Shanghai Old City

Shanghai Old City, or Shanghai Old Town (Shànghǎi Gǔchéng, 上海古城), lies within the bounds of Zhonghua and Renmin Lu, two streets that form a continuous ring tracing the long-gone old city walls, which dated back to the 11th century. Today, the area is a charming, if chaotic, mixture of the new and old, authentic and fake, classic and tacky—in sum, it’s consummate Shanghai.

To the west, you’ll find a popular antiques market (here, as everywhere, the question to ask of yourself is zhende haishi jiade, “real or fake?”). Nearby, in the northern part of the Old City, lie several major tourist attractions: Yu Yuan (Yu Gardens), the classicMid-Lake Pavilion Teahouse (Húxīn Tíng, 湖心亭) and the Temple of the City God.

The lanes and crooked streets north of Fangbang Zhong Lu are full of small shops selling nearly anything and everything, all at prices that should never be accepted at face value.

But once you hit Fangbang Zhong Lu, the streets’ character take a turn—here the city has constructed a pedestrian area in a style approximating late Qing Dynasty architecture, complete with classical upturned eaves and other familiar flourishes. Some may find the change a relief, while others may prefer the grittier authenticity of the “unofficial” old city.

Regardless, by 2010 when Shanghai holds its World Expo, we expect the entire area to have been given the full theme-park makeover treatment, so if you want to see the Old City while it still feels old as opposed to “old,” now’s the time for a visit.

Admission:Free Hours:24 hours daily


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