Walk Around Old Town and Yu Gardens in Shanghai

Old Town and Yu Gardens in Shanghai.jpg

See The More Traditional Side Of Shanghai

During our week in Shanghai, we saw Old Shanghai several times. When we joined the Viking Cruises group for our tour of China, we also visited the Yu Gardens when we went to Old Shanghai. The new parts of Shanghai and the amazing buildings along the river in the Bund area were so different to what we found when we walked back in time in Old Shanghai. On a walk around Old Town and Yu Gardens in Shanghai, we got a view of the more traditional side of China.

As we walked in Old Shanghai, every now and then we caught a glimpse of the interesting contrast with the new Bund river area.

Old and New Shanghai - Old Town and Yu Gardens in Shanghai.jpg

Old and New Shanghai - Old Town and Yu Gardens in Shanghai.jpg

Traditional Views In Old Shanghai

Our first view of Old Shanghai was from the top of a hop-on-hop-off bus. We used the bus when we first arrived in Shanghai to get the lay of the land. The view of pagoda tops and narrow busy alleys teased us as we rode past. But we never did get off the bus at this stop.

Old Town Shanghai Architecture - Old Town and Yu Gardens in Shanghai.jpg

During our week in Shanghai, we found it was a short walk from our Westin hotel to the old part of Shanghai. The streets were crowded with people soaking up the ancient pagoda buildings. We slowly strolled the streets and gawked like everyone else with our cameras out. It definitely felt like we had gone back in time.

Old Town Shanghai Gates - Old Town and Yu Gardens in Shanghai.jpg

Old Town Shanghai Architecture - Old Town and Yu Gardens in Shanghai.jpg

Old Town Shanghai Architecture - Old Town and Yu Gardens in Shanghai.jpg

Old Town Shanghai Architecture - Old Town and Yu Gardens in Shanghai.jpg

Old Town Shanghai Architecture - Old Town and Yu Gardens in Shanghai.jpg

Old Town Shanghai Architecture - Old Town and Yu Gardens in Shanghai.jpg

We enjoyed this view of a more traditional side of China on a walk around Old Town and Yu Gardens in Shanghai. It was the first but not the last we saw of fascinating traditional buildings we saw on our 4 weeks in China.

Enjoy Colourful And Artistic Old Town

Colourful displays drew in the children and the young at heart. One display showed the skyline of Shanghai in colours that changed constantly. We definitely recognized the skyline we saw when we walked along the Bund area. Fanciful lanterns drew my eye upwards.

Old Town Shanghai Colour and Art - Old Town and Yu Gardens in Shanghai.jpg

Old Town Shanghai Colour and Art - Old Town and Yu Gardens in Shanghai.jpg

Old Town Shanghai Colour and Art - Old Town and Yu Gardens in Shanghai.jpg

Old Town Shanghai Colour and Art - Old Town and Yu Gardens in Shanghai.jpg

Building arches and wall reliefs were intricate and artistic. And when we looked up, we found beautiful colourful ceiling art.

Old Town Shanghai Colour and Art - Old Town and Yu Gardens in Shanghai.jpg

Old Town Shanghai Colour and Art - Old Town and Yu Gardens in Shanghai.jpg

Everywhere we looked there were statues in the doorways. For the Chinese, a pair of lions were often used at the front of important buildings as protection or guardians. These lions looked like lion dogs (known as “Foo Dogs”). The male lion typically leaned his paw upon an embroidered ball (which represented supremacy over the world ). And the female restrained a playful cub (which represented nurturing). We saw more of these lions when we walked around Yu Gardens. But it was very strange to see such historic symbols in front of fast food restaurants.

Old Town Shanghai Foo Lion Dogs - Old Town and Yu Gardens in Shanghai.jpg

Old Town Shanghai Foo Lion Dogs - Old Town and Yu Gardens in Shanghai.jpg

Walk around Old Town and Yu Gardens in Shanghai and you will find art and colour everywhere.

