The Top Things To Do and See in Chongqing, China

The Guotai Grand Theater & Art Museum dominates Jiefangbei District in central Chongqing
The Guotai Grand Theater & Art Museum dominates Jiefangbei District in central Chongqing | © Prisma by Dukas Presseagentur GmbH / Alamy Stock Photo
Photo of Rebecca Adams
15 July 2021

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.

Make the journey to Fengdu Ghost City

Shrine, Monastery
Map View
Shiobzhai - red pagoda on Fengdu Ghost Island, China
© Marcel Strelow / Alamy Stock Photo
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.

Marvel at Baiheliang Underwater Museum

Museum
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Chongqing, China. 21st Feb, 2021. Photo taken on Feb. 21, 2021 shows the protected reef created about 1,200 years ago to measure the changes in water levels at Baiheliang Museum, China's first underwater museum built about 40 meters below surface in the u
© Xinhua / Alamy Stock Photo
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.

Sample local cuisine at Qiqi Hot Pot

Restaurant, Chinese
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Residents have Hotpot in Chongqing, China. 22-Apr-2011
© Lou Linwei / Alamy Stock Photo

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.

Hike to the Three Natural Bridges in the Wulong Karst Geological Park

Park, Natural Feature
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Wulong Karst geological park, Chongqing, China the most famous place of valley in china world heritage landscape
© Ronnachai Limpakdeesavasd / Alamy Stock Photo

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.

Dive into history at the Stilwell Museum

Museum
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Bust of General Joseph Warren Stilwell, Flying Tigers Museum, Chongqing China
© V. Dorosz / Alamy Stock Photo

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.

Visit the People’s Liberation Monument

Memorial
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CHONGQING, CHINA - SEPTEMBER 19: This is Jiefangbei Pedestrian Street and the Peoples Liberation Monument, a popular shopping area and famous tourist
© Stockinasia / Alamy Stock Photo

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.

Explore Ciqikou Old Town

Architectural Landmark, Historical Landmark
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Busy shopping street in Ciqikou Old Town, Shapingba, Chongqing, China, Asia
© robertharding / Alamy Stock Photo

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.

Wander through the Three Gorges Museum

Museum
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Chongqing, China's Chongqing. 27th Sep, 2019. A visitor views old-fashioned cups and basins at Chongqing China Three Gorges Museum (Chongqing Museum), southwest China's Chongqing, Sept. 27, 2019. To celebrate the 70th anniversary of the founding of the Pe
© Xinhua / Alamy Stock Photo
Bone up on the history of this underrated part of China at the Three Gorges Museum, home to exhibits that span ancient history (porcelain, calligraphy and Han Dynasty sculpture included) all the way up to the present day and the building of the landmark Three Gorges Dam. There’s a big focus on World War II, including a 180-degree panorama of Chongqing during wartime, when it was the capital of Free China.

Unwind at the Ronghui Hot Springs Resort

Health Spa
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natural hot spring
© Chon Kit Leong / Alamy Stock Photo
After a long day of shopping, touring and hiking, travellers can unwind at the Ronghui Hot Springs Resort. Nestled at the base of Gele Mountain, the resort is a favourite among visitors to Chongqing. In addition to hot spring pools, the resort also provides high-quality services such as aromatherapy, herbal medicine and massages. Though there are nearly a dozen hot spring spas around the city, Ronghui is one of the most popular for its first-class amenities and excellent customer service. Courageous travelers can try the fish pedicure, which requires guests to dip their feet into a fish pond to have dead skin painlessly nibbled away by tiny fish.

Check out the People’s Assembly Hall

Building
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Chongqing people's assembly hall
© Best View Stock / Alamy Stock Photo
Erected in the 1950s, the People’s Assembly Hall was built as a receiving auditorium for important visitors to Chongqing. The ornate building is styled after architectural designs from the Ming and Qing dynasties and features a large dome and colorful details throughout. Spanning 66,000sqm (16 acres) and rising 65m (213ft) into the air, the enormous structure is comprised of three main sections: the north building, the south building and the auditorium.

See giant pandas at the Chongqing Zoo

Aquarium, Zoo
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Giant Panda Chongqing Zoo China
© David South / Alamy Stock Photo
China has become synonymous with the giant panda, an adorable animal native to the country’s central, southern and eastern areas. As an endangered species, there are less than 2,000 giant pandas alive in the wild. Travelers itching to catch a glimpse of these bamboo-loving creatures can pay a visit to the Chongqing Zoo. Elephants, leopards and kangaroos, as well a variety of sea life housed in the zoo’s aquarium, are all residents here, too. Set amid hills, waterfalls and foliage, a trip here makes for a refreshing break from Chongqing’s crowded streets.

Ellie Hurley contributed additional reporting to this article.

These recommendations were updated on July 15, 2021 to keep your travel plans fresh.

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