An Introvert's Guide to Shanghai: 10 Ways to Recharge

Dec 15, 2015 1:30:00 PM / by Stephanie Sadler

Yes, CAPA global cities are bursting with people from around the globe and are inevitably full of social and networking opportunities. They're also home to some pretty amazing quieter places though, and are host to tons of activities that give the introverts among us a chance to recharge and perhaps discover another, more peaceful, side of a bustling metropolis. Here are 10 of our favorites in Shanghai:

1. RIDE THE HUANGPU TUNNEL PEDESTRIAN TRAIN. No, you do not have to walk under or over the river if you want to get to the other side! It might have a reputation as a bit of a cheesy way to cross the bund connecting Pudong and Puxi, but the Huangpu Tunnel Pedestrian Train can be fun, nonetheless. There are individual cabins that take you along tracks and at quiet times you will have one all to yourself. It's just you and the darkness punctuated by several light shows. Perfect! 

Bund Sightseeing Tunnel (外滩观光隧道)
Photo: Bund Sightseeing Tunnel by Tom Thai

2. SEE A WEEKDAY AFTERNOON MOVIE. Film buff? Head to a multiplex cinema like the UME (Ultimate Movie Experience) International Cineplex in Xintiandi or the Shanghai Steller IMAX in Pudong New District or the Peace Cinema IMAX in Huangpu on a weekday afternoon when it's less likely to be busy. You might get the whole theater to yourself, or at least your own row. There are plenty of movies shown in their original English language with Chinese subtitles (which can help you practice the language!).

Shanghai - Peace Cinema - IMAX
Photo: Peace Cinema, Shanghai by Greg Peterson

3. BROWSE A BOOK SHOP. There are a few book shops in Shanghai where you can find English language books. There's one in the Super Brand Mall, Pudong open all night. You could be the only customer in the late hours. There are chairs to relax in while you browse a book from the stock. Book shops can be a great place to plan adventures around other parts of China too. Just take as much time as you want to absorb yourself in it and enjoy the peaceful escape from the busy city streets! (PS - check out our list of top 10 books to read when you study abroad in Shanghai!)

Photo: Inside the Super Brand Mall's 24 hour bookshop by Colin Speakman

4. TAKE A WALK IN THE PARK. If it's green space you're after, Shanghai has plenty of parks where you can go to escape the concrete and neon lights of the city. Smart Shanghai has a slideshow list of 24 places to go for a picnic or sit under a tree with a book. The parks were some of CAPA Shanghai blogger Sara's favorite places to unwind as well. Check out her post: Exploring & Enjoying the Peaceful Parks of Shanghai. Green space comes in all sizes in Shanghai, but none bigger than Century Park. Stroll around the lake on your own and you will have plenty of personal space and time to reflect.

Photo: CAPA Shanghai Fall 2015 blogger Sara Urner relaxing in the park

5. RENT YOUR OWN ROWING BOAT. Many of the parks in Shanghai have lakes where you can rent a boat, including one of the city's oldest public gardens, Lu Xun Park in Hongkou. Rent a small boat, oars at the ready or feet on the pedals, and head off into the sunset for an hour. Keep an eye open for locals practicing Tai-Chi or ballroom dancing! The park itself is named after the Chinese writer Lu Xun. He lived in the area during the last few years of his life and is buried in the park.

Video: On the lake in Lu Xun, Shanghai by SwissSweetheart

6. PHOTOGRAPH THE CITY. Whether you're interested in street photography, capturing the newest towers rising in Shanghai or walking the back streets to find the older parts of the city, you won't lack inspiration when you take your camera for a walk here. You will always appear busy and absorbed in your work, so people won't bother you. Walking along the Bund is a good spot to see varied design in the buildings, the passing ships, that famous skyline shot and a diverse groups of people. Try heading out early in the morning or just before the sun sets for more favorable light. Check out Chris Ball's 5 favorite places to photograph in Shanghai to get off the beaten path or have a look at Virginia Duran's top 10 places for capturing the skyline.

M50 Creative Park
Photo: CAPA students in the M50 creaive park - a great place to take your camera! by Colin Speakman

7. VISIT A MUSEUM OR GALLERY. Shanghai has more than 72 museums, some of which you will be able to enter for free including CAPA Shanghai Resident Director Colin Speakman's top recommendation, the Shanghai Museum. It houses a variety of art and Chinese artifacts like an ancient cooking vessel with dragon pattern of the Shang Dynasty. Smart Shanghai has a great top 10 list of galleries and museums to check out, The Culture Trip lists the 10 best contemporary art galleries, and China Highlights shares their 7 favorite museums in the city.

Photo: China Art Museum by Colin Speakman

8. EXPLORE. From a swing through the former French Concesssion area to a stroll down the bund, there are plenty of walking routes to explore in Shanghai. Some will take you down quiet back roads and lanes and into secluded gardens. Look for the identified historic points along the way. For some inspiration, have a look at our 10 Walks to Take When You Study Abroad in Shanghai post, check out Shanghai Pathways if you're up for company or follow one of the five suggested routes from Shanghai Highlights. 

Photo: Looking up in Shanghai does not always mean towering skyscrapers via ECNU

9. TAKE A MYSTERY BUS TOUR. As in many busy global cities, you'll find that no one speaks to strangers on buses, so public transportation can be a surprisingly relaxing way to explore the city. Hop on a bus (CAPA staff will be happy suggest a route based on your interests) and keep an eye out for interesting places you might want to stop to explore on the way back. It won't be a formal tour so you can spend as much or as little time as you like wherever you might end up! Just make sure you have a map handy so you can navigate your way back to that bus stop. 

Shanghai Bus 130 S0I-104 SWB6107HG4Photo: A Shanghai bus by Chiu Ho-yang

10. SIT IN A CAFE AND WRITE A BLOG POST OR JOURNAL. Planning to document your time abroad (here's 22 ways, by the way) or become an official CAPA blogger (like Sara Urner has been for Fall 2015)? Head to a cafe to write for a change in scenery and perhaps even story inspiration from other customers or passersby you're watching through the windows. Take your smartphone or pad and log in to the wi-fi while you fortify yourself with a coffee or tea; after all, you are a customer. Try Ballini Cafe at Jing An Temple, which is one of CAPA Shanghai Resident Director's favorites. Get stuck in and no one will disturb you!

Photo: Blogging by Dennis Skley

Find out about the CAPA Shanghai program

Topics: Shanghai, China, Practical Study Abroad Advice