Updated May 6, 2011
Chengdu can hardly contain itself. In under five years, Line 1 of the Chengdu Metro has gone from large pits in the dirt to reality. Late last year, the countdown began. From the total overhaul of Renmin Bei and Nan Lu corridor to the excitement of watching the glass plates go onto the station entrance/exits, every new piece of tangible subway evidence made the people's anticipation grow. The media announced the arrival of the trains, and then the testing of the cars. Several months ago, photos were released of the interiors. And then the escalators were suddenly running in some of the stations. Before we know it, going underground will be an unremarkable feature of everyday life in Chengdu.
Line 1, of course, is just the beginning of the projected seven-line system, the planning of which spans three decades into the future. The entire system covers a great swath of Chengdu—extending, in fact, beyond its current urban edges—and will undoubtedly make an indelible mark on the culture and geography of the city.
Spaced out with around a kilometer between, most Line 1 stops are within rather comfortable walking distance of the next. The line bisects the city straight down the center, starting in the Jinniu District and making its way through the Jinjiang, Qingyang, Wuhou, and finally Gaoxin Districts, traveling at speeds of up to 80 kmph.
So that you can be in the know and on the go as soon as the first car rolls in, we've compiled this run-down of the stations and surrounding places of interest along the primary phase of the Line 1 route.
Shengxian Lake | 升仙湖
Shengxian Lake will initially be the northernmost station on Line 1's route, though that will change once the projected Line 1 extensions to the north and south are completed. Currently, there aren't tons of places of interest near this station; mostly it will be residential areas, with access to the Metro Red Flower Mall (地铁红花堰大型商业), and the Chengdu Zoo and the Wukuaishi Market—selling new and used home appliances and wholesale tea and tea-drinking accessories—a short cab ride away.
North Train Station | 火车北站
Most passenger trains departing from and arriving in Chengdu, including the new high-speed trains to Dujiangyan/Qingcheng Shan and Chongqing, stop here. And, of course, for now, this is the point of access to the northern edge of the massive Lotus Wholesale Market—until it's revamped, as developers have been promising, into the "Chunxi Lu of the North."
Renmin Bei Lu | 人民北路
Apart from the southern edge of the Lotus Wholesale Market, there's not a whole lot up here: the Beimen Bus Station, the Tibet Hotel, Sim's Cozy Guesthouse, and Mix Hostel. There's also the big shoe shop, for those who need their footwear supersized.
Wenshu Monastery | 文殊院
The Wenshu Monastery Area makes for a colorful place to visit. Apart from the temple itself, the grounds hold a number of vegetarian (and non-vegetarian) restaurants, shops, etc. Nearby is also the Jinsha Nunnery. Good to know: Take the subway to the Wenshu Monastery stop when you need to visit the PSB for your visa renewal.
Luomashi | 骡马市
A good place to get off the subway for some sightseeing and shopping, and particularly convenient if you happen to be staying at the Sheraton Hotel. To the north, there's the Platinum Age City shopping center at Babao Jie/Qinglong Jie, home to shopping and dining venues such as Carrefour, Vegetarian Lifestyle, Häagen-Dazs, Starbucks, and Watsons. But the real shopping will start once the Panda Mall, slated to become southwest China's megamall, opens. One of the city's most renowned restaurants, Chen Mapo Tofu, is also located within walking distance of the stop, as is the ever-popular singles bar One-Way Entertainment. The Chengdu Stadium, hosting many of the city's major sporting events, is here, as well as all the sports and fitness-equipment shops you might want. So are administrative centers—the Singaporean Consulate, the Real-Estate Management Bureau (房管局), and the People's No. 3 Hospital. Just west of the Sheraton pass the Lazy Bones Hostel lies the one of several churches in the city, the Ping'an Bridge Catholic Church. Finally, if you're on the market for a bicycle, the bicycle street along Xi Yulong Jie is one of your better options in the city.
Tianfu Square | 天府广场
Poised to become the main interchange for the city's entire transit system, which will eventually encompass seven subway lines and dozens of bus lines, the Tianfu Square stop is located smack dab in the center of the city, overlooked by the most famous of all landmarks in Chengdu, the statue of Chairman Mao. The station itself, which submerges seven floors below the ground, will reportedly be the largest subway station in China and home to the subway-shopping extravaganza Underground City. To the north of the plaza is the Sichuan Science Museum, and to the east is the Jincheng Art Palace, which hosts weekly musicals and plays. Just west of the square is the site for the future Sichuan Art Museum complex, and beyond that, People's Park (Renmin Gongyuan), the city's most central park and home to some of Chengdu's oldest teahouses. The Chengdu City Library is also near here.
Within a long walk or a short cab ride are the shopping areas of Hongxing Lu, Chunxi Lu, and Yanshikou, in all its department-store and shopping-mall glory (Isetan, Ito Yokado, Top City, Kowloon Mall, Ladies' Street) and some of the city's bookstores with foreign-language departments, the Times Xinhua Bookstore on Zongfu Lu and the Southwest Book City on Dong Da Jie.
