Exploring Shanghai’s Outskirts

Shanghai’s sprawling metro system makes reaching the city’s outlying destinations speedy and convenient. Several villages, islands, and attractions that offer a welcome respite from the bustle of the city are now just a few stops away from downtown. Be it a museum, a film studio or going to the source of the beloved xiaolongbao, it has never been easier to explore Shanghai’s outskirts.

Jiading, Shanghai, China
With Shanghai’s sprawling metro system, this suburb is now a few short stops from downtown. Why would you want to make the trek out to Nanxiang? Well, among other reasons, it’s the home of xiaolongbao…those marvelous little soup filled pockets of goodness. Go for the dumplings, but stay and check out the quaint little village, their local museum (which is new and quite well done) as well as the gardens. The town makes a welcome respite from the bustle of the city and if you’re coming to China to eat some “authentic” cuisine, it doesn’t get more authentic than going straight to the source of China’s infamous dumpling. How to get there: take Line 11 to Nanxiang and then walk down Huyi Gong Lu for approx 10 minutes (or jump in a taxi) and head towards Guyi Garden.
China, Shanghai Shi, Pudong Xinqu, 申港大道197号
A little outside of town, the city of Lingang is the handiwork of German architects GMP and the only city of this scale to be founded in the last century. While the city itself is slightly Stepford-esque, the Maritime Museum has some real heart. A testament to China’s sea-faring vessels, the museum’s structure was designed to emulate a ship’s mast and the arched ceilings lend enough space for the museum to hold a true-to-life ship replica. The beginning of the exhibition halls starts with the humble canoe and as you work your way around the museum back to the gift store, you’ll find China’s maritime history complete with miniature replicas of all the sea faring ships the country has produced. Worth a trip if you have an extra day in Shanghai and hold any affection for water transport. While you’re out there, swing by the star shaped Crown Plaza Harbor City resort for a meal. China Maritime Museum: 197 Shengang Avenue, Lingang New City, Pudong New District Take Line 16 to Lingang Avenue and then taxi from there. Opening Hours: 9:30—16:00 Closed on Monday, Except on National Holidays Ticket Prices: Adult: 50 RMB, Student: 25 RMB, Seniors: 10 RMB
Chongming Island, Chongming, China
A two-hour trek from downtown will bring you to China’s third-largest island, Chongming. Considered a “national geological park,” the island is a known nature escape for city residents. While you’re there, check out the Chongming Museum, stroll through Dongping National Forest Park (they have hammocks and BBQ pits if you want to camp out for a while here as well as bikes to cruise around on), hike up Jinao Mountain to the Shouan Temple, or go crabbing for some of China’s most famous hairy crabs at the at Dongtan National Nature Reserve. How to get there: Ferries depart daily from Baoyang Port or take bus Shen Chong (申崇一线) from Shanghai North Long Distance Bus Station. *Photo Source Bert van Dijk (Creative Commons)
Songjiang, China
If you travel out to the end of Line 9, you’ll find yourself back in England. No kidding. Opened in 2006, this satellite city is part of the government’s “One City, Nine Towns” initiative. While they intended to house up to 10,000 residents here and filled the village with apartments, shops and restaurants, the concept flopped and it feels more like a TV set than a cultural hamlet. Nonetheless, it’s a fascinating place to take a stroll and stop for a spot of earl grey. How to get there: jump on line 9 and take it to Songjiang New Town station. From there, you’ll need to grab a taxi (<15RMB) to taiwushi xiaozhen).
4915 Beisong Hwy, Chedunzhen, Songjiang Qu, Shanghai Shi, China
Make the trek out to Shanghai Film Studio for two reasons: 1) to wander Shanghai’s Hollywood equivalent and stroll through the sets of some of China’s most famous films (such as “Lust, Caution”), and 2) to experience an older, preserved version of Shanghai, sans traffic and millions of pedestrians. Tip: Stop in for lunch at Talking Land Cafe for a chance at bumping into a famous film star. Ooh la la.
Minhang, Shanghai, China, 201101
Qibao, in Chinese, means ‘seven treasures’. And a treasure it is. The closest water town to Shanghai, it holds both the charm of an ancient, canal-traversed village as well as one of the most famous food streets in Shanghai. Head to Qibao Old Street for a culinary tour de force. And while you shouldn’t leave without sampling the Hai Tang Gao (rice cakes with a red bean filling) or--if your nose can handle it--the stinky tofu, there’s more to this little water town than the snacks. Round out your cultural venture with a shadow play show, a trip to the Qibao Temple or even a cricket fight. How to get here: Jump on Line 9 to Qibao Station and take exit 2 to reach the old town.
For a respite from the city’s noise and smog, head out to She Shan. The 100m hill is a blissful retreat and an interesting cultural destination as well. European missionaries set up a small chapel here in the 1850s which was transformed into the She Shan Basilica in 1935. You’ll also find a Jesuit Observatory on the hill, which, among other things, features the Han Dynasty’s earthquake monitoring device, made up of two dragon heads and a pendulum. If you get swept up in the peace and quiet of the area, simply stay the night at the luxurious Le Meridien: http://ow.ly/t7nCY The hotel is an oasis in Shanghai‘s summer heat with a man-made beach, a golf course, and a fantastic weekend brunch. How to get here: take line 9 to Sheshan station and from there, you can either walk ~30 minutes to the mountain or take a 14RMB taxi ride.
75 Gangbeng Alley, Songjiang Qu, Shanghai Shi, China, 201600
If you’ve made the trip to Thames Town or the Shanghai Film Studios, then you’re already a bit familiar with the suburb of Songjiang. But beyond fabricated villages and recreated sets, Songjiang holds a fair amount of cultural charm as well. For a historic tour, start your trip with a visit to the Songjiang Mosque, which dates back to the 14th century. You’ll also notice a cemetery here with headstones in Arabic and Chinese, a tribute to the number of Muslims residing in China. From here, head over to the Fangta Pagoda (in the southeastern corner of town) or Xilin Pagoda and Buddhist Temple (in the western part of the city). A trip to the Zhubai Pond (64 Songjiang Renmin Nan Lu) will round out your historical exploits and give you that last bit of peace and quiet. Fuel up at the Red Bar on the 3rd floor of Kaiyuan Med shopping mall before heading back into the city. How to get here: Take line 9 to Songjiang Xincheng Station and then hop on a taxi from there.
3888号 辰花公路
An impressive 200 hectares of greenery and over 900 species of plants await at the largest greenspace in Shanghai. Classical Chinese gardens, rose gardens showcasing rare and beautiful blooms, , gorgeous lilyponds, and a pagoda (post-hike) make for a great day out in the outskirts of bustling Shanghai. There’s even a Children’s Garden/playground, trampoline included, where the little ones to burn off some energy. A tranquil waterfall lets you pause and take in the park’s natural beauty. To make the most of your visit, rent a paddle boat to meander past willow trees and small bamboo forests. A small shuttle bus also takes you through the expansive park.
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