Top 5 Shanghai Walking Routes

Written by Vivian Updated Oct. 31, 2023

Shanghai is one of the largest cities in China, young and modern compared with Beijing and Xi’an. How should a traveler best explore the city and get a feel for its soul? By foot, of course!

Shanghai's present cityscape is an amalgam of art deco mansions from the colonial period, longtang (rows of brick-walled townhouses), distinctive shikumen (stone-framed gates) from the local Chinese tradition, and malls and towers of glass and steel, reflecting international modernism.

Walk the top 3 routes below, for loads of fun and information.

Route 1: Explore the Bund

Recommended walking route: Waibaidu Bridge → Yuanmingyuan Road → the Bund Buildings

The best way to get acquainted with Shanghai is to have a walk along the Bund. The 2-to 3-hour In-Depth Bund Culture Discovery Walk will bring you back to the golden age of the Bund in the 1920s, for you to have a taste of its former luxury and elegance.

Each building along the Bund has its own story. You will see the room where Albert Einstein stayed, touch the wooden handles, enjoy the beautiful paintings on the domes, and also learn the historical background of the Bund.

Walk into the narrow lane behind the buildings, which tourists seldom find by themselves, to see the most original brickwork. Get a glimpse of the locals' lives, living in small homes due to the great pressure caused by the urban housing stress.

Sit down in a Michelin-starred restaurant for a break and enjoy some delicious Shanghai snacks. You will also have a chance to experience the most popular way to order takeout in China. Contact us for The Bund Walking Tour

Interesting facts about the Bund:

• The first foreign building on the Bund was built in 1851.

• Number of heritage buildings remaining on the Bund: 22.

• The first modern up-market Bund restaurant, M on the Bund, was opened in 1999.

• Approximate number of wooden piles supporting the Fairmont Peace Hotel: 1600.

Not to be missed

Route 2: Walk Into the Longtang As If You Were Shanghainese

Recommended walking route: General Zhou Enlai Houses → Tianzifang → Wulixiang Shikumen Museum

Shikumen, also called "stone-framed gates", is a style of housing, where 80% of Shanghainese were born and grew up before the 1990s. Shikumen buildings are recognizable by their gray and red brick facades, numerous ornamental front gates, and low two- to three-story structures.

Shikumen has changed a lot, being transformed into meeting places with bars, tea houses, and entertainment centers. You can, however, still take a stroll around Wulixiang: a small exhibition of old Shanghainese’ home furnishings.

A walk down the longtang lets you see local Shanghai life at its best: grandmothers sending their grandsons to school, grandpas sitting in their rusty old porch chairs to bask in the sun, and traders pushing tricycles to sell the local breakfast.

Not to be missed

The whole walk will take three or four hours. If you are interested in this tour, please contact us for Shikumen Exploration.

Route 3: Pudong Skyscrapers Walking Tour

Recommended walking route: Start at Lujiazui Subway Station (Line 2)-Oriental Pearl Tower-Shanghai World Financial Center-Jin Mao Tower-Shanghai Tower-Riverside Promenade (Binjiang Dadao)

Oriental Pearl Tower: Upon exiting the subway station, you'll spot the iconic Oriental Pearl Tower. It offers a great photo spot even from the ground, or you could go up to the observation deck for a panoramic view of the city.

Shanghai World Financial Center: From the Oriental Pearl Tower, continue your walk towards the Shanghai World Financial Center. This skyscraper is one of the tallest buildings in the world and is a prominent fixture in the city's skyline. You can visit the 100th floor's observation deck, known as “The Top of Shanghai”, for an amazing view of the city.

Jin Mao Tower: Adjacent to the World Financial Center is Jin Mao Tower. This tower combines elements of traditional Chinese architecture and Gothic influence to create a unique and striking design. The Grand Hyatt Shanghai occupies floors 53 to 87 and there's also an observation deck on the 88th floor.

Shanghai Tower: Finally, make your way to the Shanghai Tower, the tallest building in China and the second tallest in the world. The tower’s twisted shape is an architectural marvel. You can visit the "Shanghai Tower Observation Deck" on the 118th floor for a spectacular view of Shanghai.

After exploring the skyscrapers, take a leisurely stroll along the Riverside Promenade. This walking route along the river gives you more opportunities to gaze at the amazing architectural wonders of Pudong and the historic Bund across the river.

Travel Tips

Route 4: Walk through the Former French Concession and Xintiandi

Recommended walking route: People's Square-Former French Concession-Tianzifang-Xintiandi

Then you will start the 15-kilometer walking tour in a half day from central Shanghai. You will discover the changes in Shanghai on the tour.

You will first start from People's Square, which is the biggest city square in Shanghai. There are many significant buildings around it, like Shanghai Museum and various Government Buildings. You will arrive at prosperous Nanjing Road after passing some of the busy streets and malls from People’s Square.

You will then explore the Former French Concession, a section with a romantic atmosphere left by the French who built and occupied the area during the colonial period. After that, you will visit Tianzifang which is near the Former French Concession and full of cafes and interesting stores in traditional Shanghai alleys.

Later you will move on to Xintiandi where you can see many fashionable stores, restaurants, cafes, and entertainment places open in traditional Shanghai architecture - Shikumen-style buildings. Next, you will head ahead to Shanghai Old Street to appreciate it.

Highlights of the Trip

Recommended Tour: Walk Into Shanghai's Former French Concession

Route 5: Lose Yourself in a Water Town

Do you prefer not to go city-seeing? Prefer to see a traditional water town instead, without having to travel too far? Zhujiajiao Watertown is probably the best choice for your adventure.

Zhujiajiao Ancient Town is found within the suburbs of Shanghai city and is a very interesting place to visit. It is popularly called a water town because of the numerous water passageways running between homes and infrastructures. 

With its more than 1,700 years of history, a walk around the town is an interesting experience, as you meet local people in its narrow alleys, feast your eyes on antiquated buildings and picturesque canals, or enjoy the food on one of the ancient bridges.

Not to be missed

The whole walk will take about 5 hours. If you are interested in it.

Recommended Tour: 1-Day Zhujiajiao Water Town Tour from Shanghai

Travel Shanghai with Us

Shanghai is a fascinating mixed-culture city for walking around and there are lots of different routes for exploring its many different features.

Walking is also a perfect way to explore Shanghai’s colorful neighbors, such as Suzhou and Hangzhou. If you wish to create your own walking adventure tour, please contact us with your ideas, and we can help you connect with authentic Shanghai.

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