ChangshaChangsha (长沙; Chángshā) is the capital of Hunan Province in South-central China and has a history of over 3,000 years. Mao Zedong lived and worked as a teacher in Changsha, and it was the site of his conversion to communism. A huge sculpture of Mao's head on Orange Island reminds everyone of his connection to the city.
Today, Changsha has an urban population of about 7 million people. A modern city center with skyscrapers, shopping malls and walking streets invites for relaxed strolls. There are also plenty of opportunities to try the famous Hunanese cuisine and street food stores offer small bites (小吃 xiaochi) such as stinky tofu, mini lobsters, butter pancakes, and many more!
Huanghua International AirportThis is the major airport for those seeking to visit Changsha.
- A maglev rail line connects the airport to the Changsha South Railway Station. From there, the subway can take you to the city center.
- A 45-minute drive on the expressway will take you to the city center.
- Airport buses operate from 06:00-22:00 between the airport and downtown Changsha and cost ¥16.5. The bus arrives at/leaves from the CAAC Aviation Hotel on Wuyi Dadao (五一大道) a block west of the central train station. There are also shuttle buses to take you to the South Railway Station and the South Bus Station
- Taxis wait outside the arrivals area. As of February 2013, taxis to the city cost approximately ¥90-100 (plus ¥10 tolls).
Traveling from the airport will allow for some window viewing of the relatively wealthy countryside surrounding the city. Although annual floods do sizable property damage, the overflowing rivers help irrigate the evergreens and enormous rice paddies.
Changsha Railway StationThis station is in the heart of the city. There are direct train connections from many cities in China or indirect ones using a connecting train. From Beijing it is about 14 hours by regular (sleeper) train. As of 2017, Metro line 2 connects this station to the city center.
Changsha South StationChangsha South Station (of the Wuhan-Guangzhou High Speed Rail) is southeast of the downtown, about 25–30 minutes from the city core. From Guangzhou South it is about 2.5 hours on the high speed train, or a minimum of 8 hours on the much cheaper normal trains (a little over one quarter of the price). From Beijing, times vary, but can be as low as 6.5 hours by high-speed train (¥650 as of 2013).
From nearby cities Zhuzhou and Xiangtan, you can take the Changsha–Zhuzhou–Xiangtan Intercity Railway, which opened in 2016. But for other nearby cities, the intercity railway is still under construction. You can take train and bus, or book a private car service from local transfer company, such as EtripCity.
Changsha West bus stationBuses from here from western locations like Zhangjiajie. Adjacent to Wangchengpo metro stop.
If you want to spend like a native or just want to experience the sensation of being sandwiched between locals, then hop on a bus for ¥2 and feel the thrill of speeding down the bumpy roads with barely any breathing room. Buses with air-conditioning (hot or cold) or cross city districts run for ¥2 and buses without run for ¥1.
As of 2017, Changsha has 2 metro lines:
- Line 1 (north-south) - Has stops for Kaifu Temple and Provincial Museum, all due north.
- Line 2 (east-west) - Connects the Changsha Railway Station, Changsha South Railway Station, and West Bus Station (Wangchengpo stop). There is also a stop for Juzizhou.
phone: +86 731 85425680, +86 731 85425676address: 92 Baisha Road, Tianxin District (天心区白沙路92号)This museum contains a both ancient carved bamboo slips and a series of pottery artifacts. The building is architecturally-interesting, as bamboo grows out of one side of it.
phone: +86 731 82892350, +86 731 82892360address: 3 Binjiang Culture Park, Xinhe Delta, Kaifu District (开福区新河三角洲滨江文化园3号)The main exhibition hall is a large modern building inside Binjiang Culture Park, which is a nice park for a stroll. The other main sight is the former site of the Hunan CCP committee, where the rooms where Mao lived are preserved.
phone: +86 731 82291061, +86 731 82291821 (group bookings)address: 39 Chezhan North Road, Furong District (芙蓉区车站北路39号)This museum is on the second floor of a store that sells high-quality embroidery. Visit and learn about the history of embroidery in Hunan. Special techniques have been locally-developed to achieve finer detail. At the end of the tour, you can visit the workshop where new items are being embroidered. The tour is free, and there is no pressure to buy.
phone: +86 731 84415833, +86 731 84475933address: 50 Dongfeng Road, Kaifu District (开福区东风路50号)See the Han era tomb of Xin Zui, the Marquess of Dai, and her 2,100 year old preserved body. Her body was still moist and flexible when they found her, with completely elastic skin, and looks more real than Ho Chi Minh. Also at the museum are many exhibits on all kinds of Han Dynasty artifacts, including pottery, lacquerware and an impressive collection of silk.
phone: +86 731 89808523address: 9 Muchong West Road, Tianxin District (天心区杉木冲西路9号)The museum consists of two separate buildings: Buildings A & B. Building A hosts the main exhibition halls while Building B contains the children's wing.
