Escape Routes: Explore the Outer Ring Road, Shanghai

| © Kati Szilagyi / Culture Trip
Mandy Tie

Shanghai is best known as China’s business and finance hub, a future-facing city of skyscrapers and malls. The pace of the city can be exhilarating, but also overwhelming. Luckily, the Outer Ring Road offers the opportunity to get back to nature, with forest trails and traditional villages along the way. Let local writer Mandy Tie guide you through a more peaceful side to China’s most populous city.

1. Shanghai Botanical Garden

This sprawling, seasonally changing oasis is the ideal place to reconnect with nature. Bursts of cloudlike cherry blossom arrive in spring, and in the autumn, golden persimmon fruits dangle from brittle branches, with fragrant osmanthus flowering just before the first winter chill. Amid the gardens, forests of bamboo – a symbol of resilience in Chinese literary tradition – offer sanctuary all year round.

2. Binjiang Forest Park

Beyond the cloud-touching skyscrapers on the east side of Shanghai lies Binjiang Forest Park. It rests at the confluence of two major waterways – the Huangpu and Yangtze rivers – and the East China Sea, so expect views of big ships passing through the world’s busiest container port from its riverside promenade. Birdwatchers can delight in parrotbills and thrushes flitting about the marshlands and primeval forests.

3. Gucun Park

This suburban park, north of the city centre, is perhaps best known for its annual Cherry Blossom Festival. Just like the Japanese tradition of hanami, the event attracts thousands of people each year, who come to appreciate the passing of the seasons and watch the blush-pink blossoms bloom and fall. Dodge the crowds and potter about the intricate waterways on an electric boat, or hop on a bike and explore the park’s quieter peripheries.

4. Qibao Ancient Town

This picturesque getaway has its own metro station. Between the canals and cobblestones, you’ll find a 10th-century Buddhist pagoda; across the way, a French Concession-period Catholic church pierces the skyline. Thoroughfares bustle with street-food carts, while back lanes offer tranquil respite: you’ll find Chinese fan workshops, or perhaps the house of an artist who inspired the character Chang in Hergé’s The Adventures of Tintin.
This story appears in Issue 6 of Culture Trip magazine: The Sustainability Issue.

Culture Trips launched in 2011 with a simple yet passionate mission: to inspire people to go beyond their boundaries and experience what makes a place, its people and its culture special and meaningful. We are proud that, for more than a decade, millions like you have trusted our award-winning recommendations by people who deeply understand what makes places and communities so special.

Our immersive trips, led by Local Insiders, are once-in-a-lifetime experiences and an invitation to travel the world with like-minded explorers. Our Travel Experts are on hand to help you make perfect memories. All our Trips are suitable for both solo travelers, couples and friends who want to explore the world together.?>

All our travel guides are curated by the Culture Trip team working in tandem with local experts. From unique experiences to essential tips on how to make the most of your future travels, we’ve got you covered.

Culture Trip Spring Sale

Save up to $1,100 on our unique small-group trips! Limited spots.

Edit article