Changsha, China - the land of ancient temples, historical monuments and ancient traditions. It is the capital of the Hunan Province and boasts a myriad of history and culture which date back to thousands of years ago. Suprisingly now, it is one of the most modernised cities in China. Travelers are encouraged to drop by this city and have a glimpse of what’s going on - especially now - since the city has adopted the 72-hour visa free transit policy as of 1st January 2016. This allows passport holders of 51 countries the opportunity to stay in Changsha without a visa during their transit.
Visitors to this city will be compelled to take a journey through time and discover its ancient secrets while meandering through its urbanised modern streets. Below are the top 10 best things to do in Changsha, China.
1. Yuelu Academy
For the past 1,000 years, Yuelu Academy has been ranked as one of the four most highly reputable academies in China. Founded in the year 976 AD during the Song Dynasty, the academy is still running even now. It is the only ancient Chinese academy of classical learning which has transformed itself into a modern institute of higher learning.
Located at the foot of the Yuelu Mountain, visitors will be greeted by an elaborately designed gate with the words “the Thousand-Year Old Academy” on it. You can roam around the courtyard and enter the many interesting places inside, such as the Confucian Temple, the ancient Lecture Hall and the Imperial Book Tower. This place is not to be missed by history enthusiasts or visitors who wants to have a glimpse into one of the most ancient schools of China.
Address: 273 Lushan Rd, 岳麓区 Changsha Shi, Hunan Sheng, China
Website: Yuelu Academy
2. Lushan Temple
Nestled nearby the Yuelu Academy is the famous Lushan Temple. It is currently a buddhist temple with a long history which stretches back over 1,700 years. The temple was built by a monk - Master Zhu Fachong - during the Jin Dynasty (265 AD - 420 AD) and was regarded as the first temple in Hunan. During the course of time, it has been destroyed and rebuilt multiple times with its last reconstruction being made as recently as 1983.
Intricate traditional Chinese murals and motifs adorn the walls of this temple. Visitors to this temple will be spelled with a sense of peace and tranquility as the temple itself evokes a calm feeling that reverberates through the compound. The entrance to the temple is free and visitors are free to walk about the temple and discover the many buddhist artifacts inside - including buildings such as the Maitreya Hall, Guanyin Hall and many more.
Address: 273 Lushan Rd, 岳麓区 Changsha Shi, Hunan Sheng, China
3. Juzi Island
Perhaps second to the attractions at Mount Yuelu, Juzi Island (Orange Isle) attracts visitors from all over the region. The island lies right in the middle of the Xiangjiang River and is the biggest inland island in China. One of the more famous attractions of this place is the sculpture of the head of Mao Zedong - the former chairman of of the Communist Party of China. The sculpture was constructed in 2009 and has the appearance of being carved out from a rock.
As the name of the island suggests, this place is filled with thousands of high-quality orange trees and the oranges are usually up for sale when they are ripe. Visitors can also walk along the stretch of riverside in the island and witness the beautiful scenery of Changsha’s skyline. The scenery changes throughout the seasons, adding magic to this place. The best time to come is in April when the plants blossom and also in October when the oranges become ripe and are up for sale.
Juzi Island (Orange Isle)
Address: Juzizhou, Changsha 410005, China
4. Mawangdui Han Tombs
Unleash your inner Indiana Jones and explore this mysteriously ancient burial ground. The Mawangdui Han Tombs were elaborately made to house the remains of a noble family from the Han Dynasty (206 BC - 220 AD). One of the most fascinating discoveries here was that of Lady Dai, a noblewoman who was the wife of the Marquis of Dai, Li Cang. Her 2,000 year old mummified body is one of the best well-preserved mummies in the world. Her skin was still flexible and her joints were still able to move. Even an autopsy was carried out to determine her cause of death.
Aside from the mummy, many ancient Chinese artifacts were discovered here such as lacquer wares, potteries, silk books and a map. These are but a few of the items that were discovered. Visitors here can have a glimpse of how the tombs looked during the Han Dynasty and immerse themselves in their ancient culture and traditions.
Mawangdui Han Tombs
Address: 89 Guhan Rd, Furong Qu, Changsha Shi, Hunan Sheng, China, 410016
5. Tianxin Pavilion Park
The Tianxin Pavilion Park hosts one of the few well-preserved remnants of the ancient city of Changsha. The main highlights of this place are the Tianxin Pavilion and the ancient wall. The Tianxin Pavilion was built by an army general, Yang Xi, in the year 1746. This was during the Qin Dynasty under the reign of Emperor Qianlong. At that time, the pavilion was the highest point in the city.
