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The Captivating Cities of Southwestern China

The Captivating Cities of Southwestern China

For many travelers, China ends in Beijing. Or Shanghai. Or whichever other huge city happens to be the one they feel motivated enough to visit.

I’m encouraging you to dig deeper on your trip, whether it’s your very first time in China, or you’re going back for more. In particular, I recommend heading to southwestern Sichuan province, home to pandas, spicy food and two unforgettable metropolises.

Do be aware that comparing Chengdu vs Chongqing might not result in a definitive choice between the two. Many travelers—wisely—end up visiting both of these cities if they go to the trouble of traveling all the way here!

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How to Reach Chengdu and Chongqing

Whether you reach Chengdu or Chongqing, they’re easy to reach once you’re already in China. Assuming you’re in Shanghai, Beijing or the Pearl River Delta, I’d probably recommend booking a domestic flight. You can alternatively ride a high-speed train, but this is a long journey that isn’t worth the hassle (well, unless you have the time to spare). You can also fly nonstop from Asian cities like Bangkok, Singapore and Seoul.

As far as getting between the two cities? Well, high-speed train is definitely the best option, with the fastest journeys taking as little as an hour. Recently, I was looking into North Carolina Betting Apps and it got me to thinking about the two main cities of that state, Charlotte and Raleigh. It’s actually faster to take the train between Chengdu and Chongqing than it is to drive between these two cities!


How to Decide Between Chongqing and Chengdu

Things to do

Chengdu is probably a more touristic city on its face, whether we’re talking about historical Jin Li Street in the city center, or various “panda base” establishments on the outskirts. Chongqing, by contrast, is more about the urban experience, though I can recommend the Nanshan Mountain viewpoint, as well as the riverside Hongyadong area.


For me, this is an area where it’s less of a competition between Chongqing vs Chengdu. Chongqing, as a huge city, obviously hosts a number of high-quality hotels. Still, most of the decent ones are corporate, big-box properties. By contrast, I like that Chengdu has stylish boutique hotels, including my personal favorite the Buddha Zen Hotel.


Chengdu is the hub of spicy Sichuan cuisine, with the fragrant peppercorns appearing in all kinds of dishes within the city limits. My favorite (admittedly a somewhat casual choice) is probably dan dan mian, noodles in a spicy peanut sauce. Chongqing, meanwhile, is famous for huo guo (aka hot pot), which can of course be found all over China but is at its most delicious here).


This is an area where it’s easier to differentiate between Chongqing or Chengdu. Chengdu, for its part, does have a diverse cityscape, whether we’re talking about aforementioned Jin Li Street, the unique Sunken Plaza square or stunning Anshun Bridge. However, Chongqing’s skyline as a whole is simply more impressive, and almost evokes the movie “Blade Runner.”

Day trips and onward excursions

Chengdu is a great place to begin a trip in southwestern China, rather than just end it. Whether you make a day trip to Mt. Emei or the Leshan Giant Buddha, or even use Chengdu as a jumping-off point for a trip to Tibet, many great adventures start in this city. Chongqing is more self-contained by contrast, although you can make day trips to places like Fengdu Ghost City and the Dazu Rock Carvings.


How Many Days Do You Need in Chengdu? What About Chongqing?

Although both of these cities are among China’s (and the world’s) largest, you don’t need an eternity to explore them. In fact, I would argue that you can see the best each has to offer in about three days. In Chengdu, for example, you can spend one day exploring the city center, another at one of the panda bases around town and a third on a day trip, either to the Leshan Giant Buddha or Mt. Emei.

In Chongqing, meanwhile, you may end up needing a couple of days to explore the city center, which is much larger and more unruly. This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t get out of town, of course—I personally loved the Fengdu Ghost City, though many other travelers prefer Dazu Rock Carvings or Wulong Karst National Park. Can’t decide between Chengdu or Chongqing? Take about a week and split it between the two!

Other FAQ About Chengdu and Chongqing

Is Chengdu better than Chongqing?

Chengdu is a more accessible city for foreign travelers than Chongqing, being home to China’s famous pandas, and with a more cosmopolitan feel overall. However, it’s definitely not “better” than Chongqing, which is itself worth visiting if only because of its massive scale and unique cityscape. Both of these cities have a lot to offer travelers.

Is Chengdu or Chongqing bigger?

Both Chengdu and Chongqing are mega cities by any measure, with urban populations of 20 million are more. Chongqing, however, is technically larger, with all its 30 million-strong metropolitan population (which is now a separate prefecture from the rest of Sichuan province) having been incorporated.

Is Chengdu part of Chongqing?

Chengdu and Chongqing are separate cities—and, in fact, are actually part of separate provinces. While Chongqing was historically part of Sichuan province, it became its own prefecture-level city in 1997. So to answer the original question, Chengdu is very much not part of Chongqing.

The Bottom Line

I hope this run-down of Chengdu vs Chongqing has been instructive, even if you ultimately end up deciding that neither city is “better” than the other. Both, to be sure, are among my favorite places to visit in China, although if I had to make a personal call I’d probably give Chengdu the slightest nod. Still, Chongqing is nothing to sneeze at—and not just because of its steampunk skyline, which evokes something out of the movie “Blade Runner.” Regardless of your choice, I do hope you’ll consider hiring me as your Travel Coach. You’ll get an inspiring pep talk—and a custom China travel itinerary!


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