Chengdu Giant Panda Breeding & Research Centre
Open daily from 7.30am to 6.00pm
One of the world's most successful Giant Panda breeding centres, this is one of Chengdu's most popular tourist attractions, and best for those tight on time, being the closest one to the city centre (though it's worth noting that unlike other reserves, you cannot hold the pandas here). It's also the easiest way to glimpse Sìchuān's most famous residents outside of a zoo, as well as many other endangered species like Red Pandas, black-necked cranes, white storks and more.
The main focus here is getting these super-shy creatures to breed, and being credited with over 100 panda births, we think they're doing pretty well! One of the best times to visit is in high summer (July to September), when, with a bit of luck, you'll get to see a row of swaddled baby pandas in the nursery through the floor-to-ceiling plate-glass windows.
Try to visit in the morning (around 8.30am to 10.00am) as not only is it feeding time – when the larger solitary adult pandas wake from their lazy slumber to mosey to a nearby pile of bamboo shoots laid out by the keepers for them, their muscular jaws making quick work of stripping, mincing and munching through their fodder – it's also when they're at their most active, so you'll see the younger pandas clambering up trunks, hanging from arching branches and wrestling with each other along the forest floor.