Walking Through Shanghai
We believe that the best way to see a new place is to walk it. If walking is your thing, then you'd love Shanghai. With clean, wide sidewalks, and interesting sights along the way, Shanghai has lots to offer for a fun walk.
We have explored two parts of Shanghai, first a scenic/cultural part of Shanghai in the French Concession, and the second covers a famous temple and Shanghai's art district through a more local route. The following are our recommended routes for you.
ROUTE I — Through the French Concession
Maoming Lu (Lu (路) means 'road') – Sinan Lu – Fuxing Lu – Danshui Lu – Xintiandi
Time needed: Between 1 to 1½ hours, depending on walking pace, and stops.
Starting at Maoming Lu
To reach the Maoming Nan Lu / Yan'an Lu junction (冒名南路/延安高架路路口) to start the walk, take a cab.
There is a huge antique store at this spot, which you should check out. This store has lots of impressive pieces of beautiful ancient furniture and appliances from an era long gone, and even some fascinating art pieces. With an air of exclusivity and privacy, and the period furniture, you'd almost feel like you are on a serious treasure hunt. Who knows, you might fancy something if you are an antiques aficionado. Spend some time in the store, and head out onto Maoming Lu, where you will walk by numerous tailor shops selling suits and wedding gowns on both sides of the street and interesting boutiques.
Cross Jinxianghi Lu — more boutiques there — till you reach the famous shopping street Huaihai Lu. Turn east on this street and continue straight, across Ruijin Lu, till you reach Sinan Lu.
South on Sinan Lu
Sinan Lu, formerly called Rue Massenet, has been long overshadowed by Huaihai Lu. This part of Sinan Lu is pretty and busy, with tiny restaurants, bars, small shops along the way. There were two restaurants that might catch your eye — Cafe Kakao (an inviting and spacious cafe) and Brick (a Mediterranean restaurant and wine lounge). Brick is known for their great fusion cuisine and wine, as well as for playing live Jazz music on weekends.
Walk across Nanchang Lu, and you will notice a quieter, greener Sinan Lu with trees lining the street, sans shops except for a small art gallery on the right. This is followed by a noodle shop at number 36 called A Niang Mian (Grandma's noodles). This joint has a cult following of noodle lovers. The history is that it was run by a well-loved noodle lady till she passed away in her eighties. After temporarily being shuttered, this shop was reopened by her grandson (who inherited the secret recipe) and today continues to be a very popular joint. If you get hungry on your walk, we recommend that you try their famous Yellow Croaker Noodles (Huangyumian).
Keep walking further ahead till the Sinan Lu / Gaolan Lu junction, where you will see a narrow pathway leading to some greenery on your left. That is the West Gate of the massive Fuxing Park (formerly called the French Park), specifically at Muse at Park 97 (a club/lounge). Fuxing Park, famous for its rose gardens, represents Western and Eastern garden design tastes, and is speckled with bars and restaurants, vast green spaces, flower beds, and lotus ponds. It's common to see elderly folks dancing, singing, practicing tai chi, playing cards or mahjong, youngsters playing badminton and general merrymaking among local folks. You can explore the park at your own pace, but we'd suggest that you exit from the same West Gate to the next highlight of the walk.
Sun Yat-sen's Former Residence
Continue southward along Sinan Lu, till you come across a high, imposing gate at 7 Xianshan Lu. These gates guard what used to be Sun Yat Sen's — the father of modern China's — home. The entry fee is RMB 20 per person, open from 9am to 4pm. Dr. Sun and his wife, Soon Ching, lived here from 1918 till 1924. If you are a history buff, we recommend this museum.
Moving on, you will walk by the famous Sinan Mansions — an architectural landmark with 51 renovated villas. There are beautiful restaurants and bars on this street, including the popular Boxing Cat Brewery. You will also spot a quaint cafe called Antique Garden Shanghai at number 44.
Cross the busy Chongqing Lu, which will bring you to another heritage building — the former residence of American Journalist and Activist, Agnes Smedley, and continue straight until Danshui Lu.
North on Danshui Lu
A surprising little street, there are lots of local eateries, vegetable/fruit vendors, cute tiny french cafés, and charming little beer and wine bars such as Mr. Shaker and the Italian wine bar called Luccio's. You will also see a cute beer bar, the latest addition to this street, called The Beer Shelf — a lovely spot for a quick Belgian ale, if you please. Continue on to the last stretch of the walk, going East on Zizhong Lu, across Madang Lu, and North on Huangpi Nan Lu.
