Top 5 Sights When Backpacking in Changsha, Hunan Province, China

jonny blair hunan china changsha

Off the beaten track again: backpacking in Changsha, Hunan Province, China

In my ongoing quest to visit every Province in China, I recently headed to the Hunan Province which is probably most famous for the fact that Chairman Mao Ze Dong comes from this province. Also famous is the scenic area at Wulingyuan which was made famous by it’s inclusion as the location for the film Avatar. I made the trip to the capital city of Hunan province to check out the buzz of it all. I based myself in Changsha, arriving by high speed train from the city of Guangzhou. Backpacking in Changsha offers a very very cool insight to Chinese history, charm and culture.

mao statue hunan

At the Mao Zedong Statue in Changsha, Hunan Province. This is where it all began for Mao!

Changsha is the capital of Hunan Province and houses an incredible 2.3 million people. As I mentioned before I reckon I’ve been to about 30 cities in China with over a million people in them that most travellers won’t have heard of. It just shows the vastness of China. It astounds me everytime and I LOVE travelling in China. Extreme!

changsha train station

The joys of backpacking in China – train stations like this one in Changsha!

Changsha doesn’t have many hostels, but you should look to base yourself in the Changsha International Youth Hostel. It’s cheap, friendly and has great staff. The rooms are also warm and cosy – which is essential in winter. I met two fellow backpackers in there – Ricardo (a Chinese lad learning Spanish) and Alessandro (a cool Italian lad learning Chinese!). Alessandro features quite a bit on this post.

hostel changsha

Outside Changsha Youth Hostel in Hunan China

Here are my personal top 5 things to see and do in the city of Changsha.

1. Changsha City Museum/Changsha Municipal Museum

A museum FULL of ceramics, silver, jade and relics from vintage Chinese dynasties, this is certainly worth a visit. You might know that I’m not the biggest ever museum fan but I love free museums! The Changsha City Museum is central and free. You get a ticket on entrance.

main city museum changsha china

With my ticket for the Municipal Museum in Changsha

You can walk past a lot of quotes of Chairman Mao and into a hall at the back containing all the relics. Also in the museum grounds are the massive statue of Chairman Mao and Chairman Mao’s old house. I didn’t want to include all 3 in this list as they’re in the same place, but in number two below, I had to put Mao’s House which is free entry also and included in your visit ticket.

changsha museum china

Entrance to Changsha Municipal Museum

2. Chairman Mao Zedong’s House/Hunan CCP Committee Building

Inside the grounds of the Changsha City Museum is the Hunan CCP Committee building. There is a massive bit of world history right here! Chairman Mao came from nearby Shaoshan but spent two years living with his first wife here in secret. The house is very well restored and you can wander in at your leisure.

chairman mao bedroom changsha

Selfie of me peeking in on Chairman Mao’s Old Bedroom in Changsha China

This house was used by Mao Zedong from 1921 – 1923. Again free entry. Opening times vary but tend to be 9am – 4.30 pm with a closure on Mondays.

changsha china backpacking

Chairman Mao once lived here (1921-1923) – the Hunan CCP Committee building in Changsha, China.

3. Tianxin Ge

Chinese cities are brilliant for their gardens. Away from thew big city buzz is this mega garden area called Tianxin Ge. It’s leafy, it’s well decorated and it makes a pleasant walk. You can also see the old city walls within and an archway/gate which is constructed as a monument to those who died and fought with Japan on one of their attempted invasions. This is called Chongli Gate.

tianxin ge china changsha

The pavilion and gardens at Tianxin Ge in Changsha, China.

The main gardens at Tianxin Ge are free but you need to pay 32 RMB to go to the top. Students are 16 RMB. There is also a tea house and some cool souvenir shops within. This is where you’ll get Changsha postcards.

changsha hunan china

A wet dreary day touring Tianxin Ge in Changsha, Hunan Province, China.

4. Huo Gong Dian (Fire Palace Temple)

This popular temple is in the old district of Changsha and sits in a magnificent courtyard. Alessandro and I were only only two foreigners in sights though. Entry free of course and a tasty and popular restaurant next door. Popular?? Yes – Chairman Mao ate here 😉

fire palace temple changsha

Alessandro and I in the rain at Huo Gong Dian (Fire Palace Temple)

5. Dufu Jiang Ge Pavilion, Xiangjiang River

This marvellous yet modern pavilion commands excellent views over the river. I sometimes laugh looking back at my Chinese photos as they seem drab, grey, dreary, wet and dull. Yet my experience from seeing the XiangJiang River in Changsha was nothing but memorable.

xiangjiang river china

By the XiangJiang River in Changsha, China.

I remember thinking it was like being back in Taiwan again as there were just no tourists, it was so raw and real and everything was like another world. Possibly also because my girlfriend wasn’t with me on this trip so it felt like I was alone in China.

changsha night time china

Downtown Changsha at night.

Those are my personal top 5 – I didn’t include the Martyrs Memorial Park which we also visited and it’s worth a look, nor did I include anything outside the city centre. All of these 5 things can easily be done walking, or at worst taking a local bus (2RMB per ride as of January 2014). The Hunan Provincial Museum is currently closed for refurbishment so I didn’t include it either – it will reopen in 2015 – 2016 hopefully.

backpacking in changsha china

I also visited the Hunan Martyrs Memorial Park but it just missed my top 5.

A night out on the tiles in Changsha is also recommended and I hope to cover that in Thirsty Thursdays at some point. Here are some of my videos from Changsha:

4 thoughts on “Top 5 Sights When Backpacking in Changsha, Hunan Province, China

  • Hey dude! Thanks so much for this post! It’s one of my goals to also visit every province in China! I’ve been living in Shanghai for 1.5 years and I’m fully aware that it’s not the real China. When I got here I was disappointed with the lack of culture so I need to get out to more places like this.

  • Hey dude! Thanks so much for this post! It’s one of my goals to also visit every province in China! I’ve been living in Shanghai for 1.5 years and I’m fully aware that it’s not the real China. When I got here I was disappointed with the lack of culture so I need to get out to more places like this.
    Alice Nettleingham recently posted…Face to face with Death in CambodiaMy Profile

  • Hi Alice, thanks for the comment. Glad you love China like myself and many others. I actually started off in Beijing back in 2007 and liked it on my first visit, then I got bored of the known cities like Beijing and Shanghai. If you’re in Shanghai, I assume you’ll have been to places like Suzhou and Hangzhou already – loved my trips out there. A really nice province is Fujian – very unusual and worth it for Xiamen, the Fujian Tulou and Gu Lang Yu. It’s the best country in the world to test yourself as a backpacker. Everything is just so foreign, so alien, so refreshingly exciting! Safe travels. Jonny

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply.

CommentLuv badge