Dufu Pavilionphone: +86 731 85821786address: 108 Xiangjiang Middle Road, Tianxin District (天心区湘江中路108号)The pavilion houses a museum dedicated to the Chinese poet Dufu and contains pictures and information on other famous Chinese poets as well. There is a beautiful tea house on the top floor, and the balconies offer nice views over the river, city and Orange Island, if the weather allows. There is no English. All information is in Chinese.
address: 2 Yueshan South Road, Yuelu District 岳麓区麓山南路2号One of China's oldest universities. You will find lots of great places to eat in and around the studious atmosphere of the various campus' south of Yuelu Mountain. There is a large statue of Mao Zedong on the campus grounds.
phone: +86 731 88823764address: Hunan University, Yueshan South Road, Yuelu District (岳麓区麓山南路湖南大学内)The Thousand Year Old center of culture and learning of southern China. Established in 976, it is the spiritual predecessor to what is now Hunan University. Rich in history and beautiful period architecture, a visit to the academy will put you in touch with the ancient elites of southern China. You can find all the history on the website and then visit the academy yourself, wandering through its courtyards and open classrooms, admiring the curved eaves and bamboo gardens to get the real experience.
Jia Yi's Former Residence
Mawangdui Han Tombs
phone: +86 731 84485300address: 136 Kaifu Temple Street, Xinehe, Kaifu District (开福区新河开福寺路136号)This temple only charges ¥10 and you get a package of incense. It is really quite beautiful and is one of the few functioning temples in Changsha. Inside there is a fairly good vegetarian restaurant, don't be fooled by the menu, all the meat is fake!
Parks and nature
Baisha Well Parkphone: +86 731 88662008, +86 731 85132630address: 178 Baisha Road, Tianxin District (天心区白沙路178号)This is a local park that contains a well. Although the well is nearly dry, you can still see people filling up containers with the little water that is left.
phone: +86 731 84256002, +86 731 84256005address: 510 San Yi Avenue, Kaifu District (开福区三一大道501号)Features Changsha's biggest aquarium. There is a water park here as well, but the water park is currently closed and will not reopen until an unspecified date in 2020.
phone: +86 731 85233238, +86 731 85597485address: 111 Zhiwuyuan Road, Yuhua District (雨花区植物园路111号)A large botanical garden in the city's south. Here you will find azaleas, magnolias, cherry trees, bamboo and various other plant species. There is also a zoo, a golf club, an amusement park, a water park and a hotel. See here for the offical map.
phone: +86 731 88882152address: Yuelu District (岳麓区)Sometimes also translated as Tangerine Island, this beautifully landscaped park contains a large number of rose bushes, orange trees, a bamboo garden, and a gigantic sculpture of the head of Mao in his youth. Tickets for sightseeing busses that stop at five spots can be purchased for ¥20, and small cruise ships circle the island. Walking from the metro station to the Mao head is 3.3 km and takes about 35 min.
phone: +86 731 88825011address: Yuelu District (岳麓区)West of Hunan University, is the national renowned scenic spot, located on the west bank of Xiang River. Many foreigners and locals alike frequently climb this 300-m-tall mountain. At the foot of Yuelu Mountain is Yuelu Academy. You can also get up/down by shuttle bus (¥20) or cable car (¥30 up, ¥25 down, ¥50 both directions).
phone: +86 731 84256888address: 485 San Yi Avenue, Kaifu District (开福区三一大道485号)Changsha's largest and most popular amusement park.
TheatersWatch traditional folk art, e.g. lion dance, drum opera, clam dance and Xiang Opera.
Hike Yuelu MountainCheck See section for more details
Stroll along Xiang river promenade at nightEnjoy the nicely illuminated Dufu pavilion and Orange Island bridge during a stroll along the Xiang river promenade. Elderly locals come here to perform various group dances on the sidewalk, with music ranging from traditional Chinese over tango to pop!
Weekly fireworks(Every Saturday evening at 08:30). The city stages fireworks on Juzizhou Island (Orange Island) every week, which can be seen from Wuyi Dadao bridge, for example.
Wuyi Shopping CircleThe most important shopping area downtown, tons of shopping malls and stores.
Changsha Walking StreetLively walking street with tons of fashion shops, snack stores and lined by shopping malls. Here you can find everything from shoes over smartphones to bubble tea and stinky tofu. Becomes very crowded in the afternoon and at night, and sometimes there are live performances, cultural shows and advertising events.
- Wangda Plaza (万达广场). It is shopping mall with famous fashion brands such as Coach, Gome, as well as large office buildings with many branch companies such as Logoson. Besides, many people who goes to Changsha will go there at nights of some traditional Chinese festivals, for it is one of the best places to watch fireworks show on Orange Island.
