24 Hours in Changsha

This up-and-coming Chinese metropolis is a treasure trove of ancient cultural relics, intricate architecture and natural beauty.

Changsha is a famous historical and cultural Chinese city with its history dating back over 3,000 years. Today, the capital city of Hunan province is an important city for manufacturing and transport and serves as a regional hub for the tourism, industrial and service sectors.

If a day is all you have in Changsha, here’s how you can make the most of your time here.

Hunan University in Changsha

Relive years of Chinese history 

In a city with history amounting to thousands of years, you can’t afford to miss out on immersing yourself in some of its culture. A visit to Hunan Provincial Museum is like relieving those years of Chinese history in a single morning. Highlights here include a rare, well-preserved 2,000-year-old corpse, complete with fully intact organs, mobile joints and elastic skin. If you’re familiar with the different dynasties that ruled in China, you might be interested in several silk garments, books and relics retrieved from the Han, Shang, Zhou and Chu dynasties.

For a look at education in the past, hop over to Yuelu Academy at the foot of Yuelu Mountain, best known for its surrounding scenic spots. Built in AD 976, the academy was where ancient scholars took their examinations for official roles. Resisting the wear and tear of time, it’s part of Hunan University today, a centre of publication and research for the ancient Chinese languages.

Yuelu Academy at the foot of Yuelu Mountain

Make your tastebuds sizzle

What’s a trip without trying some local fare? If you’re a fan of spicy food, Hunan cuisine will definitely not disappoint. 

For starters, make sure you get a taste of Lucky Strike. This Changsha classic can be had at Modena by Fraser Changsha and is prepared only with the freshest and largest fish in the season.

For lunch, head to Huo Gong Dian to try the Mao-style braised pork, so named after the founding father of the People’s Republic of China. There’s also glutinous rice buns, steamed fish head in spicy sauce and stinky tofu that you have to try.

For a record-breaking dinner, check out West Lake restaurant. The 5,000-seater eatery is listed as the world’s largest Chinese restaurant in The Guinness Book of World Records! With over 1,000 employees consisting of chefs, waiters, dancers, bellboys and cleaners and its architecture modelled after Beijing’s famous Forbidden City, you can be sure of a dining experience like no other here.

From handcrafted jewellery to specialty teas

Want some retail therapy? There’s something for every kind of shopper in Changsha. If international brands are your go-to, head to the city’s premium shopping district, Wuyi Road, where you will find familiar big-name labels in large-scale shopping centres.

For a more local flavor, you might want to check out Huangxing Road Pedestrian Street, a 2km stretch of charming stores offering clothing, souvenirs and local specialities. If you’re looking for unique souvenirs and gifts for family and friends, try Taiping Street – you might be able to snag some exquisite Xiang embroidered textiles, speciality teas and Miao handcrafted jewellery.

How about a glimpse of Mao Zedong?

Mao Zedong statue on Orange Island in Changsha

Looking to escape the bustle of the city? Take a trip to Yuelu Park, a verdant oasis of lush greenery in the heart of Changsha. Since ancient times, poets have waxed lyrical about its sublime beauty and it is easy to see why.

The scenic area consists of rivers, lakes, flora and fauna alongside ancient relics and historical tombs and structures. The Yuelu Mountain here makes for an easy hour-long trek, but if you’re pressed for time, take the chairlift up and zip down on a toboggan in a matter of minutes.

Take a walk to Lushan Temple after, the oldest historical site of the Han and Wei dynasties. And for your last stop, make your way to Orange Island, the world’s longest inland river island and known for producing an abundance of oranges in autumn.

Formed in the Jin dynasty, the long and narrow island in the Xiangjiang River is home to the Mao Zedong statue. Completed after two years of construction in 2009, the 32m-tall monument is a bust of Mao in his thirties.

Catch an opera or acrobatics show 

If you still can’t decide, the bustling city is full of entertainment options. Changsha not only hosts the biennial China Golden Eagle TV Art Festival (dubbed the Chinese Emmy), but it is renowned across China for its performing arts, including opera and acrobatics.

For a glimpse of its arts, visit the Meixi Lake International Culture and Art Centre. Housing the largest performance venue with a 1,800-seat capacity, the centre is the brainchild of the late British architect Zaha Hadid. The organic sinuous curves of the structure are a futuristic representation of the petals of a flower and sits by the tranquil Meixi Lake.

If you’re looking for a vibrant hangout spot in the night, you’ll be spoilt for choice with the many KTV clubs and bars dotting the glitzy Jiefan Xilu and Hualongchi.

If there’s time to catch a few winks, freshen up at Modena by Fraser Changsha. Conveniently located within the brand new i-City lifestyle shopping complex in the heart of Kaifu district, a host of dining, shopping and entertainment options are just mere moments away, making it perfect for both business and leisure travellers alike.

Adapted from Fraser Cachet Issue #28 © Frasers Hospitality and SPH Magazines

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