Walking can be one of the best ways to discover a new city away from the tourist trail, understand its layout and observe the everyday life of locals. Download some offline Google maps, pull on a pair of sneakers and head out the door for some fresh air and exercise. Here are 10 of our favorite routes to explore when you study abroad in Shanghai.
1. THE NANJING ROAD. The Nanjing Road is the longest and most famous shopping street in China, located in central Puxi. At the start, it can carry two lanes of cars and buses in each direction and is often congested with traffic. It is actually divided into three parts. West Nanjing Road begins at Jing An Temple (Use Jing An Temple Station, subway Lines 2 and 7) and has many high end malls. Walking becomes mandatory in the middle section, the Nanjing Road Pedestrian Street. Cars and buses return for the East Nanjing Road which takes you to the Bund and the Huangpu River. Allow 90 minutes and you will pass a Russian-style building which is an Exhibition Center, the Shanghai TV Studios, People’s Square which is overlooked by the Park Hotel (in the 1930s the tallest building in China) and eventually you will reach the famous Peace Hotel. East Nanjing Road Station metro trains can take you back to where you came from on line 2.
Photo: Ariel shot of The Nanjing Road with Park Hotel
2. CENTURY AVENUE. Like the Nanjing Road, this is another long stretch, but in Pudong on the other side of the Huangpu River. It starts in the financial district, Lujiazui, reached by metro line 2. You will start the walk under the Oriental Pearl TV Tower – and will also be under the Jin Mao Tower, the Shanghai World Financial Center Tower and the Shanghai Tower (now completed) and many other skyscrapers mostly housing financial institutions. If we had wanted to shop, we should have gone into the massive Super Brands Mall right there. During our long walk, we will not pass by many shops, but we will go by many office buildings and some new residential apartments. Century Avenue is much wider than the Nanjing Road and a route into deeper Pudong and the trade zones. You won’t go that far, but will pass a famous Sundial, an Opera House and eventually reach the huge Century Park. Neighboring the park is the Science and Technology Museum and under that is the Xinyang Market worth a stop when you end your walk. This is a famous market with some local brands, but also a lot of copycat versions of foreign brands.
For more detail on the Nanjing Road and Century Avenue walks, see CAPA Shanghai Director Colin Speakman’s article on Abroad Scout.
Photo: Scenes from the Century Avenue Walk
3. THE BUND. This is the area (known in Mandarin as Waitan) alongside the Huangpu River from which you can see the distinctive, predominately European-style buildings that date from the period after the 1840 Opium War in which there were international concessions obtained by Britain, America, France and others in Shanghai. There is the original Customs House, the Hong Kong and Shanghai Bank (a British Bank) and a variety of other architecture which currently house the Gold Exchange, Chinese banks, high end retail shops and restaurants. Look out for an observatory further to the South which was relocated from Suzhou Creek to build the Bund Museum. The promenade section was widened in 2010 and this is good because it attracts many crowds. It's also a great place to see and photograph Pudong’s famous towers across the river.
Photo: The Historic Bund at Night
4. WULUMQI LU. This is the section which starts South of the Middle HuaiHai Lu and just after the Iranian Consulate. It consists of a few blocks of small shops and restaurants serving a variety of Shanghai cuisine for takeaway (with locals in evidence waiting to buy at many of them) at very affordable prices, some incredible displays of fresh fruit and hairy crabs in tanks when they're in season. It's sprinkled with cozy cafes, an authentic antique and curios shop, local Chinese restaurants, foot massage and clothing shops including speciality stores for bags, shoes, electrical devices and the regular convenience stores to complete the picture. It is hard to walk this area without buying something, but there's plenty to look at if you're into window shopping! A 93 bus from Jing An Temple goes along this street. Take a relaxing stroll.
Photo: CAPA students visiting a colourful fruit and vegetable store on Wulumqi Lu
5. THE FORMER FRENCH CONCESSION. This covers a wide area but it would be remiss not to see a part of it when in Shanghai. We recommend beginning your walk at Maoming Lu. There's a huge antique store to browse here. From there, carry on and you can walk past numerous tailor shops and interesting boutiques. Eventually, Maoming Lu will take you to Huaihai Lu, the famous shopping street. From there across Rujin Lu, you will reach Sinan Lu. Here you will find a pretty street with tiny restaurants, bars and small shops. Further along Sinan Lu is Niang Mian (Grandma’s Noodles) at number 36. It has a cult following and is a great place to stop for lunch. You will reach the West Gate of Fuxing Park and further along, Dr Sun Yat-Sen’s residence and finally Sinan Mansions containing 51 renovated French villas. Cafes and restaurants are available in this part to the city too.
