Escape Routes: Explore the Outer Ring Road, Shanghai

© Kati Szilagyi / Culture Trip
Photo of Mandy Tie
18 March 2020

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.

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