Shanghai/Old City

The Old City is the area inside the ancient walled city of Shanghai; it is one of the most picturesque areas of the city, with many buildings in traditional Chinese style. Administratively the old city is part of Huangpu District, but it has its own distinct character and many tourist attractions so we treat it in a separate article.

17th century map

The city began as a walled medieval town at least 1000 years ago. The walls, built mainly for protection against Japanese pirates, ringed the city around what are today Remin and Zhonghua Roads. The walls have been demolished, but many locals still refer to localities by the names of the city gates - some of these have even become modern metro stops Laoximen (old West gate) on lines 8 and 10, and Xiaonanmen (little South gate) on line 9.

During the era of foreign concessions (1842-1937), the International Settlement and the French Concession developed North and West of it, but the old city remained entirely Chinese and foreigners seldom ventured there; these days there are more foreigners since the area has become one of Shanghai's main tourist attractions. The "Old Town" is not exclusively old; tall modern buildings have started shooting up around the two main streets of the area, but you still have a chance to take in the atmosphere if you wander into the quaint side streets.

The center of the area is around the City God Temple and Yuyuan Garden. Apart from the temple and the garden itself, the neighborhood has a large pond well-stocked with enormous and quite photogenic goldfish, a pretty teahouse in the middle of the pond, many interesting old buildings, and extensive tourist-oriented shopping.

Get in

Yuyuan Gardens
Yu Yuan
Shanghai downtown2
Shanghai downtown3
Shanghai downtown1
Yuyuang market01

City God Temple is near the center of the Old Town, and is surrounded by the central commercial area. If you speak Chinese or have the name written down, telling any cab driver either "Cheng Huang Miao" (城隍庙, "City God Temple") or "Yu Yuan" (豫园, "Yuyuan Garden") will get you to the central commercial area around the temple, though the immediate surroundings are a pedestrian-only area. If you are going anywhere else in the Old City, asking for "Nan Shi" (南市, "Nanshi", the former district that covered the Old City) will get you to the vicinity.

The area is now well served by the metro. Line 10 Yuyuan Garden station, at the north end of the Old City, is not actually at the garden, but it is only a short walk and the area between is interesting, with several large markets selling knick-knacks and souvenirs. Line 8/Line 10 Laoximen (old West gate) station and Line 8 Dashijie station are fairly close to the western part of the district (Dajing Tower). Line 9 Xiaonanmen (little South gate) station is close to Dongjiadu Cathedral. There are also numerous bus routes that serve the Old City.

From the southern part of the Bund, the City God Temple / Yuyuan Garden area is only a 10-minute signposted walk. You can also take a ferry from Dongcheng road in Pudong to Jingling road south of the Bund and follow the above-mentioned signs. At Dongcheng Road Pier, the ferry departs from the right side - the other one goes to Fuxing Road which is less convenient.

Driving to this area is generally not a good idea since the streets are narrow and parking quite hard to find. There is a parking area quite close to the center, but it is only for tour buses.


Dajing Tower, only one left from the old city wall


The area around the Old City God Temple is a rabbit warren of pedestrianized streets lined with genuine old tea houses and newer fantasy-Chinese style shop buildings.


There are a range of shops here, from quite large places on some of the main streets to groups of smaller shops along the alleys. The specialties are souvenirs and tourist trinkets, arts and crafts, and clothing. There are also a few large shops for upmarket jewellery.

If you plan to shop for antiques or Mao-era kitsch, the best route may be to take metro line 8 or 10 to Laoximen, walk a bit North to the Dongtai Road market (see Shanghai#Antiques), then head East into the Old City. The two bits of walking metro stop to antique market then from there to Yuyuan Garden are both fairly short; total distance is under 400m (a quarter mile).

See Shanghai#Antiques and Shanghai#Clothing for other places to shop for similar goods.



There are also a range of restaurants, including a few well known historic restaurants specializing in Shanghainese cuisine. The Old City is however best known for its diverse offering of snack foods or dianxin - tour the old city like a local, picking up snacks from stalls and stopping at bun restaurants and tea houses along the way.

For a historic Chinese area, Western fast-food chains are also surprisingly well represented; there is a very busy Starbucks right opposite the teahouse in the pond, a large KFC on the second floor above one of the larger shops, and various side streets have a Dairy Queen, another Starbucks and a couple of McDonalds.



The old town has few hotels, but Huangpu District and the eastern part of the French Concession are both within easy walking distance and both well-provided with hotels. One might also go further afield to more suburban areas with a better choice of moderately-priced accommodation and food; the Hongmei Lu area in Minhang or the area around Tongji University in Yangpu are both readily accessible from the old town via metro line 10.


This article is issued from Wikivoyage - version of the Thursday, January 28, 2016. The text is available under the Creative Commons Attribution/Share Alike but additional terms may apply for the media files.