Old Town Shanghai

Situated inside Shanghai's ancient walled city, it is at least 1000 years old and bursting with history.

TravelCurious Tip

It can be easy to lose your bearings here. So go with one of our guides, or at least have someone write the Chinese characters for where you are staying on a piece of paper!

Old Town Shanghai was once bounded by a defensive wall, demarcating the urban core of the city. Even after the once great Chinese empire was humbled by concessions to domineering foreign powers, the Old Town continued to be the seat of Chinese authority in Shanghai. In fact, the Old Town functioned as a sort of ghetto after the Opium War in 1842, as foreigners settled in conceded territories around it but the Chinese were restricted to the Old Town.

During the Taiping Rebellion in 1853 the Old Town was seized by the forces of the Chinese “Small Swords Society” (describing their proficiency at close quarters combat). This forced the Governor of Shanghai to concede control of all trade to the British in exchange for help retaking the city. The foreign influence never penetrated the fabric of the Old Town though, and even today the ancient winding streets continue to resist the incursion of modern high-rises.

But they resist without their fortifications: apart from two small sections, most of the old surrounding wall has now been destroyed; it had been built in the 16th century to protect the city from marauding Japanese pirates. However, its circular imprint remains in the shapes of the streets. Within those streets lie some of the city’s most ancient features, including the Yuyuan Garden complex, with its shaded alcoves and glittering pools of fish, and the City God Temple.

Nearby Attractions

See all attractions in Shanghai
Shanghai Museum
The museum has over 120,000 pieces of ancient chinese art and is arranged in line with Feng Shui principles,
Old City God Temple
Built to protect the people, the gods here are regarded as patron saints in Taoism.
Yuyuan Garden and Bazaar
Visit the garden then get lost in the bustling bazaar where vendors sell their wares in hidden lanes.
The Bund
As the city's stand out landmark, this remarkable waterfront is perfect for strolling and people-watching.
Anren Street
Stroll through the few remaining laneway houses and see traditional community living that is fast disappearing.
Flower and Bird Market
This is where locals go to buy turtles, fish and flowers and it is one of few traditional markets left.

Related Tours

Private Full Day Tour of Shanghai
Known as the ‘Paris of the Orient’, Shanghai is steeped in culture, history and glamour in equal measure. Get to the heart of this fascinating city in our best of Shanghai full day tour.

  • Commence your tour at the iconic Jade Buddha Temple 
  • Take in your tranquil surroundings by People's Square 
  • Venture through Shanghai Old Town, and get lost in Yuyuan Garden 
  • Visit the revered Old City of God Temple 
  • Learn about Shanghai in the 21st century, at Tianzifang
  • Walk along the picturesque Bund 
  • Enjoy a ferry ride across the Huangpu River to the futuristic Pudong on the east
Temple, Museum and The Square

Your day begins at the famous Jade Buddha Temple, home to a priceless collection of jade statues. The temple is designed in the breathtaking architectural style of the Song Dynasty and is the base of the Shanghai Buddhist Institute. Continue on to People’s Square. This beautiful green spacer is a hub of daily activity, and you will be surrounded by other well-known attractions, such as the great Shanghai Museum. 

Old Shanghai

Your adventure moves on to Shanghai Old Town and the enchanting Yuyuan Garden. You will see the old style buildings of the Ming and Qing Dynasty and have the chance to stop and try delicious local delicacies recommended by your guide. You will also visit the revered  Old City of God Temple and learn about its statues in Taoism.

Shanghai Today

Move on from the traditional and learn more about Shanghai’s present as you head down to the exciting Tianzifang - the ‘Soho of Shanghai’. Then walk along the most famous landmark, the Bund. From this beautiful waterfront, enjoy a perfect end to your day as you take a ferry ride across the Huangpu River to the futuristic Pudong on the east. 
Private Half-Day Tour of Shanghai
 As China's largest and most affluent city Shanghai is rarely static, a city of mind-blowing proportions and an ever-changing urban footprint. Sky-bound superstructures, gleaming designer malls and sweeping, futuristic bridges characterise this modern megalopolis yet Shanghai - meaning City of The Sea - has a history that spans over a thousand years. On your private guided tour of Shanghai, you will enjoy the old, the new, and everything spanning in between. 
  • Enjoy the quietude of the iconic Jade Buddha Temple built in 1882.
  • Yield to the buzz of the city in leafy People's Square
  • Relish Ming and Qing Dynasty architecture and the hallowed Old City of God Temple 
  • Stroll historic Shanghai Old Town to Yuyuan Garden and the bustling Bazaar 
  • Soak up views across the Huangpu River at the Bund, a waterfront promenade
Beginning life as a tiny fishing village, the city now represents China’s 21st showcase of dynamism in art and design. Upscale apartments, glitzy bars and restaurants overshadow Shanghai’s humble origins. Yet the city owes much to the Yangzi River delta where China's main waterway completes its 5,500-km journey to the Pacific - the trade route on which Shanghai blended East-meets-West culture was born. 

Parts of Shanghai were once independently ruled by British, French, and American colonists and each presence has left its telltale mark on the architectural and societal character of the city. This  contrasting mix of cultures has paved the way for an openness to Western influences found in modern Shanghai. See the ancient and the modern, beginning with the Jade Buddha Temple, a beautiful Song Dynasty-era building flanked by statues. Denoting the geographical heart of the city, leafy People’s Square forms a lively daily hub in the thick of it. In Old Shanghai you see the enchanting Yuyuan Garden and the city’s historic Bazaar amidst a storied building of the Ming and Qing Dynasty. The 15th century Old City of God Temple is a grand place of Taoist worship while the Bund, a mesmerizing 1.5 km esplanade along the Huangpu River, cafés, restaurants and chichi boutiques boast prized views of the Lujiazui skyline.


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