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Despite its busy reputation, Shanghai is a very bike-friendly city. With such a gorgeous mix of old and new architecture, it’s the perfect place to explore on two wheels.
From the old town of Puxi to the glitzy cityscape of Pudong, there’s a lot of ground to cover in Shanghai, and the best way to do so is by bicycle. But knowing where to start and what routes to take can be very daunting in a city with so many winding and bustling streets. Here are the best cycle routes to guide you down the avenues, through the parks and alongside the rivers of beautiful Shanghai.
This route takes you from Binjiang Avenue, through People’s Square and across Nanjing Road, into the old streets of Tianzifang and the former French Concession. This is one of the best ways to see a ‘greatest hits’ of Shanghai’s history, as you move through the glitz and the towers of People’s Square and into the smaller alleyways and hutongs (narrow lanes)of the old town. It takes around three hours and covers 20 kilometres (12 miles) of ground, but for all of the shifts in architecture you’ll see as you move through the ages, it’s worth the journey.
Beginning at Century Park (the metro station is a perfect starting point) and ending at Jinqiao Road, this beautiful scenic route will take you past all of the greenest and bluest scenery of Shanghai. Century Park is one of the biggest and lushest parks in the city, and cycling here is the perfect activity for a family outing. Beyond this, you’ll cycle past the Zhaojiabang Canal, which has a similarly tranquil beauty. This route is easy and ideal for a Sunday bike ride with children.
Jing’an District is still today one of the busiest and most exciting areas of Shanghai, but it also carries a lot of history. Its side streets and old brick and stone buildings have stood for over a hundred years and are an unmissable sight. The cycle route in Jing’an, which starts at Weihai Road, passes through Urumqi Lane and ends at Shanzhongli. It guarantees an intimate view of all the old architecture of the area, as well as glimpses of some of the boutique stores in the alleys, which sell small household items, electronics and flowers. It’s a short route (at around four kilometres, or two and a half miles) and can be done in two hours with plenty of stops for sightseeing.
Beginning at the Antique Market on Dongtai Road, this route will take cyclists through the market, where they can take their time marvelling at the items for sale and watching the sellers bartering with potential buyers, eventually leading to the City God Temple. The route cuts through Shanghai Old Street and past the residence of former Premier Zhou Enlei (make sure to bring your camera). Before arriving at the temple you’ll also pass through Tianzifang, a maze of intricately woven streets lined with bars and cafés that is one of the most exciting areas of Shanghai.
This gorgeous route will guarantee a view of the famous Chinese lotus flowers and Osmanthus trees, as you cycle past a beautiful garden and two parks en route to the flower market on Tianlin Road. The garden is the Longhua Cemetery of Revolutionary Martyrs, which sits beside Longhua Temple and houses a garden of peach trees. Beyond that, Kangjianyuan Park and Guilin Park are home to gorgeous lotus and peonies best viewed in spring and summer, a view inspired by the traditional gardens of Japan.
The simplest and shortest route in Shanghai also offers one of its best views: riding along Longteng Avenue on the South Bund. Cycling this road from south to north guarantees a transformative view of old town to new city, as you follow the river up and pass by several 19th-century buildings originally constructed by the British and German settlers. These eventually give way to a view of the city’s most iconic towers laid out along the Shanghai skyline.
Beginning at Wukang Road, weave through the narrow streets of Dongping and Yongfu until you arrive at Taojiang Road. Here, you are guaranteed a glimpse into the more quiet and residential side of Shanghai. This area in the Xuhui District is where many of the younger hipster locals and foreigners spend their time, meaning that there are plenty of arty cafés and stores to pass by and admire. This is a very relaxed route and great for getting a sense of Shanghai’s day-to-day atmosphere.