Kunming’s pleasant, mild year-round climate has made it one of China’s most visited cities. The capital of Yunnan province has a relaxed charm that’s hard to find in this vast country’s larger metropolises, with access to spectacular countryside plus plenty of traditional sights in the city centre.
Kunming is served by a brand new metro system, known as the KRT (Kunming Rail Transit). This connects the city’s key bus stations, airport and train terminus, as well as the university town to the south. Buses are a good option, while the bike endures thanks to the student population.
Kunming is blessed with a number of traditional sights. The pick of the bunch is the Golden Temple. China’s largest copper temple, this Taoist site dates back to the early seventeenth century and the Ming dynasty. Set on the top of Mingfeng Hill, its statues and air of tranquillity make it one of Kunming’s favourite destinations.
Culture fiends should definitely make their way to the Yunnan Provincial Museum. Relics from the area’s Buddhist and local minority ethnic past take pride of place, as well as perfectly preserved carvings and jewellery. If you’re intrigued by Chinese history, this is the place to come.
For a spot of people watching, few places are better than the unmissable East and West Pagodas. Both have become a mecca for Kunming’s older citizens, who hang out and play mahjong in the shadow of these Tang temples. Grab up a cup of tea here and watch the world go by.
Kunming’s huge student population means modern art has boomed here. The excellent Chaung Ku, set in an old factory, is home to a string of great galleries and hip hangouts. TCG Nordica also hosts cutting edge exhibitions, as well as live music.
Kunming has become renowned as a base for outdoor adventure. So once you’ve scoured the city, take off and check out some of the less well-known sights out of town. The stunning Stone Forest, billed as one of the wonders of the world by ancient Chinese rulers, is home to amazing rock formations, perfect for an afternoon stroll.
The lush forests of the Western Hills offer a great opportunity for anyone looking to get away from the traffic of Kunming’s city centre. Hiking trails lead to a number of gorgeous temples, with amazing views over nearby lakes.
Yunnan cuisine is enduringly popular throughout China and Kunming is undoubtedly the best place to try it. 1910 La Gare du Sud mixes western opulence with local style, offering a menu largely focused on Yunnanese treats: think deep–fried cheese rolls, hot pots with tofu and native ham and pan–fried fish.
For something a bit less swanky, head to Hong Dou Yuan. This simple restaurant also specialises in Yunnan’s unique eats. The beef with pepper is excellent, but make sure you also try er kaui, or rice cakes, and the grilled bean curd for the full experience.