Xintiandi Park and Xintiandi
Huangpi Nan Lu will bring you to Xintiandi Park. As you walk along Huangpi South Road, you'll see nice posh boutiques around. You can enter Xintiandi on the left at Taicang Lu. Xintiandi is one of the most popular hot spots (for locals and tourists) in Shanghai, being a conglomerate of upscale cafes, bars, restaurants, and small art stores. It is full of Shikumen-styled buildings. Enjoy a lovely stroll through Xintiandi, following which you can settle down for a nice glass of wine, some snacks and people-watching at any of the open air bars or restaurants.
ROUTE II — Local Life, a Temple, and the Art District
Anyuan Lu – Shaanxi Lu – Aomen Lu – Moganshan Lu
Time needed: around 1½ to 2 hours, depending on walking pace, and stops.
Starting at the Jade Buddha Temple
You can get to the famous and historically rich Jade Buddha Temple on 170 Anyuan Lu (玉佛禅寺安远路170号) in a cab, and if you want to get a flavour of Chinese monasteries, then you would enjoy your time inside this temple. It is still a functioning Buddhist monastery, and famous for two rare Jade Buddha statues. Entry fee is RMB 20 per person. The statues are carved out of a single massive slab of Burmese white Jade. One is a sitting Buddha and the other is a recumbent one. There is a beautiful Koi pond inside the temple, which lends an air of serenity and peace. Light an incense stick, make a wish, and head out toward Shaanxi North Road, on the west.
North on Shaanxi Lu
Walking on Shaanxi Bei Lu will give you a good perspective into the modern Shanghai way of life. With lots of small fast food restaurants, tea shops, local clothing shops, residential buildings, a large mall, people out and about, this is a buzzing and lively road. Keep walking straight, across Xinhui Lu and Changshou Lu, till you reach the Aomen Lu junction.
East on Aomen Lu
Aomen Lu is best known as the catering industry depot of Shanghai. Yes, you read that right. While an odd suggestion for a tourist walk, this is an interesting find. While there are endless supplies for hotels and restaurants, this place is full of interesting things, all in one place, to run a home kitchen too. We are sure you will enjoy looking at (or maybe even buying) the immense variety of kitchen supplies, appliances, beautiful cutlery, baking apparatus, coffee drip machines, coffee beans, and hordes of everything imaginable. Funky cocktail mixes, stirrers, pasta machines, dumpling steamers, candles, party supplies, everything at wholesale prices. There is also a large ceramics store along the way, where they sell huge ceramic statues of Chairman Mao. You will also walk by an understated Japanese restaurant on your right called Koto, adjacent to several Chinese fast food joints.
Aomen Lu is a long stretch, and as you continue with your walk, you will soon approach a quieter, more upscale neighborhood, with residential high rises and very fancy cars. It will lead you to a garden path by the Suzhou Creek, a fantastic bit of greenery, with cool air and lovely surroundings.
Turn north on Xi Suzhou Lu, and once you reach the end of West Suzhou Road, turn left and keep walking north on Moganshan Lu.
West on Moganshan Lu – M50
The last stretch of the walk, Moganshan Lu, is the heart of Shanghai's art and culture scene. The famous art district M50 is on this street. The moment you take the turn on Moganshan, you will see a change. Residential buildings will turn to modern, beautiful art galleries. As you continue down the path, you will find the entrance on your right to the famous M50 — a haven for art lovers.
There are also lots of tiny cafes and bars sprinkled inside this district, catering to aspiring artists, musicians and visitors. There is no entry fee and this is open to the masses. With many contemporary art galleries scattered around, M50 is a thriving creative space, and at any given time, you are sure to catch several art exhibitions. You can try your hand at pottery too. This district is a gem of a place, perfect for spending hours at a stretch, getting lost in the artists' world. Outside of M50, if you continue to walk toward the West, you will see lots of great graffiti art on the walls on either side, with some eye-catching and stunning art work by street artists.
China Highlights makes your vacation more fun!
Shanghai is a city that encourages walking. There are unlimited combinations of routes that one can come up with to see different parts of the city.
We hope you found our suggested walks fun and inspiring. Feel free to be creative with Shanghai and tell us if you have a special route in mind or if you want to plan out a more comprehensive trip in Shanghai or elsewhere in China based on your wishes and budget. Our take on Shanghai's key spots may help you craft your very own walk.
Our tailor-made explorations come with a local English-speaking guide and private transport to get you seamlessly to the start of your walking tour, through the sights complete with expert commentary/explanations, and back to your hotel.
I updated this article on March 1, 2014
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