"When does the TV tower open?"
This question-and-answer game has been the annual running gag for anyone who's been around Chengdu in the past decade.But finally, this September the TV tower (四川广播电视塔) finally opened to the public amid little fanfare. The project dates back to the early 1980s, when studies and plans were made. Construction started in 1992, but was delayed numerous times due to financial and other reasons and wasn't completed until 2004. Since that time it has been used for broadcasting, mobile antennas, and CB radio.
Standing next to the Fu River at a maximum height of 339 meters, the tower is currently the tallest structure in west China and seventh tallest in mainland China. At the base of the tower are 245,000 square meters of broadcasting and filming bureaus, including Sichuan TV's, as well as a five-star hotel and—surprise!—a partly opened shopping complex.
Design-wise, the tower is nothing extraordinary, and the empty plaza is reminiscent of Berlin's Alexanderplatz in the 1980s, a vibe intensified by the purple and yellow windows of the tower.
There are two ways to the top of the tower—the scenic route on the slower glass elevator and the internal express elevator. Visitors are required to pass through a security inspection, and drinks and lighters are temporarily confiscated (you can request that they be returned after your descent, and at least some of the guards comply).
The elevators take you to a closed platform at 208 meters, and a climb up a flight of stairs will take you to a restaurant that makes a full revolution around the tower every 40 minutes. The highest altitude visitors are allowed to go to is the outdoor platform at 213 meters.
There, four glass-floored platforms enclosed in metal bars offer you the chance to look directly down on the city in each of the four compass directions—the winds blowing between the bars and the glass flooring is enough to deter most heights-fearing folks. A little café serves the usual at the usual Chengdu prices.
On a good day you can see the hills in the far northwest, the high-speed railroad to the north and the BRT to the east, the west, and south is scattered by higher buildings without specific outstanding landmarks. Unfortunately there are no binoculars and no maps to explain what you're looking at, unless you go downstairs to the indoor platform again where you can see some description and can zoom around with various cameras.
If the TV tower doesn't satisfy your desire for altitude, you could try to get to the top floor of Chengdu's current tallest building, the 206m Minyoun Finance Plaza on Dong Da Jie, or wait a couple months for the opening of the 248m Chengdu IFS Tower, or, if you're willing to wait a few years, the 333m Mandarin Hotel is due to open in 2017, and the 468m Greenland Tower in 2018.
Even on sunny days the towers seems to receive few visitors, but it's worth checking out, especially if you are new to town or have guests, and it's always a great spot to experiment with your cameras and lenses, and if you stay long enough you see how the changing light makes the city look different.
RMB100 (scenic elevator)
RMB80 (express elevator)
Discounts for seniors and children
Daily 9 a.m. to 10 p.m. (tickets sales stop at 9:30 p.m.)
Take bus 20, 61, 76, or 180 or Metro Line 2 to Dong Da Jie. Walk north along the river for approximately 15 minutes (in 2014, Line 4's Yushuanglu Station will be closer).