- Wangfujing Mall(王府井). There are two Wangfujing malls in Changsha, which are very popular to local young shoppers.
Changsha food is part of the broader Hunanese cuisine (湘菜 xiang cai), one of China's traditional eight great regional cuisines. Traditional Hunan foods are quite spicy like Sichuan cuisine, but without the unique numbing sensation that comes with Sichuan peppercorns. In summer, oversized metal mixing bowls filled with crawfish seasoned with plenty of chili and spices, take the stage atop countless tabletops. Restaurants get so busy and overcrowded that tables, chairs along with diners spill into the busy streets and the parade of tantalizing dishes endlessly leave the kitchen to appear on the tables of hungry diners.
Street Food Areas
Food StreetChoices and a sampling of regional foods of the country. Long established and well-regarded, this cozy and rustic eatery stays bustling through the wee morning hours as food enthusiasts, businessmen, and families with their children flock to this fun food court styled eatery. Do not be fooled by the fast-food style of ordering (prepared food is displayed at various stations, your orders are placed by a hole punched on your menu card and then served freshly prepared within minutes of ordering), the food here is superb. A large selection of good food, including sweet taro dessert topped with gingko biloba nuts and steamed pork chops dusted with a layer of sticky rice powder.
phone: +86 731 85817591address: 78 Pozi St (坡子街)Local Hunan cuisine. Chairman Mao ate here. They come around with trolleys containing soup, dim sum, and so forth. You might enjoy Choudoufu (stinky tofu), Changsha Doupi, Pineapple bread (contains chunks and similar to some Indian breads), Yangrou Chuar (lamb kebabs), Niurou (beef in baskets, relatively fat-free), corn soup and vegetables which are cooked in front of you.
Taiping Old Streetaddress: 五一大道与太平街交叉口西南50米This historic street is packed with small stores selling food and drink. Here you'll find everything from traditional sausages, stinky tofu, bubble tea, and ice cream, to seafood noodles. The old houses and narrow side alleys offer photo opportunities, and there are a few shops for souvenirs (packaged snacks, porcellain, etc.). There's even a workshop where you can try pottery!
Changsha Walking StreetTons of street food. See do section for details.
RestaurantsFor international cuisine, four- and five-star restaurants have reputable chefs although for a visitor, the infinite array of dishes native to or with a Hunan flair are sure to please even the most discriminating palate.
Chui Yan Shi Dai 炊烟时代 or 炊烟食代. Depending on which days, 时代 means "age" and 食代 doesn't mean anything actually, it just that both are homophones and 食 means "to eat" in middle Chinese. There are several other restaurants that likes to play with these kinds of homophones.
The third floor of the Taskin Mall (德思勤) on the intersection of Shaoshan Nan road and Xiangfu Zhong road.
Well prepared Xiang cuisine. Must try are Lajiao Lei Pidan （擂辣椒皮蛋）, Xiangyu Paigu （香芋排骨） and Chao Hua Cai （炒花菜）.
Taiping Street (太平街; Taipingjie) is a newly refurbished area, with traditional/tacky facades has a few smaller bars, some with live music. It is just off Jiefang West Road towards the river. This is a touristy shopping street and many prices are on par with the West. Bargaining is impossible here. Even those who speak little English know how to say no bargains. But the shops are worth seeing to get an idea of what is available.
phone: +86 731 89785030, +86 15116389218address: Taiping St 138 (太平街)A good place to meet other travellers. Western & Chinese menu. Ladies drink free margaritas on Wednesday. Open bar on Thursdays. Full English breakfast and bacon rolls for the tired and hungry.
Hooligans Pubphone: +86 13973116221address: 55 Aimin rd, Hexi, just off of Xinmin rd.Since 2008 Hooligans Pub has been a meeting place for expats. They've moved across the river to a bigger location. They have two floors, the second floor is indoors and the third is a rooftop garden. They now have a kitchen serving western food and snacks. Professional foosball table, western music, extensive selection of imported beers, wines and liquors. They celebrate all western and Chinese holidays and they can accommodate large private parties.
Jinjiang Inn (Nanhu Branch)address: Nanhu Rd, Tianxin DistrictAfter each bath the room steams up for hours because the flooring was made of an unidentifiable material. It is a bit of a way out. The staff are nice enough.
FeeTel Inns Changshaphone: +86 1807 310 3459address: Wuyi St, Furong District (芙蓉区, 五一大道)
Yuelu Shan Youth Hostelphone: +86 731-85368418address: Villa No. 1, Lushan Huaqiaocun, 50 Xinmin Rd (新民路50号麓山华侨村1号别墅)Comfortable, well kept and friendly staff. Conveniently located for climbing Yuelu Shan.
Laiking Hotelphone: +86 731 88842222address: 城南西路228号 (228 Chengnan West Road)Modern and clean hotel very close to the walking street and other attractions in the city.