afternoon sipping tea at open-air He Ming Teahouse. It’s located right in the centre of the park, so you won’t have to wander long to find it. Choose your tea (there are English menus available), and a cup with loose leaves and a huge thermos of boiling water will be brought to your table for endless sipping.

A chef serves snacks at Wide and Narrow Alleys in Qingyang district, Chengdu


Dress up for a minimalist gastronomic feast and cocktails with a view

In the evening, step away from the busy streets and into the tiny zen dining room at Yu Zhi Lan for a meal worthy of a Michelin star. Chef Lan Guijun is well-known among Chinese foodies for his minimalist, modern interpretations of classic Sichuanese fare, and you’ll need to settle in for this leisurely, 25-course meal.

Complete the evening by nipping up to the 27th floor of the Ritz-Carlton Chengdu, where the open-air FLAIR is a cocktail lounge where you can finish off your whirlwind day of dining with a digestif overlooking the city lights.

Settle in with a cocktail for a view of Chengdu at night
landscape with balloons floating in the air


Connect with like-minded people on our premium trips curated by local insiders and with care for the world

Since you are here, we would like to share our vision for the future of travel - and the direction Culture Trip is moving in.

Culture Trip launched in 2011 with a simple yet passionate mission: to inspire people to go beyond their boundaries and experience what makes a place, its people and its culture special and meaningful — and this is still in our DNA today. We are proud that, for more than a decade, millions like you have trusted our award-winning recommendations by people who deeply understand what makes certain places and communities so special.

Increasingly we believe the world needs more meaningful, real-life connections between curious travellers keen to explore the world in a more responsible way. That is why we have intensively curated a collection of premium small-group trips as an invitation to meet and connect with new, like-minded people for once-in-a-lifetime experiences in three categories: Culture Trips, Rail Trips and Private Trips. Our Trips are suitable for both solo travelers, couples and friends who want to explore the world together.

Culture Trips are deeply immersive 5 to 16 days itineraries, that combine authentic local experiences, exciting activities and 4-5* accommodation to look forward to at the end of each day. Our Rail Trips are our most planet-friendly itineraries that invite you to take the scenic route, relax whilst getting under the skin of a destination. Our Private Trips are fully tailored itineraries, curated by our Travel Experts specifically for you, your friends or your family.

We know that many of you worry about the environmental impact of travel and are looking for ways of expanding horizons in ways that do minimal harm - and may even bring benefits. We are committed to go as far as possible in curating our trips with care for the planet. That is why all of our trips are flightless in destination, fully carbon offset - and we have ambitious plans to be net zero in the very near future.

Winter Sale Offers on Our Trips

Incredible Savings

Edit article