Chengdu marries the ancient and modern with a surprisingly laid-back vibe—and it’s easier to get there than ever before.
Legend has it that a turtle mapped Chengdu’s borders. Unlikely, sure, but it reflects the city’s pace. People’s Park is filled with tai chi practitioners and badminton players. And at 1,000-year-old Qingyang Temple, friends laze for hours in the open-air teahouse.
To see the truly old part of town, visit the Jinsha archaeological site. There, scientists are unearthing gold and jade artifacts that date as far back as the 7th century, many of which are displayed at the site’s museum. Conversely, the Wide and Narrow Alleys, two “ancient” streets lined with restored Qing-era buildings, are more tourist spots than historic sites—and they’re perfect for people-watching. Grab numbingly spicy dan-dan noodles from a stand among a mix of twentysomething couples on dates, housewives juggling lattes, and photographers staging guerrilla fashion shoots.