Located in China’s most ethnically diverse province – Yunnan, Kunming is laidback but bursting with history, culture and creative energy.

As capital of Yunnan, China’s most ethnically diverse province, and located on a geographical crossroads bordering Tibet, Vietnam, Laos and Burma, Kunming is bursting with history, culture and creative energy. The city grew to importance as a garrison town during the Mongol Yuan Dynasty, but humans have been settled in the area for thousands of years, leaving some rich historical traces behind.

Regardless of whether you’re a foodie, a shopaholic or a history buff, Kunming offers enough to easily pack a weekend schedule. And that's before you even consider the incredible sights outside the city, which make Kunming one of China’s top tourist destinations. Yunnanese food, for those who’ve never tried it, always proves to be an incredible revelation, which is unsurprising given the province’s numerous different climates and influences.

Kunming is a well-kept secret, but won’t be for long. Its high altitude means it has a near perfect climate, while the laid-back vibes of the locals make a welcome change from the noise and intensity of cities like Beijing and Shanghai. Even better, traveling here won’t break the bank, either. But shh, don’t tell everyone.


When to go

Kunming is known as the Spring City for its pleasant climate, which is generally dry and neither too hot nor too cold. It is a good year-round destination. December and January are coldest, and August tends to be slightly wetter.

Visa requirements

Singaporean citizens can visit China for a period of 15 days without a visa, while most other nationalities require a visa in advance. Ensure your passport is valid for at least six months and that you have a return or onward ticket.


China's currency is the yuan (Y), also known as renminbi, or colloquially as kuai. There are currency exchange booths and ATMs at Changshui International Airport and there are a number of ATMs in the city itself. Most of the large Chinese banks (including Bank of China and Construction Bank of China) accept international credit and debit cards.


The airport lies 25km (16 miles) northeast of the city. A taxi to downtown costs around Y100. Despite recent efforts by the city government, public transport remains patchy and difficult to use - the metro system is being expanded, but coverage is poor. Taxis are to be found in abundance throughout most parts of the city. The city's pleasant climate makes walking a good option.

Health and safety tips

Kunming is generally safe, though as with all cities in China travellers should remain vigilant. The nightclub area close to the city centre is best avoided late at night. There are numerous hospitals throughout the city though service and cleanliness levels can be inconsistent and fees high.

Emergency details

The nearest Singapore Consulate is in Guangzhou at Unit 2418, CITIC Plaza Office Tower, 233 Tianhe North Road, Tianhe District (tel: (86) 20 3891 2345,  www.mfa.gov.sg/guangzhou).

Dial 110 in an emergency. Police stations and police officers are a relatively common sight especially in and around the city centre. English-speaking walk-in inquiries should be directed to Kunming Public Security Bureau, #525 Beijing Road, Panlong District (tel: (86) 871 3017 001).

Basic greetings
English Mandarin
Hello Ni hao
How are you? Ni hao ma?
Fine, thanks Hen hao, xie xie
Goodbye Zai jian
Excuse-me! (to get attention) Qing wen!
Thank you Xie xie
Yes Shi de
No Bu shi
OK Hao de
What's your name? Ni jiao shen me ming zi?
My name is… Wo jiao…
Nice to meet you Jian dao ni hen gao xing
Are you on Facebook/Twitter? Nin zai shi yong Facebook/Twitter ma?
Where’s an internet café? Wang ba zai na li?
Where can I get a taxi? Wo ke yi zai na li zhao dao chu zu che?
Where is the bus/train station? Qi che zhan/huo che zhan zai na li?
A one-way/return ticket to… Yi zhang dao…de dan cheng/shuang cheng piao
Do you have a room for one/two? You yi/liang ren de fang jian ma?
When's check out? Ji dian tui fang?
Can you recommend a good restaurant/bar? Ni neng tui jian yi jia hao can guan/jiu ba ma?
A table for two, please Qing gei wo liang ge ren de zhuo zi
A menu, please Qing gei wo cai dan
The bill, please Qing gei wo zhang dan
Where's the toilet? Xi shou jian zai na li?
Help! Jiu ming!