Photo: Colorful display in Former French Concession
6. JADE BUDDHA TO MOGANSHAN LU. Start on Anyuan Lu at the Jade Buddha Temple and spend a little time inside, taking in two rare statues carved out of a single huge slab of Burmese white Jade. Enjoy the Koi pond in this temple before heading out toward Shaanxi Bei Lu. Walking this road, you will pass lots of small fast food restaurants, tea shops and local clothing stores on the way to Aomen Lu. You will then find along this road the suppliers to the catering industry – kitchen supplies, baking equipment, dumpling steamers and party supplies all at wholesale prices. Surroundings change to residential high rises and you reach Suzhou Xi Lu. Head north to Moganshan Lu and turn left into it. You are rewarded as you walk further along by reaching number 50. This is the entrance to a lovely collection of small art galleries and some cafes, for you to browse at leisure.
Photo: Shanghai's Jade Buddha Temple by Hermann Luyken
7. SHANGHAI OLD CITY - NANSHI. This was the main Chinese district when the westerners had the International Concessions. The Shanghai Old Street, on Fangbang Zhong Lu, is the best place to start your walk. Here you can see shops selling antiques, crafts, tea and collectibles as well as architecture reflecting Shanghai of the Qing dynasty and the Republican era. Fuyou Antiques Market is recommended and then try the Old Shanghai Teahouse at number 385. Also on this street is the Temple of the Town God. This Daoist Temple has been rebuilt many times, most recently in the 1990s. After visiting the temple, head north past curio stores to the Zig-Zag bridge (bridge of nine turnings) which leads to another teahouse called the Mid-Lake Pavilion which is more than 200 years old. Finally, from there you can see the entrance to the Yu Garden. Completed in 1577, this formerly private garden gives an oasis of calm in a bustling city. There are also shopping stalls in the nearby market.
Photo: The historic Yu Garden shopping area in the Old City
8. HUASHAN LU. Starting at Jing An Temple, take a quick look at the famous Paramount Dance Hall (currently undergoing refurbishment) before crossing Nanjing Xi Lu and the Yan’an Zhong Lu into Huashan Lu welcomed by the Hilton International Hotel. Walk past this and follow Huashan Lu as it turns right. Two much more historic hotels await: The Jing An Hotel (take a peek into its huge gardens) and the Shanghai Hotel (the first major hotel to be built in Shanghai after the PRC was formed). Across the road at that junction is the Huashan Hospital. Enter the grounds going behind the main building. Here you will find an historic Red Cross hospital building and just beyond it a wonderful secluded garden with bridges and ponds which is great for patients (and the rest of us) to relax in. After having a rest there, exit the hospital back on to the Huashan Lu continuing west past another hospital for treating government officials, some French style mansion housing, the Shanghai Milan World Expo coordination office and a theatre. At the end of that section you can contrast the change to modern high rise housing and take a rest in a Costa Café.
Photo: CAPA students and Shanghai's Resident Director in the Huashan Hospital gardens
9. LUJIAZUI TOWERS AREA. For those who did not want to head straight out of Lujiazui to Century Avenue (see walk 2), there is an alternative to exploring this financial district and its towers. Start with the Oriental Pearl Tower - the name card of Shanghai, but an expensive one if you want to go up to the top. Take some photos and instead head down to the basement and walk through the Shanghai History Museum with its amazing collection of scale models of old Shanghai life and architecture. You can also visit the Natural Wild Insect Kingdom at 1 Fenghe Road near the river. Then you can head back past the Pearl Tower and on to the Shanghai Aquarium on the ring road at Lujiazui. From there, spy the Jinmao Tower with the Grand Hyatt Hotel and the Shanghai World Financial Center Tower with the Park Hyatt Hotel. You can use elevated walkways to reach them. Pretend you are checking in or meeting someone in the lobby and you will get a view from half way up these towers for free without having to zoom in your camera so much. It's if the clouds are hanging higher up.
Photo: Lujiazui area towers
10. HONGKOU DISTRICT. This walk starts at Dong Baoxing Lu station where, using exit 1, you cut across Hailan Xi Lu and head north along Baoshan Lu, turning right onto Hengbang Lu. You will pass fruit and vegetable stalls, fishmongers and steaming vats of dumplings. At the crossroads with Dong Hengbang Lu, turn left and then continue until Duolun Lu. To the left is the lovable Old Film Café next to the Xi Zhi Zhong Lou bell tower. In the 1920s and ’30s, Duolun Lu was home to writer Lu Xun and his progressive, left-leaning writerly cohorts such as Mao Dun and Ding Ling. Note the Hong De Tang church at number 8, built in 1928, and an unusual combination of Christian church and traditional Chinese temple. Head into Sichuan Bei Lu and take a left on Shanyin Lu. Here, you’ll immediately see some superbly preserved shikumen housing. At Tian Ai Lu, you have reached the south-eastern tip of Lu Xun Park, which we recommended a stroll through. You will also see the Hongkou Stadium, home to Shanghai Xinhua football club.
Photo: Hongkou by bricoleurbanism