Chengdu is the 2,000-plus-year-old capital of Sichuan, the province’s second-largest city and China’s fourth-largest. With a population of 14 million, it is larger—and perhaps even glitzier—than NYC. So why haven’t you heard of it? Well, by Chinese standards, it’s only a second-tier city.
But now is a great time to get to know Chengdu. It’s clean and prosperous, with leafy wide boulevards and a Kempinski Hotel, a Ferrari dealership and plenty of upscale boutiques. Asia’s first UNESCO-designated City of Gastronomy, Chengdu serves up refined Sichuan cuisine—you know you’re getting real Sichuan peppercorns when your tongue feels a distinctive numbness. But this city is best known for being the home of the rare giant panda.