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Lake Dianchi & Western Hills

Xishan Highway, Xishan District

Lake Dianchi and the Western Hills, visible from many parts of the city, rise to 2,350 metres (7,710ft) and are a short ride away from downtown. Crowds during weekends and holidays can be overwhelming, but a weekday walk when the weather is good makes the magic of the hills come alive. Take a taxi or bus to the base and hike to the top, passing Buddhist and Taoist temples along the way. From the top the views of Lake Dianchi, a huge body of water stretching some 40km (25 miles) from tip to tail, can be breathtaking.

Muslim Quarter

Shuncheng Jie, Wuhua District

Kunming's city centre is still home to a small Muslim Quarter despite recent large-scale redevelopment. The community is descended from a military garrison dating from the Mongol Yuan dynasty, and the area around Shuncheng Street contains a lively mix of mosques and halal restaurants, making it a great place to see both Hui architecture and sample some delicious beef noodles.

East and West Pagodas

No. 63, Shulin Jie, Xishan District

The city’s most ancient landmarks, the two 13-tier East and West Pagodas, in the southeast quarter, date back to the Tang dynasty. They stand opposite one another at either end of Sima Alley, which is lined with numerous restaurants and souvenir shops.  Maintaining a graceful watch over Kunming, these two stone towers are beautiful, mysterious architectural examples of Yunnan's place at a geographical crossroads.

Green Lake

Cuihu Lake, Cuihu Nan Lu, Wuhua District

Green Lake (Cui Hu) sits in the centre of Kunming; with ornate boats on the water and bright pavilions on its shores, it makes for a pleasant stroll. The grounds form the city’s major park, occupied every morning with Chinese tai chi enthusiasts and joggers, as well as those practising their ballroom dancing. The islands in the centre of the lake were once home to the provincial governor and his entourage, though little trace now remains of those once elaborate buildings.

Yunnan Provincial Museum

No. 118 Wuyi Lu, Wuhua District

The Yunnan Provincial Museum has a collection of 198,000 artefacts from across history and across the province, including 500 pieces which have been given the highly coveted 'national treasure' status. Highlights include intricate local bronzeware and exhibits on the province's ethnic minority cultures. The Museum will transfer to a new, larger building near Guangfu Lu in the city's southern Guandu District in May 2014.


Jingxing Street

Jingxing Jie, Wuhua District

Jingxing Street makes up a good portion of what was once Kunming's old town, and there are still some examples of old architecture that have miraculously survived the drive for modernity. The street is packed with antique dealers, flower and plant sellers and souvenir shops showcasing Yunnan's regional handicrafts. The shopkeepers here are used to relieving tourists of their cash with inflated prices, so bargain hard.

Budget $$

Shuncheng Wangfujing Mall

Intersection of Yanhe Lu and Dongfeng Xi Lu, Wuhua District

Managed by the huge Wangfujing Group, Shuncheng Wangfujing Mall sits on what was once Kunming's thriving Muslim Quarter. Well-designed, well-managed and featuring a strong mix of mainly fashion boutiques, this is the place to see and be seen. The usual luxury suspects have some high profile stores here, but they are complemented by more affordable options like Zara.

Budget $$$

Wenhua Lane

Wenhua Xiang, Wuhua District

Wenhua Lane sits close to Kunming University and therefore has a distinctly student vibe. In the evenings droves of pop-up stalls appear on the roadsides, giving the street a carnival atmosphere. This is a fun place to look for everything from cheap fashion to obscure books on Yunnan's ethnic minorities.

Budget $

Zhengyi Road

Zhengyi Lu, Wuhua District

Conveniently located close to Shuncheng and connecting to Jingxing Street, Zhengyi Road is a showcase for China's retail market. Sportswear shops and mid-market fashion boutiques dominate with their loud sound systems providing a lively soundtrack to the streetlife. This street made world headlines a couple of years ago when the 'Apple Store' located at one end turned out to be a brilliantly executed fake.