A Little Bit Of Everything For Sale

The shops in Old Town sold a little bit of everything. But we were not really there to shop. And we were not going off with one of the many people who came up to us with papers showing watches or purses for sale. That is one scam to be wary of! There were food stalls piled high with tasty treats. And we even found several North American brands that tried to blend into the neighbourhood.

Old Town Shanghai Shopping - Old Town and Yu Gardens in Shanghai.jpg

Old Town Shanghai Shopping - Old Town and Yu Gardens in Shanghai.jpg

Old Town Shanghai Shopping - Old Town and Yu Gardens in Shanghai.jpg

Old Town Shanghai Shopping - Old Town and Yu Gardens in Shanghai.jpg

Old Town Shanghai Shopping - Old Town and Yu Gardens in Shanghai.jpg

There were several tea shops. The smell wafted out at us. At one tea shop we stopped to watch the show put on as tea was mixed.

Old Town Shanghai Tea Shop - Old Town and Yu Gardens in Shanghai.jpg

Old Town Shanghai Tea Shop - Old Town and Yu Gardens in Shanghai.jpg

When you walk around Old Town and Yu Gardens in Shanghai you can satisfy your shopping urge. You will find both expensive souvenirs or the “Made in China” stuff that is available all around the world. There are lots of food options, both traditional Chinese and more familiar brands.

Find A Quiet Oasis in Yu Gardens

On our first tour day on our Viking Cruises tour in China, we spent some time exploring Yu Gardens. In the centre square, we walked across the zigzag bridge over the koi pond. Fountains and lily pads decorated the water. Small traditional boats moved through the water. The entrance to Yu Gardens was on the other end of the bridge. There was a small admission fee.

Yu Gardens Pond - Old Town and Yu Gardens in Shanghai.jpg

Yu Gardens Pond - Old Town and Yu Gardens in Shanghai.jpg

Yu Gardens Entrance - Old Town and Yu Gardens in Shanghai.jpg

There are five elements found in Chinese gardens – rockeries (mountains and Yang), water (life and Yin), plants (human qualities like endurance), architecture (enhance the design) and animals. We found all of these as we wandered through Yu Gardens.

Yu Gardens Tour - Old Town and Yu Gardens in Shanghai.jpg

Yu Gardens Chinese Garden Elements - Old Town and Yu Gardens in Shanghai.jpg

A walk around Old Town and Yu Gardens in Shanghai provided us with our first view of a classical Chinese garden on our busy week in Shanghai. But it was not the last garden we would see. When we explored the gardens at the Forbidden City in Beijing, we recognized many of the garden elements we learned about in Shanghai.

The Elements Of A Chinese Garden

The most interesting garden element we saw was the variety of rockeries. The rockeries with more holes and wrinkles were said to be more special.

Yu Gardens Chinese Garden Rockeries - Old Town and Yu Gardens in Shanghai.jpg

Yu Gardens Chinese Garden Rockeries - Old Town and Yu Gardens in Shanghai.jpg

A path moved around the gardens. In many places there were small streams and ponds. The gardens were settled under trees and in the shade of buildings. One giant weeping willow tree dropped down to the water. This would be a very tranquil spot if you managed to visit early in the morning before all the visitors crowded in.

Yu Gardens Chinese Garden Ponds - Old Town and Yu Gardens in Shanghai.jpg

Yu Gardens Chinese Garden Ponds - Old Town and Yu Gardens in Shanghai.jpg

Throughout the gardens, several of the former residence buildings were standing. And we got a chance to peek inside. But make sure to look up! The rooftops were decorated with the most intricate and artistic small statues. We saw much more of this rooftop art on the Imperial palaces in Beijing.

Yu Gardens Chinese Garden Buildings - Old Town and Yu Gardens in Shanghai.jpg

Yu Gardens Chinese Garden Buildings - Old Town and Yu Gardens in Shanghai.jpg

Yu Gardens Chinese Garden Building Roofs - Old Town and Yu Gardens in Shanghai.jpg

Yu Gardens Chinese Garden Building Roofs - Old Town and Yu Gardens in Shanghai.jpg

Yu Gardens Chinese Garden Building Roofs - Old Town and Yu Gardens in Shanghai.jpg

Yu Gardens Chinese Garden Building Roofs - Old Town and Yu Gardens in Shanghai.jpg

In many places we saw more stone lion pairs. We also found dragons overhead at the entrance to buildings. Dragons were used as decoration and symbolized prosperity and good luck. But none of the dragons had five claws. Because only the Emperor’s dragons could have 5 claws (which symbolized his actual hand).

