Shanghai is an amazing city with so many fantastic sights to see. All the skyscrapers, modern and historic architecture, and the temples dotted throughout the city are all waiting to be seen and explored. There is the famed Bund with the amazing skyline, the crowded walkways of Yu Garden and the increasingly popular Columbia circle with its endless opportunities to capture a selfie. While all of these are amazing places to see, there are multiple other destinations in and around Shanghai that will provide anyone with Instagram worthy pictures and fond memories to cherish. These are some of my top picks for places to explore in and around Shanghai.
One of the first places one hears about when arriving in Shanghai is Zhujiajiao. A small, ancient water town, which is easily reached by metro, brings a little taste of the Venice canals to China. While commercialization and tourism have brought modern development to the area, Zhujiajiao is not to be missed. The town provides opportunities to sample numerous types of street food and the narrow walkways will give perfect photo opportunities. Places like the Fangsheng Bridge and the numerous other bridges that traverse the canals give this place an ancient vibe. If you want to avoid crowds, then go on a weekday to get the full feel of this ancient water town.
If you’re looking for a different view of the Huangpu River, look no further than the West Bund. A former industrial zone, this area has undergone extensive redevelopment and has transformed into an area filled with museums, parks and exercise paths. On any given sunny day this area fills up with families, athletes, and amateur photographers hoping to take advantage of the amenities that this place offers. This area has done a good job preserving some of its industrial architecture and shipping industry and it provides a great backdrop for photos as well as people watching. Artsy folks can take advantage of the many art museums that are scattered throughout this vast area. The rain room at the Yuz Museum is a personal recommendation. If you’re looking for some exercise or recreation, take a jog on the running path, practice your climbing skills along the rock-climbing wall or (if you have a skateboard) utilize the outdoor skate park. On any off day, the West Bund is definitely worth exploring.
JIABEI COUNTRYSIDE PARK
A bit off the beaten path, near the end of line 11 in Jiading, this large suburban park brings a little bit of the countryside to the fringes of Shanghai. When you just want to get away from all the crowds but don’t want to have the hassle of planning an hours long trip to smaller cities, Jiabei Countryside Park is a good choice. This area is unique with an abundance of farmland and rice fields that it makes you forget you’re still within the Shanghai city limits. You can explore areas of meticulously planted trees, gardens, and ponds of lotus scattered over 10 square kilometers. This is a great area to spend a day having a picnic or to practice your photography skills. It’s also not uncommon to businesses and their staff participating in team building activities. If you want to get away from it all, but don’t want to spend the money on a train ticket, then this suburban park may be just what you’re looking for.
HUANGSHAN (YELLOW MOUNTAINS)
It’s impossible to be in Shanghai for very long without someone mentioning the Yellow Mountains. Locally referred to as Huangshan, these mountains in Anhui province are truly a must see for anyone living in and around Shanghai. About a 3 to 4 hours train ride, the Yellow Mountains are a UNESCO world heritage site that has been of significant importance throughout ancient Chinese literature. You can spend the day hiking all the magnificent peaks and enjoying the varied flora that are scattered throughout the mountain range. Be sure to take pictures of the “Sea of Clouds” and ascend the precariously placed steps that hug the edges of the cliffs. If you prefer a more leisurely pace, then enjoy the hot springs or take a cable car up the mountain. My recommendation is that you stay the night on top of Huangshan so you can catch the famous sunset or sunrise without having to worry about making it up or down the mountain in the dark. This UNESCO site should be on every Shanghai residents bucket list.
While there are plenty more sites to explore, these are my favorites that I’ve had the pleasure to enjoy during my time in Shanghai. While the outside world sees Shanghai as a thriving metropolis with super tall buildings, dense crowds and the colorful Pearl tower, the biggest city in the world offers so much more. Shanghai is what you make of it so get out and explore and find your own favorite places!
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Post by: Charles Maez
Charles is an American who has found himself teaching English to adults in Shanghai. He loves traveling and exploring all that Shanghai and China have to offer. Living in and experiencing a different culture from his own has taught Charles more about himself than he would have ever gained from living in the States. Charles loves talking to people from all different backgrounds and being a resource to navigating Shanghai so feel free to contact him with questions.