Budget $$


1910 La Gare Du Sud

No. 8, Houxin Jie, Guandu District

1910 La Gare Du Sud is a colonial-style restaurant housed within the old station house of the Vietnam to Yunnan railway, which was built by the French in 1904–1910. There is a pleasant garden area and the restaurant serves an amazing range of Yunnan specialities and Chinese cuisine staples. An English menu is available, prices are reasonable, and the food is fantastic. It’s best to go by taxi (ask for huoche nanzhan canting), as it is difficult to find even with a map.

Budget $$$


No. 68–70, Beimen Jie, Wuhua District

Set inside a traditional courtyard building and decked out with various rural and ethnic minority paraphernalia, Guangyi has plenty of character. It's also a great place to discover some of Yunnan province's culinary gems without blowing your budget. The fish dishes are highly recommended.

Budget $$

Jiangshi Brother Across-the-Bridge Noodles

Jinbi Square, Jinbi Lu, Wuhua District

The Brothers Jiang hold a powerful monopoly on Kunming's Across-the-Bridge Noodles market, and with good reason: Jiangshi Brother Across-the-Bridge Noodles are cheap and tasty, and the atmosphere in their numerous restaurants lively and loud. For a wider variety of side dishes consider going for the more expensive options. Don't let the seeming calm of the oily surface of the dish fool you – the broth beneath the surface is piping hot.

Budget $


No. 76, Wenlin Jie, Wenhua Xiang, Wuhua District

Salvador’s is one of Kunming’s oldest foreign-run cafés and restaurants; it serves excellent Tex-Mex cuisine, homemade ice cream and their own brand of Yunnan coffee beans. Proceeds from the restaurant business also go towards running a programme to support sustainable agriculture and education in the rural areas from which many of Salvador’s staff come.

Budget $$

Xiangyun Food City

The intersection of Baoshan Jie and Xiangyun Jie, Wuhua District

Loud, lively and always full of hungry customers, Xiangyun Food City is an indoor market with stalls offering a wide range of dishes from around Yunnan province. The Dai food here, accompanied by a glass of fresh fruit juice, is particularly good, as are the Muslim beef noodles. Most menus have pictures.

Budget $


Camellia Hotel Kunming

33 North Huan Cheng Road

The Camellia Hotel Kunming is a moderately priced, quiet yet well-located hotel close to the heart of the city. Rooms tend towards a basic, Nineties aesthetic that is beginning to look slightly retro, but are clean and comfortable. There is also dormitory accommodation for impecunious backpackers. Most of the staff speak at least some English and are very helpful. The hotel travel agency is handy for those wishing to travel around Yunnan.

Budget $$

Grand Park Kunming

No. 20, Hong Hua Qiao, Wuhua District

Located near Green Lake Park, the five-star Grand Park Kunming is an impressive 21-storey hotel with bright and unfussy rooms, some with the benefit of park views. There are excellent facilities here, including three restaurants, a deli, outdoor pool, children’s play area and business services.

Budget $$$

Green Lake Hotel Kunming

No. 6, Cuihu Nan Lu, Wuhua District

In a beautiful lakeside location, Green Lake Hotel Kunming is a former state guesthouse which has been tastefully refurbished to retain much of its character. Though its service lacks some of the finesse of the international hotel chains, its location, restaurants, fitness facilities and decor mean it remains one of Kunming’s more charming options.

Budget $$$

Home Inn Cuihu Park

No. 152, Cuihu Nan Lu, Wuhua District

What the Home Inn Cuihu Park lacks in character it makes up for in convenience, location and value for money. Part of one of China's largest business hotel groups, the Home Inn is clean and efficient, with decent service. For those looking for a no-nonsense stay close to the city's main sights, this hotel is a great choice.

Budget $$

Lost Garden Guesthouse

No. 7 Yiqiutian, Huanggong Dong Jie, Cuihu Nan Lu, Wuhua District

A new addition to Kunming’s budget accommodation options, Lost Garden Guesthouse has a great location close to Green Lake Park, as well as an excellent little restaurant attached. The rooms benefit from heated floors – not to be sniffed at during the city's cold winter nights.

