Chengdu’s Wenshu Monastery Neighborhood: What to Do (and Eat)

Woman riding a bike in a crowded alley market in Chengdu, China
A One Day Budget Guide to Chengdu: Wenshu Monastery Neighborhood

I’ve just returned from the Wenshu Monastery neighborhood, and I’m itching to go back. When I arrived two days ago, I did so with no expectations and zero research. I simply dropped my bags at the hostel and started walking.

Bustling markets, fragrant Sichuan cuisine, fascinating people, ancient history, and a vibrant culture — I could feel it all nearby, now it was time to find it. The city quickly pulled me in as I wandered for blocks and blocks, hours and hours. I was hypnotized, and loving it.

I want to share a few of the top highlights from my time exploring the Wenshu Monastery neighborhood in Chengdu. Visit my recommended spots, but keep in mind, this is also a perfect area to let instinct be your guide and to create your own unique memories. This neighborhood is soaked in authentic Chinese culture.

Wenshu Monastery

Blue shrine of Buddhist God in the Wenshu Monastery of Chengdu
Colorful shrines fill the Wenshu Monastery

Location: Google Maps

The Wenshu Monastery is one of the biggest tourist attractions in Chengdu, so consider it a ‘must-see.’ The walled-in community of temples, gardens, and shrines sits peacefully in the heart of the bustling city. This Buddhist monastery embodies 1,400 years of history within its walls, and you can feel that presence as you walk the winding paths from temple to temple.

The monastery’s food offerings are vegetarian, and I heartily recommend their tasty, meat-free dishes as well as the fine selection of teas in the courtyard’s tea garden.

Admission: Free
Restaurant: Expect to spend 30-50 RMB (USD 4-7)

Antique Market

Plate full of Chinese trinkets in antique market near wenshu monastery
Antiques fill the stalls at the outdoor market

Location: Google Maps

Take a glimpse into the history of China from generations and centuries past. Elderly men dot this market, sipping tea and smoking hand-rolled cigarettes, patiently offering up their relics — stacks of old newspapers, beat-up knick-knacks, carefully preserved communist-era literature, and other souvenirs of bygone times.

Outdoor Local Food Market

Butcher preparing meat in an outdoor food market in Chengdu, China
Butchers prepare sausage for the upcoming Chinese New Year

Location: Google Maps

The discrete entrances to this street food market blend seamlessly into the lively Chengdu streets, opening into winding alleys full of Sichuan fare.

Gigantic jugs of báijiŭ (Chinese grain alcohol), handmade jiăozi (dumplings), truck beds overflowing with colorful fruit, butchers chopping away at fresh meat, and dimly-lit back alley barbershops — you’ll find it all in this teeming marketplace that’s open well into the night.

Sip Tea by the Jǐnjiāng River

Tables full of happy people sipping tea by the Jinjian River in Chengdu, China
In Chengdu, there’s always an excuse to sip tea and relax

Location: Google Maps

Every day, hundreds of people gather by the Jǐnjiāng River to kick back and relax, sipping loose-leaf tea (chá) and enjoying a break from hectic city life. Stop by one of the many small, local tea shops and grab a cup of your own.

Or, check out the adjacent side street for a more lively and raucous atmosphere. Card tables pepper the hectic sidewalk, packed full of chain-smoking, gambling, and tea-drinking men looking to win a few Yuan.

Synchronized Dancing

Rows of smiling women synchornized dancing on a street corner in Chengdu, China
Nightly dancing is abundant on street corners all over China

Location: Google Maps

At dusk every day, local women fill the sidewalk and dance together to a wide array of music. About a hundred women (and a few men) were happily dancing in unison when I strolled by. It was relaxed and friendly — I couldn’t help but smile.

Visitors should linger and soak in the Chinese people’s sense of togetherness. Dancing like this isn’t limited to Chengdu; it’s found all across China. It’s a social phenomenon I haven’t seen anywhere else.

People Watching

Two men passionately playing outdoor ping pong
Ping Pong, China’s most widely played sport, is played everywhere in Chengdu

Few things are better for people watchers than a park bench on a busy corner in a fast-paced neighborhood like this. There’s so much going on that the primary challenge is to slow down enough to absorb all the culture surrounding you.

In this vibrant neighborhood, you’re bound to see dogs dressed like humans, fierce ping-pong matches in the park, overloaded scooters buzzing down the sidewalks, mysterious carts of steaming street food, and so much more.