Slightly farther away but still accessible via a short-ish cab ride are the Taisheng Mobile Phone Market, the Daci Temple, and Qintai Lu Ancient Street and the nearby Kuan/Zhai Lanes.
Jinjiang Hotel | 锦江宾馆
Right where the Funan River meets Renmin Nan Lu, this is one of the posh areas of town: Next to the ritzy Maison Mode and Meimeilicheng Mall, the Yanlord luxury mall is under construction. Five-star shopping plazas are usually adjacent to five-star hotels, and this area is no exception: Not only is the city's first five-star hotel, the Jinjiang Hotel, after which the stop is named, located here, so are the Sofitel Wanda, the new Celebrity Hotel, and, to the south, the Somerset Riverview Serviced Residence. Cattycorner to the Sofitel is the Minshan Hotel, and a plethora of travel agents, as well as the main pick-up stop for the Shuangliu Airport shuttle bus.
Finally, several places of interest are a short cab ride away from this stop: the Sichuan Museum as well as the Shu Brocade Museum, the Green Ram (Qingyang) Temple, Dufu's Thatched Cottage, and the Songxian Qiao Antique and Curios Market.
Huaxiba | 华西坝
The only noteworthy place at this stop is its namesake, the West China Hospital campus of Sichuan University, which this year celebrates its 100th anniversary. The two sections of the hospital itself—the general hospital and the women's and children's hospital—are also within walking distance.
Sichuan Gymnasium | 省体育馆
In addition to its frequent pop-concert fare, the Sichuan Gymnasium has been seeing an increasing number of international sporting events over the past few years, and that trend will likely continue with the opening of the subway. This station is located just near the intersection of Renmin Nan Lu and the First Ring Road, also known as the cheap-DVD heaven that are the buildings that comprise Computer Street—Digital Plaza, Computer City, and, farther down the ring road, @World and Buy Now. Heading in the other direction along the ring road takes pedestrians to a plethora of outdoors-equipment and sporting-goods stores. This is also a drop-off point for those wishing to access the north gate of Sichuan University.
Nijiaqiao | 倪家桥
The city's expat haunts are here, starting with the U.S. Consulate as well as the German and Pakistani Consulates (in the Western Tower), and winding down to the restaurants and nightlife spots such as the Herijun Hot Springs Hotel, the Bookworm, Namaste, Grandma's Kitchen/ Sunflower Café, Shamrock, Tandoor, Gingko, Three Ears Hotpot, and the upscale shopping experience of the Renhe Spring Mall, home to Prada, Gucci, and all those other brands most of us will never purchase. And, of course, we can't not mention that the stop is right outside the CHENGDOO studio. Wave hello as you pass by!
Along the Consulate Road (Lingshiguan Lu) is also the path to take to Kehua Bei Lu, where you can visit the west gate of Sichuan University, the Sultan, not one but two Peter's Tex-Mex restaurants, the Blue Caribbean Plaza (Café Paname, Panda Club, Jellyfish), the Lippo Tower (Hooters), and the Soho Building (Cacaja). Two residential neighborhoods span out from this stop, as well: Yulin to the west, and Zongbei to the east.
Tongzilin | 桐梓琳
Apart from the misleadingly named "Europe Street," a number of important business towers and hotels reside in this area, including the Master Plaza, the Regal Master Hotel, the Sun Dynasty Building, the Air China Tower, the Kempinski Hotel, and the Thai Consulate; Western amenities such as Del Mar, Peter's Tex-Mex, Vera Napoli, the Great World Mall Carrefour; and the well-known residential buildings Orchard Villas and Gloria Regent.
South Train Station |火车南站
From here those big foreign box stores Ikea, Auchan, and Decathlon are accessible, via the giant cable-stayed bridge connecting Tianfu Dadao to Renmin Nan Lu, which, with its Chengdu city seal, serves as something of a welcoming point for those entering the city from the south. The junction for the Airport Expressway is also here.
Hi-Tech Zone | 高新
Not much to see here—yet. Unless you're working in the Hi-Tech Plaza, getting healthcare at the Chengdu City People's No. 1 Hospital or Parkway Health, or gawking at the colorful China Mobile Building, that is.
Financial District | 金融城站
The new center for the city government. Yes, that odd-looking gray building that resembles a bird's nest. Viewed from above, it's in the shape of a flower. We don't know why you would need to go here.
Incubation Center | 孵化园
More no-man's land, for the moment. The only notable landmark is the La Defangsi (拉.德方斯), Chengdu's homage to a certain building in a district of Paris with a similar name.
Century City | 世纪城
Final stop! Passengers for The New International Exhibition and Convention Center, the Intercontinental Hotel and the Holiday Inn and the mammoth MGS luxury-brands outlet mall should disembark here. Additionally, the Swan Lake residential area (yes, there are actually swans in the lake), and the Tianfu Software Park can be accessed from here. And, for now, this is as close as you can get on the subway to Huayang, home to Luxe Hills, the Ocean Polar Park, and Dreamland Amusement Park. But that will presumably change once the Line 1 extensions have been completed.