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With a layout reminiscent of Hong Kong and a distinct Sichuanese vibe, Chongqing is one of the most interesting and dynamic cities in Western China. The "Mountain City," as it is known, is much more three-dimensional than your average Chinese metropolis, so prepare for plenty of hills and stairs. By Western standards, Chongqing is not a sophisticated place, and this is precisely the reason it is so captivating. Wander off the main pedestrian and shopping drags, get lost in its alleys and local neighborhoods, and dive right in. One of the world’s most massive cities, Chongqing is raw and unforgiving. If you want a taste of the real modern China, skip dressed-up Shanghai and sanitized Beijing and head directly into the beating heart of the dragon.

The central peninsula area of Yuzhong District, between the Jialing River to the north and the Yangtze River to the south, is the most interesting and dynamic area of Chongqing. Within Yuzhong, most of the action is centered around the Jiefang Bei (Liberation Monument) area, where you will find the bulk of Chongqing's top hotels, restaurants, bars, and clubs. It is essential to wander off Jiefang Bei to immerse yourself in this thriving metropolis.

There's plenty to do outside of the city center, however, with scenic mountains in the south, the old Ming town of Ciqikou to the northwest, and the fantastic Buddhist caves at Dazu, farther afield.

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