Food & Drinks

The Kăo Yú Barbecue Fish Restaurant

Carp simmering in a chafing dish with onions, peppers, garlic, and more
Yes, there’s fish in there somewhere, trust me

Location: Google Maps

This is a standout restaurant in the Wenshu Monastery neighborhood. Faithful to its Sichuan pedigree, the food here is spicy, full-flavored, and packed with garlic. My favorite dish, the kăo yú carp, starts with a live fish plucked from a tank and prepared to order.

The fish arrives smothered in a thick blanket of chili peppers, garlic, onions, potatoes, peanuts, tofu, and ginger, and is kept hot in a chafing dish. Also, try the braised rabbit, grilled squid, or boiled crawfish. And always keep a cold beer close at hand — this food will set your mouth on fire.

Expect to spend: 40-60 RMB ($6-$9 USD) per person

The Cast Iron Bowl Restaurant

Beef tenderloin with assorted vegetables in a cast iron bowl
I found my hidden gem, where will you find yours?

Location: Google Maps

Don’t you love it when you find your own little hidden gem? Here’s one I found just east of Mix Hostel Chengdu.

A friend and I stumbled upon this small family-owned shop and ordered the ‘Braised Beef Tenderloin’ and ‘Bacon Magic.’ Each dish arrived perfectly cooked, with a generous helping of chilis, mushrooms, and green onions simmering in spicy oil. We decided this place was just too tasty to remain a secret.

Expect to spend: 20-30 RMB ($3-$4 USD) per person

Market and Street Food

Wooden box full of colorful quail eggs in an outdoor market
Quail eggs, one of many popular Sichuan ingredients that can be found at the local market

Delicious cuisine can be found worldwide on busy sidewalks, up dirty alleys, and in grimy truck beds, and the Wenshu Monastery neighborhood is no exception.

Let your stomach lead the way to the rawest and most exciting culinary opportunities in the neighborhood, and be sure to try something that you’ve never seen before. You don’t need a table, a plate, or a large budget to savor your meal. One of my favorite street foods is guōkuī, a flaky meat-filled pastry lightly sautéed in a skillet and served oven-hot.

Gōng Tíng Gāo Diàn Bakery

Line of about 30 people waiting to get treats from a bakery in Chengdu, China
Always a line, always worth the wait

Location: Google Maps

There’s a bakery in the Wenshu Monastery neighborhood that’s puts out food so good that people gravitate to it from miles and miles away. During peak hours, you’ll need to join a massive queue that’s waiting patiently in anticipation of the many fresh daily specials.

They’re especially known for their nápòlún (Napoleon) cake, which Keri and I travel 45 minutes on crowded and sweaty public transportation to purchase. It’s that delicious and we’re that obsessed with their baked goods.

Báijiŭ

Man sleeping in chair by jars of baijiu in an outdoor food market
Which flavor would you choose?

Ahhh, báijiŭ — China’s most popular liquid vice. Literally translated to “white alcohol,” báijiŭ encompasses a wide variety of grain alcohol, ranging from 25 – 65% by volume. During my wanderings, I ducked into a gas station and purchased a small 100 ML bottle, which I choked down apprehensively.

But, if you’re looking for a more refined experience than I had, find some báijiŭ in the outdoor food market. The báijiŭ sits in large glass jugs, slowly soaking up the flavors of various Sichuan herbs, fruits, and spices. The infused elixir is said to have medicinal qualities.

Explore the Wenshu Monastery Neighborhood

Small dog standing in a grey alley staring at the camera
When it comes to Chengdu, the Wenshu Monastery Neighborhood is hard to beat

My time spent in this vibrant part of Chengdu instantly became a classic travel experience. The peaceful temples, hectic markets, mouth-burning Sichuan cuisine, and swarming sidewalks all blended harmoniously into memories of beauty amidst chaos.

Whether you follow my guide or choose to chart your own path, it’s nearly effortless to travel the Wenshu Monastery area on a budget. Just step back and let the spirited city streets lead the way for your journey into one of Chengdu’s most dynamic neighborhoods.

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Last Updated on July 18, 2023

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Noel Krasomil

Hey, I'm Noel Krasomil, the founder of The Packable Life. I pack light and explore the globe searching for awe-inspiring hiking trails, rich cultural experiences, and ways to continue traveling indefinitely.

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6 thoughts on “Chengdu’s Wenshu Monastery Neighborhood: What to Do (and Eat)”

    • Unfortunately, we always inhale the cake too quickly to take a picture. Haha. How about this: next time we go to the bakery, we’ll take a picture of the cake just for you? I think there should definitely be a photo of the cake on the article too. I’ll probably end up replacing the picture of the long line eventually. Thanks for the feedback!

      Reply

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