Located in southwestern China, Chongqing’s population of over 28 million people has earned it a reputation as the country’s largest municipality. This sprawling metropolis is home to spicy food, friendly locals and a rich cultural history. Positioned alongside the Yangtze River, Chongqing offers plenty of attractions for travellers, including delicious cuisine, cultural museums and Unesco-listed sites. Here’s our guide to the top things to do and see in this booming megacity.
The name sounds eerie, but don’t be put off. This collection of shrines, temples and monasteries – perched atop Ming mountain – is so-called because it’s dedicated solely to the afterlife. Hop on a cruise to a nearby dock, then scale the slopes to be welcomed by upturned eaves, imposing gates and wafting incense. Don’t miss a visit to the Tianzi Palace, a 300-year-old building – according to traditional beliefs, an essential stop for any soul’s journey into the next life.
China’s first underwater museum, the Baiheliang is something of a monster engineering feat. Located by the Yangtze in the Three Gorges area, it has as its centrepiece a 1,600m-long (5,249ft) rock ridge with centuries-old inscriptions of poems, fish carvings, calligraphy and more, all recording the rise and fall of one of China’s most important rivers. This wall has been submerged since the Yangtze Dam was built in the 1990s, but lucky visitors now descend via elevators to view its wonders through reinforced glass.
Spicy chilli, fragrant cinnamon, slivers of beef or delicate seafood; Chongqing-style hot pot is a must when visiting this corner of China. One of the best places to try it is Qiqi in Linjiangmen – it’s so popular with locals you can expect to encounter a queue. Their specialty is tender, flaky eel, but if that’s not your bag they have vegetarian options too.
This Unesco site is a vast, impressive wilderness that should top any outdoor enthusiast’s to-do list in Chongqing. The Wulong Karst National Geology Park is a wonderland of karst landscapes, plunging ravines and deep sinkholes, with one of its main highlights the Three Natural Bridges – epic limestone formations, named after dragons and framed by waterfalls. It’s a photogenic area to hike, though you can hop a glass elevator to rest weary feet part of the way.
You don’t have to know about World War II General Joseph Stilwell to be absorbed by a visit to this museum, set in his former home. The whole point of coming here is to feel what life was like in 1940s China, with the house still furnished in the style of the time. Don’t miss the exhibition of four American cars that served in World War II.
Soaring up from a square in central Chongqing, ringed by glitzy shops and towering buildings, the People’s Liberation Monument is a natural meeting point for locals and visitors alike. Built in 1945 to commemorate the victory over Japan in World War II, it was renamed in 1950 by the Communist party. Hungry travellers use it as a jumping off spot to explore the popular snack street nearby.
With a history that can be traced back 1,700 years, Ciquikou boasts serious pedigree – even today you can still get a glimpse into the past, thanks to atmospheric Ming and Qing Dynasty buildings. Once it was famous for its production of porcelain and ancient kilns dot the centre even today. Craftworks still dominate the streets and there are embroidery and artist studios all over town. Tea bars are plentiful too: hop about and sip a different pour at each one. Make sure you get stuck into the delicious glutinous rice cakes, too.
Ellie Hurley contributed additional reporting to this article.
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