Budget $

Jindian Temple Fair

Date varies in February

This once traditional temple fair has become a bold, brash affair attracting thousands of visitors who flock to enjoy the carnival atmosphere, pleasant park surroundings and local snacks.

Kunming International Cultural Tourism Festival


Featuring street parades, dancing and other festivities, this event is very colourful and a window onto the world of China's ethnic minorities.

Torch Festival

Date varies in July, August

Taking place in a number of towns around Kunming, the Torch Festival sees local Yi ethnic groups taking part in atmospheric torch processions.

Water Sprinkling Festival

13-15 April

Yunnan is home to a large Dai ethnic minority population, and their annual Water Sprinkling festivities which take place in the province's Xishuangbanna region are a big draw for tourists.

Zhongdian Horse Racing Fair


Yunnan's northeast is a predominantly Tibetan area and on the fifth and sixth days of the fifth lunar month a huge horse racing fair takes place in Shangri-La, drawing crowds from around the world.

Java Jazz Festival


An event that attracts international artists such as Natalie Cole, George Benson, Santana and Fourplay, working together with local faves. For three days concerts are held at various venues throughout the city from early afternoon until very late. See www.javajazzfestival.com for more info.


Kunming’s geographical location means that it has more diversity and culture than the average Chinese city. Begin at Green Lake, the historical heart of the city. This was once home to the provincial governor, who lived in style on the islands in the middle of the park. In winter the lake’s most famous residents are no longer high officials but Siberian seagulls who migrate here for the warmer climate. The park surrounding Green Lake is a hive of activity, with families on afternoon strolls, retirees practising calisthenics, and groups of middle-aged housewives line-dancing.


From the lake head south past the hyper-modern steel and glass tower that is home to the Wuhua District government, towards the Yunnan Provincial Museum. Housing tens of thousands of artefacts from around the province, the museum provides an insight into the area's history. Only a couple of streets away to the east is what was once the city’s Muslim Quarter; the Shuncheng Mosque is worth seeing for its blend of Islamic and traditional Chinese architecture. A number of halal restaurants in the neighbourhood make it a good place to stop for lunch.


South of the Muslim Quarter is Jinbi Square, a gaudy commercial complex built in a traditional style, with an ice rink and a number of bars. Continuing south, the next historical sight is one of the two East and West Pagodas, dating back to the Tang Dynasty. Round your day off at a coffee house on Wenlin Street near the university, where good conversation and, often, live music abounds.

Places to visit:
Green Lake, Yunnan Provincial Museum, Muslim Quarter, East and West Pagodas.


Grab breakfast at Salvador’s for a taste of delicious backpacker food and sustainable Yunnan coffee that won’t break the bank.


After burning off the breakfast calories with a walk around Green Lake and the old town, head further south to Jiangshi Brother Across-the-Bridge Noodles. These rice noodles are a Kunming staple, and can be eaten at any time of the day, but make a good lunch. For the story behind the unique name, ask a member of staff to explain the history. A layer of oil keeps the soup underneath very close to boiling point, and you are expected to tip in the noodles and other side dishes yourself to be cooked in the soup. Kunmingers like their noodles ultra spicy, but thankfully the spice comes on the side too.


Energised (or scalded) by the noodles, you’re only a stone’s throw from the city’s shopping district across the road. Indulge in some retail therapy before dinner at 1910 La Gare du Sud, a few streets southeast of the shopping district. This place is consistently named best Yunnanese restaurant in Kunming, and the menu is an extensive guide to the region’s amazing creations. Ask for mushroom and vegetable dish recommendations, many varieties of which are only found growing wild, and are unique to Yunnan. Drink the pu’er tea to aid digestion – you’ll need it after a day of eating this much.



Places to visit:
Salvador’s, Jiangshi Brother Across-the-Bridge Noodles, 1910 La Gare du Sud.