It might seem strange to think about a lot of walking in the largest urban megacity in China. The Municipality of Shanghai boasts 23 million people, of which around 16 million are estimated to live in the urban area, the rest in the rural parts. Yet Shanghai is a relatively compact city as it contains over 50 Skyscrapers, defined as having at least 30 floors. Often with students, I have walked several key districts, taking half a day for each. Thanks to very convenient public transport, we can have the comforting knowledge that we only need to walk one way – we can get a bus or metro line subway train back. Here are two of my favourite walks.
The Nanjing Road
The Nanjing Road is the longest and most famous shopping street in China. At the start, it can carry two lanes of cars in each direction and is often congested with traffic. It is actually divided into 3 parts. West Nanjing Road begins at Jing An Temple, the area I live when in Shanghai. (Use Jing An Temple Station, subway Lines 2 and 7). It is in Puxi (West Shanghai) which is the historic (but still very modern) part. Starting from there, we will pass the first of many large shopping malls and standalone Gucci, Louis Vuitton, Rolex and similar stores. 20 minutes later we again pass Gucci, Louis Vuitton and Rolex stores. This is not because we got turned around, but because there are several of each of these in this road – that is amazing. We will also pass a Russian-style building which is an Exhibition Center, the Shanghai TV Studios and a Ferrari-Maserati car dealership. That tells us we are nearing People’s Square which is overlooked by the Park Hotel. In the 1930s this was the tallest building in China; today it is, itself, overlooked by pretty much everything else around it. Times change! People’s Square also houses the Shanghai Museum, a separate modern art museum and the Shanghai Urban Planning Exhibition Center – all worth visiting.
Walking further on, we enter the reassuring stretch of the road known as the Nanjing Road Pedestrian Street. It is paved over but mini people-carrier trains run along it and cars cross at junctions, so stay alert! We will pass many interesting shops and a huge Apple store which is always packed. We then notice cars again as we reach the East Nanjing Road. This is shorter and under some redevelopment (more huge malls to be built), but it also contains the famous Peace Hotel once owned by the Sassoon family and its once sister hotel opposite, now the Swatch Art Peace Hotel with international artists in residence. After that we can congratulate ourselves as we have finished our walk by reaching the Bund. Keep going and we’ll be in the water – the Huangpu River. How long does it take? When I walked it at night with most shops closed it took 90 minutes. Yet with all those shopping temptations open, who knows?
Now we are in the East of Shanghai in Pudong. Its full title is Pudong New Area because it is quite new. It was warehouses and wasteland until designated a Special Economic Zone in 1990. Today Pudong is the picture poster of China’s economic miracle, especially where we start across the river in the financial district known as Lujiazjui - a modern day Manhattan. (Use Lujiazui Station, subway line 2). We will start under the Oriental Pearl TV Tower – we will also be under the Jin Mao Tower, the Shanghai World Financial Center Tower and the Shanghai Tower (nearing completion) and many other skyscrapers mostly housing financial institutions. If we had wanted to shop, we should have gone into the massive Super Brands Mall right there, as during our long walk we will not go past many shops but we will pass many office buildings and some new residential apartments. We will also pass several coffee bars in case we need one.
Century Avenue is much wider than the Nanjing Road and a route into deeper Pudong and the trade zones. We won’t go that far, but we will pass a famous Sundial, an Opera House and eventually reach Century Park – a huge park a bit like Central Park in New York – I said a bit like! Neighboring on Century Park is the Science and Technology Museum and under that is the Xinyang Market – this is a famous market with some local brands but also a lot of copycat versions of foreign brands. If not exhausted after the walk which perhaps took another 90 minutes, it can be restful to go into the park. Locals are often flying kites, there are rowing boats and motorboats to rent and, if needed, a people-carrier cart will take us around the park while we get our breath back.
I have two more favourite Shanghai Walks but that will need another post!
Colin Speakman is from England but has lived significant time on 3 continents and has been involved with directing study abroad to China for the past 10 years. He has lived in Beijing, Nanjing and Shanghai. Ex-pats rarely own cars and, alongside good public transport, there is a fair amount of travel by “Shanks’ pony” (that’s an a expression from the UK for “going on foot”). Colin writes about Shanghai and other global cities.