John Norman / Alamy
Hart Hagerty
August 20, 2014

If you’re looking for a shady spot underneath a tree to quietly ponder the meaning of life and read poetry to the sound of twittering birds, you may be disappointed in Shanghai. The city’s downtown parks may lack peace and quiet, but they are bursting with life, energy, and local culture. This is especially true in the mornings and late afternoons, when the elderly shuffle out from their old lane houses—perfectly coiffed poodles in arms—to their community parks. After a hearty gossip session, they stretch, walk, practice Tai Chi, dance, fly kites, play mahjong, and sing karaoke until it gets too hot or too dark. One hour spent in the park is like gorging from a stimulating cultural smorgasbord of China’s time-honored hobbies. If you’re still looking for your own Walden Pond away from the whirlwind of the city, head further out from downtown toward Century Park. Granted, this popular park can also get crowded, but there are hidden spots that offer a slice of solitude.

Fuxing Park

Built by the French in 1909, Fuxing Park is probably Shanghai’s most famous park, and for good reason. Spanning an entire city block this family-friendly park has traditional French landscaping, including a beautiful rose garden and ivy-covered trellises. The main draw is the spacious central lawn that attracts everyone—local, foreign, young, old- for picnics, games, and kite flying.

Xuhui Riverside Park

Located in the up-and-coming South Bund area, this riverside recreational park is all about being active. In addition to a lengthy riverside running track that sweeps under towering red cranes, there’s a basketball court and climbing walls. Visitors can work up a sweat while taking in views of Pudong across the river or just watch the ships drift by.

Huashan Park

Huashan Park is a quaint spot with lush landscaping and rolling green lawns that feels more like a community backyard than a crowded park. It’s less touristy and smaller than Fuxing Park, but has all of the fun stuff like basketball courts and a dog zone. 

Century Park

People on the quest for peace and quiet should venture to the farthest reaches and hidden corners of Century Park. Shanghai’s answer to New York’s Central Park, this huge park sprawls out over 140 hectares in the suburbs of Pudong and contains all sorts of outdoor entertainment, including sports fields, amusement rides, and a winding river flanked by weeping willows.

Red Town

Shanghai has a handful of sculpture parks, the most famous being Jing’An Sculpture Park and Red Town. Jing’An Sculpture Park’s interesting artwork draws steady crowds of tourists, so if you’re seeking a relaxing afternoon, then Red Town is it. The modern space—converted from an old factory—features a sculpture garden surrounded by cafes and boutiques.

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