The concept of a park in Shanghai sometimes seems a bit pointless -- as one of my friend's put it; "you get fresher air inside." But spring has swiftly arrived, and with it comes the brief period during which being outside in Shanghai is really enjoyable. A day in the park is cheap, fun, and (depending on the size of your picnic) a healthy way to spend the weekend. Being brought up in London makes you a bit of expert on urban green spaces, and so I decided to check out how well Shanghai's parks compared:
(105 Yandang Lu, near Nanchang Lu)
In a city where it sometimes feels like everything is new, Fuxing Park provides a little bit of respite. It is modeled on the archetypal Parisian park and really doesn't feel like China, although couples ballroom dancing and group tai chi classes do provide a gentle reminder. Originally a private estate, it was subsequently opened for public use, an action which Marx and Engels -- whose statue overlooks the park -- probably would have approved of.
(1000 Jinxiu Lu, near Minsheng Lu)
As is true with everything Pudong, Century Park is bigger and bolder than anything you'd find in Puxi. There is a huge boating-lake, a concert stage, some of the strangest topiary I've ever seen, and it is so vast that most people end up hiring tandem bicycles in order to see it properly. The size and slightly over-designed feel means that Century Park lacks the soul found in some of the city''s other parks, but it is big enough to escape and is probably the only green space in the city that you could really get lost in.
(800 Changning Lu, near Kaixuan Lu)
I had my first Shanghai park experience at Zhongshan, and it has never really been bettered. They have a small boating-lake and some carnival-style rides, but the unique selling point of Zhongshan Park lies in the fact that it's large enough for a bit of urban escapism without being located an hour from the center of town. Zhongshan fills up quite easily on weekends -- like all of the parks in Puxi -- but it still feels like a real park rather than a small patch of grass in the middle of the metropolis. With a kite or a football, some picnic food, and maybe a rug, it's a really cool place to spend a Sunday.
(1649 Nanjing Lu, near Huashan Lu)
In terms of square-footage, Jingan Park is one of the smallest of Shanghai's parks -- but what it lacks in space it makes up for in charm. Surrounded on all sides by office buildings and cranes, and not really a haven from that hum of traffic ever-present in Shanghai, it is still the perfect example of a city park. There's not much grass but they have benches and pagodas and even a playboy-mansion style waterfall (complete with grotto).
(31 Nanjing Lu, near Huangpi Nan Lu)
People's Park isn't really known for being a park -- especially amongst the expat population. But the home of Barbarossa, Kathleen's 5, and MoCA is also a nice place to hang out on a spring day. It's not all that peaceful, and going for a stroll tends to end up with you pacing the park like a stressed business executive, but it is a fantastically-located and the only place in the area to just sit and relax (without paying 50 kuai for a beer.)
All Parks in Shanghai listed on SmartShanghai.com here.