Yu Gardens Chinese Garden Foo Lion Dogs - Old Town and Yu Gardens in Shanghai.jpg

Yu Gardens Chinese Garden Foo Lion Dogs - Old Town and Yu Gardens in Shanghai.jpg

Yu Gardens Chinese Garden Foo Lion Dogs - Old Town and Yu Gardens in Shanghai.jpg

Yu Gardens Chinese Garden Dragons - Old Town and Yu Gardens in Shanghai.jpg

A walk around Old Town and Yu Gardens in Shanghai gave us a view of tradition in the garden design.

Enjoy A Walk Around Old Town And Yu Gardens In Shanghai

When in Shanghai for a week, we made sure to visit Old Shanghai a few times. Each time we found something more to interest us. There were lots of places to shop or eat as we wandered. If you like people watching, this is the place to visit.

Yu Gardens were so much bigger than we expected. It is worth the price of admission. This can definitely be a quieter oasis away from the bustle of Old Shanghai.

We were glad we made plans to walk around Old Town and Yu Gardens in Shanghai. It provided a good look into the more traditional parts of Shanghai. Certainly very different from our view of the Bund area along the river in Shanghai.

Did you walk around Old Town and Yu Gardens in Shanghai? What was your favourite part?

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Old Town and Yu Gardens in Shanghai.jpg

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About TravelAtWill 441 Articles
Travel blogger and photographer! Scuba diving, luxury cruising, chocoholic, sea and sunshine addicts, camera attached and just generally curious! Join us on our adventures!

20 Comments

  1. I am hoping to be in Shanghai early in 2019 and I always thought of it as a modern city and didn’t even know it had an old town area. would love to take a walk around that area and check it out. I love taking photos of old buildings, I am a right sucker for that. Love to get away from the busy urban lifestyle and stress of the city when visiting huge cities like this.

    • Danik, I am glad I was able to show you a part of Shanghai you were not expecting. It is great to see this older part. But I will warn you that it is probably the only place in Shanghai when we were swarmed with tourists. So not always a relaxing spot. The gardens were a bit better than Old Shanghai itself. Linda

  2. Hard to believe with how big Shanghai is that they still have an Old Town. I am glad that they kept that history alive. Fascinating story about the emperor’s dragon having 5 claws. I never thought of that before.

  3. Shanghai Old Town sounds like a great place to explore. It’s different from the hustling and bustling potrayal of Shanghai you see on TV. And Yu Garden looks so peaceful and zen.

  4. I’m fascinated by China and I’m hoping to take a trip there when my kids have left school (3 years and counting…). This is definitely the kind of place that I love visiting, the architecture and decoration are so beautiful. I especially love your photos of the intricate ceiling decoration.

    • Sally, We have had China on our list for a long time. Our 4 weeks in China was so fascinating and so much better than we expected. Watch the blog for all about our trip. I am glad this view of Shanghai caught your attention. Three years will give you lots of time to plan! Linda

    • Vanessa, It did look a bit like a movie set. I am not sure what movies were made in Shanghai. But we did hear when we visited the Forbidden City that the Last Emperor was filmed there. I am sure many spots have been used. Such amazing sights on our 4 week trip to China. Linda

  5. Shanghai is an unbelievable city. It’s nice to see there are some places in the metropolis where you can relax and take in some greenery, away from the urban jungle. I didn’t know that the emperor was the only one allowed to have a five-fingered dragon! How interesting! The contrast of the foo dogs and the McDonald’s sign cracks me up. Thanks for sharing!

  6. The traditional buildings are so beautiful, it is such a contrast to the new skyscrapers behind them! I didn’t know the meaning of the foo dog lions, I love learning interesting tidbits like that!

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