With recent refurbishments injecting vibrant life back into the Old City of Shanghai, the district has become aglow with colorful Ming and Qing buildings, serene, lily-filled lakes, exciting night markets, and a world-famous selection of delectable street food stalls. From the ancient to the modern, here are seven unmissable treasures in the Old City of Shanghai.
Dàjing Gé Pavilion
The famous old walls of Shanghai were built in the 16th century to ward off attacks by Japanese pirates. Originally standing 10 metres high, they were eventually dismantled in the early 20th century. Today, one sole section remains, stalwartly supporting the stately red and white Dàjing Gé Pavilion. Built during the Qing Dynasty the pavilion was part of 30 forts around the 5km walls. Declared a cultural relic in 1959, the Dàjing Gé pavilion is a marvel to walk around. Amidst the sprawling contemporary buzz of modern Shanghai, they are a poignant reminder of the city’s ancient and small beginnings.
Dating back to the Ming Dynasty, Yuyuan Park is an extraordinary example of traditional Chinese Jiangnan-style gardening. Originally built for an aristocratic elderly couple to spend their retirement in secluded peace, the garden encompasses 20,000 square metres. Walking around it is like entering an ethereal maze, with carved walls, pavilions, bridges and waterways leaping into view with every step you take.
Huxinting Tea House
Pride of place in the Yuyuan Garden is the Huxinting Teahouse, gently reclining elegantly on the middle of the Garden’s central lake. Its top floor is the perfect place to enjoy the serenity of the surrounding greenery, with a local tea, brewed to perfection, of course. No wonder the British chose it for their base of operations during the Opium Wars.
Yuyuan Bazaar abuts the beautiful Yu Garden and the City God Temple. Developing from a small group of stands catering to visiting pilgrims, the Bazaar is a local hub today sporting many colourful handmade goods, from bamboo carvings to silk fans, and some delectable local foods, such as the mouth-watering soup dumpling.
City God Temple of Shanghai
The principal Taoist centre of worship in the Old City of Shanghai, the City God Temple, dates back to the 15th century. The temple grounds are home to nine traditionally styled palaces and enshrine three city gods. More recently, the temple grounds have become home to a delicious cohort of street-food vendors, specialising in traditional buns. Additionally, its atmospheric streets are filled with local artisans and artists which bring the temple’s ancient heritage to life.
Temple of Confucius
This calm oasis embodies the collected spirituality of Confucius in Shanghai. Moved to its current location in 1855, the history of the temple in the Old City of Shanghai dates back to the 13th century. Inside its complex, exquisitely carved archways and broad boulevards direct you towards specific destinations, such as the traditional entryway, or even the famous second-hand book market that opens early on the temple grounds each morning. Here, small groups of elderly Shanghainese men can be seen leafing through old volumes under the atmospheric shape of a Chinese magnolia.
Shanghai Old Street
This long, winding road in the heart of the Old City is perhaps ancient Shanghai’s Fifth Ave. Dating back to the Ming Dynasty, the street encompasses every historical architectural style in Shanghai, from the traditional red-pink-and-black, high-gabled roofs of Ming architecture to the European-influenced architecture of the later Qing Dynasty. With more than 200 stores on Old Street, there’s something to turn any visitor into an ardent shopaholic. From calligraphy to jewellery, painting to tea, antiques to embroidery, Old Street brings the exquisite local artisanal scene to life.
Jumeirah Himalayas Hotel is a 15-minute drive to the heart of Old City of Shanghai.