Huangpu River Cruise

Written by Vivian Updated Oct. 31, 2023

The Huangpu, with a length of 113 kilometers, is the longest river that passes through the city of Shanghai. The Huangpu River (literally "Yellow Bank River") divides Shanghai into two sections: Pudong in the east, and Puxi in the west. A significant branch of the Huangpu, also in Shanghai, is Suzhou Creek, formerly called the Wusong River.

Huangpu River Cruise at daytime
Huangpu River Cruise at Daytime

Almost equally important today, the Huangpu is the site of bustling tourist business in the form of river cruises, which originate at Shiliupu Pier just south of the Bund area (there is a corresponding set of cruises up the Yangtze River that begins near the mouth of the Huangpu, where it empties into the Yangtze), where the Huangpu flows alongside now restored architecture of Shanghai's former British colonial heartland.

Quick Facts About Huangpu River Cruise

Best Time to Visit Huangpu River

The best time to visit for a Huangpu River Cruise is arguably at night, specifically between 6:00 PM and 9:00 PM, when you can witness the fantastic illuminated views of Shanghai’s skyline. This is when the modern skyscrapers of Pudong and the historical buildings of the Bund light up, providing a twinkling spectacle that beautifully reflects onto the river's surface.

In terms of seasons, spring (March - May) and autumn (September - November) provide the most comfortable climate for a river cruise. The weather during these periods is typically mild and pleasant, perfect for enjoying the cruise on the open deck.

However, bear in mind that cruises during national holidays, such as National Day (1st of October) and Labor Day (1st of May), may be crowded due to a high influx of tourists. Booking in advance during these times is strongly recommended.

Huangpu River Cruise Tour

There are several tours that one can sign up for, from a short, 30-minute cruise to a long, 3½-hour cruise. All of the Huangpu River Cruises are round trips.

Huangpu River Cruise at night
Huangpu River Cruise at night

The 45-minute cruise passes the Bund, then proceeds northward to the area designated as the New Bund, and on to Binjiang Avenue of Pudong, a newly developed economic district, where the cruise boat reverses itself and proceeds back to its point of origin at Shiliupu Pier, south of the Bund.

The 1-hour excursion proceeds beyond Pudong as far as Yangpu Bridge, while the 2-hour excursion ends at Nanpu Bridge farther north, both very graceful suspension bridges (a bridge reveals its beauty more readily when viewed from the side, which is the view provided by a Huangpu River Cruise).

The longest excursion lasts 3½ hours and ends at Wusongkou Harbor, not far from the mouth of the Huangpu, which empties into the great estuary where the Yangtze meets the East China Sea.

Where to Take the Huangpu River Cruise

There are several docks along the Huangpu River where you can catch a cruise. Be sure to check your ticket or booking for specific details as the departure point may vary depending on the cruise operator or type of cruise you select. Here are two popular points of departure.

Shiliupu Wharf (No.481, Zhongshan East Road)- Recommended

The main wharf for the Huangpu River Cruise. Modern vessels with multiple decks depart from here. This pier is just south of the Bund and is easily accessible.

Jinling East Dock (No.141, Zhongshan East 2nd Road)

This is another popular boarding location for the cruise. It's particularly used for river-hop cruises and smaller boat cruises or sightseeing boats with buffet dinners.

Tips: Remember to arrive at least 30 minutes before your cruise departure time to allow for boarding procedures. Please note that wharf locations and cruise times might be subject to change, so it is always a good idea to confirm these details in advance.

How to Book Huangpu River Cruise Tickets

Tickets for the Huangpu River Cruise can be purchased in several ways:

On-Site Purchase: Tickets are available for purchase at the ticket office of the wharf, but availability may be limited during peak times.

Online Booking: Tickets can be booked online from various travel websites. Some of these offer instant confirmation, e-tickets, and payment in a variety of currencies.

Travel Agencies: Many travel agencies offer Huangpu River Cruise as part of their Shanghai tour packages. Just contact us

What Can Be Seen Along the Cruise

Old-Style Shanghai – the Bund

Besides offering a privileged view of the bridges that span the Huangpu, the cruise boats also offer an excellent view of the famous colonial-era buildings that make up the Bund, buildings such as the Peace Hotel with its unique pyramid roof in blazing green and the Customs House with its large clock tower, and though not to everyone's taste, behind the original Bund area now shoot up tall skyscrapers.

