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China > General information > Region and city guide > Chongqing travel guide

Chongqing is a big, bustling and mountainous city of 31 million, located at the confluence of the Yangzi and
Jialing rivers. It serves as the industrial powerhouse of inland China and is renowned as one of China’s “Three Furnaces” (the others are Wuhan and Nanjing, both on the Yangzi) – because of its stifling summer heat and humidity.  


While the city isn’t without character, this climatic reputation is well-deserved, and most visitors spend just a few hours here before departing downstream on a cruise boat through the Three Gorges. 


However, if you do end up spending more time here, you will find the streets lined with fiery hotpot restaurants and steep, narrow alleys alive with local flavor. There are also a few historic sights and points of interest in and around the city, most notably the new Three Gorges Museum and the Luohan Temple, as well as the exquisite Buddhist cave carvings two hours away at Dazu. 


In spite of Chongqing’s vast population and size, the principal area you need to concern yourself with is the teardrop-shaped parcel of land encircled by the Jialing and Yangzi rivers known as the Yuzhong district. The city center is focused on Jiefangbei, the Victory Monument, and includes the main business and shopping districts, as well as a good selection of hotels.  


Cruise boats and ferries leave from the Chaotianmen Docks on the eastern side of the peninsula, while Renmin Square in the west is the site of the new Three Gorges Museum and the People’s Concert Hall. South of here you’ll find the train and bus stations. 



Chongqing’s location on the life-giving and -taking Yangzi has seen it settled since the Paleolithic era, and densely populated villages existed in Neolithic times, but it first rose to prominence with Ba culture, around 1000 BC. The city was given its current name, Chongqing (which means “Double Celebration”), by the emperor Zhao Jiezhong and remained a stronghold against Mongol rule well after they had taken control of the rest of the country.  


In more recent times, Chongqing was ceded as a treaty port to the British and Japanese in the 19th century and was used as the headquarters of the KMT after they were ousted from Nanjing by the invading Japanese. During World War II, Chongqing played a crucial role as the drop zone for the resupply of Allied-Nationalist forces against the Japanese.  


US General Stilwell was a key figure in the joint effort until the alliance with the Nationalists failed in 1944, but much of the city was heavily bombarded by the Japanese and little of Chongqing’s long history remains intact. 


Chongqing’s key location on this most significant of waterways has continued to serve it well and it soon developed into a center for heavy industry, which has left the city polluted, but prosperous. More recently Chongqing has emerged as a manufacturing hub for China’s burgeoning automobile industry – Ford has a factory here, in partnership with local producer Chang’an and Chongqing recently produced China’s first armored car.   


Shopping on the modern streets around the Victory Monument, Jiefangbei, you can feel the wealth, but, as ever, this goes hand in hand with poverty and you’ll see plenty of people struggling to stay above the breadline. The city’s meteoric growth has left it with several million residents in the Yuzhong peninsula alone, and over 30 million in the municipal area!  


This gargantuan population and the city’s strategic importance led to Chongqing’s separation from its parent province, Szechuan, in 1997, and it was designated as a “specially administered municipality,” controlled directly by the central government.  


Industry and tourism combine to give Chongqing its fair share of foreign visitors and the city is being spruced up little by little but, with the enticing vistas of the Three Gorges waiting just along the river, few visitors stay long. If you are willing to explore Chongqing a little you’ll find a gritty but captivating slice of Chinese city life.


Getting to Chongqing 

As one of China’s principal industrial cities, Chongqing is served by planes, trains and buses from around the country, but these can get very booked up in the peak season. It’s worth buying a ticket from the travel agent you book your cruise with or, if this isn’t possible, getting one as soon as you arrive. 


By Air 

The airport lies 20 miles out of the city, from where there are shuttle buses to the airline offices on Zhongshan San Lu. 


Destinations, frequencies & durations : Beijing (13 daily, 2 hrs 20 mins), Guangzhou (11 daily, 2 hrs), Guilin (2 daily, 1 hr), (3 daily, 2 hrs 10 mins), Hong Kong (2 daily, 2 hrs), Shanghai (14 daily, 2 hrs 30 mins), Shenzhen (10 daily, 1 hr 40 mins), Xi’an (5 daily, 1 hr 10 mins), Yichang (1 daily, 50 mins). 


By Rail & Road 

The train station lies on the western end of the peninsula, and the main intercity Caiyuan Bus Station is next door, although the train is a better bet for most destinations – both are connected to the city center at Jiefangbei by taxi or buses #122 and #130, the latter also runs to Chaotianmen. 


Rail destinations, frequencies & durations: Beijing (2 daily, 24 hrs 51 min-33 hrs 12 mins), Guangzhou (5 daily, 30-38 hrs), Hangzhou (3 daily, 39-43 hrs), Shanghai (1 daily, 42 hrs 5 mins), Xi’an (4 daily, 13-19 hrs). 


Getting Around 

Chongqing’s mountainous nature can make orienting yourself difficult, while its oven-like summer heat rules out walking for other than the shortest distances. Fortunately, speedy and cheap taxis are on hand, although empty cabs can be elusive during rush hour, in which case motorcycle taxis are an exciting option, but you’ll have to bargain (within the peninsula should be no more than ¥5). Buses also run around the peninsula, but routes are difficult to decipher so you’re better off sticking to cabs.  


Chongqing’s metro has finally been given the green light for construction, but won’t be complete for some years to come. There is also a light rail line that runs from Jiachangkou in the south, up to Jiefangbei and then northwest past Daxigou, although this is of little use to casual visitors. Far more fun, though serving little functional transport purpose, there are two cable cars that cross from the Yuzhong peninsula to the north across the Jialing River and south across the Yangzi. The services leave every 15 minutes from 8:30 am to noon and 2 pm to 6:30 pm. 

The Three Gorges cruises 

Three Gorges attractions

Three Gorges Dam & Yichang

Chongqing attractions
Chongqing pictures

Sichuan earthquake

maps of Chongqing and the Three Gorges

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maps of chongqing and the three Gorges
chongqing and three gorges glossary
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guilin travel guide
yangshuo travel guide
guangzhou travel guide
shenzhen travel guide
Trip to Chongqing
chongqing, one of the largest cities in china and possibly the world, is spectacularly situated on heights at the confluence of the yangtze and jialing rivers in southern china.

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Travel guide to China : Chongqing travel guide, Chongqing history, Getting to Chongqing, Getting around Chongqing