The park is a haunt for the locals, young and old. This is a great place for visitors to escape the city for a bit and immerse themselves in a more peaceful environment. The park is adorned with interesting art sculptures and visitors can relax and people watch here as locals go about their daily activites such as playing traditional musical instruments or practicing Taijiquan in the open square.
6. Mount Yuelu
The Yuelu Academy and Lushan Temple are just some of the attractions that you can find on this mountain. Mount Yuelu is among the most popular parks in the city. Located at the West bank of the Xiangjiang River, a journey up to its main peak will reward you with a magnificent bird’s eye view of the city. A panorama of skyscrapers loom across the peak, giving you a bird’s eye view of this vibrant city.
Visitors will have to pay 50 CNY (7 USD) to enter the park. If walking uphill isn’t your style, you can even ride the chairlifts which will give you a nice scenery while ascending up the mountain. This place is a popular destination for locals young and old as they take their time off to immerse themselves in the lush greenery of the park. Many historical monuments riddle the park such as the Yunlu Palace and the Aiwan Pavillion to name a few. Visitors will be spoilt for choice on the places they can visit here.
Address: West Suburbs of Yuelu District, Yuelu District, Changsha 410000, China
7. Changsha Window Of The World
Fancy visiting the world’s most famous attractions but don’t have the time for it? Well, fret not. The Changsha Window of The World is a theme park with over 50 different replicas of world famous attractions. Visitors can choose a different variety of attractions to visit. Some of the famous replicas includes a replica of the famous Neuschwanstein Castle, The Louvre, Mount Rushmore, Ahu Akivi and many more. For adrenaline junkies, they can try out bungee jumping in the park or go on a heart pumping ride on their roller coaster. This place is a popular haunt for both locals and tourists alike.
Changsha Window Of The World
Address: No.485 Sanyi Avenue, Kaifu District, Changsha 410003, China
8. Hunan Provincial Museum
Built in 1951, this massive museum complex covers a whopping 12 acres (4.8 hectares) of land with a further 4.9 acres (2 ha) of constructed area. Being a provincial museum, this place is one of the most important museums in Changsha. It houses thousands of ancient Chinese artifacts and relics which were scattered across the province.
Most of the exhibits were found during archaeological excavations which were carried out in the area and around Hunan. Perhaps the most famous relic on display is the perfectly preserved mummified body of Lady Dai, the wife of Marquis of Dai. The relics which are displayed here can be traced back all the way to the Neolithic Age. Visitors here can discover what Changsha was like a thousand years ago and beyond, giving them a glimpse of ancient cultures and traditions throughout history.
Hunan Provincial Museum
Address: 50 Dongfeng Rd, WuJiaLing ShangQuan, Kaifu Qu, Changsha Shi, Hunan Sheng, China
Website: Hunan Provincial Museum
9. Martyr's Park
Spanning 341 acres (138.9 hectares), Martyr’s Park is the largest park in Changsha. It is located just a stone’s throw away from the Hunan Provincial Museum and it is a good respite from the busy streets of the city. The park was opened to the public in 1956 and it has been opened to the community ever since. The most famous attraction in this place is the Martyr’s Monument. It is made from 2,932 pieces of white marble and granite and stands about 52 meters (170 feet) tall.
It is divided into two sections, the monument above and a memorial hall below. This structure pays homage to the fallen Chinese heroes with over 90 martyrs’ portraits aligning the halls with famous quotes by hundreds of Hunan Martyrs. If you prefer a less sombre experience, you can also go to the Nianjia Lake, a man-made lake located in the park. During the summer months, you can find families gathering here and having a picnic or doing activities such as riding the paddle boats or a traditional Chinese boat.
Address: No.1 Dongfeng Road, Changsha, China
10. Xiangjiang River
This river lies in the heart of the city of Changsha, separating the city into two with the Juzi Island in between. The highlight of this place is pretty much the spectacular views you can get at night while walking along the river banks. The lights from the skyscrapers can be picturesque as they light up the night skies in different arrays of colors. During the day, it is a nice place to take a stroll and soak in the sun during the summer months.
There's even more
Changsha has a myriad of things to offer which will captivate any people who visit this city. This list contains only some of the awesome things to do in Changsha. With a combination of modern urban streets, and thousand year old temples, it is truly a place not to be missed.
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