Those who defend the modern skyscraper background would claim that though the new buildings dwarf the colonial buildings of the "old" Bund, they do not compete with them - or even mar the view - but rather, they almost seem to highlight the older-period buildings as gentle, rounded "foothills" to the soaring, "jagged peaks" of the skyscraper background.

The Bund and Oriental Pearl TV Tower
The Bund and Oriental Pearl TV Tower

Modern Metropolis – the New Bund

On the east or Pudong, side of the river, one sees the towering skyscrapers of the New Bund area, which include Shanghai's justly famous Jin Mao Tower, Oriental Pearl TV Tower, Shanghai Tower featuring twin glass domes, a number of Chinese and international hotels, the office buildings that serve as headquarters to a number of Chinese and international - or rather, multinational - enterprises, as well as malls, plazas, and bustling street life.

Some Hidden History along Huangpu River

A Huangpu River Cruise is "history revisited" in the sense that it affords many glimpses of Shanghai's past during the period, the beginning of the 20th century through WWII. This corresponds to the period during which foreign powers had forced trade and territorial concessions upon China (the so-called Unequal Treaties, which also bequeathed Hong Kong to Britain).

Large swaths of the city of Shanghai had once become defaced colonies run by European and North American countries, as well as by Russia and Japan. The Bund is itself a testimony to this period since it belonged to the British settlement before it became a part of the so-called International Settlement, which was mainly a British-American "colony".

European style buildings along the Bund
European-style buildings along the Bund

It also spans the period leading up to WWII in the Pacific theatre, as Japan had invaded China long before Hitler began to display the hegemonic tendencies in Europe that would culminate in WWII there. The outbreak of WWII in the Pacific theater that drew in the Americans and the Europeans (as well as most, if not all, of the rest of the Anglo-Saxon world) into direct conflict with Japan had its most dramatic and sobering.

Beginning in the city of Shanghai, this event was unforgettably captured in the Steven Spielberg film, Empire of the Sun, about an aristocratic boy who suddenly finds himself alone on the streets of Shanghai (his parents were rounded up by the Japanese invaders, but the boy managed to keep out of their clutches for a time), and ends up in a concentration camp of sorts surrounded by adults, and where the boy quickly learns the fine art of survival, 'by hook or by crook'.

Waibaidu Bridge

Suzhou Creek near Wusong on the northern outskirts of Shanghai is spanned by Waibaidu Bridge, which links the American concession north of the creek (present-day Hongkou District) with the British concession south of the creek.

Waibaidu Bridge
Waibaidu Bridge

During the Japanese occupation of the city, which occurred the day after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, or December 8, 1941 (the Japanese had their own settlement in the city, but they decided to seize all of Shanghai in the wake of the attack on Pearl Harbor), the British and the Americans found themselves unwelcome and were rudely turned out by the Japanese.

While the Japanese maintained at least some degree of civility towards the Westerners at that early stage in the war, this "largesse" did not extend to the Chinese residents of the city, who were compelled to show obeisance to their Japanese occupiers, including obeisance to sentries who guarded the city's bridges. The Chinese residents, on foot or in rickshaws, had to beg and wheedle with their occupiers in order to even cross the bridge.

Yangshupu Water Plant

Yangpu Bridge spans the Huangpu just south of the small island, Fuxing Dao, which briefly divides the Huangpu into two channels (Fuxing Dao is located just beyond Yangpu, where the river turns due north). Beyond the Bridge lies a large castle-like edifice, Yangshupu Water Plant.

The plant was built by the British in 1882 after the respective British and American Settlements in Shanghai had been conglomerated into a single settlement, the so-called International Settlement. Further north still, near the mouth of the Huangpu, lies Wusong Fort, which was attacked by British forces in 1842, at the close of the First Opium War (1839-1842).

On the return trip to Shiliupu Pier, as you pass the Shanghai International Cruise Ship Terminal near Pudong, you might wish to contemplate the fact that the cruise liners of many of China's former foes - including those of Japan (and quite possibly those of your own country) - regularly lay up here and that without their contribution to Shanghai's economy, the city would probably not be the oriental pearl that it is today.

Related Reading

Create My Trip

Need Help?

Request a custom itinerary today and get one step closer to your personalized trip

Create Your Trip