Ancient wonders in Shanghai

Shanghai has wowed the world with its modern architecture and forward-thinking design, but certain pockets of the city are still tranquil areas brimming with heritage.

You'll swear you've stepped into the past as you visit the ancient towns and gardens, antique shops full of quirky finds and beautifully-kept parklands that are alive with birds.

The Venice of Shanghai

Nothing says old Shanghai quite like Zhujiajiao, one of four ancient towns in the city. A relic from the Ming and Qing Dynasties, this quaint little town is perhaps the best preserved of the original four. It's impossible not to marvel over Shanghai's history when you're standing on Fangsheng Bridge, the longest, largest and tallest stone bridge in Zhujiajiao.

Trees and flowers, trickling streams and swaying bamboo groves - you'll find them all at the bird-watchers' paradise of Chongming.

Gazing out over the town's gently running streams, as willow trees and lanterns sway in the breeze, is mesmerising. Elegant North Street - full of historic buildings, old stores and bridges - is another scenic highpoint. You'll see old rice shops, banks and spice stores - even a Qing dynasty post office. Finish your sightseeing with a leisurely stroll through Kezhi Garden, which has magnificent architecture and a charming courtyard.

Birdwatcher's paradise

Vast expanses of trees and flowers, trickling streams and swaying bamboo groves - you'll find them all at the bird-watchers' paradise of Chongming, China's third largest island. Often referred to as 'the land of fish and rice', Chongming has the Dongping National Forest Park at its centre. With the largest man-made forest in Eastern China, this park is a great place to relax and take in the jaw-dropping scenery. It pays to check a map first, so you can work out where your favourite flowers are located. You won't want to miss a stroll through the fragrant vanilla garden.

Nearby you'll find the Dong Tan Migratory Bird Protection Area, where 300 species of birds migrate from as far away as Europe and North America. Fishing is also on offer in Qianwei, a rustic eco-village where you can kick back and wait for a bite. If you happen to catch a carp or American cross-tail, the friendly locals can cook it up for your lunch.

Shanghai shop fest

If you're in the mood for a spot of souvenir shopping or treasure hunting, Shanghai's Dongtai Road is the place to go. Although new developments are moving in, the Dongtai Road Antique Market is still a rich source of knick-knacks and curios. Where else would you find a shop dedicated entirely to antique Chinese teapots?

Wander past the many stalls and you'll discover a treasure trove of art-deco ornaments and props from Shanghai's many old theatres, as well as books, figurines and lotus shoes. Not all of it is genuine, but hunting out the real thing is all part of the fun. Look out for the elderly locals playing cards and Mahjong, and have a go at haggling for a bargain - the women who run the stalls will be happy to negotiate.

Afterwards, head to nearby Huangpu for a leisurely stroll along the riverfront boardwalk known as the Bund, where you can stop for a cocktail on the terrace of one of the 1920s buildings.

Shanghai, China

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26 March 2018
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