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 travelers, including delicious cuisine, cultural museums, and even UNESCO World Heritage Sites. Here’s our guide to the top 10 things to do and see in this booming megacity.
Chongqing is known for its boiling temperatures, but the city’s ubiquitous hot pot is even more scorching. This style of cooking has been practiced in China for centuries and has no clear origin, with stories tracing it back to various regions including Mongolia and Southwestern China. The dish is cooked like a communal stew, with diners gathering around a pot of spicy boiling broth and tossing in a variety of ingredients, from thinly sliced meat and quail eggs to vegetables and mushrooms. For the people of Chongqing, hot pot is more than just a meal; it’s an experience and a chance to connect with family and friends. There are countless delicious hot pot eateries around the city, including the renowned Xiao Tian E.
Sprawling along the Wu River Southeast of Chongqing, Wulong Karst Geological Park is a breathtaking scenic area named as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The area is home to streams, caves, gorges, and karst limestone formations. Of the numerous natural wonders in this area, Three Natural Bridges, Furong Cave, and Houping Tiankeng, an eroded sinkhole, are particularly popular. The park is an excellent choice for nature lovers, as well as avid hikers. Furthermore, movie-goers may recognize it as a filming location for the movie Transformers: Age of Extinction.
The Stilwell Museum is dedicated to the legacy of Joseph W. Stilwell, a U.S. Army general stationed in Chongqing during WWII. General Stilwell served three tours in China and has been remembered for his success in aiding China’s resistance of Japanese forces throughout the war. During his time in China, General Stilwell commanded U.S. Army soldiers and acted as Chief of Staff for the China-Burma-India Theater, which oversaw combat forces. The museum is housed in General Stilwell’s former Chongqing residence and features many of his personal items which have been well-preserved.
As one of the most iconic landmarks in Chongqing, the People’s Liberation Monument is a must-see for any traveler. Built in 1945, the monument commemorates China’s success during WWII and towers nearly 90 feet over the Jiefangbei commercial district at the heart of the city. Travelers visiting the monument can also check out other nearby attractions, including numerous KTV clubs, shopping malls, and bookstores. The monument can easily be reached by a number of city buses and admission is free.
For travelers seeking to escape the bustling energy of Chongqing’s city center, the out-of-the-way Ciqikou Old Town is an ideal solution. The quaint town is positioned in Shapingba District and dates back to the Ming and Qing Dynasties when it served as a port town and commercial center for the area. In English, the area is known as Porcelain Town, for its history as a porcelain producer. Today, visitors can still find porcelain pieces sold in the town’s shops, as well as numerous eateries selling beef soup, spicy stir fry, and various pastries. Ciqikou is also famous for being linked to Samuel CC Ting, a recipient of The Nobel Prize in Physics who studied in the small town during his childhood. The classroom where Ting studied has been preserved and is open to visitors.
After a long day of shopping, touring, and hiking, travelers can unwind at the Ronghui Hot Springs Resort. Nestled at the base of Gele Mountain, the resort is a favorite 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.
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 66,000 square meters and rising 65 meters high, the enormous structure is comprised of three main sections: the north building, the south building, and the auditorium. The hall is the recipient of the TripAdvisor Certificate of Excellence and is not to be missed by anyone traveling to Chongqing.
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. Positioned five miles from the city center, the zoo is home not only to pandas, but to elephants, leopards and kangaroos, as well a variety of sea life housed in the zoo’s aquarium. The zoo’s lush hills, waterfalls, and foliage also make it a refreshing haven from Chongqing’s crowded streets.
The Dazu Rock Carvings area is another UNESCO Word Heritage Site located near Chongqing. Dating back to as early as the 9th century, the carvings consist of thousands of inscriptions written in Chinese characters along the Dazo hillsides. Most of the carvings can be found along sections of Mount Baoding and include epitaphs related to Buddhist philosophies. Numerous carved statues are also scattered alongside the carvings, and most are colorfully painted and have been naturally preserved over the years. The Dazu Rock Carvings can be accessed by bus from Chongqing and are a must for culture lovers and history buffs.
Named after the famous Three Gorges area alongside the Yangtze River, the Three Gorges Museum is situated in Chongqing’s busting Yuzhong District. In addition to information related to the Three Gorges, the museum also serves to preserve the history of Chongqing and is home to a variety of cultural artifacts and artistic pieces. Among its vast collection, visitors will find antique porcelain, sculptures from the Han Dynasty, paintings, and calligraphy work. The museum was originally founded as the Chongqing Museum but was later reopened under its current name.