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We Visited More Than 25 Parks. These Five Were Our Favorites.

Nature lives in the city.
Last updated: 2020-06-05
Photos: SmSh Photographers

So many parks! Shanghai's parks range from neighborhood green spaces to massive destination forests. So, I slapped on the sunscreen and trekked across the city to check out more than 25 parks. Despite some unexpected gems, many parks still left me wanting. Most public parks close by 6pm, don’t allow dogs, and won’t allow you on the grass. Still. In 2020. Come on, grass police. Lighten up!

So after many days of park inspection, I present: the five best parks the city has to offer, each chosen for a superlative trait. Controversial!

For Biking:
The Houtan Park, Expo Park Combo

A little hard to admit but Pudong beats Puxi in quality parks. Houtan and Expo Park run beside the Huangpu Riverside Bike Trail that goes from Yangpu to Xupu Bridge.

Read about our past bike trip on the trail. Biking is the best way to experience the full 25km long stretch.

The parks are great resting areas, for a stroll in nature or a sitdown by the river. Houtan is a forest park built around a creek (with some big fish) that runs parallel to the Huangpu river with boardwalk views across to the much more crowded West Bund.

Expo Park takes the baton from Houtan and goes north under Lupu Bridge, ending at the Mercedes Benz Arena. Expo has more grassy areas to sit compared to Houtan and has hosted live music concerts in the past. Both Houtan and Expo are "open parks": free and 24/7.

For Picnics on the Grass:
Century Park

The amount of usable grassy lawns in central Shanghai is limited, but the holy grail of butt-friendly fields is Century Park. (Puxi alternatives: Zhongshan Park, Botanical Gardens, West Bund.)

There is a distinct change of scenery from the lake, to the water fountain play area, kiddie amusement park, beach (no swimming), nature reserve, open grass, and flower gardens.

The Zhangjiangbang creek runs through the park. Bring a tent, your hammock and bubble machine and camp out, though not overnight — it closes at 6pm.

The park costs 10rmb to get in and requires ID information when registering. People over 65 and children under 1.2m get in free. Last entry is at 5pm. If you don’t want to pay, there is a free area in the southeast corner of the park at Gate 5.

For the Lake:
Changfeng Park

Changfeng is a destination park west of Global Harbor Mall. At the park’s center is a large, serene lake that the Olympic rowing team uses for training. The lake is great to visit if you are feeling too cooped up in the city, and it has that large-body-of-water smell to it.

You won’t be bored at this park, with late night go karting, an aquarium, boat rentals, kid's amusement park and indoor pet zoo during normal times.

There are also park staples like a nice rose garden, rock caves in forest areas to explore and plenty of waterfront benches with great views of the lake and surrounding skyline.

Changfeng is free entry and open 6am-9pm during the summer.

For Recreation:
The West Bund (Xuhui Binjiang Green Space)

A lot of the city’s parks are built for retirees, opening early and closing by 6pm. West Bund stands apart as a great modern, active park open 24/7 and its popularity is proven by the crowds (we shot these photographs on a weekday).

The West Bund around the Long Museum has a skateboarding ramp area, dog park, bouldering rock climbing wall, basketball courts and a constant stream of runners and walkers along the Huangpu boardwalk — pretty much everything you could want.

The only downside is you can’t come here to escape the masses.

For Quickly Clearing Your Head:
The Yan'an Lu Parks

In this dense city, it can feel difficult to get some quiet alone time. Sometimes you need a quick bit of solitude in nature, away from the gossiping retirees and playing children. This no-frills green space is the best option.

Actually a string of parks, they are perfectly unspectacular. There are no big amenities
that draw crowds. No kiddie amusement rides. But they are just nice. Serene.

A great break from the office life and a place to get some space to yourself after jostling on Huaihai Lu.


Looking for more parks? Click here to see all the parks listed on SmartShanghai.