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Chengdu (成都, Chéngdū) is no great draw when it comes to major tourist sites, yet this is one of the few super-sized Chinese cities that most visitors do end up enjoying. There's a relaxing teahouse culture – favorite local institutions have been serving the same brews for generations; a lively nightlife that mixes craft beer bars and super-hip clubs with Sichuan opera shows; and delicious food that is famous for its heat, history and variety even in cuisine-rich China, and is very much a point of pride: Chengdu is, after all, Unesco's first-ever City of Gastronomy. Oh, and as if that's not enough, this is the place to come to see China's cutest residents – the giant pandas.

Chengdu is the transport hub for the entire region and most travelers in China's southwest pass through this way at some point. Just make sure you don't rush your visit.

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